Thursday, December 27, 2007

On December 21st, the Voz Que Clama Mission held their Cabecar Indigenous Christmas Party in the Chirripo mountain town of Quetzal, Costa Rica. I had never made the difficult drive to the Chirripo Mountains before. The almost 3 hour drive from Tuis on the rugged volcanic tortured terrain was steep and remote, it appeared barely populated except for large patches of deforestation.

We were blessed to have 12 house guests who were able to attend with us. The boys helped Phil pack our big flatbed truck with donations of clothing and Christmas gifts for the children and they left our house at 6am to go to the Mission in Tuis de Turrialba and continue to load our truck with all of the donated items. It was a beautiful sunny, hot day for the event.

Two students from EARTH University joined us and they brought a van load of donations from the students. How wonderful that so many participated.

My guests helped peel onions and chop veggies while I prepared the rice and beans for our contribution to the feast, the largest pot of vegetarian Spanish Rice I had ever made. It was a joint effort starting at 5:30am to make a warm and nutritious meal hoping it would still be warm by the time it was served. In the end not a spec of food was left over, and the very hungry Indigenous did not notice that their food was no longer hot and the soda was warm. When it was time to eat the Chief blew his whistle and the children lined up first in one very long, quiet, straight line with no pushing. Amazing!

The vehicles leaving the Mission were burdened with gifts, people and food. A local cattle truck was packed with volunteers from the Mission’s town of Tuis. Others drove their vehicles packed with people and food, a Hyundai Gallopher pulled a trailer loaded with sacks of surprises as we traveled in caravan style to Quetzal. The volume of people, vehicles, their overloaded capacity, and the high energy was a sight to behold. Piled atop our big truck I noticed the wheelchairs that belonged to the handicapped residents of the Mission, no one was left behind. It was a glorious event for all to enjoy. The journey was difficult, steep, vertical, and the suspension bridges were swaying over their very long span. One vehicle at a time, each vehicle allowed the previous to reach the other side before the next vehicle progressed very slowly onto the rickety well worn boards. We crossed water with no bridge and picked our way around and over water covered boulders and very deep spots.

The little children from the reservation were so beautiful. They came dressed in their finest clothing, so dirty from the long journey that my friend Rande commented as we looked at an adorable little girl, that she wanted to take her home and…..….wash her. It was easy to tell which Indigenous came from the surrounding area and who came from high up on the reservation by how clean they were. Their muddy rubber boots told the story.

Santa also attended to the delight of the children and he brought special gifts with him, toys, dolls, trucks, and gifts of warmth. There were two large Santa piñatas filled with candy and the children took turns hitting them until they released their sweet treats.

We learned that our taste in clothing and theirs is very different in some instances. We had lots of good laughter as we watch an Indigenous man so proud in his woman’s tunic top. It was flashy and he loved it. There was something for everyone.

We had far more people than we planned on. I think that no one could have done a better job of handling, so many than Daniel, Hector and staff as they worked with the Chief of the Tribe. They saw to it that everyone got something and had a good time. Building relationships within the Indigenous tribes is most important. It takes so many years, you don’t want anyone to feel hurt or left out. I think that having the items of used clothing made a big difference. They need clothing and items of warmth, but they were not greedy. In fact it was as if they were afraid to pick out or touch the clothing, and yet we know they have little or none. We had to encourage them to take items. Not that they understood a word that we were saying. Remember, most do not speak Spanish, they speak Cabecar.

I have started to plan for next year’s event already. You can participate from wherever you are. We always need gifts of clothing, and all of the other items that are on the Wish List. When you come to visit, please bring us a suitcase filled with donations. Your friends and co-workers will gladly clean out their closets and give you the donations. Your local school will help with school supplies. Children love to help other needy children and you would have a hard time to find children more needy, with no resources, no other possibilities other than you. If you would like to send a tax-deductible check, you can mail it to our US address and we will provide for their needs as necessary.

Voz Que Clama Mission
990 Sunset Drive
California 95448

It is very different in the US. Somebody always cares, there are agencies, churches, food pantries, food stamps, assistance, clothing banks…, here, there is nothing and for the most part, no one cares. Do you think I am wrong? Read this report, we should be informed as to the reality of our Indigenous. The Cabecar are one of the many tribes of the Americas. They routinely traversed from South America to Canada and back many years ago before there were borders.

All people deserve an opportunity to live in dignity, it has not served this world well, to ignore any particular group of people. We are all humans struggling to survive. Some are struggling far more than others just to see another sunrise. There, but for the grace of God, go I. We thank you for your kindness and generosity and look forward to hearing from you.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Cabecar Indigenous children playing a game at the party for them.
Helen Thompson an English reporter from AM Costa Rica joined us for several days and wrote about our Indigenous Christmas Party for the Children. You can see her story and photos here
Sally O'Boyle and her sons, Americans now living in Escazu, Costa Rica also joined us and wrote a wonderful touching story with many photos.
I was asked who the mission served, the following is an overview as I see their service:

Mostly they serve the Cabecar Indigenous, but they serve so many more.

The Mission's service to the Cabecar Indigenous gives employment to locals, the caretakers of the patients, teachers for the language school that helps support the Mission's projects.

The women who cook the meals, care for the patients, clean and wash now have employment.

A vehicle driver now has employment driving the handicapped residents to school, shopping and medical appointments..

The Mission brings the Spanish Language students that need paid homestays and meals.

The visiting students bring donations for the Indigenous, and spend money in Tuis providing the trickle down theory of employment.

The students return to their native countries sharing their experiences and all that they learned by participating in our very rural Costa Rican lives.

Perhaps the town of Tuis has been blessed the most through their changed perceptions of the Indigenous. At first reserved, and unsure if a Mission was what they wanted in their town, they have come to be supportive and protective of the Mission and their work Many locals volunteer to help the patients, carry supplies to the reservation, and they come to Sunday afternoon service.

The original concept was to be a church. Because Costa Rica is primarily Catholic, people would not come to the non-denominational church because they said "we have a church and you can only have one church." Daniel and Hector made the mental adjustment to become a Mission; the people said, "a Mission is good, a mission helps people, we don't have a Mission, we can come." And so a Mission it was. In the early days people came to the simple small house owned by the Mission and at 4pm on Sundays, service was held. Why 4pm? Our rural neighbors are agricultural based, they have cows to feed and milk, farm chores that must take place every morning, farming is a 7 day a week job. The house that is now the Language School and administration center of the Mission, was the first place of worship. Soon they could no longer fit in the little house and the need for a larger facility was needed. At this time service is held outdoors, under cover, surrounded by cows and horses who seem to enjoy the inspirational music that flows from Hectors keyboard and vocals, and the driving beat of Daniels drums. Both of the Mission's directors are also extremely talented professional musicians.

Working with little money they put on the most professional service. I reflect to my diverse religious background of having been raised Catholic and in later years attending various churches who served my needs. We had the songs sung projected onto a screen that dropped down from the costly ceiling. The Mission has a sheet hung from a chainlink fence, a young man of perhaps 10 years of age is in charge of the projector on a folding table and pushing the buttons on a laptop that operates the PowerPoint presentation taking us to the next page or the next tune. He is silent, wise beyond his years, serious and professional with his demeanor and operational skills. His small body stands 10 foot tall with the responsibility that is in his hands. The on looking cows are equally impressed as they move closer and closer, I think they are grooving on the tunes. The Indigenous as well as Costa Rican neighbors pour in. Some walk the long and winding road from La Suiza that follows the Rio Tuis to attend what becomes the highlight of their week. It is dark when they make the return trip on the dangerous dark winding road. As we drive home on the obstacle course of people and free ranging cows who have escaped and an occasional horse with and or without a rider, it always comes to me that it is a wonder there are not more roads deaths. No one has a flashlight or reflector, ever. It never seems to occur to them to move out of the way.

