Category Archives: Nature

Enchantment…

For years I’ve awoken in the morning and with my first cup of coffee pulled one of the cards from Doreen Virtue’s Healing With The Angels Oracle Cards, asking as I shuffle them three times before cutting to the card I’m going to pull “What should I concentrate on for myself today.” Last week I pulled “Enchantment” and I’ve not pulled another card since because whenever I see or remember that card something wonderful has happened in my life that I’ve saved in my heart-centered treasure chest to share on this post…

heart-shaped-clouds

1. Thunderheads were forming over the mountains across the valley – huge, frothy white clouds expanding as I watched. All the sudden there was a darker cloud that floated in front and formed itself into a heart! that looked just like this. Took my breath away because of the simple awesomeness of the moment and the transcendent realization that you don’t have to look for Enchantment, just be willing to accept it as it occurs.

 

two butterflies2. Butterflies have been flying around me as I’m walking around the finca, or sitting on the patio just enjoying the birds, cats, nature… they’re so playful and exhuberant and incredible acrobats. Their ‘shows’ are fantastic when played against the myriad trees, bushes and plants around the yard. I’d give them a 10 if it was the Olympics, just gasping at their ability to flexibly adjust in mid-air, mid-flight, mid-ecstacy.

 

greenhummingbird3. Whenever I’m at my computer there is a hummingbird who looks like this picture that hovers immediately in front of the window above my desk… what is it thinking? It tries and tries to find a way into my casita – or me – or the energy that’s being promoted at the time – I don’t know.  For whatever reason, this hummingbird is pure enchantment to me because it’s a sign there’s something special happening that’s attracting it.  When it gets tired, it rests on the branch of a tree and simply watches me…

 

Resting with Evangeline 4 mos

4. And, again, here’s me with Evangeline… I don’t know if she’s just a big four month old, or if this picture is a true representation of how short I actually am. Whichever, I am truly at peace with her and having her sleep in my arms is a treat beyond measure, truly enchanting.

I’ve allowed enchantment to reach my heart lately…  and I think it’s a portion of feeling gratitude for a life I cherish. We’ve all been experiencing enough options for grief lately that we need the balance of incredulousness and giddy happiness for it’s own sake.  I’m consciously allowing these moments, these instances, of pure pleasure  to reach my heart and  lift my spirits. They happen all the time… I hope you’re experiencing them too!

 

Advertisements

My Favorites in Jaco, Costa Rica!

JacopicSurfMy Number 1 favorite thing about Jaco is the beach… surfers, waves…. just listening to the waves crashing is a powerful experience… and then sitting on the beach watching the surfers is a component that simply lulls you into hours of relaxation filled with laughter and gasps. Pure entertainment…. unless you’d like to learn to surf yourself? They’ve got it all here!

Jacopic2A picture of the south end of this 2.5 mile long beach… looks like morning.

Jacopic3NorthAnd here’s a picture of the north end of the beach. This end has quite a few high rise condominium projects. As you can see, the city has been careful to retain the ‘green’ of the natural geography and that lends to the marvelously laid back morning vibe of this little town.

JacoPic1Here’s a picture of the middle of the beach, where you’ll find a nice little park with benches and some tables, plus a nice play structure for the kids.

Around ten it begins to get busy with lots of tourists doing touristy things, or getting ready to be touristy, at any rate.

And speaking of getting touristy, there are lots of things to see and do around Jaco. Since Jaco is only an hour and a half from the capital – San Jose – you’re not far away from zip lining, river rafting, national parks, deep sea fishing… you name it… And that leads me to my second favorite thing about Jaco…

JacoRobertoAn absolutely fabulous tour guide who can chauffeur you around the entire country if you like. Roberto has had 12 years of experience doing just that and as a Costa Rican knows this country very well indeed. What’s special about Roberto is his fantastic attitude, knowledge, willingness to help you out, and total English fluency! I’ve been in this country for a year and a half now and he is by far – in my experience – the person I recommend and trust to make sure my visitors have a relaxing and enjoyable trip. You can reach him via his email at roberto76543@yahoo.com.

