Thursday, 15 August 2013

Post-trip experience - shifting gears once again

How do I write a last blog (which I think this might be) on such an amazing year? It is so sad to think about it and mostly I've been going through so many emotions and shifting perspectives that to try to write something coherent about our post-trip experiences seems impossible to capture, but I'll try.

The first weekend back was at the family cottage - lots of cheer, and celebrations (end of school year too!) and we slipped back into the familiarity of family so easily. The cottage is always is good time - really it was an extension of our trip. Then the excitement of returning to our house - home! Our final stop (the counter on our website even stopped - 365 days in total).  It felt great to have our home back and to be welcomed so warmly by our neighbours (and to be surprised by brother and sister-in-law with their awesome help to unpack!). Our return and re-entry to our home and neighbourhood was special - re-united - it  felt all cozy and warm like.  Then over the next few days the shift in emotions  - happy, content to be home.. then feeling disgusted (yes, I felt that strongly) by all our stuff as the unpacking proceeded (why do we need so much ? We were doing fine living out of the top half of our backpacks!). You'd think I'd be happy to have a whole new set of clothes, but really I felt a bit sad. I liked the simplicity my worn out travel clothes. And all the stuff we were unpacking just seemed so unnecessary and we didn't seem to have space for it, so our stuff was feeling suffocating and overwhelming.. not comforting at all.

And then the first grocery shops - so much selection and such nice looking food - the sense of abundance, bountiful! And to have our kitchen again and be able to fill it with familiar foods - it felt good to be able to control our own eating and make sure the kids were eating a healthy meal!  (Liam pretty much lived on Hamburgesa y Papa Fritas for year!). But then the incredible sense of discrepancy between our quality of life and what we had been witnessing in our travels in Central America hits and the emotions get complicated. It  hit me hard in the first weeks back that we live in such a consumer culture - it's hard to escape it (the trip to Costco with the giant size shopping carts didn't help!-but really.. those carts are ridiculous!). The warmth and sense of belonging that we were so happy with when we first returned home started to mix with empty and bland feelings that the consumer world creates (in my opinion). When we travelled, the sense of humanity was so tangible, it was everywhere around us, but it seemed hidden here... hidden in homes and cars and buildings. And as the "settling in" continued, I realized that in our society, connecting to people and life takes more effort - like you have to sift through the stuff to find the realness. (and you have to schedule everything to connect with people.. in seems to come in time allocated connectiveness).

But we are settling in, taking the bad with the good, getting back into the grove, and shifting back to the gear that matches the pace of our society. I found myself racing through the grocery store with my cart and had to do an abrupt slow down (if there was someone right behind me, they would have been annoyed) as I realized I didn't know why I was rushing - I just was. Our lives are now consumed with decisions about what needs to "get done" - garage roof needs repair, car needs new brakes, driving Liam to soccer games and practices, and Sean to and fro from cooking camp, groceries that need to be bought, laundry done, etc ect. We are BACK! ...  and most days it feels great- kids are playing with friends, Bbq get togethers with friends, ice cream treats after Liam's soccer game, Sean's enthusiastic re-telling of what he did at camp that day, enjoying a morning coffee with Eric in our own home -  it's all good -  it's all great really. But then this newer perspective, this clarity on the larger society around us, shifts into view and it gets complicated and conflicted  (I have a hard time listening to the news now - it really saddens me). And maybe that is really what settling back in is all about - getting used to complicated again. Our 365 days of "shifting gears" was an opportunity to slow down but also it was an opportunity to live simply - with just a backpack, the four of us, and time.

And now on the eve of my return to full time work, a new layer will be added to our day to day existence and the re-entry will soon be cemented. The amazing, special, unique year now in the past.. (which I find myself reminiscing about quite a bit.. a grieving of sorts I think.)

But onward... and though we are shifting back into gear and settling in (being "absorbed" as our neighbour called it),  this still feels like a transition phase ...  I don't think our new reality, post-trip, has emerged quite yet.

Thanks again for everyone who followed along on our journey in whole or in parts. And for family, friends and neighbours that welcomed us home so warmly.. it meant everything to us - Thank you!

