Sunday, June 24, 2012

What you've missed

I am behind on my blogging, and this is a poor attempt at catching up. As it turns out, everyone I know is pregnant. I had a baby shower for five friends who are all due from May to August; each was having her second child.
We put up a few decorations, painted toenails, and ate lots of fruit and chocolate. I know some people aren't big fans of multiple baby showers, but I believe every child deserves a party.
 Bruce's last day of school came and went. He is officially done with first grade and happy to be on summer vacation (unlike last year). He has big plans every day. Last week he wanted to build a castle, start a caricature-drawing business at the park, and make and sell comic books.
 Bruce biked to school almost every day this year. He loves his bike, which is now decked out with a "bike airplane" on the front: the faster he bikes, the faster the little propeller spins. This weekend we wanted to support our local Scouts in their fundraising efforts for summer camp; they were putting on a car wash, but Scott took the car to do some hiking with friends. We took Bruce's bike to the car wash instead. When they were scrubbing his bike, Bruce asked if they were going to sing (you will have to click on the link above for that to make sense).
Bruce participated in Soccer Nights again this year and loved it. Last year he was more of a commentator, but this year he got in the game a little more. He is a decent defender and avoids the big clumps of players, but that works to his advantage sometimes. He scored a few goals and was proud of how he played.

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Thursday, June 21, 2012

The heat is on.

It was hot yesterday - the hottest since the Boston Marathon on April 16. Today was even hotter: 99 degrees. As I type this at 10:25 p.m. (Scott is watching the Miami Heat get their game on - I can't bear to watch at this point), it is 88 degrees.

We are so thankful to have air conditioning, but we still managed to get out of the house a few times during the heat wave. We visited three splash parks in three days. And since it's going to be 91 degrees tomorrow, we just might fit in one more.

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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Officially hooded.

The past few weeks have been a blur, so I am posting this to remind myself that it really happened.

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Scooperbowl 2012

Last week was the Scooperbowl, "the nation's largest all-you-can-eat ice cream festival." Yes, please! I grabbed my awesome and super-pregnant friend, Megan, and we headed downtown for the feast. I ate all this ice cream for a good cause: it was a fundraiser for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

So I had one scoop for Emmett.
One scoop for Keith.
One scoop for Mat.
One scoop for Marc.
One scoop for Ellen's finger.
One scoop for Tiffany's mom.

And maybe a few scoops in the name of cancer prevention.

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Monday, June 04, 2012

Costa Rica Adventure: coming home.

On our final morning at Finca Exotica, we savored the last of the freshest fruit we will ever eat in our lives, and then hopped in the lodge owner's car with Erick and his family for a ride to our stranded car. Since it hadn't rained for several days, the rivers were much lower and we had no problems getting back to our car. Once in the car, we had a little trouble getting on the road: our Jimny wouldn't go into reverse and the brake seemed to be stuck. Erick hopped out of the car and pushed it from the front with four passengers inside, and moved it out into the road. He coached Scott to start forward, then hit the brakes fast. Scott did as he was told, and after that the car worked just fine (Erick said some rocks were stuck somewhere under the car and stopping quickly shook them out).
We drove along the bumpy road and had another Erick moment. "I heard something," he said. "Stop the car." We stopped. He got out and pointed upward to a dozen squirrel monkeys crossing the road in the trees above.

Yes, those are fish hanging on his handlebars. In Puerto Jiminez.
We pressed on to Puerto Jiminez, where we stopped at a grocery store and grabbed some slabs of meat. We took them to a lagoon where Erick said there would be crocodiles.

As promised, there were crocodiles - and caimans. Erick took the meat slabs, tied them up with fishing line, and tossed them out into the lagoon, dragging them back toward us so we could get a good look at them. While he did this, he giggled the same mischievous giggle that my brothers get when they set stuff on fire.

Still images don't do these guys justice, so check these movies out:

We checked croc hunting off our bucket list and climbed back in our car to drive back to San Jose. The drive was fairly uneventful, and we were grateful for that. We arrived in San Jose late, stayed in a hotel that had hot showers (for a few seconds before someone flushed a toilet somewhere...), and flew out early the next morning.

When we finally got home, we discovered that Bruce and Phoebe really didn't miss us at all and that Grandma Raymond had so much fun that she is begging to do it all over again. We just might grant her that wish. :)

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Costa Rica Adventure: my version of vacation.

After our daily hike/kayak/adventure of some form, we relaxed on the beach all afternoon. I usually took a nap in the hammock and then dipped my toes into the ocean. The water was warm, but the waves were huge for the first few days.

I didn't go swimming until the last day when the waves were calmer and there weren't wild riptides; I had recently read this and didn't want it to be my fate.

Scott tried his hand at fishing. We could see the fish jumping in the waves, but none of them wanted to be eaten by us.
 The sun went down around 5:30, so we spent the late afternoon watching the sun set from the beach.
 And then we would finish the day by eating amazing food. 

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Costa Rica Adventure: things that go slither in the night.

