Rainbow Sunsets, Dancing in Marbella, Beers and Boys in Bus Stops

San Juanillo Bar, Costa RicaMy last few nights in San Juanillo, I hung out with friends that I had made during my short stay there.  And I had so much fun.  I really felt like a teenager again. One night, we started out at the bar in San Juanillo, dancing to salsa (we were the only ones there) and eventually made our way to Marbella (another tiny town known for its great surf) and a “dance club/bar” where, again, we were the only ones dancing to the hip hop music.

Another night, we drove down to San Juanillo’s Black Sand Beach to drink a few beers and watch the sunset.  And a stunning rainbow appeared.  It was pure magic.  Totally worth the motorcycle burn I got just a few minutes before.

San Juanillo rainbow

From there, we drove to the local bar but the “abuela’s” (older folks) were working that night so there was no smoking in the bar and everyone was hanging out at the bus stop.  A constant stream of guys on their motos pulled up and chatted, smoked a cigarette or a joint and then headed off to wherever they were going.

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A fun dinner was then enjoyed at the local restaurant that had just re-opened and my friend’s puppies were entertaining as they ran around the table, begging for the crust from our pizzas.

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Such simplicity there in San Juanillo.  Such a different way of life.  I hope to find a way to embody some of that into this new chapter I’ve begun here in Manuel Antonio.  Of course, I’d prefer to do it without the hangovers that followed those nights.  I am definitely not a teenager anymore!

Pura vida…Chrissy

Pura Vida in Guiones

Harmony Hotel, Nosara, Costa RicaAbout a week before I moved to Manuel Antonio, I spent a few days in Nosara as we still had no internet after 2 weeks where I was living and I really needed to not only work but also just getaway for a few days and try to relax.

So I went to Guiones and spent a few nights at Harmony Hotel….a place where everyone knows your name.  It’s nice to go someplace where you know everyone and everyone greets you with a smile.  It’s not just that I’ve been to the hotel many times and everyone knows me. The staff there will know your name even if it’s your first visit.

The rooms at Harmony are simple luxury, the food is healthy and delicious and the surf is always fun. Even when it’s messy, there will still be guys – and girls – out there catching waves.

Surfer Girl in GuionesAside from work, as I mentioned, I also needed a few days to just relax. Life has been somewhat crumbling around me and I just needed a break. Each morning I got an early morning mug of coffee and headed out to the beach to sit on a piece of driftwood and meditate on the crashing waves.  As I walked barefoot along the 200 meter jungle path to the beach, I could hear the sound of Halloween crabs scurrying back to their homes in the ground for safe cover.

Walking from my room to the Juice Bar, I smell the sweetness of honeysuckle.  At one point I took a siesta in the hammock and woke to a light rain falling.  I never used the shower in the bathroom…why would I do that when there’s an amazing outdoor shower on my patio?

Outdoor Shower at Harmony HotelAt night, a friend and I went to the beach and watched the moonrise rise up over the hills, illuminating the waves rolling onto shore.

This is life in its most simplest form. Finding peace in the present.

Enjoy the slideshow…

[slideshow]

Pura vida…Chrissy

Note: While I am now paid and/or receive comped services at many of the places I visit, I will always offer my unbiased opinion to you, my readers. Fortunately, I almost always have experiences that exceed my expectations.

A Costa Rica Without Monkeys?

Howler monkey and baby

“I speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues.”

Dr. Seuss wrote the quote above in his well-known book, The Lorax.  Published in 1971, it is a timeless book for children but appropriate for all ages, written as a reminder of how important trees are for not only human existence but for all who live on our beautiful planet.

In my daily life of trying to live consciously, I try to let my actions speak for the trees and for those who live in the trees and have no voices – or at least none that we can really understand.  But they deserve to be here, just as much as you and I.

The photos below from Nosara Wildlife Rescue occurred only a few weeks ago.  And it’s tragic.  And sadly, it happens all the time due to both uninsulated electrical lines as well as developers cutting down trees in order to build new community developments. Without natural biological corridors for these animals to travel through, they are left with swinging onto electrical lines and being electrocuted and killed or severely maimed. The harsh reality is, not all photos can be like the one above.  The truth isn’t always pretty. Even in the Lorax, we could see dark and dismal images of a world without trees and wildlife.  And so I am choosing to post the photos below in order for us all to understand the reality and hopefully to inspire you to take some type of action to prevent these incidences from continuing to happen.

