Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Some photos so far

From our Villa at Hotel Borinquen…that smoke is actually steam rising from the hot springs

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This is exactly what our villa looked like, only we were higher up. Duh.

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This is Brendan. I said he was 10, but he’s actually 13. My bad. He and his mom are here for 2 weeks. In their family, when the child turns 13, the mother takes the child on a 2 week vacation for just the two of them. It’s a wonderful idea!

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This is Leah with Eli. He’s always smiling and happy. Don’t you like his sense of fashion? That’s the swing set in the background.

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Behind him is our rental car and to the left is our hotel.

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Our classroom. Smile

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Me doing split time in the front prepping to move into butterfly.

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Leah getting after it. This move gets her into the big circle spin.IMG_9354

Now the big circle all around. Looks amazing with fire!

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These guys are funny. Look how little he is. He picked up and carried that piece of fruit up the tree. Then, he carried it around the tree as a moved closer for the pic. Funny!

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Coconuts for my Pops. I can’t bring one home, but Sam, can you show him this?IMG_9358

Native tree. Love the exposed climbing roots.

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These are the hammocks at our school. I like the one furthest to the right just off the edge.IMG_9362

Classmates: Steven, Rachel, and Matteo.IMG_9364

Don relaxing in the hammock.IMG_9365IMG_9366

Costa Rica–Hiking Day, the waterfalls, surfing, poi, and Video Chat

I awoke and greeted my day feeling tight, but not sore. Don was still sleeping. We actually fought over the covers when I got back from using the bathroom. It was funny, actually. *giggle* I leaned over, kissed him, got dressed and headed down back to The Bakery Café for my morning coffee. He wanted to sleep in, and I didn’t mind having some time to reflect on things.

You see, the thing about being down here is that I’m afforded time to delve deeply into myself and really think about things. Often, I’m in such a rush, making lists, juggling so many things! It’s like I handed over all of the balls I’d been juggling and stepped away for a break. It is quite refreshing. It is also a bit unnerving because I’m constantly paranoid about forgetting something. With each passing day, though, I’m letting go of it more and more. I’m more in tune with my body. I’ve not been completely vegetarian on this trip. More often than not, though, I have been. But in the evenings, I’ve had some animals. It’s ok. I’m still feeling good and not feeling heavily weighed down! Like I said, no juggling. Just thinking, relaxing, and doing a giant EXHALE.

I wrote for awhile until my breakfast was ready. I nibbled it up, sipped on coffee, worked out the kinks with Skype, because tonight, we were going to talk with the girls and I wanted to be sure everything worked like it was supposed to! Don joined me and we had 15 minutes until Poi class started. I crossed the street to the bookstore and talked with the lady from Connecticut who owned the shop. I handed over my postcards, paid her the postage, and just like that, they were “mailed'” and on their way to their destinations! I crossed the street again, went up to the table, grabbed my bag, then headed over to class.

Today, I had to focus on working on my forward and reverse figure 8s, doing a basic butterfly maneuver, and keeping my head straight, instead of lowering my chin. Over and over in my head, split time, legs apart, and….SMILE. I whacked myself a few more times today than the first day, but that meant that I was actually taking many more chances with my poi. This made me feel good. We also had a new classmate join us, Leah. She’d been taking classes before, and decided to start up. She has extended her original stay from 1 month to another month. Apparently, this is quite common down here. We have to get back and can’t stay another week! Smile

After an hour and a half of dancing and twirling the practice poi, we had to head back up to the room, to change clothes because it was time to go to the waterfalls. They said it was about a half an hour hike to get there and to wear hiking shoes. The locals, Pablo and Edgar, were in flip flops. We hiked and hiked and hiked until we got there. When I say we hiked, I meant we HIKED! Over tree roots, on top of rocks, around rocks, rock climbing, balancing on a tired, worn out old rope against the boulder, through mud, until…..there it was! This beautiful waterfall, and only 4 other people were there. Granted, as we walked up, the middle aged woman was stripping off her top and yanked off her undies. I threw Pablo a look like, um…are we SUPPOSED to get naked? (I’ve not ever been skinny dipping and I supposed now was as good a time as any to do it.) He grinned and told me that I didn’t have to, unless I wanted to. I didn’t want to, just yet. ha ha! Instead, I took a dip in the cool, refreshing waters, swam to the waterfalls with Don and let nature wash my crazy, wild hair! We hung around there for a bit, then swam back, dried off and made the trek back.

Good thing too, because it was time for surfing! We ran up, grabbed our rash guards, made a quick snack of tortillas with avocado, then headed out to Playa Grande. We had to hoof this leg of our hike because we were 20 minutes late! This terrain, similar to the one to the waterfalls, is not for anyone out of shape. Lots of hills to climb, rocky beaches, beaches with shells, soft beaches, mud, and rocky terrain. Not as dangerous as the other, but a solid hike, and definitely a workout. I don’t think I’ve ever sweated this much in my entire life and I’m not one to really sweat!

Just like before, we went to the turtle sanctuary, dropped off our personal belongings, I grabbed Surf Betty and began to comb and wax her up. She’s a monster, and I had to carry her solo out to the beach. Truthfully, I was winded with that small hike, nearly 400 meters. Then, I got into the water. It is warm just like yesterday, but the waves are much bigger. The current, where we were surfing met coming from two different directions. This day was gonna do something, that’s for sure!

This time, I was was Gee-jay (short for Guillermo). Don had been promoted to the advanced class (no surprise). Geejay was determined to get me up. I’d paddle, I’d push up, and only get to my knees. Then, he sternly coached me, breaking down the mechanics of it all. Refusing to let me use my knees any more. He said, only get on the board if you pop up. No more knees. Unacceptable, Bianca. Don’t take shortcuts! If you know me, you know that’s the kind of coaching I respond to. It’s harsh, but for whatever reason, it works. Then he said something that made sense, pop up like you are jumping high. I said, like I’m jumping on a tall box? A really big box, like 3 feet high? Yes! Exactly! So I did just that and that, my friends, is the first time I was up on a board riding a wave.

