“Pura Vida, Tico” or visiting Costa Rica

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Last December, my wife and I took a holiday to Costa Rica (well, we stayed at San José and moved around). Fun fact: traveling and staying there from Mexico is for us, Mexicans, quite cheap. Almost as cheap as visiting the Rivera Maya (if you know how to book a holiday and avoid most hotel schemes). But buying stuff or taking regular cabs there is really expensive as they charge in dollars or their equivalent. Even for the Costa Ricans.

Anyways, visiting Costa Rica is something I can’t recommend enough. If I could, I would go back to visit the rest of the places we couldn’t due time. Given the time it takes to displace from San José to many of the natural reserves and other touristic spots, my wife and I focused on those that were relatively close to us, to make better use of our time and have rest (and to take advantage of the free breakfast buffet for guests at the hotel).

First, we visited the Municipal Handcraft Market, where we tried to buy a few souvenirs for the family. Nice place (clean restrooms which are welcomed) and accessible vendors. And some really odd souvenirs that I can’t share a pic of them for being NSFW.

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A few days later, we went to ‘Cascadas la Paz’. it’s a national park funded by a private organization, placed in a land with three waterfalls, in a mix of cloudy and rain forest. It is also a place where rescued animals -most of them protected species in danger of extinction like jaguars- were taken from irresponsible owners and placed in a safe environment for their recovery. It also has a good ‘collection’ of hummingbirds, butterflies, and frogs, including some venomous ones.

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Another day we made a trip to the Irazu Volcano, one of the highest volcanoes on the continent. From it, in a good, clear day you can see both the Caribbean and the Pacific coasts. After that, we traveled down to the Orosi Valley, where we visited a private thermal water resort. And the food there was delightful!

We also visited a coffee roaster enterprise called Britt Coffee, where the tour guides are informative and amusing (they could have their own stand-up comedy show).

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Fun facts about Costa Rica (as related to us by our tour guide):

1) It has no standing army. Instead, all the money that would be used for that goes to education.

2) It’s a pioneer in the use of renewable energies for grid supply and ecotourism.

3) Has a somewhat small police force for the whole country.

4) Due to its extreme volcanic activity, there are small earthquakes daily. Thus the construction laws of the country don’t allow for taller buildings (not even hotels have more than 6-7 floors so no skyscrapers) and all the roofs are made of light metal sheets (that way if the worst happens, no one will get crushed by the roof collapsing over their heads).

5) Has the largest stray dog shelter ever, with around 1.3k dogs in it. Which was featured in the ‘Dogs’ documentary series by Netflix.

6) ‘Pura Vida’ -the title of this blog- its the motto of the country, used for almost anything.

There are more activities to do: extreme sports, beach visits, trips to other volcanos and natural reservoirs and cultural events. I can’t recommend enough to visit the country, either for inspiration as a writer or if you like nature and sustainability. If you wish to see more of our photos about the natural beauties that Costa Rica has to offer, please visit my wife’s photography website and the page dedicated to this trip.

And of course, Raph, the traveling Ninja Turtle finally managed to go on the trip.

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Vampire Raph

Last week, was my birthday so my friend Marco got me this Vampire Raph.

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Pretty ad-hoc considering the month of the year. Now, although I collect toys, I haven’t written a review since the Green Arrow from DC Universe of Mattel, mostly because I’m lazy. That said, this figure does warrant a bit of a chat.

For starters, it’s not the first time the TMNT toys do weird mash-ups with. You name it: prehistoric times, Frontierland, Universal Monsters (back then, it was Donnie, not Raph who was the vampire), Star Trek (believe it or not), Dungeons and Dragons, etc. It’s the design of the Turtles back then and now with the current one (based on the 2012-2017 series) that lends itself for the weirdest, toyetic proposals ever. Thus a monster mash is on par of the course. As usual, these figures are hard to come by in Mexico at the retail level, you either have to go online or have a friend that can get them for you in the USA.

This particular figure is pretty basic, articulation wise, like most of the ‘special’ versions of the TMNT toy line. In fact, regular turtles have way better articulations and detail.  Nonetheless, I appreciate the fabric cape, as it allows for better poses and the tiny details of its tuxedo. This Raph won’t be kicking any Foot Soldier in the but at least will scare them to death with style.

Now, I get that toys tend to get the strangest accessories ever. Batman toys are particularly guilty of this with the Turtles a close second. But… why the hell Vampire Raph carries around a wooden stake? The sai I get, traditional ninja turtle weapon of choice for Raph. The tiny ninja turtle-vampire hybrid that can be attached to Raph’s arm? Makes sense, after all, vampire lords enjoy the company of the children on the night.

But a stake? Is he planning to go all Blade and kill other vampires? Or is he planning to trick others like the Count did in A Night in the Lonesome October? Why toy designers? Why?

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That, my friends, might remain a mystery that will baffle the alien archeologist from the future that will explore the ruins of my collection.

Wooden stake aside, I really love this figure. I don’t have that many horror related figures. I mean, unless you count Plush Cthulhu, Funko Pop Cthulhu and Guillermo del Toro (he has created some of the best vampire stories… except The Strain of course). So finally getting my hands on this horrifying fellow was a nice birthday surprise. Now I wonder if I should get Leo Van Helsing to put them to fight like in that movie.

And if you want to check more vampire toy figures, including the original Vamp TMNT, check this video by Toy Galaxy.

Meanwhile, I will be plotting what further uses for Halloween decorations I can concoct for my non-sparkly Vampire Raph. Blah Blah Blah!

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