The women of Tuis will make their locally unique food for the Indigenous Christmas party. It will be made with love from their hearts because they have come to appreciate the Indigenous, their plight, and the richness that the Mission, Daniel, Hector and all of the volunteers have brought to their lives. They will never be the same again.

Ginnee y Felipe HancockFinca Quijote de Esperanza, SACosta Rica

Monday, December 03, 2007

I was sitting in my favorite chair at 2:05pm today when an earthquake rolled through the house. A smaller quake rolled through last week, or perhaps I was in the right place today to feel the maximum swell. Phil was in the kitchen preparing our coffee and heard the roof creak, but did not feel the roll. It is like a wave softly rolling through the house. It came up the hill through the front yard, from North to South, and into the living room. I shouted out to Phil that we just had an earthquake. The parrots did not quit screeching, not even for a moment. What’s a little more sway if you’re a bird?

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The blog has had no new additions as of late, not because nothing is happening but because I did not want to give a Dear Diary, blow by blow description of the ongoing events in our lives. I have written possible entries but I did not like what they said or where my head was. Sometimes I need a mental adjustment and the frisbees of life were flying faster than I was able to comfortably process them.

My husband Felipe is still recovering from his accident about 3 months ago. He may be unplugged from his wound vac today at the hospital, lets hope.. The vacuum is no longer sucking up vast amounts of fluid, only a very small dribble at this point.

What treatment has worked? I am sure the tree bark tea (try saying that fast 3 times) prescribed by the BriBri medicine man has helped, because within a few days the lymphatic fluid slowed down and is now almost finished. Felipe started hyperbaric oxygen chamber therapy last week and continues that treatment through this week. It is making him smarter while repairing cells. They say it increases your IQ by 50%. His skin on that leg is still abnormally hard to the touch. I would say he still has edema from the knee down. He wears a compressions sock and that will continue. I do not know why the skin remains hard, nor how to cure this problem. Will time make a difference? I need to get more tree bark and continue with the tea as it was the factor that changed our course. Felipe is scheduled to see the medicine man again on the 3rd I believe. What will be prescribed next?

I did try dry brush lymphatic massage on my husband (the instructions of which I downloaded off the internet) perhaps that helped, he said it felt good and was enjoyable. I wrote to some friends that between the dry brush lymphatic massage, the tree bark tea, medicine man, hyperbaric oxygen chamber and wound vac machine, the only thing missing was a cloud of medicinal marijuana smoke and chanting monks. We are still open to suggestions and cures for the final act of this play.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

We took the bus to San Jose yesterday for another visit with Phil’s surgeon. He is slowly mending and it does look better, but it is going to be sometime before we see normal.

The directo bus is the best way to go to and from San Jose and it is less than $2.00 a ticket. With gas prices at $1.00 a liter, this is a bargain. This particular bus (they run every hour on the hour) had pleasant, soothing, easy listening jazz music. Sufficient for keeping the driver awake and yet calm the passengers. I choose not to drive this route as it is a white knuckle trip most of the time and I see nothing except the road because I am trying not fall off of it. Being elevated on the bus gives you a different view over the barriers of obstruction that car passengers see because they are so much lower. If the bus fell off the road there are places where we would fall for what looks like thousands of feet before we became an unidentifiable heap as a result of our abrupt halt. The cows would not even slow us down. How do they adhere to the sides of such verticalness? Sometimes they don’t.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

64 degrees at 7:30am is the perfect temperature to wake up to. Beautiful blue sky and crisp sheets to lay on, it does not get any better than this.

Last night it rained hard, extended hours of serious white-out condition downpours with thunder and lightning. The hardest lengthy rain we have had so far this season. I can still at this moment hear the stream raging as the waters from the mountains flow down through the forest.

An early appointment today brought me to the farm for a closer inspection of our rivers. Tiny meandering streams were swollen from the abundant rain. The boxes of rocks we built for one problem stream are holding strong and fully performing to expectations. We could not ask for more. Today they were covered with large rocks that were not there just 3 days ago. Trees have fallen; some have been swept down river. Everyday the view changes, the river giveth and the river taketh away. You never know what awaits you and perhaps that is the excitement of being truly alive in rural Costa Rica.

Maria is down at our river looking for magical medicinal therapy rocks for use in massage. She found a suitcase full.
One of our cows fell down during a landslide and broke her leg last week so after checking with the vet who had just visited the herd on the previous day, she was butchered at the farm for meat. We gave all of the meat away to workers, neighbors and then took a cooler full to the Mission. It was perfect timing as there had been a large number of Indigenous staying with them and food was in short supply because they had exceeded their food budget for the month. Meat is expensive for Costa Ricans and they buy very little. Daniel and some men from the Mission took the whole giant sections and legs to the local butcher and he cut them into manageable pieces that could be packaged and frozen for future meals.

Maria, a Russian American woman who is a licensed massage therapist in Florida and learned the art originally from her Mother in Russia, visited the Voz Que Clama Mission with me on this day. We met with some of the patients who reside at the mission and Maria worked with several of them while chatting and receiving big smiles. Maria speaks Spanish, Russian and English, but these Indigenous speak no Spanish or very little; yet the big smiles tell you all that you need to know.

One young man has Cerebral Palsy and shares a room with his Mother at the Mission. He was placed on a tin roof and left to die by his tribe because they believed he had a bad spirit, both he and his Mother were taken into the Mission when they found him near death several years ago. Maria showed his caregiver how to gently stretch his legs and exercise them. He has feeling in his feet and Maria tells me that if he were to have excellent physical and massage therapy he could possibly walk and have some mobility in 2 to 3 years. That would be a blessing.

Another young man who suffered a spinal cord injury when he fell out of a tree was beaten with sticks by his family and left out to die in the Chirripo rainforest in adverse cold and wet weather because he was a burden to his family and they did not want him. He showed me his father’s cedula (social security card) with his father’s photo on it. Daniel the co-director at the Mission tells me that this boy loves his family very much and has forgiven them. He looks forward to their visits at the Mission and is warm and loving towards everyone.

I commented that I was not sure I would be able to do the same at this point in my life. Daniel said he knew he was not yet there. There are many lessons of love, commitment and forgiveness to be learned at the Mission and I learn another lesson with every humbling visit.
Thieves stole the phone wires to the town in the middle of the night, right by Casa Turirre, our 4 star resort. At 11pm I had phone service but none at 7am. The police, many of whom do not have a gun, will not take their car up the mountains so the thieves wave bye until the next time. Nobody in our surrounding little towns from that point on has phone service because of the break. How petty. I wonder how much a couple of low life ladrones can get for stolen phone wire that contains a minimal amount of copper? Enough for some crack or guaro perhaps. Drug use is a problem in every country. Costa Rica has the compounded problem of being the drug route out of Columbia on its Caribbean side, unstable employment opportunities, untrained uneducated labor, and little money to control, catch, punish, contain, the bad guys. I see crack sales happening in Turrialba by the old railroad tracks when we go to buy propane for our tanks. I always have the urge to do something to ruin their day, or capture them, but I am still thinking about that. My husband has commented that he doesn’t know how I have managed to live this long. They have ruined their lives, and I am sure that death will pursue them all too soon one way or another. “It is easier to give birth than to breathe life back into the dead.” That is why we must focus on the children and provide useable education for them.

When a lone policeman pulled me over because my 2nd license plate had fallen off the front of my car, rather than just write me a ticket, he preferred to hassle me looking for chorizo (a bribe of $20.00). Which in the end he received and I received a $4.00 ticket in exchange. I remember that he had a little pea shooter of a gun stuffed in his pants waistband, pointed at his manhood (my cowgirl gun when I was 5 was more substantial and I had a holster to go with it), and I pictured it going off the whole time he had me. It was an ugly vision. It is also more lucratively rewarding for him to pull me over rather than deal with real crime such as drugs and theft.