The next time, he said, now concentrate on legs apart, they were too close together. And don’t walk on the board, it is very dangerous! (I’ve been watching too many surf videos with people who do their walks on the board. Meanwhile, down the beach, Don was rocking his waves and Pablo was surfing a wave while doing a headstand!! Nevermind the ear infection he’s had since last week! Crazy guy!) I rode two more solid waves for a little bit and I was quite pleased. I was rocked a couple of times, but for the most part, I had much success. I was very, very happy. I have to admit, I actually wore a bikini! The thing about Costa Rica, no one cares. I was actually encouraged to buy and wear a much teenier bikini. Don was nodding his head yes, but I don’t know if I am that brave. “Welcome to Latin America” is what they responded when I said, “but it is so small!!”

After we were done for the day, the tide was coming in much quicker than before. We were very lucky because it hasn’t rained since the evening before. Had it rained, we would not have been able to go to the waterfalls. Also, because it hasn’t rained, the sun has broken through more because there aren’t clouds to filter it. Seeing the sunlight through the jungle really is quite incredible!! On the hike back, I noticed an entire colony of crabs!! It was awesome! Next time, I’m totally going to take a photo. These crabs were brilliantly colored red and blue and they were the size of a small child’s fist.

As with all of my walks, I’ve been putting flowers in my hair. It’s been fun. I nearly lost my traveling rock and my water bottle when the water rushed in. Luckily, I clutched my rock and my water bottle was found about 10 steps away from where I was standing, once the water receded. Also, on the path, there are many white and purple flowers. It’s like walking down the aisle on your wedding day. I feel fancy each time I walk over them. Oh, and there are always a million different colored butterflies on our path, not as many lizards of varying sizes, and a couple of monkeys. Oh and birds, although, we only hear them, don’t see them. Today, in the surf shed, I saw a bat! ha!

When we got back to the room, I willingly took a cold shower and I liked it! That’s how hot and sweaty I was. We are sure to stay plenty hydrated! I also spent some time french braiding my hair. It’s been unruly, so I wanted to try something new. I have 4 french braids in my hair, then I joined the two on each side into a larger stacked braid. Right now I have what appears to be two french braids, but they are really 4. I hope it holds up. I like it out of my face.

After we were cleaned up, we had a phone call from our family. Skype, unfortunately, was unavailable, so we used Tango on our phone. It isn’t as great of a connection as Skype, but we did get to see and talk to our girls for a little while. We even got to sing to Mari! Gosh, we miss our Sugarbean and Sugarbaby something crazy!!

After the phone/video chat, we needed food! We went to Sano Banano and noshed ourselves food drunk. Iced tea (Costa Rican style) and pineapple/mango smoothie for starters, Vegetarian quesadillas for an appetizer, Chicken Curry & Pollo Casado, finished off with warm chocolate cake. Yum! We could’ve stayed for the show 2 Nights in Paris for free, but we wanted to go back to the room.

First we stopped at the market to pick up some diaper cream or zinc oxide for Don because the sun has not been his friend! We also got some more tortillas and avocados, and a bit of baby oil to massage out the knots in our bodies. We both have lots of bruises on our bodies. I have a gnarly one on my left knee, and a scuff on my right foot. Don has a rash where his ribs protrude. He has a rash guard, but it isn’t enough. Worth it, though. You can say we are bonafide surfers now. He’s better than I am, but I’m just glad to be called a surfer instead of a knee boarder. ha!

We chatted up our classmates a bit and prepared ourselves for another day. We are nearing the halfway point in our trip.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Costa Rica–Day 1 of School

After a restful night, I stretched out of bed and felt a new soreness. I couldn’t believe we made it!!

We got dressed and walked down the block to The Bakery Café. Our hotel is at the top of the hill near the town’s Central Park. Our hotel has about 13 rooms. The park has 1 set of swings and a play yard with a couple of round concrete benches, lots of native trees and flowers. The Bakery Café is at the bottom of the hill, to the left. About 250 yards away is the ocean down a path. Across the street from the café is a bookstore. On the otherside, next to the café is a school, and kids are attending. You can hear the roar of the ocean and it is fantastic!!

We just had coffee. Plain coffee with milk for Don and café a la carmelo (coffee with caramel) for me. We sat and sipped our coffee, talking over the thoughts of the day. First poi, then later surfing. Eli (pronounced El-lee), our surf instructor actually came in for coffee with his female dog, Booger. She’s a small black terrier come de la calle/streetdog, and so cute! Eli has dreadlocks down to his waist. He dresses like a surfer. He has caramel brown skin and he smells like a mix of strong Axe and stale cigarettes on his breath.

We met up at Central Park in Montezuma with our practice poi. I traded mine with our classmate Brendan (who is 10) and so I was reppin’ Texas Tech with my new black and red poi. YES! We had class for about an hour and a half. Twirling the heck out of those practice poi. I discovered that going forward is much easier for me than going backwards. I only hit myself twice. Once in the temple (and wow, I really had a headache, it was tender when it hit) and again somewhere else, I forget. There’s only 3 of us in the class, so we get a lot of one-on-one attention!

Afterwards, we went back to our room and changed clothes. (We were quite sweaty from the humidity and workout. Yes, my arms felt like they were going to fall off, 10 minutes into the workout!) We took a walk to the beach, snapping photos, holding hands, strolling, and letting the waves kiss up to our ankles. All of God’s beauty in front of us, his grace holding my hand because I was in paradise with my husband. I froze that moment in my brain. No matter what we went through the day before, it was worth it for that moment. (And we both agreed that the $40 for information from that kid was money WELL spent, otherwise, we would’ve most certainly have taken a wrong turn).

We got back to the room, loaded up on supplies that we’d bought at the supermarket in Liberia and made ourselves a light lunch of fried yucca chips, macaroni and cheese, and an egg over easy. Then it was time to surf!!

