Thursday, December 03, 2009

I'm back from the Jungle and the Chirripo Reservation!

In the last week two my childhood dreams have came true! All of my life I have been fascinated by Indigenous people, I admire them and always wanted to be like them. Another dream that every child may have, is to have one true adventure. I had given up this dream a long time ago because in the world I knew so far, living in France and Germany, these kinds of adventures no longer exist. But what I did, hiking to Tsimari on the Chirripo Reservation, that was a real adventure!!! I've lived in a real remote Indian village with the Cabecar tribe! Wow! I will never forget this most memorable week in my lifetime! It was the toughest, most difficult, arduous, dangerous, most exciting and most fascinating thing I've ever done in my 19 years of life.

The Chirripo Indian Reservation, where the Cabecar tribe lives is located high in the mountains (6,000 ft.) beyond Esperanza de Turrialba and is only accessible on foot or by helicopter. It is not a trip that everyone is capable of making, it is very, very extreme. Two volunteers and myself had the good fortune to accompany Jorge, the teacher of the Tsimari indigenous children, he hikes this path to the reservation every week to his very different and awsome job. I have great respect for Jorge, most of the teachers who have had this opportunity give up the job and quit after one week. It took us 10 agonizing hours, through rivers, over fallen logs, around and over vertical rock slopes and cliffs that go down as much as 40 meters, you do not want to slip and fall into the ravine below. We climbed up and down waterfalls, through creeks and streams, where often there was no path. For two hours, we hiked through a swamp flowing in the middle of the rainforest, and for three hours we endured solid, hard, heavy, torrential rain. 7 hours of our trip was uphill (steep and vertical). Our 60 liter backpacks were stuffed full with clothes, toothbrushes and school supplies for the indigenous children. These donations came from an American family who lives in Virginia, the Sanford’s. With the help of her parents and classmates, their daughter Megan collected the supplies after reading a blog about the Cabecar and their needs. While on their vacation, they personally delivered the much needed supplies to us.

Voila, it is now my first night on the reservation! I have survived so far.

We finally arrived at the teacher’s small cabin, about 15 x 15 ft., it is situated on the reservation, the sun had set and it was dark before we got there. We immediately removed our sopping wet, mud covered clothes from our cold bodies. We were soaked to our skin, our rain jackets had failed in the hard driving, rainforest deluge. We searched our backpacks for a few remaining dry items of clothing, then we fell into our beds as if we were dead.

I was so exhausted, but I couldn't really sleep. My feet were burning with pain, I had giant yellow blisters on both big toes. We froze in the hut of the teacher where we were staying. The cold air passed up through his thin rugs, and my muscles ached throughout my body. The bed was not a real bed, but only a low wooden table with a thin 5cm
foam mattress, which was really superfluous. It was a very small room with only two beds on which 4 people would sleep. I shared one of the rock hard boards with the teacher, the others two volunteers slept on the other board. To make matters worse, I began to itch all over my body because as we came thorough the swamp, I had been bitten by every possible vermin, insect, and bug. Everywhere I looked on my body I was red and swelling. Now that we have been back home for a week, they no longer itch, but the bites are still there.

It was about 3am and the rooster was wide awake, announcing his presence. By 5am the sun was up and shining brightly. I peeled my aching body from under the scratchy covers and opened the door. For the first time I saw what surrounded the casita, as it had been dark when we arrived. I looked at a broad green valley, a few marshes, and at the bottom of the river stood a banana plantation. We were surrounded by rainforest mountains that cut us off completely from the outer world, the world of the “others”, as the Cabecar refer to us. Next to the house of the teacher there is a new school under construction, it has no roof yet, nor walls. There is only one other tiny “house” (a very humble dwelling) on this hill where an indigenous man called Abuelo (Grandfather) lives, he is one of the village elders.

The house of the Maestro (teacher) is not more than 15m2, it is incredibly tiny. The school for the children had been destroyed a few months ago by a landslide, so his cabin is also a storage area. All of the chairs and tables that were salvaged are stacked in the small space next to the two board beds with not another inch of space. His hut stands on very muddy ground, Tsimari is in the middle of a rainforest, and the teacher’s hut is built on stilts to keep it dry, although the roof did leak over the bed. Free-range pigs in the village kept us awake with their loud grunts while banging into the floor under the hut to scratch their bodies, Jorge took his machete and shooed and frightened the pigs away. The cracks between the boards of the walls and floor did not discourage the insects, nor keep out the cold.

