:: Costa Rica ::|
Early Feb – Mid Nov, 2004
Well, we reached our final destination of Costa Rica and were so enchanted by its beauty we couldn't leave! We couldn't even update our web journal we were so enthralled with it all. For nine and half months we stayed- a whole lot longer than we anticipated, for sure. Although we have not updated our Site since Guatemala, we have written emails documenting some of our adventures in Costa Rica . Putting all the events in chronological order is like trying to use pudding droppings as chess pieces. What seems to be more cohesive is to share with you the general themes and then we'll throw in some email and personal journal entries to crystallize mix.
Immediately, Costa Rican ‘Pura Vida' welcomed and surrounded us. The struggle for life, the threats that pervaded the air in Nicaragua, Honduras and Guatemala melted into a laid back, enjoyment of life as we crossed the border. Why does Costa Rica feel so different than its Central American neighbors? Could it be the fact that in 1948 its military was abolished be responsible for the pervasive tranquility? Or perhaps it's actually genetic.. something in their DNA that makes them so peaceful, amiable and content. Some historical accounts describe the indigenous people as unusually cooperative, working with the Spanish to create trade routes through the dense rainforest jungle. Other, less popular accounts, assert that mass genocide by the Spanish Conquistadors nearly wiped out the indigenous peoples here. Could the fact that the American government keeps CR in their back pocket for political leverage against other Central American countries have something to do with it? Could it be that the pure beauty of the landscape intoxicates and relaxes? Some combination of the above factors? No se las razones, pero me gusta la Pura Vida.
‘Pura vida' is both a friendly greeting and is also used to describe someone who has integrity and is trustworthy. Pura vida is often thrown in along with ‘tranquillo'- meaning, “no worries.” A Tico explained it's meaning as similar to Namaste or Aloha. Although it's used in many contexts, there is deep intention behind it. Pura Vida is only supposed to be used when true respect and love is present. A person who uses these phrases is said to be at peace with themselves and the world around them. In other words, for me to greet you with ‘Pura Vida' means that, from my precious heart I honor your precious heart and I acknowledge the beauty in you and all the beautiful precious life that surrounds us.
Finca Ipe, the Gateway
Our friends Bay, Linn and their darling daughter Shayden, were temporarily managing Finca Ipe, an organic bio-dynamic farm powered by a successful volunteer program. It was a wonderful place to land- friendly people to play and learn with, fresh veggies to nibble, and a full kitchen to cook in! This little community lies in the mountains between Dominical, a stellar surf stop, and San Isidro, the fastest growing town in Central America. Staying at Finca Ipe opened the door for us to adore the area. We easily abandoned the traveling lifestyle in exchange potluck dinners with friends, dancing to the fresh spun up by DJ Baby T (a lovely lass from London raising the frequency at Ipe), We baby-sat, played in the gardens, and played at the beach. We definitely didn't drive. Josh learned a few things about power tools and the wonders of tropical hardwoods while helping Bay build an amazing eco-friendly home for a raw-food-only family and Heather helped Linn around the farm.
Next, Bay and Linn rented a house in a great little Tico community in the mountain village of Las Tumbas . Their house sat in the middle of a fruit forest with a dramatic wall of jungle behind. We often slept in their yard under a Water Apple tree as we contemplated sustaining ourselves in Costa Rica . And when not in the beautiful valley of Las Tumbas we parked Elephante on the beach and were lulled to sleep by the lapping waves, waking to beautifully, soft morning light. Pura vida!
After a couple months we weren't yet ready leave so Josh picked up a couple web design and promotion jobs while Heather bought a message table and started gathering clients. She also volunteered at the local schools- running play groups and teaching the teachers. Then it started to rain… hard.
Sheets of rain. Buckets of water. It was like living under Niagara falls. Misty mornings turning into muggy evenings- everything moistened. Being wet was all right though, because it never got cold. But the smell! Whooo-eee, the must was the motivatin' factor to move out of the van.