We met up with the other classmates. Four were in the beginner class with us: Katherine, Rachel, Klaudia, Alayna. There were two in a more private beginner session, a father and son, Paul and Jackson. Then three in the advanced class, Matt, Steven (an Aggie) and a fiery redhead named Katelynn. We hiked an hour to Playa Grande, through amazing foliage! We passed lots of natural spring creeks, rocky beaches, soft beaches, even singing the Indiana Jones theme song because of the jungle-type atmosphere!

Finally, we arrived at the the turtle sanctuary, where the school has a shack where they keep their boards. There’s lots of cabins among the well-landscaped area for the volunteers who work with the turtles. Apparently, there was a hatchery that I’d totally missed. There’s also a rudimentary shower totally fueled by the natural spring water. It is quite refreshing, actually. We leave all of our personal belongings in the shack and they lock it up. We are assigned a board and then given about a 20 minute introduction/safety course. Then, we go to flat grounds and talk about the principles of surfing:Good position, paddle 1-2-3-4, pop up, legs shoulder width apart, feet perpendicular to the board. Sounds easy enough, right? You see, I’ve been surfing a handful of times before this and I always get stuck on the pop-up portion. My body doesn’t understand those mechanics.

Out we went. One by one, the instructor led us through the training and some were more talented than others. Don popped right up on his first wave. He looked like an old pro. No, really, in his board shorts and rash guard, he was shredding that wave!!

Then came my turn, and no popping up. Again, and again…poor Blue, my instructor was getting quite frustrated. But I kept at it. We even went back to the beach where he gave me a land tutorial and marked my board for the best position. After all, I’m quite coachable…if you only know how to explain it for me to “get it.” For the next hour and a half, I got tossed and flipped like a ragdoll. My sinuses were completely clean, and then some. I got on the board on my knees a few times, but never even close to standing. The last time I was rocked something fierce. That pride thing is ridiculous and a silly burden. I got choked up out of frustration and waved off Blue. I called it a day and chugged some water. He came to me and gave me an inquisitive glance. I told him I was frustrated with myself, but tomorrow, I promised to be better and I WOULD BE getting up! He smiled and appreciated my spirit. He thought I’d given up, but no, I just needed to reflect on what I was doing.

After we washed off and the boards were washed and put away, we hiked back.

On the way back, I actually looked up quite a bit more to enjoy the scenery. We passed a centuries old Indian made oven back from the times of Moctezuma (over time the name had been changed to Montezuma).

When we got back to the hotel, we showered, threw on some clothes and went out. I was so thirsty and spent, that I parked myself at the corner of Chico’s bar, ordered an Imperial beer, and sat to watch Mission Impossible with Tom Cruise. I needed to zone out. The beer was nice, then a 78 year old man came up and started talking to me. Over the next hour, he proceeded to tell me his life story (shocker) and I relayed it to Don. He was Puerto Rican, but left the country at age 18 to join the Korean War. He’s since lived in New York, Miami, California, then settling in Las Vegas. He has been retired for 30+ years and comes to Costa Rica for 3 months in the summer to avoid the Vegas heat. He’s been married 3 times, divorced 3 times, his most recent marriage at age 60, to a 20 year old who looked like Halle Berry. ha! I asked him why the divorces, he said, well, to be honest, I had too many affairs. LOL!! He said he’s been living life too much and that even though he’s made mistakes, his children are the great loves of his life. To which, he imparted child rearing wisdom to  me. It was a fun, lively, and heartfelt conversation, where we showed one another photos of our children, laughed quite a bit, and toasted our beers. He went by Cuco, but he said that was only his name in Costa Rica. No one outside of Montezuma knew he went by that and no one in Montezuma knew his real name! Good times.

We then went to the local pizzeria, ordered a large ham and mushroom pizza and 2 Mexican Cokes to go. We went back to the room, noshed on pizza, practiced poi for 10 minutes, played a round of Mad Libs and passed out!

After all, tomorrow was day 2 of school, a hike to the waterfalls, and a video chat with our girls!!!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Costa Rica–The Adventure to Montezuma

It was Father’s day and the first time ever that I was unable to talk with my father. It was a bit tough to swallow, but I did my best to concentrate on the amazing things surrounding me. I’d gotten up early to catch the end of the sunrise and journal some thoughts while I enjoyed some coffee overlooking the vast valley from our balcony. it was also my friend Gen’s birthday and having coffee outdoors is something she enjoys and so with each sip, I said a silent prayer for her.

Don and I took the carrito down for the last time to the restaurant. We loaded up on breakfast. Two coffees, banana pancakes, 2 eggs with hashbrowns, and traditional Costa Rican breakfast. That was probably the best Americano coffee I’ve ever had. It was so good, I had almost 3 cups.

Anyway, we bid adieu to our little romantic getaway and prepared ourselves for not only a journey, but another location that would be a bit above camping. A far cry from the luxury resort we just left. ha ha! Let me break it down for you:

We were going to travel from Liberia, south about 190 kilometers (gotta love the metric system) or 118 miles to Punta Arenas. From there, we will have to hop on a ferry with our car and travel an hour and a half to Parquera/Tambor. From there, we were to travel another 60 kilometers or 30 miles to get to Montezuma. We were told the trip to Punta Arenas would be about 2 hours and the drive over to Montezuma would be about an hour.

We left Liberia at 1PM. Sure enough, it took us about two hours to get to Punta Arenas. The road was well-paved, but because it was only one lane on each side, you were at the mercy of the slower lead cars. There were many, many times it was too difficult to pass. The drive over was filled with pleasant conversation. Great conversations was one of the reasons why I fell in love with Don, early on. We were both feeling quite content with the trip! And then, just as we were approaching the ferry, an older teenager jumped in front of our vehicle with a ferry sign. He proceeded to force feed us information about the ferry and where we were going, tips and tricks, that sort of thing. Then gave us a sob story about how this is his job to work in the heat giving information and that he wanted the 10000 colones for the time. We had yet to convert currency, so he jumped into the rental and navigated us over to a bank to exchange dollars. Then, when we finally got back to drop him off, he said, ok, 10000 colones…each! I just said, whatever and shrugged him off. We handed over the bills and afterwards, Don leaned over to me and let me know we just paid the guy $40. Then there it was, that nasty pit in my tummy. It could’ve been worse, right? Lesson learned, but it doesn’t feel great to be taken advantage of.

