Sophie has morphed into a bit of a lip slut lately, as she loves nothing more these days than to kiss a toad. Or lick one. Or eat one whole. Or two, or three, or four. Unlike all the princesses of the world, Sophie is not kissing these toads in search of her price charming or her happily ever after.
The vicious hunter that lives inside her has truly come alive in Costa Rica, like a demon possessing an innocent soul. Don’t be fooled by her precious puppy dog eyes, or her adorable face and small stature. She is a murderous maniac, she hunts anything that moves, she has no standards, no rules, and especially no control. It is a dog-eat-toad world out there people, so be warned.
Unfortunately Sophie is illiterate and did not read the memo that these humungous toads are poisonous, especially to dogs. The toads move slowly, so it is their only defense. They rely on the hope that a dog is capable of learning…poisoned by a toad once, shame on the toad. But twice, shame on YOU dog! Sophie, have you not heard of survival of the fittest? Natural Selection? Adaptation? Evolution? We must learn from our mistakes or we are destined to repeat them.
Foaming at the mouth, head banging viciously, projecting slobber around the room like a scene right out of Turner and Hooch, Sophie looks like a bad drug overdose. I try not to panic and give her some cold milk, which is supposed to help eliminate the poison from her system. After a few tense minutes she seems to be feeling better, but I keep an eye on her most of the evening.
I try to tell her you can’t just go around kissing any old ugly toad you see, that she must have some self restraint somewhere inside her. But she made me eat my words (better than a toad I guess), as she ate another poisonous toad for dinner last night. It is Groundhog’s day, it’s like déjà vu all over again (says Yogi), and the dramatic scene repeats itself. Although this time she seems to have gotten a bigger dose of toad and I can tell she is feeling worse. But soon enough she seems back to normal again.
Later that night, just as I am just falling into a peaceful slumber, Sophie goes completely nuts, flies off the bed and starts attacking the sliding glass door that leads outside. She does her hysterical scream-bark, pawing at the door desperately, and my first thought is uh-oh, we’re being robbed. I jump out of bed, pull the curtain from the door back…and I am face to face with the most massive toad I’ve ever seen in my life.
He stares at Sophie. Sophie stares at him. He sizes up Sophie. Sophie sizes up him.
I have to say it would be a pretty even match and I may even put my money on the toad. He is bigger than a Chihuahua, and Sophie never has met a Chihuahua she liked…
Sophie continues to attack him through the glass, and he just sits there, calmly staring his possible future demise in the face. This drives Sophie mad and she attacks harder. Needless to say we did not get much sleep last night. Revenge of the Toads.
The saga of “Sophie and the Toads” will continue, so stay tuned for next week’s episode.
Ano de Amigos…
Although Andy and I love the animals and the beaches of Costa Rica, I think our favorite part of this wanderlust journey is the people we meet along the way. In each town we’ve lived in we have made special lifelong friends who we feel lucky to call amigos. Sometimes when you meet a new friend it feels like you’ve known them forever and those are my favorite kind of people to meet.
Living in Osa Mountain Village has been amazing. We have met all of the awesome long-term residents, but it’s also fun to meet those who are just passing through, for a few days, a few weeks or a few months. We’re just sitting up here on this mountain of jungle, with our killer ocean view, collecting facebook friends like it’s our job.
This last year for us has been a year of travel, exploring, finding ourselves, but also a year of amigos. New friends, old friends, all friends are welcome. Our friend Cherokee was just here visiting, and now our friend Josh will arrive tomorrow, visiting from our beloved hometown of Bend, OR. We have more amigos scheduled over the next few months and who knows what new amigos will come into our lives in the future. This is our year of friends, our ano de amigos! Who’s next??
weefee at our villa…
Still no wifi at our villa, or wee-fee as we like to say since in Spanish “i” is pronounced as “e”. We are working with a local guy who is supposed to help us figure out our best option for our weefee service provider, but it’s a slow process as everything is supposed to happen ‘manana’. I’ve already learned that ‘manana’, in Costa Rica, is a date in the far, distant future that never seems to be introduced to today.
So we are a little less reachable these days, as 1 kilometer of muddy, pot-holed, steep mountain road stands between us and internet access. The moral of this story is: don’t panic if you’re trying to reach us…we’ll make sure to get back to you ‘manana’.
Happiness is a word with infinite definitions. It means something different to everyone.
Happiness is self-made, it is born of you and through you. Our bodies are happiness factories but not all the parts can be working perfectly all the time. You must learn how to make your own happiness. The recipe changes daily, and you are the only qualified chef.
