Scam Alert!

I got a call on my cell phone this morning from 202-210-0054. The heavily accented caller identified himself as working for the federal grant department and told me I was eligible for a $9000 government grant that would not need to be repaid. I hung up right away, then googled it and found the following from the actual U.S. Government:

How to recognize and avoid grant scams/fraud:

The Better Business Bureau offers these tips and suggestions:
• YOU WILL NOT BE CONTACTED BY THE GOVERNMENT TO OFFER YOU A GRANT.
The government does not contact people to offer them money. If you do qualify for a government grant, the government does not request payment for it.

• THERE ARE NO FEES ASSOCIATED WITH APPLYING FOR A GOVERNMENT GRANT.
Providing financial information to prove that you qualify for a government grant is typical, but you should never pay money to apply for a grant. People who run scams often claim to provide help and sometimes claim to be “federal government” officials, don’t be fooled by these scams that request money from you.

• ALL GOVERNMENT GRANTS INVOLVE AN APPLICATION PROCESS
If you have not submitted an application for a government grant and someone claims you have been awarded one, it’s a scam. Grant money is not given over the phone for a fee. In order to qualify for a grant you must apply for the specific opportunity that you are qualified to apply for.

• GOVERNMENT GRANTS ARE AWARDED FOR EXPLICIT OPPORTUNITIES
Government Grants are typically awarded to states, cities, educational institutions, nonprofits and other organizations to fund research and other projects.

• GOVERNMENT GRANT APPLICATIONS AND INFORMATION IS FREE
Be cautious of offers that ask for your personal information (especially financial) when requesting a fee to access grant information. You can always access free information about government grants and other benefits at Grants.gov and Govbenefits.gov.

Costa Rica Revisited

Phil and I have a rule that when our children ask us to do something with them, we agree to do it if at all possible. They grow up so fast and it won’t be long before they aren’t asking us any more.

So when Hanna asked me to go along on her class trip to Costa Rica, there was nothing hard about that decision; I was in! Fast forward eight years, and Laura also asked me to go on her class trip. While I would have preferred to go somewhere new, say Australia or New Zealand, heading back to Costa Rica was no great hardship.

Much of the second trip was familiar, but there were plenty of new experiences as well. In 2006 we flew into San Jose; in 2014 we arrived at Liberia. We spent a lot more time on the bus in 2006, and two other groups joined our Helias group. This time Helias had a group large enough for our own bus (by far more preferable).

We used different tour groups: Expedia in 2006 and Edutrips in 2014. Interestingly enough, the 2014 trip was less expensive. We had great tour guides and bus drivers each time.

June 2006: Hanna, Gera, Sara, Arnaldo
June 2006: Hanna, Gera (guide), Sara, Arnaldo (driver)
2014: Edgar, Laura, Juan Carlos, Sara
2014: Edgar (guide), Laura, Juan Carlos (driver), Sara

Both trips were adventure tours, but the more recent trip had an eco-educational component. For instance, we visited a coffee plantation in 2006, while the 2014 tour was at a sustainable family farm.

Both years we went on a horseback ride . . .

Hanna, 2006
Hanna, 2006
Laura, 2014
Laura, 2014

and ziplined . . .

Sara, 2006
Sara, 2006
Sara, 2014
Sara, 2014

went whitewater rafting . . .

June 2014. Unfortunately, we have no 2006 pics.
Rio Sarapiquo, June 2014. Unfortunately, we have no 2006 pics.

visited La Fortuna Falls . . .

La Fortuna Falls, 2006
La Fortuna Falls, 2006
2014: looks much the same.
2014: looks much the same.

and ate lots of rice and black beans.

A typical casado plate: black beans and rice, salad, plantains and beef, chicken or fish.
A typical casado plate: black beans and rice, salad, plantains and beef, chicken or fish.

This year we went snorkeling, which we did not do in 2006. That time we went canoeing in Lake Arenal instead.

Shot with a Canon PowerShot G15 in an underwater housing.
Shot with a Canon PowerShot G15 in an underwater housing.

One final observation for this post is that many of the activities were more difficult this trip – and not just because I am eight years older. The rafting was more challenging, we took the hard way to La Fortuna Falls, the ziplining course was stepped up a notch (or maybe two) and the horses actually broke into a run instead of maintaining a sedate single file.

In two years it will be Phil’s turn to accompany Joseph on a trip, but I doubt to Costa Rica. I think the current plan is Germany.

More to come . . .