I look forward to my morning phone calls from my husband and that won’t happen today. He has another surgery scheduled for this evening at 8pm. What I hope will be the last of too many, and then he can come home.

Useable education, think about that for a minute. They teach French in the 7th grade in my area. I will only address my area in this instance as there is no consistency regarding much of anything in this country except to say that Public Education for the most part is severely lacking. I am being very kind, it actually sucks big time, and it is just a matter of is your area worse than mine. French, what is that about? How useless in the scope of things. If you are French I am not trying to insult you, we really appreciate the ambulances you donated. But you also speak English as it is the world’s business language and you are educated. Most all Europeans learn English in school, so when you are a poor Costa Rican child, and you do not know how to use your Spanish dictionary, phone book, do simple math, read, comprehend and enjoy a novel in Spanish, why in the world is your educational system wasting your time on French? All job opportunities requiring a 2nd language in Costa Rica such as Call Centers or tech support require English.

Shop class, an elective in the US, would be an extremely useful class (useable education) in rural Costa Rica. You can see where math without a calculator could come in handy in this instance and they could count their money all the way to the bank. French will get them….,what? Sorry, can’t think of a thing, because they will never learn more than a few words to start with, they can’t read Spanish sufficiently yet. They need to focus on useable, useful educational tools, asking every step of the way, “Will this get me a job or provide me the ability to make an honest living?”

This walking stick insect was found on the front wall of our home. You can see how giant he is from the amount of bricks he consumes with his body.

We recently built a small 3 bedroom 1 bathroom prefab home for our caretaker family. Here is Xinia standing at her back door. It has columns that the prefab concrete slides into much like interstate sound walls are made. The house is solid, dry, and they should be of good quality depending on who you purchase from and who the contractor is. We are getting ready to build another one, this time it is my custom design. You can customize them to your liking. The beauty of these homes is that they are completed from start to finish in 3 months.

You have many choices including but not limited to, the height of walls, overhang size for a veranda, and roofing material used. The columns are placed 1.5 meters from each other, or roughly 4 1/2 feet apart, so every 4 1/2 feet I can have electrical outlets. My walls are acceptably smooth and I used a finish with pigment in it so that no painting was required inside or out. The standard windows that were included in the price were fine for the caretaker house we built but I will install custom windows more to my liking in the next home. Because many foreigners such as myself have more kitchen expectations I custom designed a large kitchen with 2 refrigerators and large island with electric for my new home.

Most plans that are presented to you are with the Tico market in mind, but not limited to those plans. In my desire to simplify my life, I never intend to settle for less than what I want. Good use of space for our lifestyle is most important with the kitchen being the focal point. I have studied small space design for a number of years and this was a chance to do something special using local construction techniques and my imagination.

If the area you are building in is subject to termites, you can build a home with little or no wood. Don't discount the option of a prefab concrete home as I found it is both time and cost effective with good results.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Medical Treatment in Costa Rica

Since my husband’s accident about 3 weeks ago we have tested the emergency system and medical treatment at 3 different hospitals in Costa Rica.

The all volunteer 911 rescue Red Cross vehicle came in a timely fashion. We have no complaints about these folks for they must truly be dedicated professionals who love their job as there is no pay involved and they must sell lottery tickets on street corners to earn money for gasoline or diesel fuel to run the ambulance. We must also give thanks to countries such as France and China for donating the ambulances and various emergency vehicles.

How trained are the rescuers? I am not sure about that in all honesty. I came up with the scissors to cut my husbands clothing off and then a flashlight to see with. At one point when more lighting was needed I took the solar lights from the front door pathway and remember feeling like the Statue of Liberty holding torches. Our neighbor Gonzalo went in the back of the ambulance with Phil to regulate the tourniquet and try to keep him focused for the 20 minute pot holed ride. We are grateful for Gonzalo, as his strength has really helped Phil get through this ordeal. The ambulance attendant is also the driver, which limits his ability to care for a patient during transportation even if he had skills or medication.

My friend Bonnie was visiting us from South Florida, she was the first person to reach Phil when he cried out for help. Phil is a very lucky man, the moon and the stars were aligned properly and the Lord was not finished with him.

Our local hospital did the best they could, they saved his life that evening and then sent him on to hospital #2, located in San Jose, 2 hours away. They took a look and sent him back to Turrialba at 4 AM. He remained in the hospital for about a week. A few days after Phil was released we began to realize that Turrialba’s hospital was out of skills and the wound was deteriorating as cells were dying. We made the decision not to return but to instead take the bus to San Jose and go to Clinica Biblica. Our neighbor’s daughter made the arrangements and Phil met her there at noon saw the doctor and was admitted. That was more than a week ago.

Today my husband is having another operation. This one is to sew his leg back together and make skin flaps to replace the missing skin. This is his third operation since he has been at Clinica Biblica in the last week. We hope it is the last surgery and I eagerly await his homecoming.

I would post the many photos of his wound, but I have promised not to, and with good reason, they are not pretty. His leg modeling days are officially over.

The good news is that we have both had time to reflect on our master plan, and to remember what our priorities are, why we came here, and where we are going.

Our temperature was about 60 degrees at 6AM; it was another beautiful blue sky morning as I heard horses running up the driveway. The Rottweiler’s bark and chase everything so I ran out the front door but not before they heard the beating of hooves on the inclined rock driveway. Ms. Perla, the hunter, is always at the forefront of a pack chase. Sure enough they all went flying down the driveway barking and the horsemen had the good sense to turn around and retreat.

Yesterday Perla was hunting giant iguanas in the bushes. When she gets the scent of wild animals she comes alive and sniffs every inch of dirt and plant material until she finds something. Beware, do not violate Ms. Perla’s territory! Her house, her yard, her people, it is all about her.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

This is the church, or school. Volunteers sleeping at the reservation. Notice the beds.

Journey to the Cabecar Indigenous Reservation

It was a few weeks ago that my neighbor and friend Sara Gomez, a dental student at the University of Costa Rica, said that she had been home on vacation for only 5 days and she was bored already. I challenged her to journey to the Cabecar Indigenous Reservation with the Mission Voz Que Clama and photograph the trip. This was an important journey, important to me because I can not make this trip, important to her because it expanded her world, her mind, and I knew she could do it. It is also important that you learn about our rural Indigenous. This was probably her most challenging adventure yet, I knew it would be pushing her envelope but I left that part out when sharing the opportunity with her.

The hike to the Cabecar Indigenous Reservation is difficult and only the most athletic and physically fit are able to make the journey. There are no bridges, roads, or comfort, and it is mostly an up mountain climb. The roaring rivers must be crossed by sliding on a cable or fording the deep, cold, torrential river on foot. When you take a canopy tour you are secured in a harness with every safety precaution. Our Indigenous and volunteers sit in a sling, grasp on to their children and possessions while holding on for dear life and then advance hand over hand. At this moment Sara wanted to go back the same way she came, but that was not possible.

To this village the trip is 5 hours long on a good day. From my side of the reservation the trip is 8 hours long to the first village and often can not be made in one day due to weather and river conditions. The Indigenous walk those 8 hours to our farm for emergency help as our farm manager has a cell phone and there is no phone on the reservation. Recently he called 911 and a helicopter came and airlifted a very ill man from the reservation.