So, now we come to my third favorite thing about Jaco…

JacoCatalinaGateLa Catalina Hotel. This is their front gate. As you can see, it is immediately on the beach! It’s on the southern end where the beach is quieter, but still right next to a surf school, so the scene, while quiet, is still fun to watch. They have units with complete kitchens totally stocked with dishes, pots and pans, regular sized refrigerator… and the price is fantastic!

hotelcatalinacr.com – 506-2643-1237

JacoHotelCatalinaThere is a road right in front of the gate. Little restaurants to the right and left. You can walk the beach to the shops in town, or wander through the meandering streets and check out interesting housing choices. At the far south end of the beach a bit beyond the hotel is a rock outcrop where the locals throw nets, hopeful of catching fresh lobster for local restaurants. Do you see the lounge chairs in this picture? Well, here’s your final photo treat… exactly what you see while sitting in them passing the time of day…

JacoCatalinaBeach

Can it get much better than this ? I think not. This is my oasis in the midst of an oasis… my home away from home… my respite from the city… my favorite walking routes… my favorite views. Hope you can come and enjoy it with me sometime soon!

Morphos, Horses and Toucans…

Oh My! What an incredible experience I am having in the midst of a very humid paradise! Heh heh… it is so humid that after a walk with Lily I pour sweat for another twenty minutes and getting out of my clothes to shower is like peeling an orange….. I have more pictures for you!  Do you know the Lunesta commercial on tv where the butterfly is flying so weirdly… as if she’s swooping up then down then up then down… actually, that’s exactly how these morpho’s fly…. I was watching one at this site in the next photo where I always see them, and yelled out loud ‘It’s the Lunesta butterfly!’ with great glee I might add… even though it was just Lily and I on our Route 2 walk…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

And I have to add here that the horses, all the horses I’ve seen here are really pretty animals and once they know you, after you’ve acknowledged them, they don’t pay much more attention to you. I don’t care, I say HI! anyway… they probably think I’m a young puppy with the enthusiastic energy I’m exhibiting.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

But here’s my grand excitement of this house sitting trip thus far:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Yep, toucans in a tree… can you believe it? I couldn’t. I just stopped in my tracks and felt like the heavens had opened and my heart with it and was totally bamboozled with joy. Never seen one, much less a treefull of toucans before… what a treat!

Lily and I on the Route 2 walk enjoyed the following sights along the way: Here she is on the rickety bridge that has steel beams under the rotting wood over a small raging river.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

And here is a picture of the local school.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Yes, the following sign DOES say that you can buy this lot along the large river for $49.5k.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

And your final picture for today…. the mountains under a cloud… this is what the locals in Ojochal see each day… well, maybe not the clouds all the time by a longshot, but you can see in this picture how incredibly close and high they are,  and they’re topped by clouds in this one…. ah….. sure you don’t want to come and visit this most beautiful place and wander with me via local bus and on foot through paradise?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

San Vito Visa Run

San Vito at the top of the world

San Vito at the top of the world

This quarter’s Visa Run was to San Vito, a small (15k population) town about forty minutes from the border with Panama. I read online that it was one of the less traveled borders and that the views getting there were terrific, so I thought, why not?  Since the bus to San Vito left about the same time the buses started running where I live in Santa Barbara, I decided to stay in town and take a cab to the terminal. Here’s where I stayed:

Kaps Kitchen Area

Kaps Kitchen Area

Kaps Place – kapsplace.com.

Kaps hammock next to fountain

Kaps hammock next to fountain

I really enjoyed the spaces there. It’s much larger than it seems, there are a couple of hammocks, an area for foos ball and table tennis, rocking chairs, a couple of burbling fountains, and a general sense of relaxed bonhomie that I quite enjoyed. The owners call it a 41-room guest house – and for good reason. The service is the best I’ve yet to experience – relaxed, immediate with multi-lingual people on site. There is a kitchen you can use that even I, the hermit, felt comfortable using, and a 24 hour tea and coffee service. I highly recommend using this as a place to overnight or stay during your visit to Costa Rica. I was so tired I didn’t mind being immediately adjacent to the common area, but if you want quiet just ask for it when making your reservation. It’s close to downtown, easily walkable; and there are many restaurants and museums close by.