In the village of Tsimari, each house is spaced about 2 kilometers from each other.
It consists of about 30-50 habitants, most of them children, and the simple housing of the indigenous is scattered over many miles. When I look out at the houses in the distance, they are all spaced about ½ hours walk from each other.

School starts at 7am every morning, but the children do not always show up, it appears to be optional, and without rules. We awoke with the sun at about 5am each day and waited to see which children would arrive.

I needed to find the bathroom and when I did, it consisted of a hole in the ground that is covered with a plastic form that you sit on. Corrugated tin sheets holding themselves up surround the toilet for privacy, there is no roof, and unsecured except for tree branches, the old tin threatens to fall down at any moment.

Jorge collected firewood and assembled our cooking fire. This is their only means of cooking, they have no gas, electric, or other options. We delayed cooking because we did not want to eat in front of the very hungry children and we had very limited minimal supplies. The Cabécar have little food to eat and they are always hungry. My stomach was growling pathetically, because the previous day I had eaten only peanut butter on toast for breakfast and two homemade granola bars. We had taken no time on the road to rest or eat, and we had nothing but granola bars for our hike. I was so focused trying to accomplish and survive the hike in one piece. that I had forgotten food completely. We drank our water from the rivers we crossed, and I felt as if this water was cleaner than any water I had ever had.

Upon our initial arrival at night, we had not eaten because we had no dry wood collected for a fire, and we had no food that did not require cooking. During our entire stay we ate only rice and beans, which we seasoned with some instant dry tomato soup to give it some taste.

Finally the kids start arriving at school, I watched them running up the hill. We got the chairs and tables from our house and Jorge hung a blackboard on the exterior wall of the house next to the front door. The chairs and table legs sunk deep into the earth on the uneven ground. On the first day, almost 10 of the 15 school children from the village came, they were between 7 and 14 years old.

Jorge simultaneously teaches the children of all ages. He teaches them Spanish, math and history, but the biggest challenge is teaching them to write their first name properly. Half of them are not yet capable. Communication is sometimes quite difficult because many speak less Spanish than I do (I am a native German speaker who learned Spanish and Latin in France.) The children were always talking among themselves in their very difficult native Cabecar language. The lessons were accompanied by the noise of construction at the new school. Women, men and other children from the village came and they all helped with construction of the new building. The Costa Rican Government paid for the materials and a supervisor, but the people must build their school by themselves. Some of the materials for walls, roofing, metal and styrofoam panels were delivered in a helicopter paid for with donated money. Basic construction consists of wood from trees that are directly cut down on site. Other materials, such as tanks and pipe for better sanitary facilities are transported on the backs of the Cabecar men, woman and children who carry these supplies up the same forest path that we traveled as there is no other way.

These journeys include the children who already by age 10 have more strength and endurance than we do. The school children participated with the construction during school breaks. They pulled the plastic coating off of the building materials and burned the trash because no one wants to the haul the garbage back through the jungle to the nearest town of Esperanza where I live, and there is no garbage or trash service there either.

On this day, the kids did not learn much, they were too busy being amused by my blond hair and they were marveling at my books and personal items that I had laid out in the sun to dry out.

The children requested that I write our names in each of their note books, and I wrote a little phrase in Spanish for each of them, they found this to be totally exciting. We gave each of them a toothbrush, which we had brought as part of the donations and showed them how to brush their teeth by demonstrating as we brushed ours. This was all new to them.

At 11am, the lesson's were over because another teacher, who teaches the Cabecar indigenous culture and language for 3 hours a day, did not show up on this week.
Had he arrived he would have had to sleep on the floor, which would not have been any less hard than our beds, but it would have been colder. I laid down after school to take a siesta and managed to sleep a little bit, I was still tired from the previous day and now I had a sunburn, which made me feel quite exhausted. That night I had a fever. The next day I still felt very weak, and the rice and beans diet was not energizing me.

By the third day, I was my old self again. I am not one to get sick, but I was thinking that there would be no help if I were to fall ill and I had to be fit by Friday in order to start the journey home.

