Kudos for Kevin

KevinKevin’s been working with me for over two years and while we’ve had our share of ups and downs and growing pains within the business, he’s always been there for me and my company. So I wanted to give him some kudos and acknowledge what makes him so great to work with.

  • He rescues butterflies
  • He participates and is open to new experiences, stepping out of his comfort zone…taking yoga, water aerobics and even birdwatching at 5:30 in the morning
  • He does all the hard physical work- like climbing rocks to get pictures of ancient turtle traps while I stay safely on the ground.
  • When we travel, he fully immerses himself into the hotel experience- even trying out one hotel’s Hawaiian style bathrobe.
  • He’s open to trying new foods (you may be surprised at how many people I’ve met who refuse to do that). He even tried tofu AND spirulina…and liked both
  • Our clients love him
  • We travel well together. In other words, I don’t want to kill him by the end of the trip
  • He tries to make me fall. Alright that one is an inside joke but trust me, it’s not a bad thing. It’s actually quite funny.
  • He’s like a sponge. Soaking up new information and learning quickly
  • He’s got an amazing memory
  • He has a great eye for photography
  • He reminds me of our niche when I start to consider working with other types of clients and businesses
  • He chooses to do the most difficult projects first
  • I trust him completely

One of my most favorite discussions with him (which had to do with the inside joke of my clumsiness):

  • You need to be wearing your 4×4 sandals (him to me)
  • I’m glad my pain is your entertainment (me to him)

You had to be there to really appreciate the humor in that conversation.

I couldn’t manage this company without him and I’m grateful for his steadfast and loyal commitment.

Chrissy

The Lack of Fruits, Veggies and Big Box Stores in Costa Rica

There are 3 local “supermarkets” (really, pulperias) within about 50 feet of each other and about a 3 minute walk from my house.  They only have the basics.  The very basics.  Not even what I like to call basics+ (like maybe a jar of olives or a bottle of tahini).  They rarely have fruits or veggies.  When I say rarely, I really mean never. They don’t sell alcohol.  I’m guessing the liquor license is too expensive.

But that’s okay…because just walking another 15 feet or so and I’ll hit the liquor store.  They only sell alcohol and a few things like chips and small snack packs.  I’ve even been told they deliver!  Perfect  with the rainy season that we’re in the middle of currently. (yes, it has started to rain more)

Quepos reminds me a little of a small European town.  There’s the panaderia (bread shop) that I’m told is open 24 hours/day, the carniceria (meat shop), the flower shop, a few pharmacies and a hardware store on every corner.  Okay, I don’t remember there being that many hardware stores in Europe but there’s literally one on every corner here.  Hardware stores here are like wine shops in Italy. There’s also a lot more tiny supermarkets dispersed around the town.

And while I love supporting the local people, I just wish they could open one big store that would have everything I need.  There are days when I think…if only there was a Target or a Costco here in Costa Rica.  Well, specifically in Manuel Antonio.  I know there is a Walmart and PriceMart (a membership store like Costco) in San Jose but that doesn’t do me any good here.  The MaxiPali just outside of Quepos proper is technically a Walmart but it still has very little in the store that is of value to me.

It’s kind of like I went from 100 options to 1.  And while it’s nice to have simpler choices in my life, it’s also very limiting.  And often times, I go from 100 options to none.

Here’s an example: I was trying to find a new drying rack (because the one I bought last year at Do-It-Center in Liberia broke, what a surprise) but they don’t exist here.  To further prove that, my housekeeper was in awe of it when she saw it – it was like a totally new invention to her.  I have superglued it together for the time being but eventually it will break again.  Life would just be so much simpler with a big box store.  Never did I think I’d say that.  But there isn’t one here so I am now keeping a list of where I can buy certain products.

i.e. garbanzo beans at Super Iguana, rice paper and tahini at Super Mas, Toña at Super Joseth

I can’t find powdered sugar anywhere. Nor could I find chia…until one special day at Super Mas.  I found 4 bags!  And knowing that things like this are not often found here, I decided to get two, trying my best not to be greedy and just take all four.  However when I went to check out, the girl told me they weren’t in the system so I couldn’t buy them.  Now, normally in a situation like that, they’ll just say: Ah, it’s probably $5, how does that sound?  But not today.  I so desperately wanted this chia so I asked to speak with the manager.  There had to be a price!  It was on the shelf after all!

So one of the clerks took me upstairs to meet with the owner.  It’s a family owned store and I met with the owner’s daughter.  She explained to me that the chia was for her family and wasn’t supposed to be put on the shelf, hence why there wasn’t a price on the tag.  But she wanted to do something nice so she offered to sell me one.  And I told her that if she could get her supplier to bring more, I’d buy lots more.  And probably a few other people I know in the area would be interested as well!

It’s so difficult to find health food here.  I’m not kidding when I say that the three markets closest to me NEVER have fruits or veggies!  The closest Automercado is about an hour away, north of Jaco. So I’m SOL with trying to get there!  The local feria (Farmer’s Market) on Friday nights and Saturday mornings has some items but still not really what I’m looking for.