We had an hour to kill and found a steak taqueria to enjoy a quick lunch. Our server was an older gentleman from the Dominican. He was feisty and I liked that. I’d recounted the story of what had just happened to us and I could tell that he was physically getting a bad taste in his mouth. He was doing this grimace with a spit motion. I dunno, he was getting upset. He went on to tell me how in his 10 years of living in Costa Rica, he, himself has had similar experiences. But then he made a scrappy-fighter gesture, gesticulating heavily as if to say, “don’t mess with me, you don’t want none of this.” And that was the end of the story. I was slightly rejuvenated in my spirit.

We finished lunch, hearts of palm salad and fried yucca for me and grilled chicken, beans, tortillas, and fried plantain for Don. We went to the ferry, waited in line for a ticket, walked to the office to pay for the ticket, then drove the car into the hold of the ferry. We walked up to the sun deck to watch the journey.

While there, a small framed German girl sat next to me and we struck up a conversation. I’d seen her hop out of a tourism bus labeled as Montezuma. Turns out, her name is Klaudia and she is from Germany, living in LA studying to be a journalist. She will be staying at La Escuela del Sol for a month to learn how to surf and speak Spanish. In a few ways, she reminded me of our friend Toch, back home. Any way, there we sat, taking in the beauty of it all. We neared the port and while they were docking the ferry, the downpour began.

At this point, Don and I had to split up since they only allowed the drivers with the vehicle. I carefully climbed the two flights of stairs down in the rain, ever so grateful to my sister for giving us a wetbag to keep my cellphone and documents dry. I stood shivering in the holding area for about 10 minutes until Don appeared. Then it was chaos! With a strong prayer, we set on our journey, following a bus because well, it seemed it knew what to do. I remembered the boy mentioning going left when we came off the ferry, the same direction as the bus. In that downpour, we snaked along this incredibly winding road for about 15 kilometers before the bus pulled over and we had to keep pressing on. We knew we were going the right direction by the signs, until we came upon a set that didn’t have Montezuma listed. But, it did say Cobano and Don remembered the boy mentioning us to take a left to Montezuma from Cobano. So we pressed on in that direction. The rain had slowed to a trickle, but the road was effectively one and a half lanes. I said aloud, I miss lines painted on the road. I miss street lights. I miss reflectors. I miss sidewalks (because there were SOOOO many people and dogs walking in the middle of the road…at night…in the rain…in the pitch black). My hands were gripping the handle so tightly, they were cramping. My right leg stretched out, bracing myself. It wasn’t that Don was driving so fast, it was that the turns were so sharp and I wasn’t sure which side was the coast and which side may or may not be a valley for us to roll down. Again, no guard rails. I get anxiety just thinking about it all over again.

I kept counting down the kilometers from the odometer. I tried to relax a bit, but most of the relaxation came when the English music station played a song I was familiar with. I sang along and was distracted long enough for us to reach Cobano. Just 7 short kilometers to Montezuma. They were having some sort of festival/party in Cobano and on any other day we would have stopped. We kept going to Montezuma. After wandering around for about 10 minutes, we stopped and asked some locals for help. We found the spot and were so happy to be in our room. It was 10 minutes before 8PM. At 8PM is when Empanadas y Amigos welcome orientation began. We dined on the empanadas, said some hellos, listened to the information, and went back to the room. We settled in for a long day that began at 8:15 with Poi and Surfing at noon.

We were supposed to stay at the school until Sunday morning, but after that journey, we elected to forego that stay and head back closer to Liberia on Saturday. We just couldn’t chance missing our flight.

That night, we slept soundly as the rains continued to pour down for the next several hours.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Costa Rica–Guanacaste, Rincon de la Vieja…Hotel Borinquen

It was my 35th birthday. Five years ago, I was on board a party barge, surrounded by my close friends and loved ones. I was growing a month old fetus in my belly, and she is now my spritely 4 year old Sugarbean. I dreamt of this vacation many times.

When the alarm set off, I laid in bed, stretching and feeling my body. Moments later, my phone rang. Per tradition, my Mother and Father’s phone call arrived precisely at 6:18AM. The sang a sleepy, but happy “Happy Birthday to you!” I showered, dressed, and crept down the hall to our sleeping beauties. They were nestled side-by-side, slumbering for the last few hours. I wiped a tear and kissed them both, whispering a about 20 “I love yous” in their resting and perfect ears.

Kent, our friend, was already at our house waiting to give us a ride. (Right, what a friend! To show up at our house before 7AM on a Saturday no less. We are truly blessed!) We hugged Carol and loaded up into the car to be whisked away to DFW.

I sat in the back of his car filled with such high nervous energy. But one by one, the birthday texts began to light up my phone. Then my sister called. All of my loved ones may not have been physically with me like they were five years ago, but they were present and accounted for. I asked Kent to turn up the music and I stared out the window to that place between dreams and memories, his music my gateway. I allowed anxiety to course through my veins, but it was quickly blanketed with all of those thoughts and well wishes.

The four hour plane ride was uneventful. I whiled away the time on Facebook responding to the ample birthday wishes. Once we were far enough from the States, I lost connectivity, then plugged into “The Vow” the movie for the rest of the flight. I had it on the background as I edited the newborn session from the week before.

When we arrived to Costa Rica it was very warm and incredibly humid. Customs was easy enough. The gal actually opened our eyes to a much easier, well-paved drive over. Our new plan was to take Nacional 1 down to Punta Arenas and catch a ferry over to Parquera. The trip should take about 4 hours.

When we left the immediate airport area, we weren’t assaulted by vendors and taxis. Yes, they were there, but it seemed they were already assigned to others who would be arriving. At the car rental, we were upgraded to a Nissan Hi-Trail 4-wheel drive, instead of the smaller Kia Sport. He emphasized the tires, letting us know they were very good and would be helpful!

