Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Tuesday, June 18, 2013


Confession:  I was nervous.  I got a call last month from a mom with a special request.  "I have a child who I'd like you to teach.  I'd like him to do private lessons."

"Well ma'am, I'm done teaching for the year.  I don't do private lessons and I can't help you," I said.  I was not interested heading back out to the pool in the hottest months of the summer.  I typically teach in April and May, preparing kids before the swimming season begins and before the Arizona temperatures hit 100-plus degrees on a daily basis.

"You come highly recommended and I'd really like you to teach him.  He's a little different.  He's got a symptom called dwarfism.  His  arms are a little bit longer than a normal child and his legs are a little bit shorter.  I'm not sure how he will do in the water.  Will you teach him?"

In all my years of teaching kids to swim, I had never got a request like this.  I wasn't sure if I was up to the task.  I didn't know what this boy's limitations were.  Could I really get him to swim?

But how can you turn down a call from a pleading mother like that?

And so I said yes.

Four year old Matthew came bounding into my backyard all smiles and happiness.  He was a giggler.
 I immediately knew I was going to love him.  Because of his smallness, I first expected him to be uncomfortable and scared of the water, like many of the two-year-olds who come to me.  But Matthew was ready to swim.

With his four-year-old mind and eagerness to learn, he picked up my swimming cues in the first lesson.  And he progressed quickly over the next two weeks.  I got him to jump, to dive, to float and to swim.  I got him to love the water.

But Matthew taught me more than I ever taught him.  Matthew taught me to embrace others with differences that may, at first, make one uncomfortable.  He taught me that being a little bit different in appearance doesn't make one different in ability or desire to learn.  He taught me that his "disability" is only an opportunity to open one's minds and to change the way we think.

My heart is overflowing with love for this little person.  He brings joy to me and to others around him.  He is the sunshine of my summer.  I hope I have many more years to work with Matthew.

He still has a lot to teach me.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Pura Vida in Tamarindo

Ahhhh, Tamarindo.  The beaches, the scenery, the atmosphere ... there is not much to dislike about this quaint surfer town.  It even rolls off the tongue nicely...Tamarindo.

The town is just that: a surfer's mecca.  We chose to except relax, walk along the beach and try a surf lesson with a local.  In fact, Tamarindo is home to surf legend, Robert August, who claimed this town as home after filming the epic surf movie, Endless Summer.  He has a surf camp, shop and restaurant here.  We happened to walk over to his restaurant for dinner on the night of his birthday extravaganza.

Our view from our room at the Tamarindo Diria Hotel -- Morning


Along with the surf, we managed to find a little more adventure along the way.  The Pinilla Canopy tour just out of town provided some exciting thrills.  We saw monkeys, iguanas and snakes here.

Again, it was the friendly people of CR that made our trip so enjoyable.  Here are two of the guides from our canopy tour.  Pura Vida! 

Hello, Mr. Iguana

There were families of monkeys in the trees near the canopy tour
The Costa Rican national football team checked in shortly after our arrival.  There was a swarm of fans taking photos when they check in.  But the team settled in and worked hard and played hard while they were here.

Daily, they headed out to the beach after breakfast for drills and sprints and playing games against each other.

At night, things would wind down and we'd walk the streets to choose a restaurant for dinner.   When it got dark, the rains would come down hard.  But we would wake up the next morning to perfection once again.

All the restaurant in the town have a patio that faces the beach so our nightly dining also included a spectacular show.   Like clockwork, people would emerge from their hotel rooms or restaurants to stop and enjoy the sunset.

 And everyday we tried surfing.

I have complete respect for those surfers who have mastered the sport.  It takes balance, strength and perseverence to learn to stand upright and ride the waves.  And it's addicting, for sure.  The best thing about surfing here is the waves kept coming and the water stayed warm.  "Just one more time," I'd say...

Each day I got a little better.

Three days here just wasn't enough.

The morning of our departure we had one last stroll on the beach. Our international flight left out of the larger airport in Liberia, 90 minutes away,  so we had one last drive through the jungle.  I kept trying to take pictures of the scenery from our taxi because I wanted to take it all in...

Costa Rica is a magical place.  It truly is Pura Vida, the pure life.  We loved every minute here and promise to return.  Thank you for the memories Tamarindo.  Hasta Luego!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Extreme White Water Adventures

After three blissful days in the jungle, it was time to head back to civilization.  Our guides loaded up the boats, gave us last minute review instructions and we were back on our rafts.  Little did we know that the best and most exciting parts of the river were yet to be discovered - think Class I, II, III and IV white water rapids. What a spectacular journey we made in those rafts.  Pictures don't do it justice, but here are a few:

We stopped for lunch here and explored a bit of the jungle while our rafting guides set up a delicious picnic lunch. Not just sandwiches and paper plates.  No, the Pacuare Lodge had prepared another fabulous meal that was over the top.



