Day 5 in Costa Rica — Always Fly with Kindred Spirits

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Here we are at Day 5 of our Active Adventure and we find ourselves deep in the jungle, staying in a family owned, rustic lodge. You know what is charming about a rustic lodge? Paper thin walls. They are the perfect testing ground for your alarm clock sound “Alarm.” I can’t stand this sound. It sends chills down my spine and I cringe whenever I hear it in movies, TV, and the radio (go ahead and see how long you can listen to it). So hearing the “BRAH BRAH BRAH BRAH BRAH” at 5 in the morning made my heart jump out of my chest and take the next plane back to Canada! I was thinking “Who the hell has that sound as their alarm? Was ‘Soothing Ocean Sounds’ not available? Geez . . . some people just want to see the world burn . . . . ” (sorry, I needed to drop a Dark Knight reference).

After my near death experience from this banshee of an alarm, I got up and had a chance to survey my surroundings.

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What a lush painting of coconut trees, bright flowers, and ferns of all sizes! Hearing the nearby river along with the rooster’s cry (COCKA-DOODLE-DOOOOOO!!!!!!) made for a perfect contrast to my experience of a morning commute to work. I did not miss the sounds of cars zipping on the highway, my cell phone going off about work, or the morning news on the radio. I was on “Pause” from the rest of the world and I didn’t care. : )

MOMENT OF ZEN: I thought it was funny that I was here escaping into the jungle as a break from my “hard” life back home. My parents left a third world country back in the 70s (Philippines has a similar environment as Costa Rica) to establish a better life for themselves, and eventually me, in Canada. Maybe I’d know a thing or two about a hard life if I had to hunt for my food, grow my own vegetables, or construct a house with my own two hands. Better yet, move an ocean over to a new land where I barely spoke the language, knew the customs, and was surrounded by strangers. If anybody knows anything about being UNCOMFORTABLE and UNFAMILIAR in a new place it’s my parents (and probably yours too or the generation before). I’m here for 13 days with a tour guide and a set schedule. Most immigrant families move to new place with barely a plan, money, and a hope to establish a new life. They are “All In” with a dream and a prayer to restart their lives in a better place. And I’m here taking “a break” from my life. Now I’m not here to make myself feel bad. But I will be more thankful of the UNFORGETTABLE “rocks” who make up the Inukshuk of my life back home. Here’s a good point to raise a glass for the people in your life who scarified for you to be here . . . wherever your paradise is. PURA VIDA : )

After my group and I had breakfast it was time for the first adventure of the day: Bird watching! Now before you think that this is boring remember that we are in the rainforest. We are not in a protected national park or a zoo. We can run into things that can kill us. Besides, I’ve never gone bird watching before so what better place to try it than Costa Rica.

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Here’s a rundown of the things that we did and learned while on this little expedition:

1. How to call both a white tail dove and a red dove;

2. Starfruit is one of the healthiest fruit there is. We picked a bunch from a tree and just took a bite! Sour but refreshing!

3. The web of a Golden Line Spider is so strong that it is used to make nets to catch fish and spacesuits for astronauts;

4. Nature always finds a way — there is bird (I forget which one) that plants its nest in a termites nest. When the bird’s babies are born the babies smell like the termite nest. The termites then clean the bird’s babies : )

5. There is a grasshopper that is as big as your hand (see above picture). When threatened it shoots a toxic black liquid towards its attacker (Note to self: start using the zoom feature on the camera); and

6. Mealy Parrots only have one soulmate. They are always in pairs. During courtship if one Mealy Parrot is having trouble attracting his future partner, the Mealy Parrot will hit her with his wing! Talk about the relentless pursuit of love! If one partner passes away, the other Mealy Parrot will not try to find another soulmate. They are kindred spirits in both life and death : )

On the way back from our hike it rained! At this point I felt that having rain was a welcome companion on any outing in Costa Rica! So I took my jacket and hat off and embraced the multitude of drops!

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The second adventure of the day was another hike in the jungle to a part of the Sarapiqui Rainforest where we can swim. If you have been following my previous posts you would know that I am terrified of swimming in open water. However, this is why I took this trip . . . to get over my fear. So my group and I strapped on rubber boots and headed out into the jungle again for some more adventure! Some people also decided to rock a new fashion style: Garbage bag jackets!

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It looks kinda awkward, but awkward is always cool : )

So off into the jungle we go. Our guide told us that the hike in the jungle would only take 20 minutes. So I was like “Sweet! This is going to be a quick stroll and then I can enjoy some water.” After 20 minutes I see no water. Anywhere. And hiking in knee high rubber boots sucks! I felt so constricted in movement that I was sure that I was going to sprain an ankle or two during the uphill and down hill parts of the hike. Good thing there are spiders, bullet ants, dart frogs, and other poisonous creatures that can kill me so I don’t have to walk in these boots anymore!

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And this is me being alert in the dangerous jungle and trying to avoid certain death:

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So after 40 minutes of hiking (damn Tico Time!) we reach our destination and man is it beautiful:

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So the task was to swim across the river to get to other side, where we will climb to a ledge and jump into the river. Before I tell you what happened I’m going to give you a flashback to my last encounter with open water. The time was July of this year. I actually experienced the feeling of drowning. I was competing in a timed obstacle race back home in Canada and one of the last obstacles was to paddleboard from the beach out to open water and perform a yoga pose. I asked the attendant how deep the water was and she said the water was chest deep. Cool. No need for a life jacket then. So off my partner and I go. She sat in the front while I paddled. I never paddleboarded before and I found it was fun! I love kayaking so using the paddle wasn’t foreign to me. Then I had to turn the board. Because I was standing, the force of my upper body turning the board left moved my lower body out from under me. So into the water I went. I didn’t have any googles on so I closed my eyes to shield my contacts. With my eyes closed my feet looked for the ground. Guess what? There’s no ground! This is where I panicked. And when you panic in open water that’s when you start to drown. I forgot everything my swim coach taught me and I flail. I was able to gather my wits and flip myself over to front crawl to the board, but I wasted so much energy panicking that I barely made it to the board.