(here is a quick year at a glance slideshow... about 8-12 minutes I think)











Thursday, 27 June 2013

Putting our life back together piece by piece

The kids were giddy with excitement getting off the plane.  We are home - back in Canada!  The first realization that we really had shifted gears while we were away was when Eric asked if I e-mailed my Dad to remind him about picking us up at the airport.  We were already a few hours into our flight.  Oops - no I didn't!  It didn't even occur to me to do that (details? logistics? what?).  Then getting off the plane - everyone was walking past us like it was a race to see who could get to baggage collection first!  I was a bit irritated - they were wrecking my travel buzz - my easy, relaxed pace!  Then the technology hit us - self check at Immigration and Customs!  Just scan our passports and off we go - so cool - so modern (so fast)!  Liam noticed the contrast and mentioned how "old fashioned" things were back in Central America.  Then we got into my Dad's new car (thankfully he didn't need an email reminder) with all kinds of "bells and whistles" which in the 21st century means voice activation "this" and touch screen "that".  The boys were impressed.

Leaving San Jose, Costa Rica

Boys very excited about the personal tv's!

Sunset over Toronto (Liam took this picture)
Arrival at Toronto Pearson Airport
Then the next morning, (after a lovely sleep in the best bed ever - during the trip our budget level meant we rarely got decent beds or pillows or sheets - so after a year - it was amazing!) the shift continued!  The pace was picking up whether we wanted it to or not (there was no walking at our own pace) - we needed to shift gears to keep up.  We had stuff to get done. The bliss of our year off is quickly getting phased out.  We got our Van out of storage, the kids registered for school next year, picked up a years worth of mail and now we again have all pertinent keys and domestic documents and Canadian money on hand.  As for the boys, they are now fully reacquainted with their DSs.  So a very full day for day 1 of re-entry.  We even managed visits with friends and family (though in a somewhat hurried and rushed way!)

So... here we are on day 2 of re-entry and Eric is going through the banker box of mail (the pile for the recycling is bigger than the "keep" pile - the amount of paper is crazy!) and I'm blogging on my iphone (love having it back!), the boys are in DS bliss and we are delaying any decisions about how busy we'll be today.  I figure going through the mail and getting Liam to his soccer practice tonight should be enough.  I don't want to kill our relaxed, slower pace - our travel buzz - all in the first week (the transmission might seize up!)

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Shifting Gears gears down

Shifting gears for a year... is at it's end. We removed the responsibilities of home, work, kid's activities and became wanderers for a year. We changed the pace from upper gears of a busy westernized life, to the lower gears of just travelling with no real time pressures or expectations (it was awesome! Highly recommend it!). And at times we felt maybe we should be accomplishing more, attempting a more productive travel schedule, (learning more Spanish!), volunteer or something... something to "show" for what we did with our gift of a year.  But, in the end it wasn't about being productive, it was a year of just a family hanging together (360 days worth!) in some amazing parts of the world and trying to slow the pace of life. There was a quote on the wall of a restaurant that grabbed our attention and the  last line in particular made me think about what this year was all about.

ADVICE FROM A TREE
Stand tall and proud
Sink your roots into the earth
Be content with your natural beauty
Go out on a limb
Drink plenty of water
Remember your roots
 Enjoy the view

So, reflecting on this gorgeous year - we became slow travellers in our lives and focused on just enjoying the view. (I'll have to remember that when we get home... and the tempo of our lives changes drastically!)


I attempted to pick through all the photos and do a quick summary - a year at a glance type of thing, I thought I was doing pretty well until I realized I had 255 photos (edited) and I was only at November!  So, I tried again, got more ruthless (enlisted Eric to help), but still the numbers crept up, so I finally abandoned the idea - sorry -no year at a glance type thing (or maybe you're happy about that) - it was fun going through them and reminiscing though. (but I had to put some visuals in..so there are a few).


  

Thank you to everyone for being there to follow us along our journey and thank you to everyone that let me know you were actually reading the blogs! (it's strange writing and not really knowing who is reading.... sortof like that "if a tree falls in a forest does anyone hear"  quote).