Erick took us hiking along the road that night; the real creepy jungle animals come out when the sun goes down. We were told to wear long pants and tall boots just in case those venomous snakes showed up - yikes!

We hadn't even made it off the lodge's property when we came across our first snake. It was not venomous, but it was a big "False Fer-de-lance." Erick picked it up with a stick and tried to find a frog for it to eat, but we never quite got the two together.

A few steps off the property, we came across a scorpion. Erick held its spiky tail down and put it into a black bucket, then shined an ultraviolet light on it. Scorpion bodies are fluorescent.

We came across several more snakes slithering across the gravel road. We did not see any venomous snakes, and I was definitely okay with that. We checked out some cool lightning bugs and saw lots of bull frogs and toads.

Erick stopped in his tracks at one point and said he heard red-eyed tree frogs mating. He turned off his headlamp, dove into the bushes, and rustled around for a few minutes before turning his light on again and announcing that he had found them. Sure enough, there they were.

We hiked to a lagoon and saw this big creepy spider the size of my hand. It is so big that it eats fish. Scott and Erick saw crocodiles from across the lagoon, but I couldn't see them ("Just look between those branches there." "Ummm, where?"). They plotted to find some the next morning while kayaking.

We hiked around to a tree where Erick had seen a sloth earlier in the day; it was still there, in the same tree (fuzzy blob above).

The next morning we continued the crocodile hunt by climbing into kayaks and paddling around the lagoon. We never found them, but we did see lots of beautiful birds.

Erick told us he would show us some crocodiles if we gave him a ride to his mother's house in Puerto Jiminez on our way out. We agreed, not only for the crocs but also because we felt a lot better about getting through those rivers with this guy in the car with us.

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Sunday, June 03, 2012

Costa Rica Adventure: Erick the Guide.

We were on the fence about getting a hiking guide. We consider ourselves proficient hikers, but we decided to get a guide for our hike through Corcovado - in case we needed someone to fight off a puma or wrestle a crocodile.

We hired a local legend named Erick, a huge guy that booted a puma in the face a few months ago to save his four-year-old son.

He was amazing. He knew the name of every organism we came across - in Latin, English, and Spanish. He was born and raised in Carate and knew everybody in town.

Every time we passed another person, he would launch into a conversation in hurried Spanish for 30 seconds, then give us a translation like, "He said the fish that guy caught last night was a 16-pound snook" (town gossip travels by mouth here - no facebook around for status updates) or "He panned $400 worth of gold from the river a few days ago."

For our Corcovado hike, we started by walking down the beach to the ranger station. We paid our park fee and entered the trail there.
 Within a few minutes, we came across a family of spider monkeys who climbed low in the trees to eat bananas.

They took quick messy bites and inevitably dropped most of what they were eating on the trail in front of us.

They soon took turns climbing down the tree, snatching their dropped banana pieces, and scampering back up to finish consuming them.
 We watched them for a long time, and they watched us just as curiously.
 They reminded me of my kids in some ways... this little guy, who is snuggling his mommy just like Bruce likes to snuggle on me.

Sometimes Erick would stop in his tracks and announce that he heard or saw something. Once he even smelled something. "I smell an anteater," he said after such a stop. "They have a very distinct smell." He gazed into the treetops for a few minutes and found one!

 He was very excited because they are typically nocturnal, but this anteater was lumbering along a tree branch sucking bugs off with his vacuum-like snout.

After the anteater sighting, we hiked along to a shipwreck on the beach. Local legend says it was a Columbian ship carrying textiles that wrecked and was abandoned by the captain.
After our awesome hike through Corcovado, Erick took us on a hike that night to look for snakes and creepy things, and kayaking the next day to look for crocodiles. Coming up next...

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Costa Rica Adventure: the daily hike.

Part of me thought that once I reached Costa Rica, I would simply hibernate for the whole week; I thought the cumulative exhaustion of the last few years would catch up to me. At the very least, I would be able to sleep in until 10 or 11 in the morning, right? 
Not quite. As it turns out, the jungle is pretty loud. It is as loud as the city, but with a very different sound-scape. At night, the sounds of insects, bats, and frogs filled the air. At 4:45 in the morning, it was the sound of howler monkeys that would wake us up. These guys would swing into the fig tree behind our cabina, make really loud howling sounds (they have a deep "howl" like a gorilla), and chuck figs and sticks to the ground while snagging their breakfast. Good thing they were cute.
After we snagged our breakfast, we usually went for a hike. There were several trails that went up a ridge in the rainforest and some that led to waterfalls. When we hiked by ourselves, we usually saw monkeys, hummingbirds, lots of butterflies, and plenty of birds and bugs.
The rainforest is very green and very dense, and quite dark when walking on the trails even in midday. There were HUGE trees everywhere. Pictured above is a tree that is 50 meters tall, 300-400 years old, and the size of our condo at the base. Our guide is standing at the base looking up; that guy was huge himself, bigger than our refrigerator.
When we hiked with the guide, we saw a lot more than we would have seen by ourselves. Up next, I'll post a few things we saw when we hiked with him.