On The Road Again-Costa Rica

Just a quick post with some personal insight.  As you know by now, I am in a Spanish speaking country and I  thought I had basic language skills dating back to Longmeadow High School.  Wrong!  When we visited Mexico through the years, I could get by OK mainly cuz most of them spoke some English.  We were also in situations that were fairly predictable like at a restaurant or hotel.  In those situations I could fake it pretty well.  

Not so at a botanic garden where the bulk of the locals speak no English.  Most of the people we associate with on a friendly basis are ex pats and are from the US and Canada.  Consequently, I have not studied Spanish as I should.

The insight is that I discovered there is a universal language.  A smile, a nod, a wave, and in some instances a hug or kiss on the cheek.  I have always been a cook and baker and my modus operandi has been to share with others.  Since purchasing a toaster oven, I have made and shared chocolate chip cookies, banana nut muffins, biscotti, etc.  When I hand the non-English speaking staff some food, the interaction goes like this:  I hand them food, they point to themselves as if to say, “for me?” and I nod.  We both smile.  They point to me as tho to say “did you make this?” and I nod again.  We hug and smile.  Communication perfecto!

Today as I was driving out of the garden to go to the grocery store, I came across Joyce who cleans our cabin.  She had her purse and was walking towards the entrance/exit of the garden.  I stopped and gestured if she wanted to get into the car, she nodded and I opened the door.  She asked if I was going towards San Vito which I was but would have gone the other way if that was towards her home.  She closed the door and said in English, “Thank you.”  Now to me that was the best.  She put through that effort and I complimented her on her pronounciation.  As it turned out she lived fairly close to the garden as she pointed out her mother’s house and sister’s next to hers.  It warmed my heart to see families so close together and made me think of what I’ve missed being on the road…..but then again how else would I have learned the universal language of kindness, sharing, and appreciation?

IMG_1945.jpgNot only the people are wonderful in Costa Rica, but the garden itself.  This area was basically a swamp until Greg refined it to define three small ponds which he and his staff surrounded with rocks from other parts of the garden thus crating pools of water rather than just runoff.  He also designed and help build the bridge with bamboo handrails.  I am continuously impressed with his sense of design even in a remote central american jungle!




Costa Rica-Perpetual Spring #2

As many of you know, we lived on the small outer island of Kauai, Hawaii from 1978-1994.  Many of the features of Costa Rica remind me of the old Kauai. No heat or air conditioning which means no battles over the thermostat!  It’s a simple life where everything you need, but not necessarily everything you want, is available.  It forces one to alter your mindset.  I liken it to some HGTV home shows.  There is a mentality that states: I need granite, I need 5 bedrooms, I need stainless steel appliances.  Come on now what does need have to do with any of those things.  I understand the need for food, clothing and shelter, but shelter with granite?


What I need is a bed, bathroom, refrigerator, table and chairs and WIFI. I’ll admit it-I need WIFI!! I also need electricity, clean water, and indoor plumbing. When you have views like this out your window, how much more could you possibly need?  Did I forget to mention that there is a restaurant on the grounds of the garden and this job not only came with housing, but three meals a day, laundry service and weekly maid service?  Now dry your eyes, I’m trying to cope with this lifestyle!

The greatest challenge for me in this situation is keeping busy and productive.  There are many people around all the time since there are numerous rental cottages and staff, but aside from the gatherings at meals, I am left to my own devices.  Breakfast is at 6:30 AM and Greg goes to work after that till lunch at noon, and then back to work for part of the afternoon with dinner at 6:00PM.  I found that fabric and most else ships fot the international flat rate of $40.00.  So of course when I decided to order fabric, I realized that no matter how large the order, the shipping cost was the same. Aren’t you proud that of the $327 bill only $40 was shipping!  How’s that for justification?  Works for me.

