Five Senses Monday


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Good morning, friends. It seems that everyone everywhere is getting a little taste of springtime (maybe even summer) lately. I spent much of the weekend outside, soaking up as much of this wintery sunshine as I could.

I wanted to bring back Five Senses Monday, where I reflect on the last few days through the five senses. It’s always heartwarming to hear from readers who prefer these posts of reflection and little moments more than anything else. I like them too.

So here we go.

Five Senses Monday

Tasting: A roasted chicken sandwich on homemade onion-cauliflower “bread”. My mom made the bread for her Whole 30 clean-eating plan, and I made an amazing sandwich with roasted turkey, spinach-feta hummus from the farmers market and lotsa cheese. I also had a side of organic strawberries that were perfection.

Hearing: Raindrops splashing in the pool and thumping on my succulents.

Feeling: So much sunshine the day after the rain. I took a drive on country roads to visit my dad. We sat outside in the sun, and it was like medicine.

Seeing: Lots of family lately. It’s been nice and comforting.

Smelling: Coffee. Always coffee. I’ve been off of caffeine for a while now, and I miss Starbucks. I hate that I just said I miss Starbucks.

Play along if you feel like it. I’m looking forward to writing down my little moments throughout the week so I can share, share, share.

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Well, hello again

back_1Wow, how I’ve missed this space. How 2015 has been flying. How it seems that focus is a fleeting thing sometimes. Is it just me? I don’t think so. But I do this break is over. I have so much to share here and I hate that I’m behind. Thank you friends I have never met who have sent emails and messages about my whereabouts. Those touch me deeply. I am well. Just adjusting to new grooves and swings and all those little things that make life interesting.
back_2I’m excited to share little trips I’ve taken recently, like to the aquarium and to Capitola and the roller rink. I’ve had dinners at friends’ houses and cooked many soups in my own kitchen. I’ve been quiet at home a lot, and enjoying plants on the windowsill and figuring out how to hang succulents in different ways. It’s been simple. But I think that’s what everyone likes best. I’ll be back with a ton more.  back_5
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Roaming Nicaragua

nic_8639nic_8644nic_8668I fell in love with Nicaragua early in the morning. We hopped on a bus in Playa del Coco, Costa Rica, long before sunrise. We were the first to be picked up, the first to meet our guide, Marco, and our driver, Johnny. We were groggy and shy at first, but by the end of the day, we were calling each other family and sharing street food wrapped in banana leaves together. That’s just how I remember Nicaragua. Comfort. Smiles. Warmth. A strawberry-shake sunset. And leaving, unsure you’ll ever see Nicaragua or Johnny or Marco again, is a little heartbreaking.

Taking one day out of my Costa Rica vacation to see Nicaragua was entirely worth it. It’s been several months now, and I have such fond memories of that single day. I don’t know how to explain it, but I felt very free that day; I felt lucky and exhilarated. I smiled through every one of Johnny’s close calls when his risky passes jerked everyone from their seats. I didn’t mind that the a/c stopped working a few hours in; it just meant it was time to braid my hair. I felt safe, even when the Americans were made to get off the bus at the border to be questioned and have their temperatures taken to make sure we weren’t bringing Ebola into the country.

Nicaragua blew my mind and made me realize I’m not the open-minded traveler I always imagined I was. It was beautiful, whereas I imagined hills of dirt and filth. I expected to be scared, but we were welcomed. I imagined I’d find ramshackle-life, and mostly, it was simple living surrounded by beauty.

These, my friends, are the nearly 20 hours I spent in Nicaragua. I hope you enjoy. 
nic-001 nic_8739 nic_8738 nic_8735 nic_8734 nic_8726 nic_8724 nic_8713 nic_8710 nic_8708 nic_8705 nic_8699 nic_8692 nic_8684 nic_8682 nic_8679 nic_8677 nic_8676 nic_8671Many of these photos were taken from the bus, but I quite enjoy their feel:
nic_8666 nic_8664 nic_8663 nic_8662 nic_8660 nic_8659 nic_8656Here, we hopped on a boat to explore Lake Nicaragua, a giant fresh-water later with sharks! Oh, and monkeys!
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It makes me want to go back.