This ended up being a very good thing. Our journey over to our hotel consisted of some paved roads and another several that were washed out paved roads, very bumpy, with potholes the size of tiny kiddie pools. During that trip, we saw 2 chickens, crossing the road, lots of people on bicycles, dogs, lizards, and a couple of vaqueros riding their horses. They share the road here! We drove along the mountainside, climbing up the volcano. I was white knuckled much of the way, clutching the map and nervously giggling, trying to calm my fears. No, there weren’t any guard rails, not that it would have mattered.

I conjured up enough guts to look out the window and I was rewarded with the greenest, most lush valley I’ve ever seen. There here heads of cattle and horses sprinkled here and there. It was absolutely breathtaking!

As the road curved and winded closer to the hotel, we saw signs for another resort adjacent to ours that was full of adventurous things. Horseback riding, ziplining, ATVs…all sorts of fun, all eco-friendly. Then, the road changed from paved to well-laid brick. We drove up to the reception, where they directed us to the parking area. Everything is vibrantly green, and birds and howler monkeys serenade us in the distance.

We were greeted with fruit juices made with strawberry, watermelon, and apple juice. (Yeah, I know, I actually drank watermelon juice and liked it!) Ricardo, a day-shift worker, shuttled us to our Junior Suite (actually, a fancy-fancy villa) 6 at the top of the resort! The room smells of cedar and has a sitting area, the master suite, and a bathroom the size of our bedroom! It had a two person jacuzzi tub and a walk-in shower the size of an apartment kitchen! Our villa overlooks the lush green valley and we can see the steam rising in the distance from the natural hot springs. Water trickles down the makeshift gutter from the freshly fallen downpour. It’s all so very natural and so, so, so clean!!

We walked down the steeper than steep paved hill to the bottom where the restaurant was located. It was a wide open space, intimately lit and we quickly became the only customers. At first, I thought it was because it was much too late for lunch (already nearing 4PM), but actually, there weren’t many people staying at the resort. It just lended itself to the exclusive “fanciness” of this stay. We ordered a mojito, a capirinha, hearts of palm salad, arroz de la abuela (chicken and rice, sofrito style), traditional Costa Rican meal of tenderloin, potatoes, with rice and beans. To start, they brought us a plate of cheese and fried cheese with a corn tortilla. That capirinha was tequila, vodka, and muddled limes. Not the greatest, but it would do!

Once we were finished eating, we called the carrito (golf cart) to take us back to the suite. We lingered for a bit, food drunk. Then, we got up, changed clothes, called the carrito and had it drive us down to the sauna, naturally heated pools, and mud bath. The sauna was a short walk from where we were dropped off, but it wasn’t it. Honestly, it looked quite menacing in the dark with the smoke billowing out of the wooden box. *skip* Then, we walked past the tranquil pool to the naturally heated pools. Before we took a soak, we went to the mud baths and covered ourselves with mud. We let it dry, then washed off in the adjacent outdoor showers. On our way to the shower, we saw the largest free-roaming toad I’ve ever seen in my life. Don mentioned a possibility of it being poisonous and I immediately kept clear of the toad. We then walked over to the heated pools and wow, were they hot!!! The one we got in was 96.8. When I was submerged from the chin down, a downpour began to dump on us. I just sat there grinning happily. My entire body was relaxed!

We lingered for a bit chatting with an older couple who couldn’t say enough great things about Memphis, B.B. King, and all things guitar. The dude was HAMMERED! But they were great conversationalists! Our bodies were jelly, but we walked over to the reception area and hitched a ride on a carrito back to the suite. We cleaned off and went to dinner. This time, Don had a sauvignon blanc, I stuck with water. We ate sea bass with tomato, olives, and capers with asparagus and mashed potatoes, grilled chicken with a blue cheese sauce, asparagus wrapped in bacon, and grilled vegetables. Our server brought out a tres leches cake with a blue cherry that had been soaked in blue curacao! It also had a candle on it and the waiter serenaded me for my birthday!

That evening, I soaked in the jacuzzi with a bath bomb before sleeping soundly without interruption for 9 hours straight! What a great birthday indeed!!

*if you would like to see pictures, I would suggest you follow me on twitter.com/biasia I’m posting images there via Instagram. You can also follow me there as HelloMrsBianca.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Really. No, Really, Really.

Remember back when I talked about wanting to go to Costa Rica earlier in the year? Well, with a wink and a smile and a whole lot of luckwork it’s gonna happen!

Here’s a bit of back story. In my “real” job, you are awarded a 4 week paid sabbatical with each 5 years of service. On May 14th, I celebrated my five year anniversary. What does that mean, “paid sabbatical?” Well, essentially, you are given 4 weeks off to disconnect from your job COMPLETELY, no, actually, you are required to disconnect completely and go to recharge. This has nothing to do with the vacation that you accrue either. It is just the bonus time off given. Five years ago, when I started, the dreaming began. At that time, we didn’t have any children. We had these grand visions of what could be and with each passing year, we added to the list of “maybes.” Oh, and here’s another tidbit you need to know. When my beloved and I were in our pre-marital Engaged Encounter retreat, we heard a statistic that gave validity to the 7 year itch. During that weekend, we made many promises to one another and near the top of the list was have a romantic and extravagant getaway for just the two of us. Guess what! This year is 7 years for us! I don’t really know how it all worked out for it to happen that way, but I’ve never once questioned God’s ultimate plan for things. I’ve always tried my best to go with it. And this…this is God’s grace in action! Instead of taking our entire family, we opted to have a second honeymoon just the two of us. I’m incredibly nervous, anxious, and excited!

After making that posting back in January, Don and I sat down and discussed a plan. I reached out to Rewarding Travel Consultants to see what they could do to help make this dream a reality. It was all really easy. Matter of fact, I threw in some other astronomical goals of taking the entire family to Europe just for safe measure. You know what I received? A comprehensive action plan to get me to where I wanted to go without spending any more each month than I currently do. It was awesome! They are awesome! (Hi Frances! Seriously, you are amazing!!) If you want to do travel, you should definitely check them out! I can’t sing their praises enough.

