Final day of vacation, visiting friends in Tamarindo. Before heading home, we enjoyed one last juice (Kathleen and Steve have an incredible juicer and each morning they make a delicious juice with all their servings of fruits and veggies for the day. We were fortunate to get in on the daily morning juice!) We also enjoyed one last walk around town with our pals and their sweet pup – which made us miss our little fur balls.
On the dog topic, while we were away, we got news from the person who was keeping our dogs for us. Unfortunately, circumstances in her life, unrelated to the dogs, have changed and she’s asked that we find a new home for them. It’s not what any of us could have anticipated, nor what any of us wanted. But here we are.
I can tell you that the search for a new home for them, while still in Austin, was tough. Now trying to do so from Costa Rica…I can’t even begin to explain it. Not only is the task itself challenging (finding a home for two sweet dogs in a dog-loving town, where everyone who wants a dog, already seems to have one, two, or more!) But it’s also heart-wrenching. Leaving them once was hard. But we knew where they were and that they’d be loved on, and it was easier. Every day has gotten easier. And now, we have to do it all over again. Have to admit, the “there is no crying in Costa Rica” rule has been broken. I know there are much bigger problems in this world, but that doesn’t change the fact that I’m worried about Leo and Ladybug, missing their sweet faces and praying someone awesome comes along with room in their home and their heart for our sweeties.
On our way from Tamarindo back home, we stopped to do some grocery shopping at the MaxiPali. Any trip you make ends up serving multiple purposes – one of which is almost always grocery shopping. In fact, you generally call around to see who needs anything before you leave. We stocked up on necessities like rice, beans, coffee, flour, sugar and beer. We even bought some luxury items like peanuts (super expensive here!), plantain chips (yum!) and glue (for my new crafting habit). For the most part, the stores are not air-conditioned. Which means you aren’t going to find certain things, like chocolate chips, on the shelves. Trust me, I looked. At three different stores! And I learned that Saturday isn’t the best day to do your shopping. Unless you enjoy pushing your cart through a cramped, crowded, hot store and then spending 30 minutes or more (no joke) waiting in line to check out. It’s enough to test anyone’s patience. The poor cashiers keep a water bottle and a rag with them and between customers, they take a huge drink of water and then sop up the last big drink they took, that is now dripping from their brow. In and out, all day long.
Back home, we got unpacked, and though we had a really nice visit with our friends, we were surprisingly happy to be back “home”. What we learned on this trip away was that this is a very diverse country, with something for nearly every one. Tamarindo has many fans. But for us, we really prefer our tranquil little slice of paradise. We learned that we will gladly trade in air-conditioning, bars, restaurants and English speakers everywhere for a cool breeze, experimenting with new recipes each day and the chance to learn a new language. Life is good in Costa Rica! But like anywhere, you’ve got to find the place that calls to you.
We were expecting a guest for two nights. He’d called and made reservations more than a week in advance, so we were ready. What we weren’t ready for, what that he’d be on foot. As you’ve figured out, we are in a very rural area, on a gravel road. So when we found Juan Carlos standing on our porch, we were surprised. Turns out, he’d taken the bus from San Jose (which is close to where he lives) and it dropped him in front of our house. He got settled in and then asked about arranging a taxi and where he could eat. We were concerned. Does he not realize where he is? Was he thinking there’d be more going on and available around here? The closest restaurant is a good 30-minute walk and after that, the next closest is probably at least 45 minutes. Taxi? Hadn’t seen one yet.
We explained this and he was undeterred. No problem, he told us. Then he changed into shorts and told us he was off to explore. On foot. After a quick chat, we decided to ask him to join us for dinner. It gets dark here at 6pm, and we couldn’t have him walking home in the dark. We offered and he accepted. And then he was gone.
I like to have baked goods here for coffee shop guests as well as for friends who stop by. So, I decided to whip up some Monster Cookies. Baking is therapeutic or something. Every week I get the urge to bake something. It’s a bit odd, and a little uncharacteristic, but Dave (my taste-tester) doesn’t seem to mind. Cookies were a flop. Literally. Super flat! But for as ugly as they were, they actually tasted pretty good. Might have to try again next week.
For dinner, I baked a whole chicken and vegetables and made a nice salad with various greens, carrots and beets. This cooking thing is totally new to me, but I’m getting into it! And I must say, not to brag or anything, but I make a mean chicken! Dave and Juan Carlos seemed to agree, as we all enjoyed dinner with a stranger.
Our friend and neighbor Mike came by for coffee and a chat this morning. It’s always nice to visit with him. While he was here, a lovely couple stopped in for coffee and a smoothie. They were from Colorado, but she was originally from Mexico. We talked about languages, hostels, and camping on beaches. The previous night they had discovered a hammock on the beach and wrapped up in their mosquito net and slept there in what the guy described as a “cuddle puddle”. I can imagine. Have you ever tried getting in a hammock with another person? You better REALLY like them!