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Walking in the treetops | Costa Rican jungle bridges

forest_9405forest_9469forest_9395forest_9111Hi friends. There aren’t many words to say, except, let’s get lost in the jungle …

This was one of my favorite days in Costa Rica. Here, I wrote about the roadtrip to get here.

There wasn’t a lot of chatter. Just the pitter-patter of a few raindrops. The ruffling of leaves as monkeys swung from branches. The teasing hoot of birds in the distance.

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Roadtrip to the Jungle | Costa Rica

forest_8993forest_9013Mostly, we drove quietly to the rainforest. Watching the wind blow the palms outside. Watching the clothes lines zoom by. Watching the already lush countryside turn even more green, thick and tropical.

Because we were a small group — only four of us — our tour guide took us to his favorite restaurant on the mountaintop, just before the entrance to the jungle. We drove for miles up a steam hill paved with golf ball and baseball-sized rocks. The van’s motor died only once, and we all had to hop in the back seat to balance the weight to make it to the top of the hill.

After we passed homes surrounded by their own jungles of tropical fruit trees and flower gardens, we arrived in time for lunch. It was one of the freshest meals I had in Costa Rica, and the mountain view was one I could have stared at for days. forest_9009

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My Costa Rican neighborhood

hood_2hood_1hood_7I like that I’ve been home from Costa Rica for two weeks, and it still feels fresh in my mind. I hate when you return to normal life after something amazing and it starts to fade into dream mode. If I think about it, there’s almost a sadness that Tico life is not my actual life, that I was just a seven-day visitor in a place and a community that felt so comfortable.

One thing I did not want to be in Costa Rica was a tourist who stayed in an all-inclusive resort only eating resort food and only talking to people who don’t live in Costa Rica. Granted, I really want to do this someday, like stay on white sandy beaches somewhere like Playa del Carmen and let someone bring me fruity drinks around the clock. But this was not that.

We stayed in a condo a few blocks from the beach and about a mile walk to downtown. We were in a neighborhood with locals living in apartments, timeshare owners visiting for their so-many-weeks out of the year and business owners running small cafes and consignment shops. It felt homey and safe, not something my terrified mother expected me to report from the streets of a third world country (gosh, doesn’t that sound so negative?).

Speaking of my terrified mother, I promised to never tell her the story of the time we got lost after dark in Costa Rica, but now that I’ve been home for a few weeks, that promise feels a little less important. And I’m home safe, so I think that speaks for enough, right? But, yes, lost happened. And it happened all over these streets in these pictures. It was in the dark on our first night in Costa Rica — after we’d only been in the country for a few hours, really — and after we walked to downtown in middle of a monsoon and then ate fish tacos at a sports bar while were were dripping wet and wiping smeared mascara from our cheeks.

We decided to walk home because it was before midnight — that’s the specific hour our shuttle driver said it probably wouldn’t be a good idea for us to be out walking around. But we forgot the street we were supposed to turn on and somehow we ended up a lot farther away than we wanted to be. It wasn’t so much scary, but annoying after a full day of flying, it made falling into our rental beds that much more awesome when we did finally find our way home in the nighttime rain.

Over the week, the neighborhood began to feel like home. I found myself walking alone and not minding sitting alone at cafes and restaurants to people watch and check email. It reminded me of college, in a strange and comforting way.

