This post was written by guest blogger Wayne Brown – Nate’s dad.

Ruth and I didn’t come to Costa Rica as tourists, or travelers.  We came as family.  We wanted to see, talk to and spend time with Nate, Victoria, Benjamin, and Amelia.  And based on that criteria, the trip was a resounding success!  So for all you extended family members and people who follow the Tangletown4 through a parental perspective, let me answer the question that is uppermost in your mind: “How are they doing?”

We were glad to get to Casa Toucan in San Miguel de Sarapiqui some 60 kilometers from San Jose (where our airplane landed).  Driving (more about that later) both in the city and the winding mountain roads to get there was an adventure in itself.  Despite studying Google maps vigorously for days, I got lost twice.  But with the helpfulness of strangers and despite the fog and intense rain we finally arrived.  The T4 group had emailed saying they would show up the same day we arrived but “later in the day”.  We were in an unknown country, in marginal weather on marginal roads and knew that “later in the day” could be anytime in the next 24 hours but were anxious for them to show up.  After unpacking and generally settling in for an hour we heard the clunk of the gate opening and the chug chug of the Sprinter van diesel engine.  In a moment a tall slender good looking lad bounded around the corner with a big smile, a quick hug and a “Where’s the bathroom?”.  Benjamin.  Then we see the nose of the van with Victoria at the wheel and Nate on the back bumper pushing away the low hanging branches from the top of the van.  Amelia is grinning ear to ear.  Arrival.  Tumbling out of the van, I just have to stare and take them all in.  Oh my goodness!  They look great!.  They look wonderful!  They are tanned.  They have the road warrior creases around the eyes from 8000 miles of southward travel.  And they look lean.  Todo bien (All is good)!  This Dad and Mom are very happy!

Who needs a swimming hole when you can paint your face with mud? Photo by V.

Who needs a swimming hole when you can paint your face with mud? Photo by V.

Casa Toucan sits at the foot of the Volcan Poas mountains at about 900 meters just at the edge of the cloud forest – a region characterized by moisture in all its forms; mists, rains, and high humidity.  This could be the set for a Jurassic Park movie.  The forest is alive with chirps, calls, and howls.  The mealy parrot’s conversation makes our North American Crows sound like Pavarotti in comparison.  Toucans and huge colorful butterflies flit about and the foliage that grows naturally here is the kind that you see in the exotic plant section of demonstration greenhouse.

Volcan Arenal. Photo by V.

Volcan Arenal. Photo by V.

Our “home” has three bedrooms and 2.5 baths.  It is protected on three sides with a huge veranda.  It has no glass windows – just screens.  We eat, read, bird watch, study, and engage the internet on the veranda.  The facility was described as providing a true Costa Rican experience: colorful and open.

Casa Toucan.  Photo by Ruth or Wayne.

Casa Toucan. Photo by Ruth or Wayne.

Life soon settled into a routine of sorts.  There was school-work to catch up on for the kids.  Nate and Victoria managed to make some progress on their Master’s projects.  Meals needed preparation and laundry to be done – lots and lots of laundry.  The dryer chose that time to stop working so our gracious host, Gloria, bought another one and had it installed immediately.  Ruth and I gradually adjusted to being clammy but then we noticed an amazing thing.  Our seventy something old skin began to hydrate.  Wrinkles disappeared.  Like a dry chamois cloth that got dunked in a bucket of water, our skin began to be smooth out and become supple. Hey ladies, forget about all those firming and hydrating cosmetics.  Just come and hangout in Costa Rica for a couple weeks!

OK we’re here.  We need to do something besides kicking back and relaxing although that was VERY easy to do.  CR is filled with recreational opportunities so it seemed like a good time to go whitewater rafting.  Our river was the Sarapiqui, a fast moving, very twisty body of water with a lot of Class II and Class III rapids.  The guides at Pozo Azul prepped us very professionally and we were off, shouting “Pura Vida” every time we completed a rapid.  Amelia managed to add some 10-12 species to her list of Costa Rican birds.  We got wonderfully wet and had the pleasure of working together to propel our raft downstream.  A coffee tour and a chocolate tour rounded out our “tourist” activities.  The T4 group headed out to the Caribbean coast for a couple days with some of V’s relatives but most of our time was simply hanging out together.  