Where I live in Esperanza, is not in luxury compared to my life in Germany. And yet our lives here are so easy compare to the lives of the indigenous. We have a real toilet at my house (I was really glad about this), running water, we can wash with soap, we have a stove and even an Internet connection, unless it rains too much. I have a soft bed and a small room for me alone! That's all I need.

Every morning on the reservation I stood in front of the teacher’s house waiting for the kids to arrive and waved to them cheerfully when I saw them coming. We spent a beautiful and exciting time with them. Each morning we cleaned our teeth together and had a lot of fun doing it. We gave them the donated clothes and they were happy about each sock and each pencil that we painfully dragged to the reservation, cursing our backpacks that we packed way too full. They were quite beside themselves over what we brought, and every day there were other people asking to see if we still had something left to give. We gave school supplies, sweaters, sweatshirts, pants and socks from the depths of our backpacks. It is not in their culture to say Thank You when they receive a gift. For us this was not important, we were happy just to give, and the next day we would see the children coming to school in their new clothes. Every day more children came to school, news had spread that there were visitors.

We prepared to play games and do some creative art paper projects with the children. They are beautiful, wonderful children, very gentle and straightforward, and they never were unkind to each other or to their teacher. I took many photographs, because I was so fascinated with them. The Cabécar are very nice people, small in stature but twice as strong as we are, with clear faces and beautiful brown skin.

Twice we went after school with Jorge and the children to the ice cold river to bathe. It was the only opportunity for us to wash ourselves a bit and it was also great fun with the kids splashing around in the water. They are very good strong swimmers. Everyday when it was time for them to go home, we were sad, especially on our last day when we realized we would not see them again. I followed them with my eyes, saw them go over the hill and disappear, and I waved one last time.

The rest of the day was not as exciting, and as usual, it was raining torrential sheets of water in the afternoon. Our routine was to put the tables and chairs back into the hut and then we played cards, napped or watched television. Jorge had a small pocket TV and a small solar panel on the roof that provided a little light in the evening with the help of a battery, it would operate the one channel he receives on the TV for 2 hours, although the reception was very bad.

Unfortunately, I was not able to talk much with the adults of the village, I saw only those who came every day to work on the school, and I did not want to disturb them while they worked. It seemed that the majority of them were not very good Spanish speakers, and in general are not very talkative people.

Maybe other opportunities will present themselves, I don’t know if I would or could take the agony of this difficult journey again.

The only road from Tsimari and into town is through Esperanza and the Cabecar pass through our village to go to the city, find work, receive medical care or to pick up food supplies.

On the reservation, you can not survive alone, and the Cabecar are only marginally surviving. No one has shown the indigenous how to grow upland rice, the only food they appear to have to eat are bananas, guavas, yucca, chayote and little sour oranges. The cows and pigs are sold to earn money, sometimes they drink cow's milk and eat the eggs of the free ranging chickens.

On our last day we gave our remaining rice to neighbors who need more food. We were not ready to carry even a kilogram extra back with us, it was too much to bear.

I must report that the way out, is the same as the way in, just in reverse. It was however much easier because after two hours of hiking uphill from our valley, it was all downhill, our backpacks were empty now, and no rain was falling, what an enormous relief. It took only 7 hours to come back and it was a lot more fun going downhill. I could almost really enjoy the journey, but we still must be so careful so as not to fall. Only the last hour was torture to me, because my blisters had not completely healed, and the bandages did not hold as our feet were wet the whole time. We did not wear hiking boots on this trip, we wore tall rubber boots, no other shoe could have made the journey. Everyone on the reservation has only rubber boots, because you just could not walk through the swamp and mud in any other shoes. The boots were not high enough to cross the rivers and keep our feet dry, sometimes the water was up to our hips. We emptied the boots each time, wrung out our socks when we took a short break and continued to hike with wet feet. Only days later after returning home, I can again wear shoes, I still feel pain simply by looking at my boots.

At 2pm on Friday, we completed our trip and arrived back in Esperanza where Ginnee our host had a dinner prepared and waiting for us (we had not eaten all day). Immediately after dinner, we scrubbed ourselves thoroughly in the shower with hot water, dressed our wounds and then fell into our soft comfortable beds until the birds woke us up when the sun again arose in the rainforest of Esperanza de Turrialba. My dream had come true; I will never forget this incredible adventure for as long as I live.

