Saturday, August 30, 2008

Visions from Costa Rica

Come with me to the land of the Incas in Costa Rica as we take a pictoral journey to one of the most beautiful places on the Caribbean side of Costa Rica, Puerto Viejo. Puerto Viejo is a small tourist town five hours outside of San Jose, the capital with a population of about 2,000 . It is known for its beaches and surfing. Unlike other areas it is not developed and doesn't have golf courses or a lot of condo's etc. (yet). It is still undiscovered. The trip from San Jose is spectacular. The drive takes you through the mountains, then through banana and pineapple farms and then the Coast where you see the beautiful beaches and the waves rushing to meet you.
Blessed Be! Rev. Qiyamah

Kathryn and I decided that we would take a full day and go on a field trip to a nearby town that she was told had the best seafood in all of CR. While the person exaggerated the food was good but fairly typical of the good food we had grown accustomed to. Little did we know that Kaleema would make a feast that night that put Maxie's, the name of the restaurant to shame.

So we rented bikes and rode over an hour after having walked to the bike rental. That day we ended up swimming, having lunch and riding back to return the bikes. But things didn't end there. We went to a Butterfly Garden. You will see some of the pictures we took.

This is the bike that I rode to Manzanillo. Part of the trip was through a State Park. It was a glorious ride. I had not ridden a bike in years. It felt good. Fortunately, I had been exercising almost everyday in CR and so I was in decent shape.

Kathryn stopping to take one of our rest breaks.

Qiyamah stopping to take a rest break.

Melanie enjoying the coolness of the water at the local waterfall.

Kathryn looking like Eve in the Garden of Eden. lol

L-R Kaleema and Qiyamah posing at the waterfall

L-R Kathyn in her swimsuit and Melanie enjoying waterfall

Kaleema at the beach in her itty bitty bikini!

We visited a local water fall. While there is a much larger one outside San Jose, the capital which is almost five hours away, this local waterfall suited us just fine. We had it all to ourselves for over an hour and so Kathryn went skinny dipping. As you can see from the later pictures the rest of us were content to merely dip our toes in the cool waters. lol

Here I am cooling my heels.

Kathryn Liss and I posing at the waterfall.

L-R Kaleema H. Nur and her friend Melanie.

Both Kaleema and I invited friends to join us in CR. Her friend Melanie accepted the invitation as did my friend, Kathryn. Both Kaleema and Melanie had just taken the bar right before coming to Costa Rica so it was a treat to themselves. Kaleema related a story about one of her Jamaican friends whose grandmother sat outside the building where her grand daughter was taking the bar and prayed the entire time. What a powerful image that evoked when she recounted the story to me.We also had a prayer circle going for Kaleema. She told me that she and another friend she roomed with built an altar in the course of the two days that they sat for the Bar.

Keep an eye on this leaf. It will be used very strategically in a later scene!

Melanie cooling her heels

This is one of the insects that they had on display at the Butterfly Garden that Kathryn and I visited. It is non poisonous and was not alive. It was a good three inches in diameter. We constantly were reclaiming the house we stayed in from his spider relatives and their intricate webs. I found few in the house but they were everyplace outdoors, in the trees, right outside our kitchen window weaving their webs. One sat in his web above the refrigerator for over two weeks with no discernable movement. I finally touched it to see if it was in fact alive. It was! I drew a truce and my compromise was to place it outdoors! I didn't think our guests would appreciate having a spider spinning over the refrigerator.

If you look very carefully you can see two brown butterflys, one in the right hand corner and the other is in the left corner. These were two of the butterflys that survived at the Butterfly Garden.

Hibiscus trees and bushes grow wild in Costa Rica. A local woman made a concoction of hibiscus leaves and black root and told me to put it on my hair as a conditioner. I folowed her instructions and blended the mix. But I forgot to strain it and I was picking leaves out of my hair for days! lol My daughter enjoyed telling the story to her friends when we went to town.

The Bird of Paradise grows wild in CR as shown here!

I visited a butterfly garden with a friend, Kathryn Liss and we saw many beautiful butterflys. Unfortunately, this was the season that they naturally die off so we saw a lot of dying butterflys and witnessed part of their cycle of life and death. We had to climb a long and steep gravel road to get to the garden. It was a little disappointing to see almost as many dead or fluttering butterflys close to death as those that were alive and flying around. They are enclosed in a huge net canopy where there is a path to walk around and see them in a "natural" habitat.

We were not prepared for the breathtaking view in the back of the building at the Garden. Evidently a staff person lives there. Can you imagine waking up to this every morning.

Here are more of the beautiful hibuscus bushes that are everywhere.

The lush vegetation present in Costa Rica is incredible. I overheard a mother informing her child that, "there are species of plants in CR that do not exist anywhere else in the world!" I can believe it. Plants like Bird of Paradise that we pay a fortune for at the florists in the USA simply grow wild in CR. I picked some right out of our garden for a floral arrangement to welcome our two guests.

Just behind these trees is the beach and the ocean!

Kaleema taking a walk to town. Most smart people rode bikes!

Qiyamah taking a walk to town.

A picture perfect scene of the ocean and some driftwood.