I'll probably have a few more blogs (it gets a bit addictive) about our post-travel adventures... but I figure I might be loosing a few on that topic (just not as much fun!).



Saturday, 22 June 2013

A foot in both worlds

We are back in Puerto Viejo de Talamanca on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica and enjoying our last week.. trying to keep the last of our trip alive.. in spirit and in practice.. but meanwhile we are online with the world back home.. scheduling, setting up insurance, getting our life in order for our return. A foot in both worlds.. but soon to be both feet back home.







Sean's Blog - Adventures Final ending for now...



Yesterday, we got up in the morning, and we had our breakfast and started homeschooling. Then we went to this place to have a little breakfast but we didn't have breakfast, Mommy and Daddy had breakfast. Then we went to the bank and then back to our hotel. Then we got into the car and drove off to the reserve and it took 5 minutes. When we got there, we booked our tickets and waited for a while. And there was a bird that flew around and landed on your shoulders and would bite your ears. Then we got the tour and we started walking off to the monkey cage and we saw little baby howlers and we also saw baby spider monkeys and then we got to go in and play with them and touch them, but not grab them. I was excited so go in because I have never been close to monkeys. And I got to touch one of the baby howler monkeys, and I was excited. They were so soft and so cute. And then we stepped out of the monkey cage and went and saw the baby sloths and they were so cute. Then I went and saw the red eyed tree frogs, one was sleeping and one was awake and we also saw their egg sacks. And I thought a sleeping tree frog looked very weird because it looks like a giant green oval with four feet. And then we went and saw the owls and they looked very weird because they have weird markings on their eyes and some are bigger and fluffier than others. Except for one big one, I kept on staring into his eyes and when I looked into his eyes I could see peace, quite, master of the night, ninja of the night. And when we were about to leave, he blinked at me and I blinked back. So I think the owl liked me. Then I went to see the hawks and one was called the road side hawk and the others were called brown winged hawks and I liked the brown winged hawks. Hawks are now my new favourite animals because they can kill a rat with an instant swipe of it's talons and because when they fly up they can catch thermals and dive down for the killing stroke. Just like an arrow - it flies up and then comes down for the killing strike. And then we moved on to the snake section and there were a lot of snakes and some were rattlesnakes, and some were pythons and a bushmaster. And then we went to the Toucan place where the top of his beak had a little crack so he couldn't go back into the wild - wha wha wha. Then we went to the baby sloth and kinkjou spot and that is where the tour ended and we got some nice bookmarks and then we went back to the beginning and Liam and I got some magnetic animals, where they have magnets in their hands. I got a red eyed tree frog and Liam got a Toucan and we got back in the car and drove back to our hotel. Four more days until we are back home, so yah. I really like our Big Trip and I hope we'll do one again. But for now, Adventures will be continued… 
















Liam's blog HOME!

Yesterday I went to an Animal Rescue Centre and I saw a blue-grey Tanager and it crawled on me. And I thought it was very cool - the bird even sang to me. Then we moved on and we went to the monkey area and one of the spider monkeys was swinging on a rope. And one time when he went super high with the rope he accidentally dropped it and I thought that was funny. And I even got to go inside with the monkeys. I got to hold a Howlers Monkey's hand and it felt very smooth. Then we moved on and saw some two-toed sloths and they were babies. Then we moved on and we saw some frog eggs and our guide said when they hatch they'll become tad-poles and then fall into the water. Then we moved on and saw a sleeping red-eyed leaf  frog and an awake red-eyed leaf frog and we could see the red-eyed leaf frog's red eye. And I thought it was amazing and I said when we see a red-eyed leaf frog we can go home and we are going home. And then we moved on to see some birds. We saw a road side hawk and brown winged hawk. Then we moved on to see an owl and it was cool because it was big. Then we moved on to some snakes and there were a rattlesnake and some other snakes. Then we saw some more animals, then we finished up the tour and I got a magnet Toucan and Sean got a magnet red-eyed leaf frog. I thought the tour was quite amazing.



















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And this is the kind of dart frog I saw today at our hotel.