These are the majority of my neighborhood photos, the ones I took while I was walking home from someplace or just when I would wander when nothing else was planned.  hood_3 hood_3c hood_4 hood_5 hood_6  hood_8 hood_9 hood_10 hood_11 hood_12 hood_13 hood_14 hood_15 hood_16 hood_17 hood_22 hood_23 hood_24 hood_25 hood_26 hood_27 hood_28 hood_29 hood_30 hood_31 hood_32 hood_33 hood_34 hood_35 hood_36 hood_37 hood_39 hood_40 hood_41 hood_42 hood_43 hood_44 hood_45 hood_47 hood_49 hood_50 hood_51 hood_52 hood_53 hood_54hood_001

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I spy … monkeys and crocodiles on my boat | Costa Rica

river_7909^^ Wild monkeys hopped into our boat looking for food. It had been five weeks since they’d made an appearance during these boat tours, so we felt extra special. ^^river_7613river_7627river_7869^^ Crocodiles always on the prowl ^^river_7752^^ Iguanas populate the treetops like birds^^river_7884I don’t like the idea of being a tourist. I like to think of myself as the kind of girl who is interested in eating with strangers, sleeping on peoples’ couches and finding my own way home. On recent trips, though, I learned to embrace my tourist side, and I have learned, that like everything in life, you have to have balance when visiting a new world.

I went to Costa Rica without any plans, basically. I was cautious of filling my calendar with long day trips and Americanized excursions instead of morning-til-night beach days or exploring Costa Rican life on my own. This has happened before, where I’ve gone some place and felt like I experienced everything they had to offer, except for the way the locals live and perceive their home. I didn’t want Costa Rica to be that.

And it wasn’t.

It was balanced. Plenty of time to float in the waves. A sufficient number of evenings drinking the local cerveza and rum on Coco’s main street. Downtime for people watching at the Internet Cafe or soaking in the pool outside of our front door.

Without a car (I have decided I will rent one next time), I quickly learned that the tours were one of the main ways non-locals see Costa Rican life, ecotourism, environment and that splendidly lush countryside. So we signed up, first for two tours and then we added a third one later in the week.

Each tour took the majority of the day. And because of that, they didn’t feel like the quick, hop-on/hop-off experience you often feel on tours in the States. On every tour — most of them small in size, the tour guides and fellow travelers became like close friends fast. The drives in vans and small buses were like roadtrips with friends, and you talked about everything from their homes so far from yours, careers and what drew people to Costa Rica. Because everyone has that story to tell.river_7621river_7624river_7865river_7728These photos are from the first tour I took in Costa Rica on the Tempisque River, starting in Palo Verde National Forrest. There were six of us on this trip. A couple from Ottowa, a couple from Oceanside and us. Our driver, who didn’t speak much English at all, drove us through the hills on a rainy morning to another town (that we all meant to figure out the name of, but never did). The driver hopped out of the van for a while, and went into the panaderia across the street. Maybe he’s picking up our lunches, someone said. Maybe we’re picking up the tour guide here, we guessed. Before we knew it, they had us switch vans and we were off once again.

After a long ride through rain and mudpits — and with only one stop in which all of us English speakers tried to explain that the heater was muy caliente and burning the lady in the back seat — we made it to the river. Our tour guide, a local with a wide smile who drank Britt iced coffee out of a box (that I would later discover in the market and stock up on), hopped in to the passenger seat.

This river tour was the most touristy of all the tours. But I sat back, and embraced it, and took pictures of every floating alligator, every monkey, every crane — not because I necessarily needed to remember every bird, but because our guide was so excited every time I showed him a photo and he would loudly gasp, “Yes,” every time he saw my camera pointed at wildlife. It was great. We became friends, and we talked about cameras and shared the pack of cheese crackers I found stashed in my backpack.

river_7629river_7632river_7651river-2river_7646river_7655river_7676river_7658river_7679river_7701river_7709river_7731river_7753river_7755river_7758river_7761river_7778river_7784river_7800river_7805river_7829 river_7843 river_7852 river_7857river_7892river_7894 It was so great to see all the wildlife, especially the monkeys jumping on our boat and the crocks, too. Here are two Instagram videos I posted of the monkeys and the crocodiles eating at our boat.  river_7984At the end of the day, we went to a family-owned restaurant near the river. We were served a family-style Tico lunch of fresh meats and veggies. It was a beautiful day, and our first full day of experiencing Costa Rica. river_7612

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