Be happy for no reason because if you’re happy for a reason, that reason can be taken away. Don’t plant all your happiness in one person. Don’t be with someone who makes you happy, be someone who makes you happy. If you want to be happy, then be.
Let us not forget that it’s important to pause, every now and then, in our pursuit of individual happiness, to just be happy.
Happiness is not a constant. It’s not something you can buy in a store, it’s not something you can borrow from a neighbor, and it’s definitely not an annoyingly catchy Pharrell song.
If our lives are made for TV movies, then happiness can be compared to the commercial breaks. Brief moments of peace, soft pauses in the chaos of our everyday reality. Just enough of a break from our unhappiness to remind us that life isn’t always so horrible. Just a glimpse of clear, blue sky bravely peeking through the endless layers of suffocating storm clouds. Just enough motivation to keep us bravely chugging along until the next intermission of happiness temporarily arrives.
Happiness is a fleeting moment of serenity that seeps into our souls without a warning. We dance with it, caress it, smell it’s lovely perfume, kiss it hello…and immediately goodbye.
We are constantly chasing it, yet so rarely get the chance to hold it for long. It slips through our fingers like water when we hold it too tightly, it melts in our hands like chocolate when we grasp it too selfishly, we pause to worry about it leaving us, and it already has. It slips through the chains we tether to it, it seeps from the bottle we try to capture it in.
It eludes us, hides from us, fools us into thinking it finally belongs to us, just as it departs for another…
Happiness can be a real bitch.
But so can unhappiness.
Maybe we are addicted to talking about our problems. (tip: face your problems, don’t facebook your problems.) Break the habit of discussing your problems and change your attitude to gratitude. Stop comparing your behind the scenes to everyone else’s highlight reel. Most people don’t practice what they post.
Count your blessings, not your blemishes. Line your every day joys up in a row and you have happiness.
Happiness shared is happiness multiplied; it is contagious. If you find it hard to catch, then try making someone else happy. Share it, give it away, throw it in the opposite direction, and like a boomerang it will come back.
To me happiness is a million tiny things. Happiness is having nothing to do, and all day in which to do it. It’s drinking fresh coconut water, sharing a favorite beach with a loved one, spending a day swinging in a hammock with a good book. It is spur of the moment road trips, floating in salt water, and being in a place where people love and accept you for who you are and not what you have.
Costa Rica, specifically the Nicoya Peninsula, is one of the known Blue Zones of the world. A Blue Zone is an identified geographic area of the world in which people live measurably longer lives, due to a number of factors. If you’ve ever spent any time in Costa Rica, living the pura vida lifestyle, then you probably understand why this country has some of the happiest people on the planet.
A year ago my husband Andy and I quit our jobs, sold our house and moved to Costa Rica without a plan, in our own pursuit of happiness. In the year we’ve spent traveling this special country, we’ve met many happy people along the way. Since happiness means something different to everyone, I wanted to gather a collection of the things that make these happy people so happy, so I asked them what happiness is to them and here are their unique, refreshing, simple answers:
Julie: Happiness is simplicity: simple living and simply being in the moments between the breaths.
Mitchton: I am sort of always happy as it’s a choice I make. Regardless of the circumstance I always get to choose my response.
Caitlin: Happiness is a complete surrender to presence. When we lose ourselves so fully and willingly in the moment that all the stories we tell ourselves about life dissipate. And what's left is the overwhelming light of our own existence.
Chris: happiness is waking with an insatiable hunger for life and going to bed full.
Danni: What is happiness to me... Happiness to me is finding that stillness inside and being content with what I have. Living in the moment and not dwelling in the past or trying to know what my future holds. Living freely so to speak. I obtain this through meditation, staying active physically and being in nature.
Kalin: Happiness to me is freedom. Freedom of time, action, and thought to minimize that which I ‘have’ to and maximize that which I want to.
I encourage you to take a few moments to consider what happiness means to you. Remember that it is not found in the next job, the next partner, the next place. Until you give up the idea that happiness is somewhere else, it will never be where you are.
May you always find time for the things that make you feel happy to be alive. Life is to be enjoyed, not just endured. Time flies whether you’re having fun or not. The choice is yours.
What are you doing right now? Are you having fun? If so, keep doing it. If not, change something.
Plant your dreams, pull your weeds, and grow a happy life.
In Costa Rica, the way they do things is comical sometimes. The land of “Macgyvering It”, jerry-rigging everything, making the rules up as you go, and using whatever you have within reach to fix something.