Link to photos:

Author: Anna Lucia Brigid Guenther
Regensburg, Bavaria, Germany

Lucia is a volunteer at Finca Quijote de Esperanza, Turrialba, Costa Rica. She likes farm life, dogs, animals, languages, writing, drawing illustrations, photography and life in Costa Rica.

If you would like to help the rural children and the Cabecar indigenous people by making a donation of clothing, blankets, school supplies or money, please contact Thank you for your support.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The moon was visable during the day.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Cabecar Indigenous who are my neighbors have a hard life.

Three indigenous, a man and two women came down today to retreve building supplies in addition to their personal supplies. Marcos tied items together so they could wear them for their 8 hour difficult hike. They will return, or other indigenous will come down, to retreve what they could not take. That big red jug filled with gasoline is heavy.

We also received a report that my 3 volunteers and the teacher arrived in the dark, their trip took them almost 12 hours. Well at least they made it with their heavy packs. They are experienced hikers but this type of hiking can only be decribed as ultra extreme. The indigenous have made this trip since birth, but they are tough, strong, extreme people capable of running to make this trip in as little as 5 hours when an emergency is pending.

Three foot bridges are now functional making this trip easier then it was. Which is not to say that this trip is easy by any means nor under the best conditions as is evident by our experienced hiking team.

Good thing I made those high energy granola bars with honey and fruit, I knew they would need fuel for their bodies to get there.

More news to come later this week,

Friday, October 09, 2009

This is commonly called an "Owl Butterfly" and it's scientific name is Caligo Memnon. It has the owl eye marking as means of protection against predators, thinking it is an owl instead of a sweet morsel feeds on rotting fruit and has a bluish-purple coloration on the top of its wings. Its wingspan can reach up to 150 mm. It slightly resembles the blue morpho when it is resting with wings folded....however, the blue morpho has the most amazing iridescent blue-lavender coloration imaginable when in flight...a truly spectacular sight.
Because of you, opportunities that did not exist a year ago are available to the very poor people who live in my area of rural, remote Costa Rica. Children and adults are learning English because we offer a free school to all who come. Some walk on goat trails for nearly an hour to get here. We have a volunteer American visitor teaching group classes.

My son met a man who worked for the United States government while in the airport in San Jose waiting for his flight. He promised to send my son a Rosetta Stone CD so he could learn Spanish, and he kept his promise. Because of this generous gift, a young woman is sitting at my computer right now, doing her English lessons, using the Rosetta Stone multi-language CD. Maira has never used a computer before, but she is catching on quickly.

You have made an enormous difference in the lives of so many folks. You have given them hope for a prosperous future. Your donation of items on our “Wish List” provides school supplies for the children, and so much more to families who could not otherwise afford something as simple as a pencil or crayons. We have been able to put clothes and shoes on indigenous children as they pass by our farm house.

We now have an internet connection and wifi which enables us to send the children of Esperanza and the outlying areas to 7th through 12th grade for the first time via the internet. Imagine how different their lives will now be because they can speak English, have a high school education and more if they want it. Their dreams can come true. We have already outgrown my daughter’s dining room and laundry area which is where we hold group classes. First come, first serve for the picnic table, benches and chairs, everyone else sits on the floor.

I asking my friends, strangers, everyone, to help us by donating their used computers in working order so that we can make this dream a reality and brake the cycle of poverty. Our monthly cost for the satellite internet connection is $150.00 a month, which causes me to swallow hard, but finally we have a life changing connection. When you live rural and remote, the government controlled monopoly does not serve you. This is the only possible way to send these children to school.

The government law says the children must go to school until the age of 18, but what if you don’t have a school, or transportation, and live high on a mountain? Oh well... The tourist books say education is free, well not exactly, they are nickeled and dime-ed for every piece of paper handed out, including all test papers. When you are that poor, every coin is needed for beans and rice on the table and for some there is not enough food.

Thank you, all of you, for everything you have done to change the lives of these children. You have given them hope, and provided the tools that open the doors of opportunity that break the cycle of poverty for generations to come.

We are all blessed to call you our friends.