Kaps Place, one of the upstairs areas

Kaps Place, one of the upstairs areas

Next I caught the Tracopa bus and began my trip.

I was surprised when we took the Cartago, mountainous route, but immensely pleased that we did. The ride was almost total switchbacks through scenery I’ve never experienced in any way in my life. Absolutely beautiful, rural, original Costa Rica. Prehistoric vistas of untouched valleys, hills, mountains … everywhere … for three solid hours. Of course there were small to medium sized towns here and there along the way to San Vito where clearing had been necessary, but once outside of each the wild countryside met on both sides of the road we were traveling on, sometimes mingling overhead which made it seem as if we were in a green tunnel. I saw many men on working horses, many children and their moms or grandparents hand in hand along the side of the road going to or coming home from school, and indigenous women wearing their tribal dress getting off and on buses.

View from the bus: hills, valleys, mountains, repeat

View from the bus: hills, valleys, mountains, repeat

I must say that being on the bus as an observer was a clever way to lull me into an acquiescent state that was immediately shattered as I departed the bus. Only once in my life before – when I lived in Honolulu in the early 70’s – did I feel like an obvious outsider. This experience provided the second instance of empathy for minority folks. I think I was the only gringa in town. I’m sure that can’t be true, but I didn’t see any other ethnicities while I was there, and as I stepped off the bus into a long line of folks waiting for the next bus out of town it was immediately apparent that I was different. It’s a good experience I believe every adult should have in order to understand exactly what that means. Honestly! It made me attach to that place in my self esteem that says Niki is a very courageous woman… But, for all that, the town was quaint, hilly, and vibrant; busy with all types of vehicles, many banks, and seemingly content people. I got lots of stares… with children turning completely around and walking backward with curious looks on their faces while their parents pretended they didn’t see me at all. It was only Thursday night, but the evening was spiced audio-wise with very loud motorcycles, buffed up mufflers on cars and trucks and even ear-splitting latino “Hurrahs” that I’m assuming were the result of watching a soccer game on tv in a local bar. Then, of course, there were the dogs chatting with one another through the night. I stayed in a recommended hostel in the middle of town. The price at $21/night was right, but it was old and almost clean with sheets so laundered they were transparent. Since there were two twin beds, I slept on top of one with the cover from the other over me…

Onto the reason I was here… to get my Visa renewal stamps. As soon as I got off the Tracopa bus into San Vito I checked into the hostel, then turned around and went back to the bus stop for the Rio Sereno (border) bus. After six hours already on the bus, I was loathe to do so, but it was my goal and since I was leaving the next morning I had no choice. I know you can’t see me laughing and shaking my head back and forth here, but that trip was an eye-opener into the REAL Costa Rica that I would not have experienced in any other way. First, the bus was a chicken bus. I’ve read about them, and now I can say I’ve been on one and when I return I’ll do it all over again. But it was a bit of a shock. Old, crumbling, dirty, dirty, dirty, it wound it’s way through Saballito then through ever-increasingly rural areas until we hit a dirt road.

After about twenty minutes of my wondering where the heck we were, we arrived…. here:

This is the border crossing... Egads! she said...

This is the border crossing… Egads! she said…

I’d had the idea that the Customs/Migracion people would be busy enough, but less busy than the more popular border crossings, and that I would be shuffled through without much notice and get my stamps out of the country of Costa Rica, into the country of Panama, then out of the country of Panama back into the country of Costa Rica on the same day. Part of the Costa Rican Migracion law states that you can do this, but there’s another part that states that if you are bringing in more than $500 worth of product or monies, you need to be out of the country for 72 hours. The law has been misinterpreted by many, including Migracion officials and it’s often that they assume or believe you need to be out of Costa Rica for three days before you can get stamped back into the country. So… here I was, obviously in the back of beyond, the ONLY person in sight that needed stamps for the two hours I was there, all the while realizing that I very well might not get through this process as scot-free as I’d assumed I would. But, since I was there and since it was the last day on my 90 day period on my Visa, I tried.  I had to go to the Costa Rican office first, and after clumping around wrong, abandoned buildings, I finally found my way to the correct location where they were not happy to see me under any circumstances, much less the fact that I assumed I could check in and check out on the same day. The Panama officials were very nice, had some English and delightedly joked around and gave me the stamps I needed. Then… back to the Costa Rican office where, again,  I interrupted an obvious meeting amongst five officials, the boss of which entertained a long – long – long – discussion regarding whether or not he should allow me the stamp or not. The consensus was to give me the darn stamp and get rid of me. Which he did with barely a look at my face he was so angry. One of the officials actually stomped out of the office, even. Evidently the woman involved in this discussion explained to them several times that I had the right to do this (thank God), but the men, they were not happy and went round and round with her, but she must’ve had some kind of clout because I eventually was given the stamp I needed. I think it pissed the guys off that this little (younger than all of them) woman came to my rescue as much as having to give me the stamp. At any rate, deep breath later, I went back to the bus stop where there was a soda – a little restaurant – and had lunch, spilling Orange Crush all over my white blouse and not caring one whit because I’d made it through by the hair of my chinny chin chin.