One afternoon we were enjoying an ice cold beer at Soda Lilly (yes, we finally found a soda that serves beer! It's a miracle!) with our friends Jose and Nathalie when we notice two signs across the street. We chuckle over the irony…only in Costa Rica do you see a sign advertising an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, right next to a sign for a bar:
Well if there’s a fork in the road, Yogi Berra says to take it. AA meeting…or Roadshack? Anyone who knows us can easily guess which venue we decided to pursue…
As soon as we walked into the Roadshack we were greeted by familiar, friendly faces. Apparently this is the place to be in Uvita. The staff is warm and welcoming, and right away we notice a sign for Rogue Beer!
Brought to us all the way from the Oregon Coast, it’s like this place knew we were coming and is extremely prepared. We order all the Oregon beer we can drink:
Only true Oregonians can genuinely appreciate a crisp, delicious microbrew. They taste like home. We stuff ourselves with flavorful sandwiches, burritos and cheeseburgers, and numerous craft beers. The food and beer at The Roadshack are scrumptious, and we will definitely be back soon.
We don’t get to the beach as often as we used to. We do have a beautiful view of the ocean from our porch, but 7 kilometers and 2000 feet of rugged Costa Rican potholes stand between us and the Pacific Ocean. “Death Road” is the name we’ve given to our never-ending-flat-tire-inducing driveway. But we won't let Death Road stand in our way. We try to do a beach day at least once a week.
Playa Uvita is one of our favorite nearby beaches. Next to the famous Whale’s Tail, it is a popular beach amongst tourists, and an expensive one. It costs $6 per person to enter this beach from one of the public entrance points, but we refuse to pay that much each time we want to swim in the ocean. We got lucky and found a secret road that leads to a secluded section of pristine beach and we claim it as our own. With a cooler full of beer and snacks, and a couple of hammocks, we could waste many days in this spot.
Since moving to Osa Mountain Village we’ve noticed we rarely spot monkeys anymore. We went nearly a month without a single monkey sighting, although we hear them howling from the jungle day and night, so we know they are still around.
These are jungle monkeys after all, and they presumably keep their distance from people, unlike the city monkeys (that's our theory anyway). Missing our regular monkey sightings, we were treated to a rare monkey experience one day while at Playa Uvita. We were happy to see the monkeys, and they were also happy to see us…or should I say pee on us?
Howler monkeys swarm the treetops above us, climbing, swinging and playing. Babies cling to their mother’s backs, teenagers daringly chase each other through the foliage, pausing only to urinate on the tourists below, while the loud, grumpy father monkeys voice their extreme disapproval of the entire situation through repeated, deep, booming howls.
Down at the volunteer center at Osa Mountain Village there is a nice wood-burning pizza oven. Nathalie and Jose, who live at the volunteer center, decided to host a pizza night as a farewell dinner for Nathalie.
Nathalie made mounds of homemade pizza dough, while Jose built the fire, and the rest of us brought shredded cheese along with a variety of toppings. From jerk sauce, to fresh pineapple, to vegetarian sausage, to smoked ham and bacon, to roasted garlic, to every possible vegetable you can think of, we had it all.
By far the best pizza we’ve had in all of our time in Costa Rica. Each pizza that exited the hot wood-burning oven was more delicious than the one before it. Pizza night at the OMV volunteer center will be hard to top! After stuffing ourselves with endless pizza slices, we gathered around while Jose played the guitar and we all sang old school classic rock songs to end the evening.
Thanks to Nathalie, Jose, and everyone at OMV for the flavorful evening! Nathalie - you will be missed! Hasta luego!
Located in the Southern Pacific area of Costa Rica, The Diquis Delta is an expansive sedimentary plain which is created by the Terraba and Sierpe rivers. This region is very hot and humid most of the year, but also has a long rainy season. The day we visited with our friends Jose and Natalie it was a stifling 100 degrees outside, with no trace of a breeze.
This region is rich in history, culture, and archeology, as it was inhabited by numerous pre-Columbian societies for thousands of years. The indigenous communities of the Delta developed significantly between 800 A.D. and the arrival of the Spanish, changing from tribal societies based on family lineage to organizations led by a head chief. Nourished by the availability of fertile land for cultivation, and the management of surpluses, these societies developed quickly. Strengthened by power, these indigenous people were able to construct significant, symbolic infrastructures, such as the unique stone spheres that Finca 6 is famous for.
Surrounded by coastline, mangroves, and the Osa and Coastal Mountain Ranges, this special section of land contains diverse natural ecosystems, a unique geography and extremely fertile soil. Many species of flora and fauna flourish in this region, as recent studies have documented at least 1835 species of plants, fungi, birds, mammals, and butterflies in the area.