Three hours of pure roller-coaster action left us tired and ready to relax and enjoy our next stop: the quaint little surf town -- Tamarindo.  Those adventures next....

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Three Days In The Jungle, CR

The next three days on the river were wide open.  Our concierge, Wilman, explained that our agenda was left to us: we could be as active or lazy as we wanted to be.  He listed a variety of excursions and adventures we could choose everyday,  sandwiched in between the most amazing culinary meals we could imagine.

Canopy tours
Horseback Riding
Visiting the local villagers
Massage, Facials  - (Don't mind if I do)
Bird Watching

So we set off to have a little fun.
Canyonering down some waterfalls....

This was the last point of the zip line.  The only way down is by rappelling...

Plenty of hours in the day to read and enjoy making new friends....

Every night we walked down to this lovely place for dinner.  The main lodge and office had electricity, but our rooms were lit only by candlelight.  

Looking down on the jungle.  Imagine the sound of cicadas and squawking birds echoing through these trees 24/7....

Hiking to waterfalls....

Airing out our dirty laundry....

Three course meals three times a day....

I got this....

Yay!  We love it here....

This swimming pool was part of the Honeymoon Suite.  It was right off the balcony.  The water flows into the pool right from the waterfalls behind it. We HAD to go take a look before the guests of honor arrived...

Our little cast of characters would gather at mealtimes and discuss what fun things we did or were going to do that day. And we were graciously served and waited on by the same men who had guided us down the river.  Luis, Ivan, Cessie and Wilman not only kept us safe on the rapids, but they also took us hiking to the waterfalls, held our ropes on the canyoning excursion, and bussed out tables at mealtimes.  It was quickly apparent that the beauty of this magical place was not only the about the scenery, but the friendly and happy people of Costa Rica.  We will never forget their kindness and generosity of spirit.  Three days of absolute paradise here.

Next up... rafting out!  

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Pacuare Lodge, Costa Rica

Todd turned 50 this year.  I was once told that after 21, you should do something BIG on every birthday that ends in an "0".  So, when the opportunity arose, we settled on Costa Rica as the perfect destination to explore and celebrate the momentous event.

Costa Rica is a truly magical place.  But there was so much to much to see in one short week!  After perusing the internet, we decided our first leg of our journey was a whitewater rafting adventure down the Pacuare River.  I had searched the internet for fabulous trips in CR and this place kept popping up.  The photos were fabulous, the online reviews were great, so I went with my gut and we headed into the jungles of Pacuare.  

After spending the night in San Jose (a direct flight from Phoenix to the capitol city was an added bonus), an early morning tour bus picked up us, along with eight more adventure seekers and we headed into destinations unknown.  We stopped and had lunch at a roadside cafe that served authentic Costa Rican beans and rice along with delicious fruits and juices.  We were traveling with a Elliot and Cristina, a honeymoon couple, Sandy, Brian, Drew and Bryce a family of four with two teenage boys, and Andrea, a single woman from London.  It was all so exciting!  

Three hours into our journey we made our way down a steep rocky road and pulled up next to a beautiful muddy river.  The tour guides who had welcomed us onto the bus now turned us over to the awaiting white water river guides.  Ivan and Luis gave us a quick instruction on how to navigate the waters of the river: forward paddle,  back paddle, get down, high side overboard?!  and we were off.  

We paddled our way in and out of Class 1, 2 and 3 rapids and yes, we did flip the boat one time -- poor Andrea absolutely petrified.  (She reminded me of Kate Winslet from the movie Holiday -- fresh from a break up and death of her father, seeking a change of scenery and an quiet hammock in the jungle.)  After surfing another set of rapids, pausing for a rock climb to a beautiful swimming hole, and paddling through the most beautiful rainforest I had ever seen, we arrived at the amazing Pacuare Lodge.  

I'd describe the Pacuare Lodge as five star living in the heart of the Costa Rican rain forest.  The compound includes 14 individual huts that have no electricity, internet, tv or phones, but generous porches, showers, beds and the BEST hammock I'd ever rocked in (Andrea got her wish!).  After being greeted by the lodge staff we heartily ate our fabulous gourmet lunch, then we unpacked and immediately went out to explore the jungle...very carefully that is.  For the saying goes the jungle there are more eyes than leaves.  Yikes....

More adventure stories to come.....
Que lindo es sonar despierto.
How lovely it is to dream while you are awake.

Dreams That Have Come True