Anyway, we set the plan in motion. We were able to use miles to book our flights out to Liberia, Costa Rica and all we had to pay was less than $100 in surcharges total!! Wow! We will fly out on Saturday (my actual birthday!!) and grab an SUV and stay the first night at the Borinquen Mountain Resort Spa in Rincon de la Vieja, Guanacaste. Then, on Sunday, we will get up and head over to La Escuela del Sol in Montezuma, Punta Arenas to learn how to surf and poi (fire dance) for a week. We will also do some hiking in waterfalls and ziplining. And yes, I might even cross a rope bridge or two (and maybe pee myself doing it, but hey, at least I will have done it). Exciting stuff!

But wait, there’s more. It isn’t like we could have all of this time without fun with our girls. When we get back, we will take a day to rotate out clothes, do laundry, then we will load up the entire family, including my mother-in-law (her first time to California!) and fly out SoCal. Our first day, we will take the girls to Disneyland. This will be their first trip there. We are only going to be there for the one day, but I think that one day will be plenty. Then, we’ll head on down to San Diego to visit the zoo and have lots and lots of beach time with one of my besties and her family. My folks will fly in to LA and meet up with my MIL and they will stay in Southern California while Don and I head North to an adventure in San Fran (my first ever Giants game, crossing off another stadium!) and Napa (mmm…Vino). We are very blessed to know many people in California and I hope that we get to see many of them while we are there, even if it is just for coffee.

We will get back to see some awesome fireworks at home, then load up the car and go for the great American road trip to Tennessee to visit our family out there. While there, we will visit the Amish country and load up on fresh fruits/veggies and all other sorts of goodness. We will also catch up with our family and enjoy their company.

When we get back, we will have a few days to decompress and be prepared for me to start back refreshed and renewed. I’m more than aware of how unique and wonderful this blessing is for my marriage and for my family. I’m so incredibly humbled by the outpouring of support from our dear friends and family members who juggled their schedules to watch the girls, our house, join us in the fun, and give us prayers and well wishes for our travels.

While gone, I will try to utilize Twitter and Instagram as much as possible. When I have time, I will journal my thoughts and some of them might even make it to this blog. We’ll see.

Alright, so now I’m going to take a deep breath and leap.

Let’s go!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Dreams Coming True

For 30 years I’ve had this dream to walk into Yankee Stadium and feel the mystique that surrounds all the history of this well beloved franchise.

You see, when I was a little girl, I had two passions in my life: baseball and fashion design. I was a Texas Rangers fan (duh, I’m a Texas gal and I spent some time living in the Dallas area when I was a kiddo), a fan of the Dodgers (my great uncle Phil played with them a long time ago), and much to my father’s dismay, the New York Yankees. As soon as I saw that classic blue and white color scheme, paired with pinstripes…well, I was in love! That high level attention to detail…and they had the market cornered on style!

I made several trips over the years to Chavez Ravine. Each game holds special memories, especially the one where the promotion item was a crazy blue haired wig and we watched Eric Gagne come in and close it out “Game Over.”

Many of our summers were spent at the Ballpark in Arlington, several of those games were played against former Rangers who’d “graduated” to the Bronx Bombers. When I watched Finding Forrester, there was a scene where they walk on to the ballfield. I had tears in my eyes.

Back in 2002, I made my first visit to New York. The Yanks weren’t in town playing. I’ve since been back many times and each visit, they hadn’t been in town. But, as fate would have it, on this journey, they were in town. I’d reached out to a colleague for inside assistance with regards of best tickets for my money. If there existed such a person who knew the ins and outs to Yankee stadium, he was the man. He has a vast knowledge of all things Yankees. I really wanted to have the absolute best experience I could have within our budget. But like I said, fate. He did me one better. He’d gotten tickets for us behind homeplate less than 30 rows up in Yankee Stadium! The universe was singing to me and I heard it loud and clear, Happy Birthday, Bianca!!!”




****

Let me back up a bit. Cinco de Mayo this year, I spent back home in Lubbock at my parent’s home. This was the first time during our marriage where we didn’t celebrate it together. The purpose of the celebrations had become even greater since we honeymooned over it seven years ago. During our honeymoon, we promised we would toast and honor the celebration…and fall in love all over again. Being apart from by beloved took an even greater toll than I was expecting. That evening before bed, he and I were texting a bit while I watched a movie. Once of his texts was so cryptic that I just picked up the phone and called him. It was during that conversation that he surprised me and told me that he’d booked a plane ticket to accompany me on my business trip. He’d rocked my world with that news and I went from being a sobbing melancholy mess to a sobbing elated HOT mess.

Together, we’d coordinated our mother’s to watch our girls and the second honeymoon was starting earlier than planned. What? Yeah, we’d already planned on going to Costa Rica for a second honeymoon, where again, our mother’s would watch our girls. We are BEYOND blessed that they could accommodate us and more than that, they were willing to. What a generous gift, right? And a very special one for our girls, as well.