Gearing up for some white water rafting.  Without wetsuits!  Photo by V.

Gearing up for some white water rafting. Without wetsuits! Photo by V.

The high point of such hanging out probably was our Thanksgiving dinner.  Long before Ruth and I arrive we had a request from the T4 group for a traditional Thanksgiving dinner.  You know what that means: roast turkey, stuffing, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes and gravy, some sort of yam dish and pumpkin pie.  Believe it or not we pretty much pulled that off.  The exception was the yams.  None available so we had some huge and delicious carrots, which I braised in coconut water (yes from a coconut Nate cut from a tree and opened with a machete), brown sugar, butter, cinnamon and nutmeg.  Even that was good.  The entire meal disappeared.  Yes, disappeared right before our eyes.  No left-overs thanks to our teen and pre-teen eaters.  I will never forget Benjamin and Amelia’s look of contentment after that meal.  Familia.

Thanksgiving dinner.  Photo by Nate

Thanksgiving dinner. Photo by Nate

I notice that Nate and Victoria always include something thoughtful and pithy in their posts.  While I’m not up to their level I was reminded of something very basic about human nature during this trip.  We humans cannot allow ourselves to be defined by crazed gunmen or bizarre politicians.  Despite our propensity toward self interest, there is goodness in us.  I’m reminded of the woman who didn’t speak English when we got lost but who contacted someone who could and we were helped on our way.  I’m reminded of Gloria, our host who scoured San Jose for a turkey and then drove it to us, for Lucia and her husband who came to the house multiple times to get the internet running, for the guy in the store who stuck with my corkscrew pantomime and figured out what I wanted and actually found one in the store for me to purchase, for David on the coffee tour who made me appreciate the life and work of the small coffee grower and of the big Finnish guy on the chocolate tour who, when I told him that his people had settled Long Valley (where we live) at the turn of the last century, told me a Finnish joke in broken English.  We all had a good laugh.

Patience, good humor, assistance, putting others before yourself all came together as I watched one of the most complex traffic exchanges I’ve ever seen, right in front of the Holiday Inn Express near the San Jose Airport.  Picture this if you will ( I wish I had a photograph of it).  Highway 1, the Pan American Highway with 6 lanes ran right in front of the hotel.  Parallel to it was a four lane frontage road.  The people from Hwy 1 were going to the frontage road and vice versa – 10 lanes of traffic in all that could go in eight different directions.  One yellow light was blinking.  I think all that did was indicate the reality that anything could happen at this nexus.  It had all the elements of chaos, road rage and accidents.  As I watched, a pattern emerged.  Despite the lack of signs, lane lines or signals, there was an accepted right of way pattern facilitated by an occasional “beep” of thanks, or a hand out of the window saying “my turn” or “hold up”.  I don’t think there is a traffic engineer in the world that could have made that intersection operate more smoothly or efficiently.  What made it work was a common understanding facilitated by good will.  Familia. Todo Bien.

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Showing 4 comments
  • Jeneen

    Coming out of lurker status to say HI! and, I love this post! Happy Thanksgiving to you all and I’m so glad you got to share it all together.

    • Nate

      Thank Jeneen! Happy Thanksgiving to you too!

  • Lorna

    Greetings Tangletown4 and family! So great to live your adventures vicariously. Blessings and Godspeed!!

  • Kathi

    Catching up on my reading … and what a read this is! The Tangletown4 adventures, family, new friends and old, travels and waiting, waiting, waiting… a lifetime of happenings rolled up (or rolling along) in the Cosmo van. Thank you tons for giving the story life in your words as you round each corner to new adventure. And the photos are the whipped cream on the sundae! Thank you.

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