I read an article in We Love Costa Rica about Americans like me who move to a developing nation. It correctly said: "The influx of illegal immigrants from south of the border will continue until the economies of their homelands begin providing sufficient job opportunities. US emigrants help to create those jobs. They are America's most effective foreign aid program, but without the bureaucracy and waste. They share more than money. They share themselves. Taken together, they are helping to alleviate the root causes of illegal immigration. Americans bring their sorely needed money and wealth of professional expertise to the homelands of America's immigrants. That steady emigration from the US is thoroughly ignored, however, because relevant statistics are nearly impossible to find." My husband, a nurseryman, and I retired to Costa Rica to protect our rainforest that spawns and grows water. We grow bamboo, vetevier, and nitrogen fixing legumes as well as practice permaculture and biodynamics. We supply school materials to the rural poor and Indigenous children in our area. Currently we are looking for a volunteer teacher who will spend a year with us teaching English and how to read to the poor and Indigenous. We provide jobs to both Costa Ricans and Indigenous, sharing with them the skills that we know as they share with us their knowledge.

I know some of you know folks who have vacationed in Costa Rica and may have even stayed at our Marriott or other fine resorts or hotels and totally missed my part of our country. I have had Gringo's say to me, "I went to Costa Rica and I did not see any poor people." What a shame, those folks took a vacation and missed the best part of my country because they stayed at Disney World, but perhaps they did not know there was more to see. South of Turrialba, the Cordillera de Talamanca is one of Costa Rica’s best kept secrets. The only thing south of us, more or less, is the Indigenous Reservation, La Amistad International Parque and then Panama.

What I am sharing with you is one part of the many parts of the real Costa Rica. This is the land the Indigenous protect, it is a water shed, consisting of cloud and rainforest. So beautiful and yet difficult, these areas produce the purist water on Earth. Not a lot of pure water left on planet Earth unfortunately. Our Indigenous leave the lightest footprint possible on this land. They live with no electricity and wash their clothing in a stream. The children see occasional visiting teachers, and most Indigenous speak little or no Spanish, they speak their Indigenous language. They look forward to visiting missionaries such as Hector and Daniel, both Costa Ricans, who led this adventure and who are the directors at the Mission Voz Que Clama, .

I continue to feel an obligation to help the poor rural children, the Indigenous and the mission, although they ask for nothing. Our Indigenous have been ignored, they are the invisible people. I observe people walking around them when they come to town as if they were lepers. I can’t help looking at their beautiful brown faces and wonder their need and their story. They are mostly uneducated as we understand education and do not attend school because they do not speak Spanish and there is no school in their village. They are wise to the ways of the forest, its animals, medicinal plants, and how to survive. It is only in recent years have they been issued a Cedula, the national identity card (similar to a social security number). They now have free medical care, but little access to it. They often do not have bus fare after having walked down the mountain, as they do not trade in currency, for this is our way, not theirs. As our world continues to move forward encroaching on their lives, our Indigenous are left behind. We have two worlds going on, theirs and ours, they call us the others. Their world is a perfect one in the eyes of nature, not an easy life, but near perfect in many ways, and deficient in others. We are on this planet complicating their life with our greed, our need, and our affluence that sometimes allows us to run over everything in our way. As a global community we must all coexist and care for each other because if we do not, we will all suffer the consequences. So I will share my Wish List with you at the end of my story and ask that when you come to Costa Rica, please bring a suitcase of supplies for these people and their children. You can contact me and we will arrange for pickup at the airport in San Jose, or direct you to a nearby drop off. You are always welcome to come to us (you can drive to the mission) and see the other, real Costa Rica in the South Central Mountains. Mission Voz Que Clama, distributes the donations, helps to educate the children, delivers supplies, builds shelters, saves lives and makes regular journeys to the reservation with volunteers. It has taken years to build a trusting relationship and to be able to communicate with the village. The mission has a 501c3 tax deductible US charitable designation.

Mission Voz Que Clama is located in Tuis de Turrialba. They allow the Indigenous who are traversing to stay at their facility when they come down from the mountain. They also take in the handicap Indigenous who were put out to die because it is believed they have a bad spirit. The Mission provides for all of their living and medical needs in this well run clean, loving, facility with 24/7 staffed care. This is partially funded through the proceeds earned from their Spanish Language School in Tuis If you would like to learn Spanish while on your vacation and have a cultural experience in the heart of rural Costa Rica's mountains and rivers, as well as providing the best kind of foreign aid, this is where your life changing journey begins.

Thank you for caring and understanding, thank you for your support.


Wish list:

Used lap top computers in working order
tooth paste
Backpacks or small and medium duffle tote bags
twin or full blankets
battery-less flashlights (shakable)
notebook paper
pencil sharpeners
colored pencils
art paper
art supplies
craft paper
book bags
finger paints
powder craft paint
face paint
soccer balls
sweat shirts from the thrift store on 1/2 price day, sizes small and medium and children sizes These are small frame people. It is cold in the mountains.
good practical clothing, jeans, t-shirts, (small and medium sizes and children's sizes)
rain gear, umbrellas, rain coats, rain jackets
Baby clothes
Cloth diapers
gathered skirts for girls (they like skirts)
sneakers, children's sneakers, all sizes for children
good quality new socks
drum sticks ($2.00 a pair on the internet)
anything educational
flash cards
simple Spanish / English dictionaries
blow up beach ball globes of the world (they have never seen the world round, only flat)

Ginnee Hancock lives with her husband Felipe in Esperanza and Atirro de Turrialba, Costa Rica on their 1,270 acre rainforest farm.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Our new boy has arrived, he is a Swiss Pardo bull with the sweetest face you have ever seen. He is 18 months old and will join the Brahman girls in their pastures this week.

Good news today, our missing cow has been found in a neighboring town. She went on a very long walk over the last two weeks. I am relieved that she is not being served up for dinner.
We just returned home from the gorgeous Vista del Valle in Naranjo de Rosario, Costa Rica; where we attended their International Community Event this past Saturday. The marlin ceviche was the best I have ever had and apparently others agreed because the Bungee Bar ceviche sold out lickity split. The hot dogs were hot, the pork chicharonnes cooked to perfection and very meaty, the elephant ear pastries wonderful, the arroz con leche was delicious, the corn on the cob buttery, sweet and tender, and because I am a foodie I tried to share one of everything with my husband as we did not want to miss something delicious.

We bought a beautiful bracelet, a watercolor painting (wow they have some real talent in their neighborhood), painted gourds that are very beautiful, handmade paper cards with dried flowers, a pen that is a hand sculpted lizard, handmade baskets and a handmade pipe that was so cute we bought it even though we don't smoke. I am going to look over my loot and see what else I came home with. I love fairs, arts and crafts shows.

We did come home with wonderful memories and new friends that we met at Vista del Valle. The staff is always warm and friendly. The food in the restaurant is perfect. I had Mahi Mahi last night that was to die for and the day before a cream of pumpkin soup that I can still taste and would love to have another bowl of right now. If you missed this event, you will not want to miss the next one. We live about 3 1/2 hours away, traveling is difficult for us because there is so much going on at our finca and, we must spend a night or two when making trips. This was a duel purpose trip as we bought a bull for our herd the following day.

The accommodations are lovely and we stayed in one of the very uniquely designed condominiums surrounded by lush gardens throughout. I met two women, one from Holland and another from Germany who had just returned from a garden tour that they paid to see. They said the gardens at Vista del Valle were far more beautiful, with better presentation, and in retrospect they wasted their money on that tour. They are right, the gardens and winding pathways are very beautiful with diverse tropical plants and flowers, even a waterfall and all with wonderful happy singing birds, wildlife and this morning a raccoon family with babies entertained us by picking banana's from a tree while we sipped our cappuccino.

Some folks have built beautiful homes at the resort and live on premise. We met several owners from California and Seattle while dining at breakfast and dinner in the new restaurant. Jonana and Mike Bresnan, the proprietors, have more staff than rooms, which results in personal service that goes the extra distance to make everyone feel really special.

