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Wander & enjoy the diversity...it feeds your soul “What is more miraculous than the moment?” Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh

Celebrating the BIG 65th in Costa Rica!

COSTA RICA | Tuesday, 19 May 2009 | Views [1162]

Chuck & Ann harnessed for the tree-top

Chuck & Ann harnessed for the tree-top "Canopy Tour"

Costa Rica – “Pura Vida!”  Literally means “pure life,” but translates to “Everything’s GREAT!” 

(Photo gallery to the right) Here we are – to celebrate a BIG milestone on May 12th - Chuck’s 65th birthday!!!  He is making 65 look like the new 50-55!  Strong, muscular - works out at the gym 5x’s/wk, bicycles, swims, loves hiking & biking, and now in CR is an experienced ‘tree-top’ canopy adventurer!  He swung through the trees like an expert! 

We are also here to see how this part of the world might be for our Peace Corps assignment.  Although we would not be in CR, we might be placed close to it – such as Belize, Suriname, or Guyana?  PC keeps this a mystery until at least November & I guess one doesn’t know for sure until finished with the 3-month training which would tentatively start in March.  Of course, first we need to send in all of our many, many medical forms – which will not be for a few weeks – then we wait & WAIT….maybe we won’t even qualify?  My ophthalmologist’s recommendation of getting my eyes checked every 6 months may just require us to go to plan B.

We arrived in San Jose, the capital (middle of the country) & spent 2 nights - then took a van to Manuel Antonio, a small Pacific coastal village --- staying at Hotel Verde Mar, with a 2 minute walk to the beach, a 10 min walk to a few shops & street vendors, & a 15 minute walk to the Manuel Antonio National Park.

Although we were offered a guide for the park numerous times, we chose to go it alone!  We may have missed a few close-ups through their telescopes of birds, etc, but we hiked a trail following a river by ourselves – fording about 5 streams to get to a waterfall.  We didn’t see any 60 year-olds doing this – mostly 20/30 yo’s!  We thought we were doing pretty well when we navigated up & down a sheer 5ft embankment – Chuck helping me by giving me a steady hand & pushing or shoving me one way or the other!

What we saw - animals, bugs, birds, & trees:

  1. Baird’s Tapir – largest land mammal in CR - foraging by a stream
  2. Three-toed Sloth – seen in the top of a tree by the beach
  3. ‘Pizote’ – a raccoon-like “coatimundi” seen getting into people’s bags at the beach
  4. ‘Aloutta palliate’ – known as “mongo congo” or the highly social howler monkey that we hear most every day outside our room.  The loud roar (it does roar!) of the male can be heard as far as a mile away!
  5. White-faced or capuchin monkey is about 18 inches long – we saw them jumping thru the trees in the park
  6. Clay-colored robin, the “yiguirro” is a plain brown robin - had built her nest under the roof of a shelter – she was quite plump & looking content – quite beautiful!
  7. bats – hanging in a shelter
  8. leaf-cutter ants – leaf carrying ants that formed a line along our canopy tour – very industrious workers!
  9. Crocodylus acutus – American crocodile – we saw a bunch of these guys lying next to the river’s edge as we drove to the beach!
  10. Geckos – these guys run around our room & try to keep us mosquito free
  11. Poison-arrow frog eggs – the canopy tour guides showed us their iridescent green & black eggs in a water-filled hole in the tree
  12. Green iguana – saw these in the park as we were hiking a trail along a stream – they didn’t bother us at all
  13. lizard or salamander – saw another type on the trail - ? know which type
  14. butterflies
  15. hummingbirds
  16. beetles
  17. sugar ants – all over our counter in 2 seconds if we leave a crumb of anything!
  18. mouthless crab with bright orange legs crawling out of their holes on the beach
  19. termite colony – big black mounds on tree trunks
  20. tiny little crabs carrying their shell on their backs at the beach

I bought a bracelet with 2 kinds of seeds: red/black & brown.  The canopy tour guide told me that the red/black seeds were called “nene” seeds & the brown seeds were from the Guanacaste tree (‘ears’ tree – seed pods look like big brown ears). 

The beaches have soft sand & are gently sloping, the ocean - bath temperature, the air – usually comfortably humid, temperature warm, but so comfortable with a little breeze, and the people – so friendly with a special warmth – especially when we make any attempt to speak our very poor Spanish or taken a special interest – asking about their name, family, children, or job - we have seen their “shining eyes.”  We even got treated to a special coffee liquor drink!

A very special treat for me has been an almost daily thunder-lightning rain storm!  Sometimes in the late afternoon or the middle of the night – they are FABULOUS!  It crackles & slams us with a wonderful HUGE clap of thunder while the rains beat down on the metal roof – OHhhhh, SO WONDERFUL!

Another treat has been to experience the thrill of 18 platforms - 12 zip lines – a tree-top ride through the canopy of the jungle with “Titi Canopy Tour.” This company was not only very professional, but provided an experience - not to be missed for many reasons besides the childlike thrill of racing between platforms on a series of cables using a leather-gloved hand as a brake.  I am sure there may be other types of experience that may give you a similar feeling, but here is what makes this so enjoyable for me…

I love the freedom & calm of no worries & no decisions when I watch these strong, skilled, personable men put on our harness, helmet, and gloves - then tell us to enjoy the ride – “don’t buckle or unbuckle, don’t worry if you can’t brake in time, sit back & enjoy!”  You have 2 choices – either trust or not, so why not?  They exude an air of incredible confidence & calm, but fun too!  Not many activities in life that can compare – I highly recommend it – what most kids dream of, but don’t get to do until you are an adult!  Loved the canopy tour!

Out last adventure was a relaxed “Safari Mangrove” boat tour – perfect way to end our time here!  It is an area that is stated to be inhabited by more than 1200 species of wild animals, birds, crocodiles, monkeys, etc.  However, we were rather surprised to see so few of the 1200 –more like 15?  We saw an Ibis, Tiger Heron, a very cute & friendly family of white-faced monkeys that ate bananas so carefully, out of our hands; a group of sand-colored robin like birds, 2 iguanas, and a small 18 cm ‘silky anteater.’  Kind of disappointing for acres of such a supposedly rich mangrove forest!  The guide was great & we felt personally well-taken care of in this small group of 4 – ate a delicious ‘tipico’ fried fish casado.  It was a great way to spend a relaxing Sunday morning!

An underlying learning from this trip is our understanding how we might adjust to life in the tropics (rural, developing country) – given that might be our Peace Corps assignment.  We are noticing that staying connected; being able to ‘Skype,’ e-mail, or call at a moments notice, especially to our children, is a necessity!  Finding out the first day we were here in Manuel Antonio, that we didn’t have internet or Wifi, was a major disappointment.  Although it is only a 10 minute walk to an Internet café - sometimes they are closed, shut down because of rain or storms, busy, or too noisy to hear each other.  My sixth sense, ‘knowing’ when I need to contact my kids or just needing to know that they are OK, requires us to be in a place where we can be reached, etc at a moment’s notice.  It does not feel good to me, as a parent, to be unreachable – even though they are adults & quite capable at living abroad & traveling the world themselves.  Maybe we could do PC in…Hawaii?


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