Thank you,


Wish List

School supplies
Educational, CD’s, games, …
Pencil sharpeners
Coloring books
Spanish English dictionaries

Navy blue children’s pants
Navy blue children’s skirts
White shirts and blouses
Shoes, practical and sneakers,

Used laptop computers in working condition

Portable sewing machines, used are fine.

Sweat shirts
Ball caps

Rain gear and umbrellas


Keyboard / piano, portable electric, (really small)
Musical instruments
Drum sticks

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Sunsets are amazing here in Esperanza, this is our beautiful purple and pink sky that seems to be unreal.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

13 of my cows are pregnant. Our bull is the brown one. Oh Boy, this will be a good year.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Life…, going where no man has gone before, and sometimes, sometimes often, my life feels like this. Living off-grid, trying to figure out how to have electricity, a refrigerator, by pass the electric regulator of a gas oven, boost cell phone reception, relay a trans-sat dish connection further up the farm, how to do all of these things affordably and understanding them sufficiently so that you can do it yourself. You must understand how all of these factors work, or they will never stay working for you. Unless you have more money than God has dirt, you can’t afford to pay someone who knows it all, if those people even exist, a few do, most don’t, and I know even fewer.

I get a lot of my info from Dummies books, forums on line, online research, and friends in the know of a particular subject, which is a very small nitch of an already small group of friends. Let’s face it, when you can’t get online, you need a book. If you live off-grid, you may need lots of books because the fact that you are off-grid means that civilization as others know it, is not a block away. Buy the book (books), all of them, your going to need all of the help you can get. The book is a great place to start, make notes, collect internet sites you did not find on your own, and you will reference it / them, time and time again. Hopefully you will buy more than one.

Living in a foreign country and not being a native speaker makes it more difficult, you can not find a book in your language or subject matter. Buy the books, all of them on any subject you may want to know, including gourd carving and basket making and bring them with you. My gourd carving book has been sitting in the US for 6 months now, along with many other items, so many other items for so long that I can not remember what I ordered online. The gourds are growing, I may as well learn how to express my creativity and I hear that basket weaving is good for potential mental illness.

I love Amazon for it’s simplicity when ordering and I often get carried away with my need to know and have. Solving the problem of how to get these items into my country other than by human courier, has not been solved. Forget the mail, you do not have enough money for this option, and then there is the inconsistency of customs and your item getting hung up with the dreaded tax man. That all depends on the country you are in I suppose. I know my devil.

It appears that I was a child who asked “Why?”, and nothing has changed. Perhaps that is why my parents did not like me all that much, they did not know how to handle “Why?”, and I did not accept, “Because I said so”, as an answer. Of course it is not an answer, never was, never will be. I still ask “Why?”, it is only recently that I realized this, my husband pointed it out to me following a recent need to know moment. Apparently, I have more need to know than some other folks. I did not know that. The only exception here is when I am saying, “Tell someone who cares”.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Five of the horses escaped last night leaving their kids behind. At 11 we went outside to see what the noise was about only to find two restless horses complaining loudly. This morning we will round them up; by midnight, they had all broken loose. At least they were now quiet.

We do not have light pollution, so when it is not a full moon and the sky is clear, you can see a million stars. Last night was as crystal clear as it gets and the heavens were a thick blanket of stars and constellations.

Today is the start of planting time by the biodynamic calendar. It will be a busy week of planting pumpkins, basil, parsley, and many flats of other seedlings. With a many hands, the job goes quickly. This week we have been eating fresh string beans and we still have what seems like a lifetime supply of spinach in the garden. I try to hide the spinach in most everything I make, except when I am not hiding it and everyone is exposed to blatant spinach. Every time I pick up a cookbook I am searching for spinach recipes, perhaps the next great use for spinach has escaped me, not likely however. We eat by candle light, so it is hard to tell exactly what you are eating sometimes.

This weekend I made Falafel patties for the first time, they were good, far better than I expected. Creamed spinach would go nicely with this dish. We are none-vegetarians who eat a lot of vegetables, in fact, we eat more veggies than many vegetarians do. Depending on what is in season, we are often overrun with a particular crop. Because we eat fresh, not frozen or canned, a crop can be overwhelming for the cook. In just 15 minutes, I can pick enough spinach to feed 6 people a spinach entree for 2 days. The time taken to clean spinach takes far longer, sometimes it seems like hours.

Maira's thank you note to me, accompanied a fish from her pond.