Electrocuted Howler Monkey in Nosara 2 - Nosara Wildlife Rescue

Electrocuted Howler Monkey in Nosara - Nosara Wildlife Rescue

The mother above had to be euthanized due to severe burns from being electrocuted by uninsulated electrical lines in the Nosara area.  The baby is currently being cared for by Refugio Animales de Nosara and will eventually be transferred to Sibu Sanctuary with the expectation that it will be released into the wild once it’s old enough and can care for itself.  Unfortunately though, the story only gets worse: over 35 electrocuted monkeys were found in that 2 week period.  And those are just the ones that were found.

From recent correspondence with the founders of Nosara Wildlife, “We continue to work with ICE and another company out of San Jose called CFS Sistemas. This company imports transformer covers and other parts for insulating the lines.”  ICE is the national electric company here in Costa Rica and Nosara Wildlife is working with ICE to get the electrical lines in rural areas like Nosara insulated.

This last week, I started working with Titi Conservation Alliance in Manuel Antonio.  The Mono Titi (AKA Squirrel Monkey) is the smallest of all monkeys here in Costa Rica and the grey crowned titi is only found here on Costa Rica’s Central Pacific Coast.  Let me say that again – this little species is ONLY FOUND HERE in this one small section of Costa Rica.  And it’s listed as endangered by the IUCN Red List.

Costa Rica's Grey crowned Central American Squirrel Monkey

My house is built near one of the titi’s wildlife corridors and there are days when these little animals are swinging through the trees, less than 2 feet from my patio.  I love being able to watch these sweet creatures and hear them talking amongst each other and see them playing together.  But I also know they are just a few of only 2,500 in total that exist in the world (compared to the 200,000 that was estimated in the early 80’s).  Which makes these moments that much more special and yet saddens me so much that future generations may never get to experience these monkeys in a live, natural setting.

But, we can change that…we could heed the final words of the Lorax… “UNLESS someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”

We can choose to care…a little or a lot.  Every choice makes a difference.  Every time you bring your cloth bags to the market, you’re choosing not to cut down a tree for a paper bag.  When you choose not to eat beef that was raised on a clearcut rainforest, you are making a positive difference. You can choose to support these two organizations with your money and/or time or support other organizations also working to care for our precious planet.  You can choose to just talk about this post and share it with others, creating awareness about the issue for those who may not know.

The Nosara Wildlife Team and the Titi Conservation Alliance team are both very small groups of dedicated men and women who want to save and protect the diminishing numbers of monkeys here in Costa Rica.  They work tirelessly, day and night, for very little, if any, pay.  But they are totally committed to creating change here and protecting these animals, and their habitats, now and in the future.

I cannot imagine a Costa Rica without monkeys.  Can you?  How can you make a positive difference so that all generations will have the opportunity to see these beautiful new world primates in the wild?

The greatest danger to our future is apathy.” Jane Goodall

Nosara Wildlife Rescue: www.nosarawildlife.com

Titi Conservation Alliance: www.monotiti.org

Pura vida…Chrissy

Moving in Costa Rica…Again

Welcoming Committee at my new house in Manuel Antonio
Welcoming Committee at my new house in Manuel Antonio

When I lived in California, my average length of stay in a house was about 3 years. Even in college, the off-campus apartment I lived in was for 3 years. Both houses I owned for 3 years. But having moved to Costa Rica, I can’t seem to land in a permanent place. I’m told this is normal – that some of my friends have moved 7+ times in less than 4 years. And they have children! One of my friends moved 6 times in two years…and she’s Tica!

And so it was just recently that I found myself once again moving. This time from San Juanillo (which remember I only moved to in June) to Manuel Antonio, about 5 hours south on Costa Rica’s Central Pacific Coast. I had the option to return to Tamarindo but as I wrote previously, I really don’t like Tamarindo.

So on a friend’s recommendation, I decided to try out this new area. No longer in Guanacaste or even on the Nicoya Peninsula, I’m now in the Puntarenas Province living near the gem of Costa Rica – Manuel Antonio National Park – and just a few hours north of the famous Corcovado National Park.