*****

While in New York, our dance card was full with dates with dear friends and some family! Hopefully, I can write about some of our other experiences. Anyway, on Yankee day, June 7, I had a regular meeting-filled day at the office. By the afternoon, I needed a java pick-me-up. Don had been playing at the Museum of Natural History and was on his way back. We decided to meet up at the Apple Store and we walked over to Trump off of 5th Avenue to the nearest Starbucks. We picked up our coffees and strolled back amongst the tourists, which were plentiful.They then parted to reveal a photographer and a model who were re-enacting the Breakfast at Tiffany’s scene sans the Givenchy dress, but definitely an elegant French twist and a bagel. I made a head motion to the door and he affirmatively shrugged. In we went! This was my first visit to that infamous store. I’d previously told him of my desire of a bauble from there specifically one designed by Frank Gehry. While luxurious and sophisticated, it was never something within our budget. But today…well that day was about magic! We went to the third floor to the silver floor. We walked around almost the entire floor looking for Frank Gehry’s section. I’d just about given up when a friendly sales lady greeted us. I wasn’t yet dedicated to making a purchase. I wanted it to be a matter of chance and fate. I casually dismissed her and as she turned away, I spotted the micro ring, torque design by this famous architect, which is a direct connection to my father. (He’d studied architecture in college and some of that still lingered and rubbed off on me.) I quickly called the sales lady back, moments after our previous conversation, and requested to see the ring. She was surprised that it was tucked behind a necklace and was happy that I’d spotted it. She said it was a favorite of hers. I was going to pass off that remark as “sales speak” when I spotted that very ring on her middle finger, only in gold. I took it as a sign. I slipped on the display model and it fit, only it was a bit loose. Instead, she’d opened a brand new one, size 5.5, and it slipped right on. “It should slide on, but be a slight bit snug at the knuckle.” It was for this reason that I had lost two of my gold “Tesla” bands. Losing them saddened me, and I realized I'd gotten rings too large. I wanted a replacement. I gave Don an eyebrow raise and he nodded, so we bought it! She insisted I give it back to her. She wrapped it up, even though I wanted to wear it. “It’s just a little something for you to open later. Happy birthday!” I walked back to my office carrying that beautifully wrapped box, inside that small blue bag. That moment, it represented so many things and well…the obvious being an entire weekend’s worth of part-time work for Don to afford it. Him giving his time…happily exchanging his time (something you can’t ever put a price on) for me. **marinate on that thought for a moment…when was the last time you paused and thought about the time given for you, not money, but time** That moment also represented the abstract of fulfilling that young girl’s dream of going to Tiffany and Co. and having her beloved buy her a special trinket from the world’s idea of supreme luxury since the 1800s, signifying his affections. Being a part of that long standing history, seems a bit against my idea of being unique and different, but we all have our things that for whatever reason, we and hold on to. I know how very, very special that was. For some it may be a regular thing, but not many. For me, this was truly a special moment I will never forget.

So that’s how I got a Tiffany box on my coffee run. I had visions of returning to New York with my girls and taking them to Tiffany and Co for bagel breakfasts and procuring trinkets to mark the occasion.

That evening, we rode the subway over to Yankee Stadium. It had started to sprinkle on the way there. By the time we arrived, it was pouring. I didn’t have an umbrella. I had faith. After walking down the platform, we poured out into the street and the rain had slowed to a sprinkle. We stood under an awning awaiting the rest of our party when the sun broke through. The slow fat rain drops danced in the sun. In the opposite direction a double rainbow with the most amazing violets (my favorite color) I’ve ever seen on a rainbow, let alone two rainbows!!! I love how my amiga put it, “Loved ones watching over you.”


And that’s where it comes full circle. My loved ones. The ones who influenced me from so long ago, who inspired my dreams. There they were, with me in my heart. Happily smiling as they witnessed my dreams coming true. BOOM! Happy.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Revisiting the Isle of Capri

Three years ago, I was in NYC having a “me-party” of sorts since I was there for work. This time around, again, I’m in the city for work, but I’m lucky that my beloved was able to join me!! (waving at our moms who are watching the Sugarbean and Sugarbaby) This is definitely a time to give thanks to not only family, but also to being a teacher. He’s off for the summer and our schedule is a tiny bit more flexible because of it.

Anyway, we had a free night to ourselves and wanted to go out to a nice dinner. Unfortunately, the places I wanted to go required reservations at least a month in advance and well, I wasn’t planning the fun activities, I was in full-on work mode. So yes, it escaped me. Instead, we put on a bit more casual clothes and opted to wander.

Before we could even leave the hotel, though, the POTUS motorcade zoomed by us. Seriously, they held us in the lobby refusing to let anyone outside on the streets! There was some random police car in the front of our hotel and it was very nearly towed away. What a sight! It was really great to witness all of it. I’d never seen such a thing so close! They traveled really quickly, too! I can’t believe I was able to get this pic:

After walking around for a bit, I remembered the Isle of Capri and the wonderful memories I’d had the last time I was there. I remembered thinking, how wonderful it would have been to have had Don with me. There are a million and one restaurants, why would I want to go back to something I’d been before? Well, because that’s how good that memory was!

This time, they tucked us away on the side of the restaurant in this teeny sunroom-alcove, painted Italian red with black accents, live plants hanging above, small windows to our left, and to the right, a black and white image of the restaurants bar from when it first opened. There were only two tables in this section. a 4 top and our 2 top.

Again, they had an eclectic mix of 70s music with a bit of Frank Sinatra thrown in for good measure every now and again. The table behind us was a group of three gentlemen who were “in a rush” and had to catch a show. The larger man (with the raspiest voice I’d ever heard in real life) we later learned, was from Kansas City, Missouri and his grandfather was a founding member of SMU. (Seriously, life story and all that) One of the guys with him was celebrating his 50th birthday. He didn’t want a lot of pomp and circumstance, even though I offered to sing to him. They’d ordered fried zucchini and a large plate of pasta to share. Again, because they were in a rush. When they had ordered, we had received our glasses of chianti and san giovese, and had not yet thought of our full meal. The large guy, self-proclaimed “host of the night for his pals” had huffed off to find a server because they were taking too long. An older grandmother type woman showed up and meticulouslyslowly wrote down each item for them. We later heard her delivering their order to the rest of the team.

Meanwhile, our server Manolo appeared and proceeded to take our order. I’d wanted to order in Italian, at a poor attempt to impress Don, but instead, came out with a mish mash of Spanish. Incidentally, turned out to be ok because Manolo is Cuban. He was the oldest member of the waiters union in that particular restaurant and boy howdy was he selective. Meaning, he was originally waiting on the previously aforementioned table and was totally over them and proceeded to ignore them for the rest of the evening. I was impressed actually, because that table had talked to him in a condescending tone and well, I wouldn’t be comfortable with all that. I understand it is the nature of the job, but working for several years in that industry, I think you’ve earned a bit of klout in that regard.

anyway……

We started out with the mushroom griglio. (Yes, Primo, it was a dirty plate, but I didn’t notice it until you pointed it out.) Roasted portobello drizzled with olive oil and lemon.