Dave and I were invited to a party that evening, but Dave thought it would be best if he stayed at the house to be here for our guest. He had taken off right after breakfast and I forgot to ask about dinner. I took the leftover chicken and made some arroz con pollo (chicken with rice) which is a very typical dish served here. I’m not claiming to be the next Julia Childs, but I totally NAILED IT! Dave agreed. Though what choice does he have, really?
I also made a batch of the zucchini pickles my friend Marilyn gave me the recipe for, and again – AWESOME! I’m on a bit of culinary roll, it would seem.
I don’t do a lot of talking on the phone down here, and thanks to email and Facebook, staying in touch with people is fairly easy. But sometimes you want to hear a person’s voice. Today, my college best friend and I had our first chat since I arrived. We had such a nice visit and it was great to get caught up! About 15 minutes into our call, I see movement in my peripheral vision. I look up and see the howler monkeys have arrived and though I’ve been told they stay in the trees and don’t walk around on the ground, there they are, walking on the little path next to my patio/living room. I was caught off guard, but not nearly as much as poor Tracey was. As I walked around and realized they were all around me, she suggests we get off the phone so I can snap a few pics and see what they’re up to. I did that and when I called her back 15 minutes later, she was giddy with excitement and she, her son and her mom were are anxious to hear monkey stories.
I told them about the howlers and how they come here every few weeks to eat up our fruit and the new leaves on our trees. After they pig out, they need to rest a bit before moving along, so they lazily lounge in the tree tops, curiously watching us, as we curiously watch them. It’s not at all unusual anymore, but how quickly I forget that for most folks, monkeys showing up on their patio would be a bit shocking. And rightfully so.
Less than an hour after the monkeys move along, we get guests who are here for coffee. They are super bummed when we tell them about the monkeys as they’ve been trying to see them all week! Darn it! The couple is from North Carolina (Americans…the rarest of our visitors) and they are super nice and so much fun to gab with. But I have a party to get to, so I scoot off and Dave stays back with instructions to reheat the rice and chicken for dinner.
The party is a blast! A French couple (one of three French couples we know here) moved to CR with their young daughters two years ago and built a great home and two rental cabins that they’ve recently finished. They threw a little party to celebrate their opening and to get people together. It was lovely! They have the most incredible panoramic view of miles and miles of beach! Incredible! I was bummed out that Dave had to miss the party – he would have had a great time!
After breakfast, our Costa Rican guest visited with us a bit and taught us a few important words in the Costa Rican vocabulary. Purruja – which is a tiny little biting bug that in Texas we call no-see-ums. Upe – which is what you say what you walk up to someone’s house, so as not to startle them. Colibrí – what we call a hummingbird in the US.
Juan Carlos probably logged a good 60 kilometers on his walks during his three-day stay, so when I insisted on bringing him to the bus stop in neighboring Bejuco, he didn’t argue. We chatted about music on the drive – some of his favorites include Toto, REO Speedwagon, Chicago, Olivia Newton-John. American music is everywhere.
We had the cutest couple visit us for breakfast and coffee – Simon and Mathilda. They were in CR on a three week honeymoon. She was originally from Sweden and he was English. While they were here, the chickens all started making a bunch of noise, so Dave popped up and went to check momma hen. (He had a feeling today was the day.) Sure enough, two babies had hatched. We were all quite excited! Simon’s mom had chickens, so we had a nice chat about the joys of raising them.
Simon and Mathilda are both very entrepreneurial and three years ago, they each started their own business. Simon’s business is Wazoku – an innovative idea management platform that is being used by many high-profile companies such as the BBC. Sounds brilliant! Mathilda’s business is totally different but equally as spectacular! Her company is Bima Mobile and they offer micro insurance (Mathilda tells me it’s the next micro trend after micro financing). The insurance (life, disability and some health) is sold in impoverished countries where people wouldn’t normally have this type of insurance available. It’s paid for via their pre-paid mobile phone (which everyone, regardless of income, seems to have) and costs them a penny or two a day. I encourage you to check out both of their websites because what they are doing is seriously groovy!
Next up, we got a visit from a family of four from Houston – Colin, Ann-Marie, Will and Hannah. They had just wrapped up the Butterfly Farm Tour with Mike and stopped in for some coffee. The kids seemed to really be loving Costa Rica and I thought it was pretty awesome they were getting the chance to see this little piece of the world at such a young age.