The 7th of July event was very special, the village residents and staff were so proud that they were featured. They sang, danced, played keyboard, painted the faces of very happy children, sold their art, ate, drank and equally enjoyed the tourist from all over the world as well as the extrajero residents of Costa Rica. The Mayor attended, even the police who just showed up to join the festivities had a great time. You could tell by the smiling faces and body language that everyone involved was enjoying their day. It was what I hope will be the first of many multicultural events to be held at Vista del Valle. Coming together as a community of all people is part of why we moved to Costa Rica. Thanks Jonana and Mike for hosting this wonderful and beautiful event.
We stopped in at my local furniture maker yesterday. I have wanted to have four stools in the kitchen so we could eat lunch at the island, or for when I am spending many hours preparing gourmet meals. The furniture factory is a one man operation with a helper who was hand sanding a piece of wood. He has many American furniture catalogs including the Pottery Barn for you to look at and he will build everything custom the way you want it. We gave him a $20.00 deposit (about 10mil colones), discussed the height and left knowing we would receive our beautiful stools as ordered, later this week.

I love platform beds and he had several he was working on for another customer. How lucky am I to be able to order custom furniture at affordable prices in my town. I have seen various pieces of furniture on the dock space of this shop since I have been here. No it is not an inviting place, not even a sign. He does not even have floor samples for you to view, apparently he does not need to as he is well known and stays busy by word of mouth. He also restores old doors that most of us would just toss out. His work is that of a fine craftsman.

They rarely throw anything away here, including old umbrellas and shoes. You have them repaired, resoled, fixed, and they are good for another life. Perhaps they will even last longer the second time around.

We see cars and trucks on the road that have not been made since the 50’s. Datson, now known at Nisson should be proud to see some of their antiques still running with the best of them under some really bad road conditions. Many are in amazingly beautiful condition despite their vintage.

This is a tomato tree that grows at the Pura Vida Hotel. It is a vine that produces hundreds of tomatos all year long. The house dogs love to eat the tomatos when they drop off. I was holding a tomato in my hand and in an unanounced instant the dog snatched it from me.

We stayed at the Pura Vida Hotel in San Jose just 15 minutes from the airport a few weeks ago. Bernie and Nhi are wonderful hosts. Berni is a well read Costa Rican history scholar and his lovely wife Nhi is an excellent chef and hostess. Her cooking skill are praised by all who stay at their lovely hotel.
Nhi presents the most beautiful platters of regional fresh fruit and fresh squeezed orange and pineapple juice to start the day.

I love this face.

Our cows have arrived to have a happy life at our Rainforest farm. These are my favorites, Brahama girls. I love those big floppy rabbit ears and their silvery white coloring. One cow escaped by crashing through a fence. We have located her a week later but the ranch hands still have not captured her.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Here are two classrooms at CISA language school In this photo one class is directly above the other and they are open air. Very cute and efficient. Classes are small with no more than 3 students to a teacher. Often just one student to a teacher. This gives you the most intensive course possible.

I have recommended CISA and I totally believe that this is the best place to learn Spanish in the most beautiful setting, with wonderful instructors in Costa Rica. If you want a real cultural experience, that is not in gringo Costa Rica, this is it, the real deal, in rural Costa Rica. You will learn sooooo much more than just Spanish. Like April, you will not want to go home.

Here is Hector modeling his 3-D glasses while April and I sort through the art supplies envisioning how excited the children will be.

Hector is the director of the mission and all of it's facilities. He and Daniel, the co-director, do a marvelous job of providing for the handicapped indigenous of the Cabecar tribe. April is their wonderful assistant who volunteered for a year and will now be staying on full time as we just heard that she is getting married to a Costa Rican young man that she met during her stay here. Congratulations April, he is a very lucky man, and we are blessed that you will be staying.

Zach Baker read my blog, gathered up a box of precious professional art supplies and mailed them to me in Costa Rica. What a surprise when a small postal van with two men pulled up to our house in Atirro and blew their horn. This is the first time a postal van has ever been here. We went out to greet them and to our surprise we had a very heavy big box from New York City.

I called the Mission right away and off we went to visit the wonderful folks at Voz Que Clama Mission in Tuis. I love this place and these people, they do so much good working with the handicapped Cabecar Indigenous and the children. This is a very busy time for them as they have two different missionary families of about 13 people studying Spanish at the mission’s language school. Never a dull moment for Hector, Daniel, and their assistant April.

We gathered around the box and opened it up with excitement, it was just like Christmas. Wonderful brushes, paints of all colors, artist pencils, acrylic paints, sculpting knives, a chess set and very cute 3 D glasses that we just could not resist wearing immediately. How fun.

Thank you, Zach Baker, for your kindness and generosity. It is acts of kindness such as this that makes a difference in the lives of others here in southern Costa Rica. This summer the mission will work with their poor rural and indigenous children and these supplies will inspire the children and touch their hearts. Thank you so very much!

Sunday, May 27, 2007

The Wild Rhino Ride
by: Margie Davis

Instead of going to the beach with the rest of the country for Semana Santa (Holy Week), I left the Central Valley and headed for a tiny town called Atirro, about 20 minutes beyond Turrialba, which is on the way to the Caribbean coast.

I had met Ginnee online and she invited me out to where she and husband Phil bought 1,270 acres of land - rain forest, cloud forest, 20 waterfalls, primary forest, pasture and farmland with jaguars, ocelots, anteaters, monkeys and all types of birds, including quetzals and toucans.

Ginnee and Phil moved from Florida to Costa Rica to be land conservationists. They are growing construction-grade bamboo, a wood that meets earthquake code because it has a stronger tensile strength than steel.

They are also growing vetevier, a grass from India with roots nine feet deep, which prevent erosion and landslides and stabilize land by the river that receives about 300 inches of rain a year. Their long-term plan includes growing organic produce for themselves and their workers, and a plant nursery, which was Phil's profession before moving to Costa Rica.

This couple is very generous with their time and attention to the Tico family that is the live-in caretaker for their farm, Finca Quijote de Esperanza. While I was there, Ginnee, an excellent cook, barbecued seven or eight chickens and made a big bowl of scalloped potatoes and pumpkin bread (pan de ayote), which we took to the caretaker's house for a big meal. Ginnee's housekeeper, Carmen, and her family joined us. In all, about 15 of us enjoyed the feast.

The mode of transportation to get to the farm and back to their house, a distance of about six kilometers, is in a beast called the Rhino, which looks like a souped-up dune buggy. It's a Yamaha quad vehicle that goes up to 40 mph, gets 43 miles per gallon, has roll bars and a hydraulic-assist dump bed.

There is no covered roof or sides - you buckle yourself in with the seat belt and hope you don't fall out on the sharp ruts and sudden curves. Ginnee drives the Rhino like a fearless rodeo rider. On the way back to her house from the feast, we got soaked by a chilling rain, but we had more fun than on a wild ride at DisneyWorld, opening our mouths like kids to drink in the rain. Yahoo!
Back at their house, I changed into dry clothes that had been donated for the schoolchildren in their town. While Phil focuses on land development, Ginnee is involved in raising funds and supplies to help the poor children in the community.

I got to see more of this community at the Easter eve church service where a couple dozen folks gathered in the community church. I was surprised to see the service led by two young women, wearing a t-shirt and a tank top, no less! Where was the priest, I wondered. The town of Atirro is too small to have its own priest, I learned. The priest who visits this town once a month is also responsible for 13 other towns. The young women who led the service (in Spanish) is from a youth ministry in Cartago, a city about an hour away. One of them even gave the sacrament and delivered a sermon - without notes! I was impressed with the knowledge and confidence that these young people showed. The people at church were very friendly, and insisted that we stay after the service to eat the dinner they had prepared.

One of the main purposes of my trip was to learn some basic cooking instruction from Ginnee. This is the year I am going to learn to put together menus and cook recipes that call for more than three ingredients. So when we got back from church, we set up shop in the very spacious kitchen.