Yes, I know, I’ve been here almost a year and a half and I’m still complaining about the lack of fresh fruits and vegetables in Costa Rica.  But I’m just not prepared to have a diet that is solely made up of high carbohydrate, low nutrient dense meals.  I need greens! I need color in my diet.  I’m putting this out to the universe and hoping by some miracle that I will find kale again…one day soon.  And more chia!

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

Meeting new people, making new connections

I am constantly meeting new people.  Normally, it’s on the catamaran tour or at one of the hotels I work with.  And while I don’t always make lasting connections, I always learn something new from them.

My newest friend is Hasida, originally from Bosnia and now living and working in Canada as a nurse.  We met at the retreat at Hacienda del Sol.  We’re the same age and we joked that with all of our similarities in our personalities, we could easily be sisters.  But there were also many differences in our lives and I learned so much from my experience of meeting her.

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First, it was nice to see Costa Rica through her eyes.  It was her first experience in this type of rural environment and while everything is just so normal for me now, for someone new, there can actually be some interesting and sometimes scary moments.  One thing she probably wasn’t totally prepared for were the bugs.  We’re not yet in rainy season so there aren’t many but, somehow, most of them found their way into her room.  And of course, coming from Canada in April, she had to adjust to the heat and humidity.  But by the end of the week, she had settled  into the living environment and really enjoyed her week on the rich coast.

Then there was the dirt roads – which again, by the end of the week, she had grown accustomed to.  And let’s not forget the Costa Rica Pura Vida lifestyle.  Like when we went to a hotel in Guiones for lunch but received our food before we got our Tamarind, Lime and Ginger drinks.  Welcome to Costa Rica is all I can say.  That’s just the way it is here.

The funniest part were the howlers one morning.  She could only hear them and she couldn’t believe that there weren’t gorillas in the jungle.  They’re so loud that while she had seen howlers on our first day’s hike, she couldn’t imagine such a small animal making such a loud noise.  Especially not at 5 a.m.

As for life experiences, hers are very different from mine.  I can’t imagine being a teenager in a war-torn country and having to flee (first to Germany, then to Canada).  Because of those circumstances, she can speak fluently Bosnian, German and English.  Impressive since I’m still trying to learn Spanish!

I learned so much from her about life in this one week we spent together.  And I’m looking forward to seeing her again when she returns to Hacienda del Sol for another retreat in December.  Which I promised her…the roads will (hopefully) be graded at that time, the rivers will have water in them and everything will be so green and lush!  As for the bugs…well, I can’t do much about them!

Pura vida…Chrissy

How do cows walk so easily on steep hillsides?

I’ll have one of my team members write more about his experiences in Nicaragua in the next post but I did just want to mention one thing that happened while we were there.

On our first morning at Jicaro, I took my phone and went out on the balcony to check email and enjoy a cup of coffee as the sun rose over Lake Nicaragua.  After seeing nothing of importance in my email folders, I then went to Facebook.  And the first post I read was from my cousin and although she didn’t come right out and say it, I could tell from her words that her dad had passed away a few hours before.  My uncle.  My dad’s brother.

Finding out through Facebook that a family member has died is not a pleasant experience.  Especially when your family’s time zone is 2 hours behind you and it’s 4 a.m. where they are.  And being on a small island where there is really no privacy does not make it any better.

I went to several places around the island, trying to find a little bit of privacy where no staff members or guests were.  After 3 attempts of moving around, I finally ended up at the spa where there was a small sitting area overlooking the lake.  And that’s where I sat for the next 90 minutes, in total shock, not really knowing what to do and just waiting for the hours to go by so that it would be a more reasonable time for me to call my parents.

I kept telling myself…find your yoga breath, Chrissy.  Find the peaceful serenity in the sadness.  The beauty amongst the uncomfortable rocks.

flowers and rocks

When I lived in Sonoma County, there were a lot of hills and cows.  And one time as we were driving around, my dad told me that Uncle Freddie used to joke with us when we were kids, asking the question: How do cows walk so easily on steep hillsides?  His answer was that the cows on the hills were special cows and they could easily walk on them because one side of their legs was shorter than the other.  And every time after as I drove around Sonoma, I would see the cows and laugh, thinking of Uncle Freddie and the cows funny, short-sided legs.

Rainbow and cows

Pura vida…Chrissy

Inspirations

Spaces full of art and music make our world a place of expression

So I’ve started a Pinterest account.  I’ve been a hold out and I still don’t totally understand the point since most of the time, if I want to find something online, I just google it.  But for business reasons, it was a necessity.

One of the boards I created, I titled: Inspiration

Much of what I chose to put in there was about relaxing – you’ll see a lot of my legs in hammocks, sunrises and sunsets. After all, we must relax and rejuvenate ourselves to do great things.  We can’t expend all our energy, run on empty and still be inspired and inspiring.

But as I looked through my old blog posts of what’s inspired me over the last few years, I found other photos as well.  Those that relate to art and music, creativity and other forms of inspiration.  The photo above was taken in Turrialba, Costa Rica and its message is so important, especially as the US continues to remove funding for the arts from its schools.