I was PISSED at myself that day. I was mad that I let fear take over my life in that moment. I let fear almost take my life! I failed myself, my coach, and my teammate. I wanted redemption and I wanted it bad. So I went and booked this trip.

So back to my Costa Rica experience on the shore . . . here’s what’s going through my head staring at this river:

1. there is a small current which could CAUSE ME TO DROWN;

2. the water if FRIGGIN’ cold which could cease my muscles and CAUSE ME TO DROWN;

3. there are sharp rocks which could pierce my body and CAUSE ME TO DROWN;

4. I could get tired in the attempt to swim and the fatigue could CAUSE ME TO DROWN;

5. the colour of the leaves are a shade of green that doesn’t correspond to the colours of the storms on the planet Jupiter . . . GET IN THE F*CKING RIVER YOU F*CKING P*SSY!!!!!!!!!!

So off I dive into the river . . . and I swim. The water is cold and I don’t care. The current is strong but not strong enough to move me. I kick and front crawl just like my coach taught me. I’m finally in control and free. And my reward is to join my other crazy friends on that rock : ) PURA VIDA!

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I even took it a step further and jumped off that ledge (GET ON THE F*CKING LEDGE YOU P*SSY!!!!!!!) : )

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If you read my Day 4 blog I talked about relinquishing rocks that didn’t fit your life. Well on August 28th, 2013, I think I picked up my fear of open water, tossed it in the river and left it there. I hope the crocodiles down the river ripped it to shreds!

We left the river and travelled back to the lodge for our next activity . . . making Costa Rican empanadas! The Costa Rican version is made with corn dough, stuffed with seasoned meats (pork, chicken, or beef), cheese, or beans. And then they are fried. BTW, anything fried is DEE-licious. Potatoes, beef, fish, chicken, carrots, broccoli, etc. The food just isn’t as healthy as . . . . SHUT UP BRAIN! IT’S TIME TO EAT!

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After our afternoon snack of deep fried oil and meat, I took an opportunity to meet some other people in our group. We have newlyweds from Germany in our group! Really cool people who’ve been together for about seven years. In the last two months they were able to finish their Master’s degrees, get married, and find a new place to live! This 13 day excursion into Costa Rica was their first real break from their whirlwind of reality back in Germany. I thought it was cool that they both serve in the German army. You know that saying “I’ll watch your back.” ? These two can actually say that! Glad to have these kindred spirits with us! They can actually save me from real danger! LOL!

I also had the opportunity to learn some Polish. I learned these phrases from my new Polish friend (who’s a friggin’ badass and always down for adventure!):

1. Dzien dobry = Good morning/day

2. Dobry wieczor = Good evening

3. Dobranoc = Good night

4. Czesc = Hi! or What’s Up? or Whaddup homie? (only used with friends)

And to add to the international theme of my evening, I played Jenga with a German, a Costa Rican (Tico), a Brit, and a Hollander!

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This was my first time playing Jenga. Ever. So I was really excited to play with my new friends. Pretty interesting picture if you ask me: five people who are from different parts of the world coming together to build “buildings.” Even though we were building a pretend tower, I like to think that we were actually building bridges together. Maybe that’s the equation of Jenga: New Experience + New Friends = New Heights : )

Last adventure of this day: Jungle safari at night! I repeat: This is not a zoo. Creatures can kill you. I saw poisonous snakes, spiders and frogs on this hour and a half trek through the jungle!

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There was a point in our jungle safari where we reached the top of a hill. We were instructed to shut off our headlamps and just look at the stars. If there was a reward for an industrious hike in the jungle at night this was it. I’ve never seen so many stars in the sky in my life! Too bad my Olympus died before I could take a picture. Although a picture couldn’t capture the masterpiece in the sky that night.

Here’s what I learned about surviving in the jungle: You need to have the following items:

1. A knife — to hunt and use as a general tool;

2. A garbage bag or rain coat — for rain (duh); and

3. Light — no light = death.

If you find yourself alone in the jungle, you need to find a tree and put your back against it until the morning.

On our way back down from the hill, our tour guide said “I heard a a strange noise behind me . . .” Our tour guide has 30 years experience in giving tours in the jungle and has a well trained sense of his surroundings. I have about 25 years of movie-watching experience and know that if there ever was a line that triggered the death of someone that was one of them. So we wasted no time in increasing our pace to make it back to the lodge. Bring on the Jenga!

MOMENT OF ZEN: Always fly with kindred spirits : ) Like the Mealy Parrot, life is so much worth living when you have someone to share it with. Lucky for me I had about 15 crazy, badass mofos ready to test the title of our trip “Active Adventure.” I would call us a “misbehaved-high-school-assembly”! Like my analogy of rocks, finding the right people to fit in our lives is quite challenging. However, sometimes you just have to try new people who are totally out of your circle, community, city, or even country. You may find that you have more in common than you think. : ) PURA VIDA! Dobranoc!

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