This is the little soda with a big heart at the border crossing

This is the little soda with a big heart at the border crossing

 

Next Visa Run I’ll spend the three days necessary to appease the male Migracion Gods and be a tourist in this most beautiful place on top of the world

Jaco, Costa Rica…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHere’s the beginning of my trip to Jaco, Costa Rica from downtown San Jose. Traveling with my sis who’d never been out of the US, much less into an area that was so incredibly foreign (!!) in terms of cultural differences. We caught a public bus in the Coca Cola station pictured above for less than $10 for a 4-hour round trip. I’d not been to the beach myself since I’d moved here a year ago – primarily because it’s much hotter and more humid at the beach than inland where I live. But my sis needed an ocean ‘fix’ and off we adventured. The public buses are very inexpensive because about half the population, maybe even more, don’t have cars and need to get all over the country. So many users make up for the low prices! Usually the buses that are less expensive don’t have a/c, but they do have very comfortable seating that reclines and large open windows to allow the mountain breezes to intrude on the heat and humidity, thus making the ride – even if it’s hours long – a comfortable one.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHere’s a shot of the buses lined up waiting to depart. As you can see, they are all big and comfortable. The schedules are posted online, but you really need to go to the individual terminal you’ll be using and check those prices as well as the actual location of the terminal beforehand. Things change here and websites and guidebooks are usually behind the eightball with updates…

My sis wanted a native experience, so we went the tico route with this terminal and travel. Much cheaper than taking an ‘executive’ type of bus or shuttle. There are taxi drivers/cabs that will act as guides for tours of the country, and I’ve got a couple of recommendations if you chose to do it that way. They’ll show you the ‘real’ Costa Rica and are usually bilingual to boot, and much less expensive than shuttles or private tours. The guys I know are honest, sincere, and friendly.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe ocean was a compelling reason for this adventure… and here it is. This photo was taken as the sun was going down. The location? Immediately adjacent to the hotel’s backyard. An absolutely and incredible location – Hotel Club Del Mar – 506.643.3194. Notice the surfers! Jaco is known for good waves and a pleasant place to learn to surf. It’s also known for being a party town at night. We weren’t interested in that aspect of the town, but we did wander down the beach to the downtown area and do souvenir shopping that was pretty eye-opening as everything we looked at was really inexpensive.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHotel Club Del Mar photo taken from the same spot I took the ocean picture above – I just turned around. Fantastic place! So incredibly welcoming, inexpensive for the luxury offered, great food options, full separate bar, huge swimming pool, hotel rooms plus one and two bedroom fully furnished condos available. The staff was very attentive when you wanted them to be. There were lots of kids and people of all ages and from all areas of the globe staying here. Very comfortable, beachy, laid back vibe.

Costa Rica 030See the ocean beyond the pool? How cool is that???

Costa Rica 033And this is the view from the restaurant.

If you’re looking for a great walking beach, a fantastic hotel, a quaint downtown area, and peace and quiet (during the day at least), this is the place to be. It’s the closest beach to San Jose a 1.5-2 hour drive.

