As our fourth day came to an end, I worried that my tender feet would prevent me from the long walk on our agenda today…the famous “hanging bridges”. But this morning the old arches feel fine.
It is amazing to be in a country where caring for its natural wonders is a national value. We see it in the motels which encourage conservation of water and recycling. There are little notes on the walls reminding us to turn off the lights when we leave (most require us to use our room key to turn the lights on in the first place). We are encouraged to hang our towels for reuse, to not let the water run while brushing teeth. There are refillable dipensers for soap, shampoo, and rinse in the showers. There are recycling bins all around. It makes me stop to wonder what it means to have a national value. Do we in the United States have national values…values that we hold together in some sort of mutual understanding. If there are such values, what do they look like in practice? This morning I am finding it hard to come up with any. We are so individualistic, I think.
We walked six hanging bridges today. They are sturdy steel, strong with sides that feel quite safe. The path we walked between bridges was protected from mud-sliding by blocks that made the walk very uneven. I had to watch my feet all the time to keep from breaking an ankle which made it hard to pay attention to the natural wonders. We wound through lush forest full of trees hundreds of years old and plants so large you could climb aboard and take a nap. We saw birds, a sloth and monkeys. Then we saw a little animal related to the racoon. A bunch of them huddled in an area near the end of our walk where there was a dump for them to scavange. One of our women took a tumble, so distracted was she by the sight of them. She will have a few bruises, but hopefully okay.
Back at our hotel room, more like a patio home. I saw a worker that appeared to be cutting grass using a machette. Unbelievable.
There is a learning center here at Selva Verda Lodge dedicated to promoting protecting the earth. They educate children in the area and invite people from around the world to sponsor children to complete their education. They also do work for the lodge such as teaching dancing and having cooking workshops. A woman named Hazel told us her story and the story of her village. She demonstrated cheese making which she makes from the milk of her cows and sells. We purchased items made by the local women’s group from their little store for our grandchildren.
In the evening a very lively couple taught us typical Costa Rican dances including Salsa and Maringa. Our group laughed, danced and acted quite goofy. A nice community builder.
This morning we went white water rafting on the Sarapique River. Our guides were adorable Costa Rican young men with great humor. We began with serious lecture on safety, then once we launched, we were encouraging us to “attack” our fellows in other rafts. There was much laughing and foolishness which kept my mind off the terror I felt at times. We kept from falling out of the raft by shoving one foot under the seat in front of us and the other crammed under our own. This held me in place but I wasn’t sure how my feet would hold up. We stopped for a snack on a rocky shore where our leaders treated us to pineapple and watermelon. Later we purchased a DVD of our excursion including the looks of terror on the elderfaces.
A long drive to a new, very swank hotel and spa with hot springs, a pool, golf, etc. I don’t know if I will try the spa, but the hot springs for sure. My feet will love it. The ride over was educational. Our guide Mario is very knowledgable. And we are getting to know our fellow travelers for better or for worse.
The name of the hotel is the Arenal Springs Resort and Spa. Located at the foot of the Arenal volcano. I am sitting on our small private patio looking right at the valcanoe. A dark cloud sits on the top like a Russian fur cap. Sunset time.
Following are the words on a card left in this hotel for the guests:
TO OUR GUESTS
In ancient times there was a prayer for “The stranger within our gates.” Because this hotel is an establishement dedicated to serve our guests, and not merely a money making enterprise, we hope that God will grant you peace and rest while you remain under our roof. May this room and this hotel be your second home. May those you love be near you in your thoughts and dreams. Even though we may not get to know you well, we hope that you will be as comfortable and as happy as if you were in your own home. May the business that brought you our way prosper. May every call you make and every message you receive increases your happiness. When you depart, may you have a safe and pleasant trip. We are all travlelers. From “Birth til death” we travel between eternities. May these days you spend with us be pleasant for you, profitable for society. Helpful for those you meet, and a joy for those who know and love you well…these are our wishes for you.
How’s that for hospitality?
Second Day in Costa Rica:
Our travel day is behind us. Bernie slept for most of the flight time. I did not. I busied myself with reading, working puzzles, watching a movie.
We met one of our sojourners on the plane, a woman a little younger or near my age, a black activist with dreadlocks, outgoing personality. Clearly full of passion for justice. I told her about my connection with the Quakers and she told me she has worked with AFSC (American Friends Service Committee).
This morning we met our tour guide, Mario Carbello, and had a lecture by a chemistry professor from the University…Therman Thomas. He told the story of Costa Rica via sports and coffee…he was humorous and very informative. I wish I had taken notes. Then we visited the Gold Museum in downtown San Jose. Very interesting tour and history of the early indigineous people. We boarded our van and traveled to Sarapique and checked into the Selva Verde Lodge.
I know I am in the rainforest because of the humidity. I wonder how sleep will go tonight with no air conditioning and open screened windows. On our veranda there are two comfortable wood chairs and a hamock. I could sleep on the hamock but suspect mosquitoes will visit tonight. We’ve been warned about snakes across the path after dark. “Don’t jump over the snakes,” our guide warned. It appears that the snakes have the right-of-way.
This is a lovely place. We will want to take pictures of flowers. So exquisite to this northern Minnesota person. I love the fact that Costa Ricans care so about their land. All act like true natives, true lovers of the land.
To get here we drove through mountains that form a ring around San Jose, through a “cloud forest”, where there was thick, thick foliage hugging the cliffs on either side of the road. Occasional we’d see a spring trickling through the rocks. We saw one plant that had leaves like our rhubarb but even larger. You could almost lay on them. “They are very poisonous” one sojourner told me.
Now sitting here, I could almost fall asleep. An insect approaches. Hark! Could it be a mosquito? So tiny! Let me tell you about your Minnesota cousin. He could eat your children.
Since retirement, Bernie and I have been on several tours with Road Scholar, formerly Elderhostel. We recently returned from our first tour out of the country. I was the one who wanted to go to Costa Rica because it is a peace country, having abolished its army in 1949 and because the established a Peace University there which has a commemorative statue of Peace Pilgrim. I thought I’d begin my blog career by sharing some of the journaling I did while on our trip. Following is my first entry written on January 7 while we sat in the Lindberg Terminal, Minneapolis Airport, as I pondered:
“Our adventure is begun. Our destination is still 8.5 hours out, but sitting here I am preparing my heart. I just read the introduction to the book Peace Pilgrim: Her Life and Work in Her Own Words. This trip is for me a pilgimage of peace so I thought it might be a good idea to reread her book which is about her pilgrimage.
“She carried with her on her travels this simple message: “When enough of us find inner peace, our institutions will become more peaceful and there will be no occasion for war.”She was a true pacifist. This reminds me of the hymn we used to sing in church “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.” I think Peace was trying to say that peace in the world can only be achievd if those who hunger for peace first find peace within.”
I feel Peace’s presence as I begin this journey. I hope to connect ina new way to her beautiful teachings and her life.