Safiya is a volunteer at the farm who has applied for a doctorate program in the US. She does a bit of everything here and starting today she is teaching English in the afternoons. While developing her lesson plans, she has been working with Carolina, one of our employees. Carolina is quick to learn, has desire, and is a joy in general. Her sister Maira also works for us. Maira and I are together every morning and I take that opportunity to teach her English phrases and now cooking terms.

Last week we made two fresh orange cakes with oranges from the orchid. It was the first cake she had ever made, or seen made, and we made it by hand with no electrical appliances. They came out perfect and I gave her one to take home. We cushioned the hot pan and cake in newspaper so that it would not burn through the rice sack that she carefully carried it home in. Maira lives down my mountain, across the river and up a mountain. It takes her the better part of an hour to walk to work and she is never late.

She is a joy to have and at age 21 this is her first job. Maira has not had the opportunities presented to you and me. As with all of our local rural children, her education lasted only 6 years and by US standards it was maybe a 3rd grade education. The children are being cheated and everyone loses. We need these kids to have a prosperous, successful future, and they need the skills to make a living while protecting the rainforest. But it is even bigger than that, so much damage has been done as a result of deforestation for crops like cattle, coffee, and sugar. We need to teach the rural people, that they can make as much money or more than they were making with their deforested land, by reforesting with a variety of carbon sequestration tree crops.

Finca Quijote is a demonstration farm, we are leading by example while extending a helping hand, sharing knowledge and teaching what we know. Blessed with an education and opportunity, the best foreign aid we can give, is the gift of knowledge. We can see change coming, slowly, but it is coming. Maira, Carolina and the others in their pueblo, are listening and watching. Their brother wrote us a letter in Spanish, and then he looked up every word in English which does not translate perfectly, but it was an extraordinary effort to be understood. Once upon a time, they had prosperous lives, and then their employment opportunities went away. I know this to be true. Since then (20 years), they have been in survival mode and there are no jobs available for the rural people at this time. Only the rural people can protect the rainforest, we must show them how to make a living and educate their children at the same time.

You can help by donating educational supplies. We always need:

Spanish English dictionaries
used laptop computers in working order
portable sewing machines
sweat shirts
childrens shoes
good durable clothing such as blue jeans

We finally have an internet connection and wifi where we volunteer teach the children. Because we are off grid, and with no landline phones in the pueblo, this was a very expensive effort. Our monthly cost for a simple connection is $150.00 USD With laptop computers (easier to get into the country) we can give the kids the opportunity to go past 6th grade via the internet. Please tell everyone you know and ask them to donate their old computers so that we can teach children who have no other options. We need to teach them how to be prosperous again. Prosperous is a word they used when writing us, for them it means putting enough food on the table, shoes on their children, enough money to give their children an education and to afford a doctor when one is needed. Their concept of prosperous differs from yours.

Thank you for helping my neighbors.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Self peeling, seeded bananas grow upward rather than hanging down. The birds and animals love them. I think they are simply beautiful.

Butterflies are everywhere on the farm, you can see through the wings of this species.

Our beautiful rooster

The girls, Safia, Maira and Carolina have been busy painting the guest house and new bathrooms

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Phil with my daily ration of yucca.

Today the men are harvesting Yucca and Malanga. How many interesting ways do you know how to prepare Yucca? Please send me your recipes, I need them. This week I look forward to making stuffed yucca, I will let you know how that goes.

Yucca fries are good, if you haven’t had them find your way to Pollo Tropical in the US and place an order. We made pumpkin fries this week using part of the giant pumpkin, they were very tasty. Erika mixed spices with corn starch and shook everything together in a baggie, then into the hot oil they went. Oh so good…I could eat these as a meal with a dab of ketchup. You can also make zucchini and eggplant into interesting fries.

The remainder of my pumpkin has been cooked, bagged and frozen for use in pumpkin bread. I don’t have a refrigerator, so I store my frozen foods at Erika’s house. Not convenient, I should can stuff like this, I need canning jars, have not found them yet. It is always something.

I love the music of Ricardo Arjona, and today I found this article about him. I photographed it for you to read. You can hear his music video from a concert on the website of La Nacion, You can also google his name to learn more about him. He is very famous. Who knew?