Before we even posted our poster –“We are professionals.. look at our honest smiles.. you want us to house-sit in your jungle palace while you return to civilization during this rainy season.” – we landed a fat gig managing a hotel thanks to friends at Finca Ipe.
Letter's to home from Finca Bavaria:
Hola mi familia:
J and I are going to manage a finca, yep a finca, Finca Bavaria , which is more of a B&B than a farm (in Espanol finca=farm). Who wouda thunk this is where we'd end up? It is gorgeous. A fresh n'wide ocean view with a breeze that tickles the wind chimes and a tiled pool all framed by jungle. Howler monkeys for wake-up calls in the morning, two dogs for safety, hammocks, and gourmet kitchen.. Sha la la! Oh, and the birds, THE BIRDS are fantastic; Yellow billed Tucans and Laughing Falcons, Passerini's Tanagers with its stark red body with black wings, and Morpho butterflies swoop and dart in front of our living room view . There is a river & waterfall on the property that we haven't explored yet. Primary rainforest just up the hill, that we have explored - wow, I can smell the years of growth, white faced monkeys shaking the trees and swinging down for a closure look, Wild boars, racoonish anteaters- it is truly unbelievable. We'll be managing for six months, it will be great to have a dry place for us during the rainy season (Elephante doesn't have much rain cover) and it will be slow enough for us investigate investment opportunities down here AND to nurture self…
…Rudi, the owner, is now in Germany -- so after a couple of training days we have the place to ourselves. Its a bit hectic because there are many guests. BUT when there aren't it will be super chill, lounging and crafting -- we've got our stained glass studio and home office set up. Sunny deep views in the morning, downpours in the afternoon. We are finding our groove. We cooked our first 3 course meal last night without supervision-- it came off smoothly and the guests had no idea what, mayhem went awry in the kitchen…
..We were taken on a tour of the primary rain forest that is at the edge of Rudi's property, - wow, the aroma of life: decay, rich soil and lush green years of growth. 100 foot long root vines, 6 inches in diameter, hanging, dangling and swooping from tree to tree. White faced monkeys shaking the trees and swinging down for a closure look. Peccary, vicious wild boars, grunting in the distance. Pizote, which are racoonish tree climbers,taunt the dogs. Morpho butterflies swoop and bobbing through the vines. Two Toed Sloths hang while sleeping 22 hours of the day – they only come down from the tree once a week to defecate. It is a truly unbelievable place; many of these animals are listed as endangered species. It is a truly unbelievable place.
Josh & Heather
Although this place is wonderful, there are some not so glamorous aspects. Cooking gourmet meals for sophisticated guests is a bit un-nerving, especially when we are three soups too short or when a child unabashedly complains about the tropical salsa. Cleaning, however, is the least favorite and least glamorous.
Josh hates it. HATES it. Josh avoids me and the ' Inn ' after guests leave. If he doesn't have somewhere he needs to go he will find some dishes to wash, and there's usually dishes, so I get the honor, which is fine.. he can have the dishes. Even Hector, the grounds-keeper/pool-maintainer/handy-helper-guy, looks occupied by stirring the compost or cleaning a hairy rain drain.
I actually don't mind it. I make games out it.
Yoga postures while sweeping the floor.
A set of sit-ups between changing sheets.
Josh will help out if he wants to leave the finca and is waiting for me to finish up. But he grumbles while he cleans "These sheets are horrible. This is a terrible way to make a bed.. Why are you taking so long in there." Once he came in while I was cleaning the bathroom floor, mop in hand, water all over the floor, and says in all seriousness "Well, now you've made a mess." And my favorite: "We don't need to always change the sheets, just brush out the hair and air it out by shaking the pillows if there's a perfume smell."
So I have convinced myself that I enjoy the cleaning and prefer to do it by myself- for he can't help but to remind me that we are emptying someone else's used tissue or wiping someone else's streaks in the toilet.