Saturday, 15 June 2013

Our Jungle House & Jungle Adventure

We have been staying in a little jungle house in the middle of the Osa Penisula, on the edge of Corcovado National Park, at the end of the lane of a small village called Dos Brazos - we are in the middle of nowhere! We are surrounded by tropical rainforest and beautiful gardens making it all so pleasant.  The village is populated by gold miners and their families - old school, panning for gold in the river, type miners.  They go up the Rio Tigre that runs through town and work their little areas (and have been told they are pretty good at building their own tunnels too).  We watched one guy out in the river by our house working away with his shovel… seemed like really hard work… I hope they get enough to make it worth their while.  Apparently the little Pulperia  (a very basic corner store) has a weight scale for use by the miners. In many ways this feels like a frontier town.  Our little jungle house is close to the river so we can hear the river sounds along with the twitter of the birds, the buzz of the insects, the squawks of green parrots and the occasional baritone bellows of the Howler Monkeys.  Our first morning here we were greeted by a flock of Keel-Billed Toucans!  We've also heard the squawks of Scarlet Macaws but only saw the silhouette of pair off in the distance. The property has Star Fruit trees, Lime trees, Banana trees, a huge Mango tree with the last remnants of the mango season still hanging on, a Cashew tree, Lemon grass and a whole bunch of other notable plants that were pointed out to us.  There is a Yang-Yang (I think that is what it is called) vine close by the house and Jasmine bushes so we get these incredible wafts of fragrance that fill the air and complement the tropical feel.  The young guy that helps the manager of this place and whose father and grandmother are considered the Shamans of this area pointed out leaves for this and that to us. He dug up some ginger root for us to use, and when he found out Sean had an upset stomach he pulled out a leaf for that too, and then continued on to provide a leaf high in iron that we could put in salads.  It was incredible that in just the small radius of where we were standing and chatting he was able to bring all that out.  It felt a little like magic.   We were also given an avocado and a handful of bananas (a different variety - good when sautéed and eaten like a chip), all freshly picked while we stood by. The Osa Penisula and Corcovado National Park are known for exceptional bio-diversity and in just 24hrs of our arrival at our jungle house… we were witnessing it all so easily.  There are rumours of a Corcovado National Park entrance being established in this village so this area might not be so frontier town-like in a few more years.
















Yesterday we went on a road trip and took the perimeter road that follows the southern coast of the peninsula.  It was a beautiful drive with views of the Golfito Dulce, open, lush ranch lands (with Caracara and Hawks on the hunt) and thickly forested areas with trees and vines overhanging the road and a few fun river crossings thrown in.  We followed the road right to the end at the village of Carate with it's tiny airstrip, a half dozen little lodges and one of the starting points for hiking into Corcovado National Park (along the beach). We stopped at the very end of the road ( a track really) and let the boys explore along the Carate River looking for rocks and pretending to be gold miners while Eric and I  sat on a log willing a Tapir or a Jaguar to emerge from the jungles edge (with my camera a ready), but no luck.  We did see some Tapir tracks though and that was pretty cool. But the highlight of the day's venture was seeing flocks of Scarlet Macaws! They were brilliant flying in pairs and circling around so we could get a good look at them before they settled into the tree tops.