There are so many great performers and recording artists that I had never heard of before coming to Costa Rica, and I originally thought to myself, this person is good, he or she is going to make it. Then I google their name, and find out they have been famous for a very long tome, I just never heard of them on US radio. Too bad for us/you, because there are some really fantastic songwriter/singer artists in this world, and we are not hearing them. You do not need to speak Spanish to enjoy their music. In fact, there are songs that are recorded in both English and Spanish or Italian, that are so much better in their native language. Andreas Bocelli and Laura Pausini have a duet and the English version just does not have the same sensitivity and drama, the foreign version is magnificent.

Ricky Martin (yeah, he is still famous, more so than ever, and making music) and Eros Ramazotti have a duet that I love. This duet is how I discovered Eros Ramazotti (his real name). I thought, this is good, really good, as I watched it 50 times in a row, he must be somebody or Ricky would not be making a duet with him. Then I googled him, he has been a giant star for many years, the Russians and Europeans love him. He has done duets with many US known artists such as Tina Turner, Anastacia (I love this video, their voices are as if they were one) and Joe Cocker. You can find his videos in concert on you-tube. Anastacia is American, but you don’t hear her on your radio. You may remember her name, she had a hit, then cancer, we forgot her, Europe did not.

It is my observation, that Ricky Martin is loved and respected by the latin world for who he is, and what he does as a human being. It is not just for his music, Ricky did not forget where he came from, and that is where he gives his time and money, to the children of Puerto Rico. Good for him!

I could write pages about artists that you never heard of, Canny Garcia, is another of those artists that you should google and learn more about.

Monday, June 29, 2009

The beautiful volcano as seen from our farm.

Yes, that is smoke coming out of the volcano. Blue sky, a backdrop of the beautiful volcano, horses, and a pretty chica. This is perfect!

What do beautiful horses need? Great riders, an excellent trainer and a beautiful, skilled Chica horsewoman of course. Our young woman is the trainers daughter, Laura. The male rider is our friend and neighbor, Johnny.

Today was horseshoeing and training day. The trainer and his daughter came this morning and started training our young pinto, Tina Turner. Tina is highly opinionated and spirited, but she came a long way today. Next was Phil’s little girl, Amorsita, and she was wonderful. A little training, and then came the pad, saddle, a male rider and then the trainers daughter. Amorsita took it in stride, no problems.

We gave the horses a bath, while they were fitted for shoes. I was combing out one of the horses tails, and Felipe told Erika to close a gate which then spooked the horse. I ended up sitting in a pile of fresh, warm, oozing horse poop which cradled my fall on my well cushioned backside. Time for a shower and clothing change, yuck. Actually, I like the earthy smell of farm animals, it does not bother me at all. I probably should not be sitting in fresh piles and being knocked down is not good for my bones. Tomorrow morning I will feel as stiff as the tin man. Nonetheless, it was a good day in paradise.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Marcos is wearing the white pointed hat.

Our lead man Marcos, most likely has gallstones, he was previously tested and diagnosed, they gave him some tums or milk of magnesia and sent him home. Neither of those “medications” are appropriate for gallstones. Today Phil took Marcos to the caja because his pain is so severe. The caja is the government clinic that accepts his insurance. They sent him to several other places, including the hospital to have more testing done. Costa Ricans are big on paper work, testing and rubber stamps. Marcos had already been tested, which is how we know he has gallstones. The hospital set Marcos up with an appointment to be tested all over again, on May 20th, 2010. Can you believe it, May of 2010. Marcos said, “I’ll be dead by then.” Phil told him that was their plan, they could save money by only seeing those who survive.

Lucky for Marcos, he has me, or unlucky for Marcos depending on who is drinking my concoction. Today we start my all natural gallstone elimination treatment, I read it in a book. It will end by tomorrow morning and he will either be cured, or not. I don’t offer guarantees, you don’t need to wait until May of 2010, and I don’t charge. Often, I even have success. I don’t however diagnose, you need to know what ails you, and I have my limitations as I have no credentials whatsoever, other than I can read, and I have books. Does that count? No, I didn’t think so. But, when you live on the end of the road to nowhere, and the hospital gives you an appointment a year from now, I am, what you get.

Update 6-21-09:

It took until 11:30pm for Marcos to finish drinking the gallstone elimination concoction. He feels much better this morning.