I left San Juanillo for a variety of reasons – I was living in an unlocked, open-air cabina and was literally watching all of my belongings for the last 38 years of my life decompose in front of me due to mold. Every time I got into bed, my sheets were wet and my new pillows and featherbed that I had ordered from Macy’s only a few months ago were also growing mold. My allergies had returned and since I wasn’t eating gluten or dairy at the time, I could only guess that it was the mold growing on everything I owned that was causing my symptoms. Then I was robbed while I was there and my spare, new $1,000 laptop was stolen. I swear, I just hemorrhage money here. I was using the laptop for storage since I’ve run out of space on my old computer so unfortunately, I not only lost the computer but also lost all the files. Oh and the brand new laptop bag that I bought only a month before when I was in San Jose was also stolen. This was the bag I bought to replace the bag I bought last August after the bag I had brought from the States was stolen in the first robbery.  Argh.

Those things along with the fact that the internet didn’t work for 2+ weeks which made it so much more difficult for me to manage my business were the reasons I could no longer stay there. I was so incredibly discouraged and disappointed but there really was no other choice. I loved it there, I loved the people and the place, and I hope someday I may be able to return under different circumstances.

So once again, a new chapter begins. I am hoping it will be a positive change as right now, I could really use a little support from the universe in helping me get – and stay – settled.

Sunset view from kitchen window
Sunset view from kitchen window

Pura vida…Chrissy

The little towns of Costa Rica

It’s so strange to live in and visit towns of less than 200 people.  And so often you drive through these little towns and think…what do these people do here? There seems to be nothing there!  No industry, very few restaurants, no stores, libraries, etc.

I know that many of them are in agriculture and others drive, bus or bike many kilometers to get to larger tourist areas.  There seems to be some that mostly live off the land they live on and maybe own the local soda (a small family owned restaurants that serves mostly casado’s), pulperia (a very small, basic grocery store) or a road side fruit stand.

???????????????????????????????There’s a certain charm to these little towns. When you consider that the entire country of Costa Rica has a population of about 4.7 million and I come from a state that has almost 40 million people, well that says a lot right there about my perspective.  I don’t miss sitting in traffic, the cars, the overwhelming numbers of people, the fast food restaurants on every corner…It’s so calming to drive around little towns and just be able to breathe!

I like how every small town in Costa Rica has the same components – a futbol field, a church, a bar and a soda. Not all towns have schools but most seem to have at least one and that one may be a single classroom that teaches to all grade levels.  And everybody knows everybody.

There’s almost always a Super (grocery store), at least one if not several.  If not a Super than definitely a pulperia. And maybe a pharmacy and hardware store, if you’re lucky.  Banks are more difficult to find in these little towns.

The mail is delivered by motorcycle (can you imagine trying to deliver the mail by moto in the States!!) and at the post office, you can recharge your prepaid cell phone and pay your utility bills.

Nosara Post Office
Nosara Post Office

You really have to experience it for yourself to fully understand just how different it is here and understand that there are different ways to live one’s life…that a Starbuck’s on every corner is most definitely not a necessity.

Enjoy the slideshow of the little towns of Costa Rica…

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Pura vida…Chrissy

Wood Oven Pizza for Pick Up in Nosara

Nosara Pizza Place The other day I was driving with my boss to Nosara and when we stopped at the gas station, we noticed a handwritten sign on a bulletin board that said, in Spanish, “Wood oven pizza for pickup” with a few types of pizza listed below.  It was almost lunch and we were both hungry so we decided to call the number and order a few pizzas to go.

It turned out this wasn’t a restaurant or even a local soda, it was just someone at their home, trying to make a living.  We got lost getting there as the directions were a bit vague (as always) but when we arrived, the chef and his young daughter greeted us with big smiles and handed us two large pizza boxes.  He told us that he was an out-of-work chef and was just trying to make ends meet which is why he put the sign up at the gas station, in the hopes of getting some business.Nosara wood oven pizza

Life can be difficult – We have to be innovative and think outside of the box in order to survive.  And we have to support others in their endeavors to thrive.  I encourage you to support your local community members, you never know what kind of difference it can make in someone’s life.