I had bought big, ripe eggplants from AutoMercado in the Central Valley because her little pulpería didn't carry such an exotic vegetable. Working together, we made eggplant parmesan that turned out delicious. Ginnee's philosophy on cooking is: Cook once, eat twice or thrice. We made enough for a second dinner that night and for eggplant omelettes the next morning. And there was enough for me to take back home with me.

Although the drive to Atirro took me only two hours and fifteen minutes through tiny towns and beautiful coffee plantations, I felt like I had vacationed in a different country. I saw a part of Costa Rica that many vacationers and residents don't see.

Dining with a Tico family in the campo (countryside) was a heart-warming experience that I won't soon forget. And witnessing the plans and effort that Ginnee and Phil are putting into their land and humanitarian projects, I saw how expats can make a big difference in this beautiful country.

Written by Margie Davis - Retirement Advisor for Women in Costa Rica. If you're a woman thinking about moving to Costa Rica, Margie can help pave your way, please contact Margie at:

Friday, May 11, 2007

This morning about 7:15 we went to visit the neighbors. I was hoping that they were out of bed and dressed at that uncivilized hour. You do not want to visit me at that hour, I don’t even take phone calls before 9. We discovered that this is the perfect time to get invited to breakfast; who knew? Our plan was to stop at a soda for a breakfast bite when we were in Turrialba. I would have ordered 2 slices of fried semi-duro queso while Phil had the pinto with lots of eggs.

The food was fantastic and I am not a breakfast person. Then I spotted the cheese, I am a cheese eater and I have missed great, creamy, French cheese, and Brie. After my first bite, “Where did you get this cheese?” May I have more? They make it, in their refrigerator and it only takes a week or two. My first batch of Turrialba Brie, is now aging in my refrigerator. Who knew it would, or could, be so easy. If I can wait for two weeks, I will give you a bite by bite review of my cheese. This is a brilliant discovery, a defining moment in my food history. I love good cheese. My idea of breakfast is cheese or soup. I have taught Phil to fix his own raw oatmeal and flax seed mixture in the morning so that I do not have to do it for him on a daily basis. If I am on the go it’s definitely cheese for breakfast as I can grab it and run. Soup gets so messy when you are running with it.

Mario, Michele, Deborah, and their dogs, Isis and Roger went riding in the Rhino up a muddy mountain to look at property with us today. The views were stunning. The mud, slippery and thick in places but the Yamaha Rhino was not challenged at all. This vehicle is totally amazing. Overloaded (it only has two seats) we locked into 4 wheel drive and picked our way uphill being careful not to launch ourselves off the cliff. The dogs actually climbed on their own but we brought them home in the Rhino as they were caked in mud. They had a fantastic time and when they were thirsty they found a spring with lovely fresh water.

The Yamaha Rhino is truly a superior vehicle in every way. It has high clearance, great traction; fantastic gas mileage, high speeds, and can really handle a load. We looked at diesels, they have no ground clearance, are as slow as a turtle, and not cute. If Dark Angel were still in production this vehicle would be on that show. It is that cool.
My friend Margie is a writer and a writing teacher here in Costa Rica. Following her visit during Easter she wrote an article what was just published about her visit with us. You can read her article as it is posted above on my blog.

We really enjoy company like Margie; fun, witty, quick to laugh and a pleasure to have. We laugh a lot here actually; it is a requirement for sanity preservation. No matter who you are or where you live, you must find time for a few good laughs.

Phil just loves his horses. Why you ask, well, because they are his and they look so pretty in the various pastures. As our man Dog was putting them in a new pasture today the little filly saw Phil and came running over to him. He scratched her favorite spot under her chin lovingly and when she was finished she turned a bit and tried to kick him. He deflected her “playfulness” and her aloft hoof merely touched his hand. Silly filly, Dog came, captured her and she joined the others in their paradise, guava-land.

Of course our man Dog has another name, it is Parro (Dog in Spanish).
Costa Rican rainforest weather has returned to normal with beautiful sunny mornings and cool afternoon siesta rains.

I went to see my Columbian friend Maria this morning. Maria is a wonderful cook, mother, and the wife of Dr. Alberto Gomez. She is also a great gardener with beds of herbs, collard greens, carrots, and lettuce. Her backyard has happy chickens of all colors, even very large blackish chickens with white poka-dots. Very beautiful birds that live in a protected sanctuary with herbs, water gardens, perches, a hen house and life could not be much better for a chicken. Just ask the very large Long Island Red that I saw yesterday on a front lawn in La Suiza with a string tied to his leg and a cement block. Where is my machete when I need it? I would have freed that bird from his prison but he would have probably flipped out thinking I was about to behead him.

On Sunday afternoon we will take the Doctor and Maria to the Mission for Sunday afternoon service. This will be their first visit and I look forward to this outing. I always enjoy our joyful time at the Mission. The return trip home with the live obstacle course of people in black and cows all over the excessively winding mountain road that follows the rivers course is stressful and my screams of terror bring my Zen down a bit. Other than those small details it is often a highlight of my week. Much to our delight we have not fallen down the ravine again. That was one of our most embarrassing moments of driving history and right there in the top 5 of the most dangerous category.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

EARTH University student Karen Albuja, has started writing her blog. It is written in Spanish but if you do not read Spanish you can translate it at google Just cut and paste Karen’s web address in the language tool and it will translate the web page for you. It is not perfect but you will be able to read and understand it. This is a story worthy of your time. Please click on the link and read about her life threatening adventure. Karen is a very sweet, compassionate, bright young lady who has a lot to say regarding the future and life in our troubled world.
Her classmate Sharon is a another special young woman who is from Uganda and is in her second year at EARTH University in Costa Rica. When we met and she told me where she was from, I must have been mentally processing Uganda for she then asked, do you remember Ide Amin? Whoa! Ide Amin was a nightmare. That is Sharon’s country. Her first post is the one I promised you about the day the students were trapped on the other side of the Rio Oro due to the flash flood of water coming down from the mountain. I hope that Sharon will dig deep into her past and tell us the story of her life in the near future. Documenting her journey to this time and place is important. They do not believe in educating girls in her country, Sharon has achieved much in her short lifespan and she has much to teach all of us about life and the struggle to be educated. One statement from Sharon that is still ringing in our head is that, “Failure is not an option for me.” Think about that for moment, …… failure, is not an option for Sharon!

Sharon speaks many languages, 6 or more, but when she started at Earth University in Costa Rica, she did not speak Spanish. My first impression was the same as Sharon’s, that all of the classes were taught in English. Wrong, they are all in Spanish. You must be bilingual and speak English but all classes are taught in Spanish. Talk about a handicap on Day 1, but failure is not an option for Karen. I love smart, liberated, still struggling woman. It is the struggle that makes us stronger, smarter, and capable of overcoming every obstacle.

Sharon has a scholarship to EARTH, because of the generosity of 2 different people who found it in their hearts to pay her way. She is the first person in her family to go to a University, and she is a woman, from Uganda; that is big. I expect we have much to learn from Uganda’s finest young woman, including, “Failure, is not an option for me.”

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

EARTH University students have been visiting our home and farm since Friday. Thirteen smart, exciting, very bright, joyful students have enriched our lives. They gave us demonstrations as to how they make EM and MM as well as evaluating our farm and making recommendations. Then they went hiking to the waterfalls.

I gave them cooking lessons and taught those that were interested how to make hamburger buns, ajote pan, sopa de ajote, Asian pancakes, oatmeal raisin cookies, Thai lentil coconut soup and pizza.

Yesterday they went hiking to different waterfalls on the other side of the Rio Oro. On their way back down the mountain, it started to rain and they discovered how much water comes off of the mountain and down the river as they were now trapped on the other side of the Rio Oro. Cold and shaking from the freezing torrential mountain downpour, they were approached by an old rail thin man wearing a black garbage bag cape. Felipe the caretaker, invited them into his home. His home is the hotel we have been trying to buy for about 3 years. It has no roof, just a few black plastic bags that do nothing to keep the place dry. The entire floor was a puddle of water.