I’ve followed up this trip with my sis with a day trip alone, walking along the beach, sitting and watching the surfers, and wandering the little town in discovery of a different type of lifestyle. Have to tell ya that during each trip I think I lost 2 pounds just sweating – but the heat is like a cast iron stove; it warms your insides and made me feel like a rainy day in Portland, OR – I simply had to sit back, enjoy the opportunity to do nothing, and smile for hours at the fact that I was in paradise enjoying the bounty of nature for very little money. What a life, huh?

A Grocery List, A Recipe, and A Couple of Things I Forgot To Include…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI was attempting to obliterate this painting with aqua over the top of something I wasn’t happy with when I stopped and realized maybe I had something here… In my daughter-in-law’s eyes it’s an underwater scene…

Here’s a recent grocery list of stuff that’ll last me a week (I already had eggs and some veggies, plus frozen homemade beans at home.
ring of sausage – $5.50
18oz jar of crunchy peanut butter – $5.82
pouch of strawberry jam – $1.84
Knorr Tortilla Soup Mix – $1.12
Quart of Carrot/Orange Juice – $1.50
medium block of cheddar cheese – $5.81
package of coconut cookies – $1
pouch of mozarrella cheese – $5.60
Dijon mustard – $3.50
4 bananas – $.30
3 large avacados – $3
3 medium tomatoes – $1.10
loaf of wheat bread – $3
pack of trident gum – $1.15

You can see with this grocery list that eating like a Costa Rican is much much cheaper than as a US expat!

Couple of observations I’d been meaning to add to one of these posts: Costa Rican citizens consider hot water a privilege – if you travel here be sure and ask if wherever you’re staying has hot water, and don’t be surprised to discover that the shower has an electrical switch that heats the cold water at the spigot before coming out warm enough to shower in.. they call them suicide showers here. The butterflies are out again! And this time they’re the brightest orange you’ve ever seen! Just incredible! Oh, and lastly, about that hot water issue – the dish detergent for washing dishes here has an extraordinary ability to make grease disappear – in cold water!

And for the final part of our post today… an easypeasy recipe!

Remember how I shared making Costa Rican red beans? (you had to soak them overnight, changing the water a couple of times; then put them in a slow cooker on high until they started to boil, turning them down to the warm setting for the next 5 hours; and finally adding lots of minced garlic and spicy sauces).

Okay, get that Knorr Tortilla Soup packet and follow directions, adding three cups of those red beans you made, heating up until ready to serve. Deliciosa!

Porching It…

Three hours spent on my front porch being quiet and watching the birds today just made my life that much richer… and what entertainment!

Many of the birds were out, including the oropendas hooting and cackling. You could hear them scooting from one end of the farm to the other through the myriad trees.

Each morning this week I’ve been awakened by some big type of bird I don’t know the name of attacking himself in my bedroom window… he thinks he sees a rival, but he’s seeing his reflection. And he does not give up. All day he comes back to make sure ‘the other guy’ is gone, only to discover him still there! Poor guy. A bit obsessive.

The social flycatchers (pictured) were particularly busy today and there were many of them perching on the tops of stakes and sunflower stalks, all the sudden swooping and sometimes diving into the soy plants for insects. I could see the tops of the plants moving, but not the birds underneath.

On the other hand the swifts were way way way up in the sky swooping for their own insects. So many of them, they looked like a huddle of knats up there swirling from one end of the field to the next. I’d no idea they’d be hunting that far up in the air, but they were as high as the vultures’ lower soaring range.

Since we’re in the farming community here, there are plenty of wild animals and other types of prey the vultures smell on the updrafts. These guys are huge and get as high up as to make them specks in the sky. On the ground their wingspans are at least 5′, possibly 6′. Impressive.

So, today I spent a good deal of time simply watching the show. And it was glorious and entertaining, reminding me of the social mores of humans so much as small flocks waited their turn at the hanging fruit delicacies, or were just insolent enough to grab a limb next to an elder in a challenging move that ended up putting them in their place. It was a busy place today; lots of discussion amongst and around many different types of birds, sometimes even hanging out in the same tree.

Maybe I haven’t taken the time before to simply be on the front porch as a quiet observer of their world. But today felt different somehow, as if I’d been accepted. The birds flew by within a couple of feet, a butterfly landed on my chair and stayed for a few minutes. It was just a perfect Buddha Day on my front porch.