The rich and diverse nature that exists in this region provided the indigenous people with what was needed to survive, but also served as a source of inspiration for their beliefs. To this day the plants and animals constitute an indispensable element in the spiritual and physical life of the indigenous people, as food, raw material, and medicine.
These Diquis archeological sites are highlighted by the presence of many mysterious stone spheres. The existence of the spheres in large numbers in these villages is considered as evidence of relationships among communities who shared the symbolism and ideology of these spheres. The spheres are expressions of the power of leaders and were often clustered in open spaces near main dwellings. By their size, number, raw material and finishing, these magical spheres are considered to be extremely unique in the world.
At the end of the 1930’s extensive cultivation of banana plantations began in the Delta region, which is what led to the discovery of these pre-Columbian settlements and their unique cultural remains, specifically the previously unknown stone spheres. The spheres were first documented by archeologists in 1940, as they registered groupings and alignments of these sculptures in their original state. The National Museum began its important study, evaluation and excavation of this area in the late 1980’s.
The National Museum located at Finca 6 is very modern and was only recently completed. It costs $6 per foreigner, or $2 for a Costa Rican, which includes a 20 minute video and a tour around the museum and the grounds to view the spheres. The principal sector of Finca 6 has been property of the National Museum of Costa Rica since 2008. UNESCO, in 2014, declared this area as a World Heritage Site.
The settlement now known as Finca 6, was part of a large community established on the Delta plain. The unique stone spheres found in this area are cultural manifestations of the pre-Columbian era of Costa Rica. Used to show the hierarchy of villages and their inhabitants, the stone spheres represented wealth and rank. They were positioned in important places within the village settlements, usually forming groups or alignments as part of the main architectural structures that made up the village. Valued as exceptional archeological artifacts, these spheres were used as symbolism in public spaces to reinforce the prestige and power of a community leader and his position. The larger and more perfect the sphere, the greater the importance and prestige of the village and its inhabitants.
Finca 6 is special and unique, as it is one of the few archeological sites where these stone spheres can still be found in their original location. Architectural structures for burials and housing can be found at this site, in addition to two alignments of spheres, which to this day still remain in their original positions.
Actual construction of the stone spheres remains a bit of a mystery, although there are a range of theories. Some consider them as signs from aliens, or magnetic compasses for long-distance navigation, or remnants of a lost continent, or even protection from Gods against hurricanes. Some prefer a more logical, scientific explanation, such as they are simply historic objects manufactured by ancient indigenous populations that previously inhabited this area, using stone tools like hammer, chisels and pointers.
The sizes of the spheres vary from 2.5 meters in diameter, down to only a few centimeters. The heaviest sphere weighs around 24 tons. It is a further mystery how the indigenous people transported these massively heavy stone objects once constructed. Currently nearly 300 spheres have been discovered and recorded in this region.
Upon occasion the spheres were placed in alignment, prompting further debate and theories to emerge as to why. The alignment of the stone spheres could have been related to the movement of the sun or stars or other astronomical events, or they could have acted as some sort of basic calendar. The sphere clusters could represent constellations, or a relationship with sunrise and sunset at certain times of year. The location and alignment of the spheres could also be related to rituals or collective indigenous practices.
Amongst these indigenous communities, power and hierarchy were honored in death as well as life, with elaborate cemeteries and funeral ceremonies. Tombs often contained significant offerings of stone, gold, ceramics and in some cases even small stone spheres. The Finca 6 archeological site contains an ancient tomb and burial area. A rectangular mound with side walls made up of river stone was used for burials.
Joint efforts between the National Museum and the Osa community have preserved this lost piece of history and given the inhabitants of this region a part of their history back. Finca 6 is helping to create community awareness about the extreme importance of this heritage, and its conservation for future generations. With proper and respectful handling and research, this legacy can be an important symbol of social and economic progress in this region.
If you’re ever near the Osa Peninsula of Costa Rica, specifically Palmar Sur, Finca 6 is a unique and educational way to spend a few hours. Unlike the nearby countries of Guatemala, Belize and Mexico, Costa Rica is not known for its rich, ancient history. However, this site is the most archeological, historical and mysterious piece of Costa Rica, and is definitely worth a visit. I would recommend bringing cold water to drink, an umbrella for sun protection, sunscreen, and a camera. Happy learning and exploring, and pura vida!
There’s no such thing as being in the right place at the right time. I don’t believe in coincidences. I don’t believe in accidents or mistakes. I believe in fate and destiny. I believe that some things are just meant to be, or not to be. If you listen to your intuitions, you will be on the right path. We’re always exactly where we are meant to be, and right now is always right on time.