Gunther, the previous property owner of our land who is also visiting with us, called me to tell me the students were stuck on the other side of the Oro. I was wondering how I would tell their teacher Panfilo that they would not return because they were stranded by a now wild river filled with debris, bolders and rocks. This flash flood occurs with every hard rain, but the students were not prepared to see a sweet stream become a raging torrent of furry. Hours went by while they were stranded and Gunther was rescuing them. He tied a rope onto his Galloper and pulled the students across the threatening river. When they arrived back at our home they were swaddled in blankets and bedding from our caretakers house. Their clothing was so muddy that we washed them in the sink before we washed them in the washing machine.

The students told us today that they feel they must come back to help the old man at the hotel who welcomed them to come in out of the cold and to stand in front of his fire. They feel so bad that any human should live in those conditions.

The caretaker, Felipe, was hired to guard the hotel by a man who does not own the hotel. This is a convoluted story of a very dysfunctional family. The truth of what happened may never be known but still to this day the undercurrents of dysfunction continue to bubble up as ugly and deceptive as the vortex that destroyed the relationships within this family. Greed, false surveys, lies, theft, liens, corruption, debauchery, hatred, death, it is all here in one not-so-neat, ugly package that continues to ooze. Felipe has been guarding the structure for about 18 months now, he is about to come into his second rainy season.

Our EARTH students are among the finest group of young, caring people that exist. We were talking at lunch today with Gunther and we think that it does not get any better than these young people, in this age group, and in this year of 2007. We have had many young people stay with us, we were host parents of 16 kids at a time in Florida, and I have my own children who are now adults. To have 13 students, of this caliber, and so well behaved, was a privilege.

I look forward to receiving the student’s stories as told by each of them and when I receive them, I will post them on the blog for your enjoyment. Their adventure is one they will never forget, and one that most of you will never experience. Rural off the grid Costa Rica can be every extreme, and so very beautiful as the mist falls over the fila drenching the forest while giving life back into the rivers.

Costa Rica has been in a drought for months. It is the dry season but we should still have rain every afternoon because we are in a Rainforest. The result is that many areas are now having their water turned off by the government for part of everyday. Because our electricity is fueled by hydroelectric power plants and because our rivers are dry we have had country wide power failures this week from one end to the other. At some point everyday, our power goes off for 3 to 4 hours. We never know when that will be until everything fails. I am waiting for the switch to drop at any moment yet today.

We have water from a spring at the house and our spring has plenty of water. We have plenty of water at the farm but it is way down from what it should be. The farm gets about 300 inches of rain a year. It is currently in a drought. My 3,500 vetevier starts are hurting; I hope they will come back. In 3 weeks, I am scheduled to receive 7,000 more starts. My Guadua Angustifolia Bamboo has rooted in and is rocketing upward.

Our little house is looking good, the interior stucco is on and it did come colored in the sacks. The earthy color finished clay floor tile is down but not yet grouted. The kitchen is going in, compact and efficient. It is a cute little house; it is tiny, almost a doll house. I have been in Habitat for Humanity houses in the US and they are bigger. But what does a family really need? Shelter, a place to sleep, 3 bedrooms and a bathroom, all very efficient and functional; I think it will meet their needs and be easy to care for.

Yesterday I saw a red Toucan outside my bedroom window. He had red feathers around his neck with what appeared to be a black body, but no, it was a red body under the black wings; very surprising and beautiful.

I had a witness here with me. My friend Blanca was here teaching me how to break into my account at our Costa Rican bank. It only took several hours and many phone calls to the bank until we had success. It was wonderful to have a bird interruption of the fascinating kind. She had never seen a roho (red) toucan before and neither have I. It is a good thing to have trees and plants all around your home because it invites the birds and animals.

I smoked bacon this week that I have been curing. Guava smoked, apple cured, no nitrate bacon. I know what we are having for breakfast tomorrow.

Earth Day, I think I will celebrate by enjoying and observing our piece of earth. It would please me if it rained hard all day long as Costa Rica’s earth and animals would love a cool refreshing drink.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

We have many different kinds of beautiful birds at our Rainforest. This one has a lime green beak with lipstick red on the end. His beak is so big it is a wonder he can hold his head up.

This past week was Easter, known as Semana Santa (Holy Week) in Costa Rica. There are cultural ceremonies that continue on through the week at the local church. On Saturday evening, my friends and I went to a candle lighting ceremony that included a small fire outside the church.

The Priest or Padre as he is called has 13 churches to serve and is not able to be everywhere at one time. This year, two young women from Cartago held a full Mass on Saturday night including Communion. The church was beautifully decorated by our neighbor Maria and her friends. They picked tropical flowers, made bouquets, and had the church spic and span for the occasion. We have been in a drought and the unpaved road’s dust falls on the pews daily.

I was unprepared for the leadership of such young women in our very macho society. They could not have been much more than 20 years old wearing hip hugger jeans that are the uniform of all young girls here. I wondered if the one in the brown t-shirt with the silk screened cross on the front was a Nun, but she was not. She presided over a full mass with maturity, ease and skill far beyond her years. She delivered a sermon appropriate for the moment with no notes. She gave thanks to Jesus and to her Mother and Father. I am not a Spanish speaker so I missed a lot of the words, but the body language and her presentation was impressive. Her use of the floor, making eye contact with the believers, and her sincerity allowed her the command of her audience. I wanted to stand up in the end and say Bravo young women!!! Magnificent job!!!

Who needs Priests when you have young woman that are so capable and alive with energy, spirit and soul. Okay, so perhaps the Priest can think of a few reasons. I left the Catholic Church because of Priests and other reasons that are probably not appropriate for this moment.

The girls are part of a youth outreach mission from Cartago. What a brilliant idea, and a breath of fresh air for the church, for the parishioners and the community. Bravo young women!!!

Maria always makes everything special and at the end of the service, a special social dinner was served along with freshly prepared Mango juice. Living and participating in a community that is so small has its own blessings. People walk to the church easily as our town is only 1 block long with not many houses. Everyone knows each other and they welcome newcomers with eagerness and friendship. Everyone speaks to you and is accepting as if they have known you forever. It is the best way to meet your neighbors and I think that it means something to them that you took the time to come and participate in their celebration at their church.

So, you’re not Catholic? I think it does not matter much. This is a Catholic country, your neighbors are most likely Catholic, and I appreciate my wonderful neighbors. I also attend the Mission in Tuis (Voz Que Clama Mission), they accept all people and I have not heard them talk about denominations. Two young men, Hector and Daniel, serving their community’s needs above and beyond what most people are capable of. I applaud and support their work.

If you would like to help the poor rural children and indigenous please contact me at . We always have a need for school supplies, art supplies, good used practical clothing, sweat shirts, pencils, and crayons. We can arrange for a drop off point near the airport or for a pick up. If we do not help, it will not happen for these children as their homes are remote and isolated on their high cold mountainous reservation.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Our caretaker’s new home is coming along. Building a prefab concrete and steel home is a unique learning experience. Last week we picked out the color for the interior and exterior walls. Our choices came from a palate of 5 colors, not a lot of choice. It is my understanding the color will be impregnated in the stucco. I’ll let you know how that turns out, or if I understood correctly.

Then we had almost as many tile choices but only two actual tiles to look at. These are my choices? No, no, we have more, look at the computer monitor, you can choose from these tiles. You’re kidding right? I know the color on the monitor is never the actual color, come on, I know how color works. “Simular”, the architect tells me in Spanish as she displays little 2 inch icons of tile on her screen. Right!

This is all very amusing. She understands English; I know this to be true, because she replies to my questions or statements, in Spanish.

At this point, I just don’t care. The interior and exterior are now a color I would not have chosen, put a solid earth tone color tile in there and make the grout the same color. We are done.