Before getting there, I had told Don of the Osso Bucco meal and well, we were going to get it. This was a special week, so I was fairly certain I was going to be eating many animals. I know, I know…veal shank. I suck. But it is amazingly delicious. I can’t think about it much. la la la la

If you don’t want to see further, I understand. Stop now if things like marrow and tender veal freak you out. Here’s a link to a happier place if you need it.

*************************

Ok, for the rest of you! Boy howdy was this meal another hit!

The shank was gigantic! The pasta…perfection, the mushrooms…divine, the sauce…ambrosia. No knife was necessary.

And the marrow…(I need a moment)

How much does my husband love me? He gave me his bone where he said, I’ve already eaten half, so you can have the other half. He’d really only had a couple of bites! The rest was mine all mine, indeed! I was in gluttony heaven!

I was so full from the meal that I did not even want to think about dessert. Oh, and the gentlemen’s meal from the other table did not arrive until after I’d finished my pasta. Yikes! So much for quick turnaround for them, huh? For their apology, they received a really, really bad joke told by the aforementioned lady, in this slow, almost monotone, but with a thick Jersey accent. (here is how she told it)

So a guy gets hit by a bus, no a car. Actually, no that’s not how it goes. He is walking on the sidewalk and falls down. Not because he broke his hip, but because of his heart. He’s having something with his heart. What is that….oh, a heart attack. Right! Anyway, he is on the ground and someone walks by and they look at him and ask him if he is ok. And then they realize he is having a heart attack and that he needs a heart doctor…what are they called? You know, the ones that work on the heart? A cardi what?? Yeah, that. He needs the heart doctor. So they call the ambulance who takes him to the doctor. And you know, he gets there and has to wait in the waiting room and they run all of those tests you know. The ones to check your heart. And he probably needs a surgery, maybe. ---What, yes, this is really quick? I’m getting to it.--- Where was I ? Oh, so he needs the surgery and before they can talk, he has to talk to the nurse lady about billing, right. And she asks him if he has any money to pay. He said no. She asked if he had family who could help him pay for his bill. He said no. No family. She said, really, you have no family? He said no. Well, I have a spinster sister who is a nun. The lady said, well really? Yeah, she’s a spinster because she’s a nun. And the lady he was talking to was actually a nun herself. Did I forget to mention that? Yeah, I said she was a nurse. Well, she was a nun. Yeah. Ok, so the nun told him, well, I’m not a spinster. I’m married to God. We are all married to our Lord. The man looks at her and say, “Well, then ask my brother-in-law to cover my bill.”

And you can totally imagine Don and I laughing uncontrollably at our table because of how long this complimentary and apologetic joke took to say. Oh my goodness! We were giddy. I had been completely exhausted from the travel/work day that I was already delirious. The wine worked magic and had me relaxed. He and I were in stitches!

The host of the party tried his best to shoo her away and said, we just need the check. “I’m the host and I need the check. I told you were in a hurry. What I say goes, and well, split the bill 3 ways.” This over-the-top bombastic personality and he wants to split it three ways. Even more laughter. I could tell this man was accustomed to getting his way and was unhinged that nothing was working out for him.

For us, though, we were treated to a plate of homemade cookies. YUM!

And Manolo appeared with a familiar bottle. A concoction that Don and I labeled as Cranberry Fire, fresh fruit infused with Grand Marnier, Cointreau, and Vodka.
F.I.R.E.
We enjoyed a few shots of these. (Seriously, Manolo overpoured them, if you look closely, you can see the tablecloth covered with the extra! And they were complimentary) Don more than I. After all, I had to work the next day! But Abba’s Dancing Queen was totally fitting for that particular moment. Manolo shared some fun stories of him partying out at Tao with his ex brother-in-law. Good times. We were beside ourselves happy!

On the walk home, I held on to my beloved’s arm, strolling with him, grateful at our friendship. Utterly moved with how blessed I am and this very special time we get to share. That’s some loving goodness! boom.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

the Birthday month 2012

This year, I've been blessed beyond my wildest daydreams. I keep pinching myself wondering when I will wake up because seriously so many outstanding things are coming in to play. I'm not trying to rub any of this in anyone's face. It's also been a helluva year, too. Extreme highs and lows, that's for sure.

Anyway, I sat down to compile my list of birthday wishes, when I determined that there wasn't a long list of things that I really wanted. Truthfully, I want experiences with friends. Real and fresh experiences. Dinners out, roller skating (yes, I'm being serious), dance lessons, concerts, road trips, camping adventures, all of those things and more. You know, real hearty memory-making adventures! We aren't guaranteed our time, so I want to spend it making memories with the ones I love. Also, it would be really amazing if you were feeling charitable in your heart and wanted to donate to Breast Cancer Research, Homeless Teens, or Early Childhood Development that would be pretty awesome!!

If I were to have a tangible list of material items, what would they be? Well, here's a list of things I have had my eye on for the past month:

  1. Jack Spade travel duffle - I don't need yet another bag, but it's purple and functional and totally me!! Jack Spade Medium Eaton Duffle on sale for $269 at jackspade.com
  2. Canon 85mm 1.2 lens this bad boy is a beast and I love it. I wouldn't use it as often as other lenses, but when I would use it, I would make pretty, pretty, pretty portraits!
  3. Spotify Premium membership. $9.99 a month for kickass tunes no matter where I am.
  4. DSW gift card because a girl can never have too many shoes, right?
  5. Beach Cruiser - it doesn't have to be this one. I do like the idea of a fun color with a basket, of course! I would totally ride around my town in this thing wearing my pleated skirts and tanks. ($150-$300)
  6. Sky Trails Maxi Dress from Anthropologie $168
  7. Samsung Galaxy Tab 16gb - I've been debating on a tablet, no tablet for sometime and have come to the conclusion that I would actually use it more often than not. For that reason, it has made the list. $399 

As soon as I hit publish on this thing, I know I will inadvertently remember something and be like, dangit, why didn't I put that on there. Yeah, thank goodness for Pinterest. :) 

Cheers to the birthday month!!

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