Pura vida…Chrissy

Riding on Motorcycles with Boys

Riding on motorcycles in Costa Rica 2Warning: if you’re a parent, especially if you’re my parents, you probably shouldn’t read this post.

It seems like all the rules of society that we normally live by go out the window here in Costa Rica.

Probably the most frequently broken rule here is that most people  don’t wear seatbelts. Unless you’re in a newer rental car and then the car will beep at you incessantly until you put it on.

Then there’s the drinking and driving. I’m not just talking about going to a bar, drinking a beer and then driving home. No, I’m using the phrase in its most literal sense. Drinking while driving.

So I’ve saved the best (well, really, the worst) broken rule for last…

Driving on motorcycles without helmets, on dirt roads that are literally crumbling more with each rain. San Juanillo is also a very hilly terrain so not only is the road dirt, and we’re careening around large rocks, ditches and craters, all the while going down – or up – a steep hillside. Imagine the moon’s surface and you’ll get a pretty good idea of the roads along the undeveloped Guanacaste coastline .  And did I mention it’s almost always at night when I’m riding on the back of these bikes?

Nicoya Peninsula Roads

And again, without a helmet.

That’s just the way it’s done here. It’s not uncommon to see a family on a motorcycle with two parents, two kids and no helmets. Sometimes there’s even a dog!

Pura vida…Chrissy

The Cashew Tree

Thanks for your comments and feedback from my last post…It was a bit more heavy than what I normally write so I thought with this one, I’d write about something a little fun and more interesting…Enjoy!

Ok…So am I the only one that didn’t know how cashews grow? Seriously, check this out…is it not one of the weirdest things you’ve ever seen? No wonder cashews are so expensive and hard to find in Costa Rica!

Cashew tree

And from what I was told…growing them isn’t all that hard. It’s what you have to do after they’ve grown that is difficult. So the apple part up top can be eaten or put into juice. But it’s getting the cashew out of the shell that is the challenge – because along with the cashew, there is a substance inside it that will burn you if you touch it! I won’t be harvesting cashews anytime soon but I sure will appreciate them more when I eat them!

Cashew nuts

Pura vida…Chrissy

Finding my voice

Costa Rica RainbowThis is a difficult post to write. Over the last few weeks (well, really, months), I’ve felt like I’m on a rollercoaster but somehow I’ve experienced very few ups and lots more downs. And the ride down has not been exhilarating and fun…it’s been terrifying like a freefall and often times, extremely sad. It’s like there has been a perpetual dark cloud hovering over my head.

But each of these freefalls has helped me get really clear on what I want…and don’t want. All my life, I’ve been the type of person who gives generously without asking for anything in return. If someone needs my help, I give it to them. If someone needs money or some other material item, I will help them get it. But honestly, I’m no longer in a position to do that here in Costa Rica.

Especially when I’m not supported in return or when my requests and needs aren’t listened to or when what I offer is not appreciated or when more is asked of me than I can actually manage. I’m tired of being pushed into corners and forced into situations that I don’t want to be a part of. I know that in many situations, there are compromises that need to be made. However I feel like I compromise too much and, too often, I compromise to the point where I’m always losing out and not getting anything out of it.

And really, there are just some people whose drama I don’t want to touch with a ten foot pole. I have enough problems to manage on my own…and I prefer if they not bring their drama into my world. Actually, at this point, I’m just refusing to allow it to enter my world.

So I’ve found my voice and I’ve learned to say No. In doing so, I’ve also hurt some relationships that I really treasure. But I just can’t keep saying Yes to everything, especially those things that I don’t want to do or that I’m uncomfortable with, for whatever reason.

I’m trying to stand up for myself, to have a voice and to go after what I want…and to let go of that which doesn’t serve a positive purpose. I feel like it’s a lot harder to do this here in Costa Rica – there are cultural issues that have to be managed as well as more challenging personal relationships – but I’m doing my best to live my life with as much integrity as possible and to find a balance of living a life that not only benefits me but all of life without running me into the ground with exhaustion or putting me in situations where my values are compromised. I still want to support others but the past mentality of always saying Yes just isn’t sustainable in the long run if it affects my happiness and overall well-being.

If anyone has any thoughts on this topic, I’d love to hear them.

Pura vida…Chrissy