Well not quite, today the architect returns with two more tiles. One that looks like it must be a reject from a bad batch and another with some texture. I wonder if either of them were on the computer monitor, how would I know? Who could tell?

Phil has kept his eye on the project, recognized potential problems and pointed them out, the architect and or contractor said “good thought”, and then they went ahead and did it their way. Now for example, they had to move all of their supplies (concrete panels) so the gravel truck could get in with the foundation fill. Had they taken Phil’s advice, they could have saved a half a day of hard labor.

Well at least the front door is facing the street. It is not uncommon to show up and find your house facing the wrong direction. When pointing this out to the builder you may hear,” I thought it looked better this way.” I personally loved this one, “I thought the pond looked better over here.” Both of these owners went ballistic. The pond was filled in and redug. The other owner is now looking at a different view, nice, but not the one he had in mind.

Building in Costa Rica is a different game. Don’t take your eye off of the ball, don’t even blink. Yes of course they heard you, but no one was listening.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

This adorable curved beak hummingbird thumped against the door of our house yesterday and it took him a few minutes to recoup and regain his composure.

I was preparing to wash a load of laundry this weekend and as I was adding the soap, this hairy fellow came walking up to the top of the dry but dirty laundry. Ethan came and picked him out of danger.

It has been an eventful wildlife week. I walked into the laundry room and found the most beautiful snake. It was either a Coral or King snake. I think it is a Coral snake. I have seen it 4 times now and it was last seen retreating under the washing machine. I came into the kitchen at 1 AM that same night and caught a glimps of movement past the kitchen island and was releaved to see only a giant toad sitting on the floor. Living in the Rainforest is always an adventure.

My friends Julie, Ethan and I went on a quad expedition through previously unexplored territory above and beyond my home. We saw amazing reptiles that were druckening in the jungle. Ethan has a quick eye for spotting wildlife. I was too busy keeping us from plunging down ravines or launching us off a cliff while navigating narrow passages on steep slopes to spot much else. At one point, I actually ran into a tree branch due to the fact that I was so busy trying to inch across a precarious piece of dirt that was a bit narrower than the rhino. I was looking down and a branch above hit my roll bar bringing the Rhino to an abrupt halt. It was good that my speed was sloth-like at that moment or we could have fell several hundred feet down or more than likely have been impaled upon giant primary forest trees.

This attempt reminded me of an enduro race I did on a moto-cross bike whose handlebars were wider than the distance between the trees. You just can’t go there painlessly.

The Yamaha Rhino 450 has performed well above my expectations. It is fast, agile, surefooted, has great clearance, and it take me places I could not walk to at this point in my life. It is a little workhorse as well as a pleasurable smooth ride.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

This is a hawk that likes our front lawn. He is often seen on the ground in the grass. Notice his feather covered legs. He is so beautiful. We can spot him from the living room and Regan took this photo from inside of our home.

Regan is gifting the school bag filled with school supplies and homemade bread to Airminnnia our Indigenous neighbor on our side of the footbridge. The school supplies were generous donations from the Primrose School in Lawrenceville, Georgia, USA. More school supplies will be hiked up to the reservation by Hector and Daniel, who operate the Mission in Tuis (Voz Que Clama Mission), this week.
The river looks really tame at the moment, but you can see how high it will come to when the rainy season starts. We have been in a drought for some time now. This is the dry season, but we should still have rain. Our rainforest receives between 200 and 300 inches per year.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Last week Bernie and Nhi , who own the Pura Vida Hotel in San Jose, Costa Rica, were kind enough to deliver donations of school and art supplies to our home. These gifts were left at the hotel by visitors who have read my blog. You can learn more about their hotel on their web site . Guests rave about the accommodations, the gardens and Nhi's cooking. They are also just 15 minutes from the airport and they will arrange to pick you up or drop you off as you leave our beautiful country. I can not think of a better way to end your vacation, than with Berni and Nhi. They are lovely people with beautiful facilities.

We are very grateful to them for accepting donations at their convenient location. No, you do not have to stay there, but it is the best hotel around with the finest food, great innkeepers and they get rave reviews. Friends helping Friends to help the poor rural children and Indigenous. Your help makes it possible for us to help children stay in school. Many of the Indigenous never actually go to a school, their contact with education is from a teacher or from folks like Daniel and Hector at the Mission who hike for 5 or more hours up the mountain to the villages. We supply them with paper, pencils, crayons, art supplies, sweat shirts and practical clothing for the children. It is your generosity and caring that allows all of us together to help make a difference in the lives of others. We each have a role in bringing education to the children. Thank you very much.

Here is a map of where our farm and rainforest is located in Costa Rica. We are at the point of the arrow. The Indigenous Reservation is an 8 hour walk to the South of our land. There is nothing between them and us except rugged terrain and rivers to cross.

If you would like to donate good practical clothing, school and art supplies and will be coming to Costa Rica you can drop off your donations near the airport. Please contact me at for more info and directions. We have kind people located near the airport who will except donations and we will arrange for me to pick them up or if someone is coming my way they will deliver the donations to me. Friends helping friends to help others.

It is very convenient to pack your donations in an old duffel bag or suitcase that you may want to get rid of, or purchase an old bag at the Salvation Army. Many thrift stores will give them to you when you tell them what you are going to do with it. They are not big sellers.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

I picked up an indigenous man last week towards dusk. He had walked down from the reservation and I pasted him as I drove 2 of my workers home. On my way back down I stopped and motioned for him to get in. It took me a few minutes to talk him into getting in my Rhino. He may have never been in a vehicle before, and no one here has ever seen a vehicle like mine. He put his hand out to shake hands, they don't know how. I took him down to a road on our farm that leads to a dilapidated footbridge that I would not slither across on my belly. I have a posted a photo below. Indigenous live on the other side of this sad bridge , it is their only way in and out.

My Classmate Jackie from Fort Lauderdale High School, Class of 66 put me in touch with the daughter of a friend of hers. Regan and I emailed this past year and she spoke with her children’s school about helping the poor and indigenous children in our area. The children sold lemonade and the teachers donated and shopped for the children in my area of Costa Rica. Regan and her husband John came for a visit bringing gifts.

This morning we got up, ate breakfast and headed to the farm with our houseguests. I had planned to bring a gift to the indigenous, who live across the river from our farm and today was the day. I put a loaf of homemade whole wheat bread, lollipops, crayons, pencils, pencil sharpener, a pad of ruled paper, and some coloring books into a new bright purple satchel that was donated along with school supplies from Jennifer Hays, Tonya, and Kara at the Primrose School in Lawrenceville, Georgia. My houseguest, Regan and I took the Rhino and went down to the river, near the footbridge, with our gift. This time was different from all of the other times; they did not all hide from me. Airminnia, a lovely young indigenous mother of 4 or 5 little children came forward and walked across the rickety bridge to greet Regan. She spoke Spanish and accepted our gift as I took photos. One little success at a time; today was a really good day. Perhaps the indigenous man that I gave a ride to last week told her about me as Airminnia’s casita was his destination for the day.

If you have not been to a third world or developing world destination point, you can not imagine the impact that small acts of kindness can make. If your vacations are to all inclusive resorts, you are missing the blessings that await us all. Simple pleasures, beautiful smiles, momentary friendships that mean something and the best part is that you are the one who also benefits from that act of kindness as well as the recipient. That little bag of donated goodies was huge for Airminnia and her family, it may have been the biggest gift they have ever received; it may have been the only gift so far.

Last week an indigenous man came down from the mountain, someone was very ill. Because our farm manager now has a cell phone, Marcos was able to make a phone call and a very old Viet Nam vintage helicopter swooped in, landed and picked up a very ill indigenous man. We are the closest communication point and saved him several hours more foot travel to get help. It had already taken him 8 hours to get to us. Small acts of kindness can change and save lives.