This is a view of the house and garden - Casa Cacoa that we stayed in in Cocles. It was several miles from the town of Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica. We walked whenever we went into town and if it was after dark when we returned we rode a taxi home for safety. The walk along the mostly gravel road was very dusty. So we got smart and walked along the beach and then when the beach ran out we walked the path in the woods. That route was cooler and gave us a view of the ocean along the way. The walk into town was an hour but we didn't mind because the path was so interesting and enchanting.

La Cocina de la Senorita Kaleema - The kitchen of Kaleema. Kaleema prepared all the meals and treated us to some exquisit food delights. She was also very bossy about her kitchen and I made a sign that read, La Cocina de la Senorita Kaleema.

This is a view of the porch. Notice how the porch and interior of the house flow into each other when the shutters are open. It was a wonderful feeling to bring the outdoors inside and the indoors outside.

I wasn't the only one having a working vacation. This is a picture of Kaleema standing at her "post" where she stationed herself to work on her laptop. She also has the coolest collection of downloaded music that included Sweet Honey in the Rock, Ben Harper, Cassandra Wilson, lots of reggae etc.

Kaleema actually had an interview via skyp while in Costa Rica. We called it her guerilla interview because of the way and where it took place. She arranged with the local internet cafe to borrow their earphoness because the interview was earlier than they opened. So imagine her sitting outside the cafe on the lawn at 8:30am getting ready to connect with an interview committee for an important two year fellowship. She has just completed the bar and so she was being very strategic about her first position post graduation and wanted to make a good impression. Before she connected with the interview committee a dog comes charging at her all bandaged up and sits down beside her and starts howling. A rooster had already been crowing and alerting everyone in hearing distance that it was time to get up. Fortunately, the rooster stopped crowing, the dog stopped howling and my daughter was invited to join the staff at the University of Austin's School of Law's Human Rights Program. The positioin fits her like a glove. We are all so excited for her!

This is my work space and the inspiring view that provided my inspiration for writing. Unfortunately, one has to pay for internet by the minute at internet cafes so I did no blogging while in Costa Rica. During my previous visit I had access to internet and was able to blog almost on a daily basis. It really makes a big difference.

This was one of the last pictures I took on my way home.My daughter, Kaleema and the caretaker and housebuilder, Leo assisted me in my departure back to Chicago. We lived down a gravel road that defied rolling suitcases and hence the need for the assistance. At night it was pitch black and we would walk down the road to our house with the help of flashlights.

This is the beautiful house that we stayed in. It had floor to ceiling shutters that opened up the entire downstairs which we took full advantage of even though we paid dearly for it at night with mosquitoes. Most places have mosquito nets but somehow only one out of the three bedrooms had a net.

This is the view from the kitchen window. There was not a window that did not have a spectacular view.

Opps! This is me caught in the act of taking a siesta!

In retrospect it is much too difficult to try to capture the array of feelings and emotions that my nearly month long visit to Costa Rica elicited for me. My trip was not about a typical tourist experience, although I did some touristy things. More importantly, it is about stepping away from my life as I know it in the USA and creating an experience with family and friends that invites me into a different encounter with myself and others that pushes me out of my comfort zone and invites me to witness to some degree or another what the world is like for others. I also did some basic research on domestic violence in Costa Rica. So while some things are different, other things are very similar and familiar to me.

At First Glance
I first traveled to Costa Rica in January, 2008 while my daughter,Kaleema, was doing an internship at the Inter American Human Rights Court. My friend, Stephanie Berry joined us in Puerto Viejo where we stayed at Tierra del Suano, a resort center in Playa Chiquita. This time we rented a house for an entire month.

It was a working vacation for me. I rested, read, sat in the sun, lazed in the hammock and did some touristy things. Other times I worked to put together a Handbook for a Program that I will be involved with called, Community Partnership Program. Having the advantage of a beautiful environment with the leisure time to be creative was very inspiring and led to very productive work for me.

While pictures are a poor substitute for sharing my experience, it is the most efficient way to even try to share my experience. So in closing, I leave you with the following wisdom:

*Costa Rica is a beautiful country. If you are into nature you will want to create the opportunity see it for yourself. San Jose, the capital, is like most urban cities. It is the country side with its lush tropical rain forests that is breath taking. Seeing the effects of globalism and the politics of American capitalism reminds me of our overwhelming influence on others and the need to be mindful of the fact that we share the planet with others.
*If you are of African descent you will be reminded of the diasporic nature of African peoples as you see blacks presence in Caribbean countries like Costa Rica
*Seeing Americans that had relocated to Costa Rica gave me some models and reminded me that I want to seek a simpler and less expensive lifestyle in my senior retirement years and that want to be planning and identifying a place now.
*Everytime I place myself in different settings I am forced to tap different parts of me that might otherwise possibly lay dormant.
*Spending time with my daughter and friends always allows me the opportunity to practice grace and gratitude as I work to be in integrity with them and learn more about engaging on deeper and deeper levels.

Question: When was the last time you stepped away from your everyday life and had time to think about your presence in the world and what that means for you and others?
Blessed Be! Rev. Qiyamah