Since moving to Costa Rica I have come to appreciate Mother Nature more than I ever thought possible. Endless days spent amongst the wildlife, and I start to see that we are all connected. You are me and I am you. The entire universe is inside us both. Everything am I. Everything are you. I begin to notice that if we ask the universe for something, it often delivers (only if it is meant to be of course and is for the greater good of all involved).
When I wake up in the morning I ask for what I want: I’d like one up-close monkey encounter today please…I’d like to see a Scarlet Macaw fly directly above my head this morning…I’d like to identify a new bird species on my hike this afternoon.
It’s like ordering breakfast at a diner and the menu is endless, imagined by us. I always remind Andy to ask for what he wants in life. Out loud. Sometimes twice. And don’t be surprised when it shows up knocking at your door.
We have fallen in love with the area we are currently staying in, despite (or maybe because of) the horrible road. Being so far from town helps us save money by not being tempted to eat out, which will extend our overall time in Costa Rica. And living at an organic farm, where overflowing fruit and veggie baskets are delivered bi-weekly, it is easy to cook all our meals at home. Being high up in the mountains we enjoy the cool breezes, abundant wildlife, privacy and seclusion, numerous waterfall hikes, making friends with birds, and the incredible views.
We decide to let it be known that we are looking for an extended house-sitting opportunity in this area so we can spend more time here. Some of the homes that surround the village are not occupied year round, which creates a need for house-sitters. If someone is staying in the home, that helps to keep it from getting broken into. So we decide to spread the word that we are available for a house-sitting job.
Andy shares this with our friend Mitch one evening. Mitch turns around and meets a guy named Jonathan 20 minutes later, who just happens to be leaving in a few days and is trying to lock down a house-sitter before he leaves. Weird. Or maybe not weird at all? Some things are written in the stars. It seems like someone is not only out there listening to us, but also taking notes. Thank you invisible note-taker, your presence is noted and appreciated.
The next morning Jonathan drives us down to tour his home, which is about 1 kilometer below the village. The place is amazing and perfect for us. I couldn’t have written a better situation. Two expansive decks that overlook the sweeping valley below as it meets up with the ocean in the distance. The white caps on the waves are visible as they meet the shore, from this secluded lookout point carved into the side of the mountain.
The house is modern, beautiful, has A/C and a washer and dryer, and is stocked with everything we need. Jonathan is glad to have people staying in his home, since it’s been broken into a few times in the past, while he was away. And we are ecstatic to have an affordable, gorgeous, pristine place to live for the time being. He is planning to sell the house, so we will need to keep it ready and clean for showings, and pay the electric bill and the minimal HOA fees, which give us access to the pool, the fruit and vegetable gardens, water, and the bi-weekly fruit & veggie baskets.
Let’s take a tour. Here is the outside of the house, you can see the upper porch and the lower deck:
The kitchen and living area:
There is even a bathtub! The one and only bathtub I have seen in Costa Rica:
The master bedroom. Each room takes advantage of the view through massive picture windows:
The dining area and the upper deck:
The world’s best hammock spot:
The 2nd best hammock spot:
The valley, ocean and sunset view from the porch:
We don’t have internet yet though, and may not be able to get it hooked up here, although we can always go to the village to use their wifi. But with a massive, comfortable deck overlooking an unforgettable view, we don’t miss having internet, or cable, or a TV at all. It’s like we have a front row seat to our own personal stream of the Discovery channel. Since moving in, the porch is where we do most of our living. We always keep the binoculars and camera on hand, as we see Scarlet Macaws, parrots and toucans multiple times a day.
I may be busy bird watching and admiring the view, but I’m also busy counting my blessings. My attitude is pure gratitude as I thank the universe for listening, and again for delivering. Our incredible good fortune is not lost on me…but I’m not going to feel guilty. Instead I’m remembering all those times in my life where I gave more than I received. All the times I chose to be the bigger person and all the times I put others before myself. I’m remembering the time I gave the homeless man on the corner a $20 bill, the time the teller at the bank drive-through gave me $100 too much and I drove it back to her after I got home and counted it, or the time I lent a friend in need some money when I couldn’t really afford to. I choose to believe this is my reward.
What goes around comes around. Practice gratitude. Ask for what you want in life. And make sure when it is delivered to you that you’re not too busy counting your blemishes, instead of your blessings, to notice.
Life is good today, and today is a good day to have a good day.
Peace, Gratitude, Gracias and Namaste.
Kari Pinkerton Silcox
It would be a tragedy to die, having never really lived. Which is why my husband Andy and I quit our jobs, sold our house and decided to chase our dreams. We moved to Costa Rica without a plan, and this is the story of our adventure.