Costa Rica Perpetual Spring


Costa Rica Perpetual Spring

Most journeys start with a mixture of anticipation and anxiety. This venture was no different. My husband Greg and I were just settling into retirement back at our former home in Chapel Hill, NC. We moved back there in the summer of 2016 after spending six years in Pittsburgh, PA. Pittsburgh constantly amazed us with the culture the city offered but mostly with the friendliness and hospitality of the people who make up this city with the warm midwest feel.
We moved there for my husband’s job of creating the Pittsburgh Botanic Garden. It is on abandoned coal mined property with a serious land and water pollution problem. When we arrived in 2010 the pond there was dead. No life could be supported in the orange water of acid mine drainage. With the help of environmental engineers,garden staff and generous funding an underground filtration system powered by solar energy was built to regularly remove the noxious sediment and allow for life. Today the pond supports water lilies and fish alike. My husband’s background of creating and running botanic gardens came to flourish in this final project before retirement.
As a dental hygienist, I was licensed and able to work part time in Pennsylvania. I love my profession even after 44 years in practice. It is basically a people business one in which I enjoy tremendously. I have dedicated my time and energy to developing my techniques and methods of approaching patients which have both been successful. The biggest lesson I learned in my career is don’t complain unless you have a method to fix the problem.
We had rented out our house in Chapel Hill while we were living in Pittsburgh, and were excited to move back to what we thought was our dream home. However when we last lived there two of our 3 sons lived nearby and both Greg and I had full time jobs. This time the house was too big, too much maintenance and too quiet.
Greg is a motorcycle enthusiast and had long talked about taking a cross country motorcycle trip. The opportunity arose and I agreed to give him “a kitchen pass”, which is the equivalent of saying ok with no (well little) bitching. He joined up with cycle friends and prepared to go from Atlantic Beach, NJ to San Diego, CA. The catch was that he was riding support for the motorcycle Cannonball race. The criteria for this race is that the contestant’s bikes had to be at least ONE HUNDRED years old! Thankfully since he was not a contestant, he did not have to obey those rules.
He left September 8 to head towards Atlantic Beach to meet up with the group that numbered over 500 in contestants and support staff and tag-a-longs. They rode all back roads and averaged 45 mph. I know, speed demons. The riders were accompanied by support teams as I mentioned however some of the support vehicles were complete motorcycle repair shops in motorhomes. Some of the contestants had more than $80,000.00 into their bikes, let alone the motorhomes.
Greg rode a 1993 BMW K75/S that had good handling for back roads. Unfortunately the friend he was supporting did not complete the race. His bike blew the crankshaft and his mechanics fixed it, but when it blew again, the race was over for him in Durango, Colorado. Now Greg was due to meet the whole family in Las Vegas for our middle son’s wedding on October 1, so he continued riding the route until heading toward Nevada.
Our oldest son, Tyler, is 36 and married to Annie and have two children. Cooper is 5 and Morgan 3. They live in Dallas where Tyler is a financial planner and Annie a stay at home mom. Our youngest son, Trevor is 31 and is married to Haley. They live in Houston and Trevor is a geologist with Shell and Haley is an occupational therapist.
That leaves the groom, Aaron. True to the middle son legend, his byline was ‘always interesting’. He is 33 and now married to Katie. They live in Chicago and he has his own company (Phlearn.com) teaching photography and photoshop online. We are so glad he found the right one.
Their wedding was unconventional which knowing Aaron and Katie, is no surprise. It took place in the desert at an art installation called Seven Magic Mountains. The legal marriage had taken place the day before, so this was a celebration. We all stood in a circle and spoke into the portable microphone and told stories and shared memories and hopes for Aaron and Katie.

Once again we have moved! This time to San Vito, Costa Rica. The point of this email is the sad story of my inexpensive sewing machine. Anyhow we are here for a 9 month sabbatical at the Las Cruces Botanic Garden here. We flew from NC to Cancun (for our timeshare booked last year) and had the Baby Lock sewing machine Anna in my carry on with no problem. To come here we flew from Cancun to Mexico City again no problem with the sewing machine in my carry on.
Everything changed in Mexico City! All of a sudden I was told that I couldn’t take the sewing machine as carry on. The explanation was in rapidly spoken Spanish which neither of us understood. It was too late to check it on as baggage so my ANNA was confiscated, never to be seen again!!
Dry your eyes, I was able to buy a Singer ( I know, I know) at the Walmart in San Jose before taking the 7 hour drive to San Vito. So I am not machine-less but I feel like I should put out an Amber alert on ANNA!

I went to a yoga class yesterday with several other expats (people from USA who moved here) at a woman’s house. There were 9 of us and we spread out yoga mats (Iborrowed one) and did some basic yoga stretching and moves to a video. I felt great after, not worn out but energized. This area has an enormous bird population and thus most of the people who come here are birders, as they call themselves. One woman said she will turn me into a birder and I said she was free to try. At the botanical garden they don’t put out bird feeders because they are encouraging the birds to do their job polinating the plants.
They have toucan’s here like on the fruit loops cereal box, and many of them are quite large and have bright yellow heads. The birds here are vastly more colorful than in the US. Wait a minute am I talking about birds? Could be falling under the spell?
We are staying on the grounds of the botanic garden in a 1 bedroom cottage with a private bath. Pretty small, but when you look out the windows your horizons expand. There are many cottages here available for rent and all include 3 meals a day at the dining room. Rice and beans are the traditional Costa Rican food. Don’t worry, I brought Beano! Breakfast typically includes eggs and toast. With coffee of course! Lunch varies with a cabbage salad that is too vinegary for me to eat, and a meat and vegetable dish. The dinners have the same basics, but the main dish is different from lunch. The staff here is a joy to be around. Everyone is very friendly and helpful. We meet people staying in the cottages at meal time. A woman of Indian descent from Canada was particularly interesting since she was travelling alone. She is retired but her husband still works and thus she travels all ove the world by herself. She climbs mountains, fords rivers and calls herself a naturalist. Kind of funny for a retired accountant but she says she is interested in everything and loves to explore.