Today we ventured out for a full day hike at a private reserve  with the trail head just 5 minutes up river from our jungle house and right on the edge of the National Park.  We had a full day of no rain the day before and the morning was looking promising so we ventured out with every intention of doing a full day hike with visits to two waterfalls, a picnic lunch and finishing up the hike with a 2 hour walk down through the river back to the trail head.  But… the rains come quickly here… so… in the middle of the hike… where one minute we were looking down a valley with views of the Golfito Dulce (the inlet between the peninsula and mainland) then in the next moment the skies got real dark.  The rains started with a little sprinkle and were quickly followed by a heavy hard hitting downpour.  We knew these rains come in waves so we trudged on hoping the heavy rain would pass and clear skies would follow.  We were all drenched anyways, so we thought we'd muster on.  The trail got a bit more slippery (we were following a very narrow trail on the edge of the upper valley) and there were parts that were starting to slip away.  The trail was not in great shape so there was a lot of overgrowth and we were busy ducking and swiping away the large leaves and branches that were in our way (a machete would have been handy).  The rain was pouring off the large leaves and dribbling down our faces.  Sean's glasses were getting fogged up and Eric was leading the way to make sure the path was clear of snakes.  I started thinking… what are we doing?  Are we being complete idiots being out in this?  I was expecting the boys to complain but they kept going and I thought "well Eric isn't saying anything either" so maybe it's okay.  But the rain kept on and then I started to think about the quality of the trails and what if there was a land slide (we crossed a few small ones before the rain started) and then I was wondering about the river that we were suppose to be hiking down for the final leg of the hike.  So, when we got to the end of that trail section (called Valle Frijoles), we  looked at the trail map and pondered if we should venture on.  We almost decided to go ahead but the boys were both shaking with wet by now and though they were being stoic (for us) they really wanted to go back.  So, we turned around and ventured back and I am so glad we did!  The trail was a real mess just 1/2 hour later… larger sections of the trail slipping away and rivulets running down the side of the valley onto the trails.  And then real fear started to set in.  Sean told me (after the fact) that at that point he was muttering swear words under his breath (not sure which ones).  We were carrying huge leaves over our heads, using them as "poor man's umbrellas" , which kept the spatter off our heads (and really my intention was just to try to keep this a bit of an "adventure") but the rain was funnelling from the big leaf and pouring down onto our backs (I think we had them up side down!).  We were all pretty silent, just trudging on with hunched backs.  So, here we are, in the middle of of the Osa Penisula, in the rainforest, in the slow season for tourists (there was no one around!), in the rainy season, trudging along the semi-maintained trails of a private reserve (that we self-checked into… so only our cheery hand written note in the visitor book marked our entrance), in rain so dense we really couldn't see ahead anad the three of us (Eric was the only sensible one that didn't want one) with big silly looking green (dinosaur sized) leaves over our heads.   Now, we can look back and see how funny it was, but at the time… it felt very different.  We reached the little shack where we had self-checked into the reserve (still no one around) and got a bit of a break from the rain.  We munched down our M&M's as a treat and then continued on the last (40 minute) leg to the trail head. The trail was better for this part and the rain started to slacken so with the improved trail and light rain and knowing we were at the last section, our outlook started to lighten as well and we started to joke about what we had just been through.  We started to talk about the hot shower we were all looking forward to (we'd been soaked through for the last 2 hours!) and the nice relaxing afternoon that we all deserved.  We even saw a green and black poison dart frog!!!! (the camera was buried in a plastic bag in our drenched backpack… so no picture… but it was just like you'd see in National Geographic).  And so we were just minutes from the trail head, almost there!  And then… we saw the river at the trail head that we crossed only a few hours previously with no difficulty.   Now it was swollen and moving fast!!!  My light mood vanished and fear returned… Were we stuck on this side?  How are we going to get across?  Images of those scenes in the movies where the water sweeps people down stream came to mind… and then we saw a huge branch bob by to complete the picture.  Eric, our hero of the day, stayed calm and he ventured out into the stream little by little,  and methodically he found a path to get across - which ended being going up river a bit and then across.  It seemed really strong in some spots and it looked like if he lost his footing he could get swiped down river ( I was so anxious watching him)!  But he got over to the other side and then retraced his steps back to the three of us stranded at the trail end.  Liam was piggy-backed over first with both Sean and I feeling very, very apprehensive watching the crossing.  And then Eric came back for Sean while I followed behind.  Eric was calm, cool, collected the whole time and really the boys were amazing too… it was a pretty scary situation to be in.   Once across we merrily walked the five minutes to the house with sun shining and birds twittering like nothing had happened!  Crazy day!















                 We are spending one more night at our jungle house and then we venture on. It's been a happy house for us with time to just hang out together, listen to the rain and the sounds of the jungle, (have adventures), and cook for ourselves again! We've been out of internet contact while here too, so that has added to our sense of being in the wilds! We had to drive into the town of Puerto Jimenez and find a little travellers cafe that had wi-fi to get this blog out. We don't know what our next stop is… but we do know in 10 days we'll be back home in Canada :)
       
And to all those Dad-heros out there… Happy Father's Day!