I have given orders; no more fried food, margarine, fat, coffee, sugar. Chamomile or other herbal tea such as fresh ginger or mint will replace the coffee He can eat unlimited fresh fruit, lots of bananas and papaya, poached fish, and I sent over some hard boiled eggs for today’s protein but he could eat rice and beans if they leave out the oil or grease. Costa Ricans are big on oil, grease and margarine. They believe margarine is good for you. 75% of his diet should now be raw vegetables and salads with lemon juice and olive oil for dressing. This is going to be a difficult adjustment for both him and his wife. Zennia will need to learn another way to prepare their meals in a more healthy way that will benefit the entire family.

A spoonful of olive oil and a spoonful of lemon juice first thing in the morning, as a preventative measure should keep Marcos gallstone free. In 6 weeks, he will repeat last night’s treatment to make sure all of the stone have been eliminated.

Update, 6-25-09:

Marcos is taking one big spoonful of both olive oil and fresh lemon juice every morning on an empty stomach. He misses his coffee. I believe he is still eating fried foods, as he brought over a plate of fried fish because he was feeling so much better. It is hard to change cooking and eating habits. He still has occasional discomfort, probably still has some stones, but he is not in pain. We will do the second treatment as planned and I will continue to try and teach them healthier eating choices. This is difficult because they are resistant to change for many reasons.

Thank you for helping this beautiful 13 year old Cabecar child. Your gifts put shoes on her feet and gave her warmth and love.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Our farm is in a rainforest and a cloud forest, it is always green and lush.

Feeding cows is hard work, our man Carlos is an expert.

First thing in the morning the men cut grass and bring breakfast to the cows. This morning I drove the Rhino pulling the trailer and photographed the event.

I love clouds and their magic. So I will share the clouds in my life today.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Yesterday my friend Dan and I found shoes to fit these Cabecar indigenous children from the reservation.

Dana visited and brought clothing, shoes, and backpacks. Thanks Dana.

I also want to thank all of you who have donated, and I have no idea who you are. Thank you so much.

My daughter Erika riding at the farm.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Yesterday I spotted this big beefy lizard with a sail, sunning himself by the coffee mill. He was every bit of 18 inches long.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Bat in the House

Two nights ago we found a bat of about 5 inches from wing tip to wing tip, flying in the house. Come morning we were unable to locate him. How did he get in? He probably just flew in when we were loading packages from the car to the house in the evening after a day of shopping.

Last night just after dinner (we eat and live by candlelight), our bat was flying fast in the twilighted room with the grace of a butterfly. He zoomed through the rooms and doorways buzzing us as he went by. After several failed attempts to seal off our living area (too many openings) we opened the kitchen door and the French doors. Our bat circled a few more times and gracefully exited through the French doors.

The wildlife here is amazing, I really enjoy learning about the many different varieties of bats that we have including fruit bats and vampire bats. They hang together, but their actions are very different. The vampire bats can walk on their elbows in the pasture where they wait for an animal such as our cows. They prefer wild animals, but a cow will do. When the animal walks by they spring up and scratch it leaving an anticoagulant so the animal continues to dribble blood. The blood gets on the bat and when they go back to their bat cave, they lick each other. Fruit bats do not lick, only the vampires lick and lick blood. If you put a vampicide cream on your cows, the vampire bats will return to the cave with the vampicide on them. Then the licking begins amongst the vampires, while the fruit bats hang and safely go to sleep.

You can catch the vampire bats in nets, I am not sure what you do with them then, but the nets have not been available to us so far.

Bats are very interesting and necessary for many reasons. If you have interest, you should google bats and find out more.

Wednesday April 15th, 09

I wrote the above piece this morning. This evening we sat down to an Italian feast from the garden, and lit the customary candles for dinner light. We were immediately buzzed by Bat Boy. I don’t think it was the same one, this one seemed smaller. I opened the French doors and have not seen him again this evening. Hmmm, where are they getting in? They can enter through a space no larger than the width of your little finger. When we find bats on the floor, we pick them up and launch them. These are always the fruit bats as the vampires do not need our help, they can jump up and launch themselves. In our previous house, we found them often. This is the first time we have had them in the new house. Wow, what a life we have here…

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The volcano is smoking and it is another wonderful day.