I do take my time.
Not just because I do yoga while scrubbing the mildew from the shower tiles, but because I enjoy making the rooms look sweet: Decorating the counters with sand dollars and shells, rolling the towels so that the tags or edges don't show, folding the toilet paper ends, and picking fresh tropical leaves for vases in the room. It all takes time.
I have a hard time leaving the room if there are dust bunnies between the slots of the bamboo furniture, or if there are wrinkles in the pillow. I realize that I have been accused of being messy, of having piggy piles in the past. Well, having piggy piles has nothing to do with getting rid of dust and water spots. And I still have piggy piles, but I like to call them 'healthy task piles.' They contain projects. I have my stain glass project adjacent to the terrace. I have my sewing bag and shades of fabric decorating the chairs on the terrace. I have a pile of books, paper, notebooks and pastels on the shelves in the restaurant and one under my night stand.
There is great feeling of accomplishment when leaving a room fresh, lightly scented with Windex, and tastefully decorated . . . only to open the door for a guest to smell must and to find partially dead bugs wiggling way, sticky brown bee-sap decorating the mirror and faucets, and dust-webs on the reading bed lamp. The jungle creeps in quickly.
We often swung by our favorite waterfall or caught some waves on our way home from running errands. We also managed to leave Hector in charge for a night or two so we could enjoy further flung parts of Costa Rica.
We also managed to have a fulfilling professional life outside of Finca managing. Heather offered bi-weekly yoga sessions and gathered a handful of clients for massage/physical therapy and volunteered at the local kindergarten. Josh learned how to surf, sharpened his web design skills and gathered a couple handfuls of web clients. Here's one of We grew to love the other zany yet inspiring ex-pats who were usually running from something or someone. There is a truly interesting band of adventurers down there.
Hector became like a brother. On raining days we would do yoga or play hackie sack on the restaurant deck. We worked well together to keep things running. When our family and friends came to visit, Hector hated saying good-bye to them just as much as we did. It was great to get to know a local so well.
The word leaked out and visitors flew in – which was a good thing. Being up on the hill, surrounded by jungle, with no neighbors can get lonely and loony. You've seen the “Shinning”? Yeah, we can relate to Jack.
Having friends and family come stay with us was a perfect excuse to get off the farm and take in the sights of our amazing neighborhood and have some great adventures. When all's said and done, we experienced it all: Canopy tour, Manuel Antonio, snorkeling at Cano Island, ocean kayaking, river rafting, horseback riding, hot springs, and indian reservations to name a few.
Matt, Thomas, Jen, and Dneb were the first to invade our tranquille lives, bringing much needed supplies: books, chocolate, spices, and stories from home were just a few....
Alisabeth and Nicolas accompanied us on a jaunt into Panama to Bocas Del Toro, a cluster of small islands on the caribbean coast near Costa Rica. We camped in a torrential rain storm, hiked through hurricanes, sipped beers to reggae beats and enjoyed the warm tropical nights. And when Abby and Joey arrived we went on a wild white water rafting trip down the Pacuare River, of the best rivers in the world!
Mom and Rosie came to visit and we introduced them the tropical lifestyle- I think they liked it! It was Rosie's first time out of the country and we were lucky enough have her stay for 3 weeks. We rode horses up jungly mountain trails, played ruckus games of spoons, kayaked, gazed at sunsets, and spent lots of time playing in the waves.
Last but not least, Matt, Nicole, Will and Pilar (and what a handsome family!) flew down for a whirlwind tour of stunning Costa Rica and didn't forget their fun at home! Will and Pilar couldn't get enough of frolicking in the surf, Matt cataloged the abundant flora and fauna between adventures including kayak surfing, snorkeling at Cano Island. He played hard and took a couple tough shots from Mama Nature but he healed up nicely. We were so sad to see them go and despite our pleading, they took their lovely children with them.