Later that afternoon, our pals from North Carolina who had visited yesterday – Sarah and Bryant, stopped by again. We chatted for hours about CR, Paleo, CrossFit, Bulletproof Coffee (which I made for Bryant so he could give it a try) and a new education methodology that I’d never heard of (and can’t remember the name of right now) but that sounded awesome! In a nutshell, it’s student-led education. So rather than saying, “OK class, today we are going to learn to read!” The student self-selects and asks to learn something they are interested in. I know nothing about educating children, but have to admit, the concept was intriguing. After getting a visit from Sarah and Bryant two days in a row, we were bummed to say goodbye. We really liked them, but they were headed to the volcano the next day.
Another chick hatched overnight and it was so adorable. But pretty early on we became concerned for her. She just wasn’t doing well, from the start. We tried everything we could think of, but by lunchtime, the little yellow fluff ball was gone. It was surprisingly sad and I was grateful to Dave for taking the grave-digging task on. I asked if he said a few words and he told me he did. I decided to believe him. We talked about it being nature, and how it’s all a cycle, and not in our control. We did all we could, which was to offer the little chick our love during her short life. It was a good reminder that all you can do, is all you can do.
We had coffee guests in the late afternoon – a Swiss couple. They were coming from the southern part of the Nicoya Peninsula and headed north to Samara. Which is a popular route for our guests – either northbound or southbound, they are always coming from or headed to the same places. At this point, after hearing so many stories, we’ve gotten to be experts on areas we still haven’t managed to get to. And we always ask about road conditions, the tide and the depth of the river crossings so we can pass along useful info to any travelers that might be going that way. I have no doubt there’s an “app for that”, but I must say, I am loving the 1950’s aspect of life here.
A pair from Germany stopped for a quick coffee. They were heading on, looking for a hostel on the way to Santa Teresa. We tried to help them figure out how to get there, while avoiding the Rio Bongo which we learned the day before would be impassable with all the rain we’d been having. Hopefully they found their way.
Jonathan was here and when he saw we still had one egg that hadn’t hatched, he suggested it probably was malo (bad). He cracked it open just a bit and sure enough, no bueno. Our hopes for six chicks when we began this little experiment were apparently naive. We only ended up with two, but learned a lot and fully expect to have better results next time.
Neighbor Mike stopped in for coffee and while he was here, I had him check out some tiny little bees I was excited about. My excitement waned when he informed me they were wasps and they were not good neighbors and had to go. Dang it! Mike offered to do the offing, and since he’s a bee/wasp/insect expert, I happily let him take that task. I’d had enough critter sadness for one week.
Beach day! When you live so close to the ocean, it only seems right to visit it at least once a week. Especially since we can hear it calling to us every night as we drift to sleep as the huge waves come crashing to the shore. Dave and I were amazed at just how big the waves were. We walked the beach and on the way back, did a little “Playa Mart” shopping (which you may recall is what we call it when you comb the beach for shells, driftwood, seeds and other items you might want to turn into something cool).
After our walk, Mike came by to drop off some fresh fish and I decided I’d make fish tacos for lunch. During my last trip to the store, I’d picked up some masa, or ground corn, with the idea that I’d try my hand at making fresh corn tortillas. Like many things I try, I’ve got some room for improvement, but Dave happily ate them up and I have to say, there is something pretty cool about making every item on the plate from scratch. For some of you, that’s a common experience. At our house, this is a new thing.
What a week – again filled with new faces and new experiences. And all the animal happenings provided quite the emotional roller coaster. From the excitement of the monkey visit and the new baby chicks, to the sadness of two chicks not surviving. Then mixed in, we had the worry about how we’ll manage to get our fur-babies back in Austin into a new home. Up and down. I prefer the ups, of course. But I’ve come to see that the ups mean so much more on the heels of a down. I’m working on letting go of the labels “good” and “bad” and instead, just experiencing life as it comes, and being present in those moments. But as I sit here, tears welling up in my eyes as I think about Ladybug and Leo, I realize I’ve got a long way to go.
All you can do, is all you can do. And when you’ve done all you can, all that’s left is to be still, and wait.
***Big, huge thanks to everyone who has already shared the info about Ladybug and Leo. We are still looking for the perfect home for these little guys! Here is the page with the info on the little cuties. If you know anyone who might be interested, we’d LOVE to hear from you! XO
In case you missed Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, Week 4, Week 5 or Week 6 of the big Costa Rica Adventure – you might want to go back and get caught up. If you’re curious how this adventure began, we created a FAQ to cover most of your burning questions. If we missed one, leave it in the comments below and I’ll do my best to get you an answer.
Thanks for your support and for reading the blog. We hope you are enjoying the journey as much as we are. Feel free to share with your peeps – we love new readers and new friends!
If you think you might like to buy the Bed and Breakfast we are care taking this year, here is the link with all the info. And then make plans to come see this paradise for yourself!