I hope you’ll follow along with my “pins” and if something inspires you, I hope you’ll repin it and share with others!

Follow Me on Pinterest

Pura vida…Chrissy

Inspiring Altruism

One of the many local shops damaged during the 2009 Poas Earthquake

“I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do. What I can do, I should do. And what I should do, by the grace of God, I will do.”  Edward Hale

During my travels last month, I had a chance to catch up with a dear friend.  I didn’t get to spend much time with him as he had been out of town, attending workshops and classes, continuing his education.  But he told me a story that has stuck with me, inspired me and made me want to share it with you.

We often think that we’re just one person, that maybe we don’t have much money to give to others and we don’t know how we can help.  But each of us makes a difference.  This story proves that.

My friend told me that he had recently been traveling through the Poas region.  If you’ve read my book, you’ll remember that I was there when the 2009 earthquake hit and saw the damage it caused to the region (photo above).  From what my friend told me, much of the area and its people are still trying to recover – almost 4 years later.

He told me about one hotel/restaurant that was being rebuilt and how they had a view from their veranda to a waterfall and a beautiful vista full of trees and plants.  And of course, many many birds.  He told me he wanted to find someway to help them bring more tourists to their recovering business and he decided to create a “bird list” for them.  He would take a few days to observe all the birds he saw in the area and then create a sign that listed the birds that they could post out on the veranda that overlooked the forested area.  Birdwatching is hugely popular in Costa Rica so this was a great idea to help out the business.

And it was something so simple that didn’t take much time, money or effort for my friend.  He didn’t have any connection to these people, he just had an altruistic desire to find some way to help.

Just like my friend last week that I mentioned in the Tortuga post, I’m proud to call this young man my friend.  Each of us can make a difference – what small project can you do to help someone else out?

Pura vida…Chrissy

Staying Connected

Two friends who don’t know each other posting at the same time from the same event.

Facebook is really an amazing invention.  I spend almost my entire day on it as it’s what I do for work but while most of the time, I’m on special pages that I’ve created so I only see my clients’ posts, I do occasionally go to the main page to see what is happening in the world with my friends.

Some people, I haven’t seen or talked with in years while others I just talked to this morning.  But either way, it doesn’t matter, because Facebook has allowed us to become one large community of friends.  We support each other during rough times, we laugh with each other when something funny happens and we watch and share the joy of life unfold before us.

Every day, I’m  able to see life’s tragedies and triumphs – a friend got a kidney transplant after more than 18 months of waiting, another friend lost her husband in a tragic car accident, another friend’s husband returned after a long trip away, a friend got her Visa to live in Australia, another friend struggles to find his dream job in Brasil, other friends have lost their jobs and struggle to find work, children are born, people get married…then divorced, people buy houses and lose their houses.

There are ups and downs and through it all, we find ourselves connected through our commonalities and learn more about each other and ourselves through our differences.  It’s a way to stay connected and support each other when we’re all so far apart.

I use Facebook for business and to have meaningful relationships with the people I love.  Every one of my friends, I either have a personal or business relationship with.  And each one is meaningful to me.  It’s a big world and with so many friends in different time zones, it’s the perfect way for me to stay connected.

Pura vida…Chrissy

Asking for help

Asking for help is not something that comes easy for me.  Often times in the past, when I’ve reached out to people, I generally got a negative response or something like – you have to do everything on your own, you’re an adult.

When the nurse flushed out the cotton swab from my ear last week, the accumulation of water ended up causing an infection and I had to return to the doctor on Tuesday.  Earlier that morning though, I was still trying to be strong and take care of myself.  I was still trying to work and go about my daily life.  I went to breakfast, I tried to chitchat, and I went back to my room and cried because it took all my strength to get through those few minutes.  The pain was excruciating and it didn’t matter how much ibuprofen I took, nothing helped.

But living at a hotel, word spreads quickly and very soon, the restaurant was delivering lunch to my room, telling me I needed to eat for strength, the server who delivered my lunch told me to call him if I needed anything else, the front desk told me that if they could do anything, to let them know and the owner of the hotel called me to let me know to call her on her cell phone for anything I might need and arranged to have a special dinner (not on the menu) sent to my room.

Another boss emailed me to say not to worry about work, to rest and let him know if I needed anything or had any questions about the treatment or doctor’s recommendations.  It’s funny that I have to come all the way to Costa Rica to be supported but there’s just such a different mindset here.  It isn’t all about independence and being on your own.  It’s a connection that’s been so lacking in my life these last few years.  And I’m grateful to finally have people I can depend on.  Whether it’s an illness, trying to find a place to live, buying a temporary cell phone or opening a bank account (more about that next week), it’s nice to have people who support me and want to help me succeed here on the Rich Coast.

Doctor’s visit: Free (I found out the hotel has an agreement with the doctor to provide free care to its employees)

Antibiotics, acetaminophen and ear drops: $75

Taxi to the doctor and two pharmacies: $10

Total time for all of the above: 30 minutes (had I been in the States, I would have still been at the doctor’s office after 30 minutes and it would have taken me 15 minutes just to drive there)

Pura vida…Chrissy