Patty – November 30, 1999

Hi Everyone,

We are just waking up at Tulamar Bungalows on the Pacific Ocean among little monkeys jumping from tree to tree. You know Katie has adapted because her song “Way up high in the apple tree, two little apples smiled at me·” is now “Way up high in the mango tree,”

Costa Rica is truly a natural paradise. The tropical vegetation is so exotic, flowers, gladiolas, fuchsia, hibiscus, calabash gourds and teakwood trees that mature in less than 5 years and the leaf shape is amazing. But to add hummingbirds, huge iguanas, a flock of toucans with their black bodies and yellow-orange long beaks who greeted us as we walked to breakfast yesterday (we knew they were a find when the local housekeepers stopped in their tracks to look up).

But lets back up a minute· I wrote the following as we were flying the very LONG flight criss-crossing from Boston to Wash DC to Mexico City to San Jose, getting in at 1AM – Ugh! And unfortunately for Dick and I the kids slept well on the plane – (which was great for their little bodies but bad the next day when we wanted to sleep so we took shifts)·

“As we take off for our Big Trip – I look out the windows to see nothing but gray fog – visibility 20 ft. It reminded me of a “clean slate” from which to start the trip. We climbed in altitude to clear blue skies with billowing white clouds (Katie told me they reminded her of ‘cotton balls and puffed up marshmallows’ – ah, the wonderful mind of a child!). I feel like we have already arrived at a foreign country· the sky! I’ve decided that since I won’t be able to swim my laps everyday to relieve all my stress, I am going to simply look at the skies at night and in the daytime. They release my tension just by gazing out to them· huge, wide expanses of infinity and space filled with clean air, light, water, and sometimes spectacular visual scenes· scenes one cannot draw and capture. The very last few days were a blur of “winding things up” – the ‘things’ being a million little details that all got done and done well but left me with a catatonic feeling of numbness – the purpose of the trip a mere mirage, even the emotionless behind saying goodbye to great friends and family and a great life. I think E-Mail has psychologically closed the gap of distance with its instant connection anywhere in the world. After we said goodbye to teachers and dear friends at Cabot after Autumnfest· Dick had to go back to the office to do a closing so the kids and I went to McDonalds (to savor one last French fry), then back to the house to eat at the picnic table because the cleaning people had come and than I had to do the final (ugh!) cleaning and packing to get it all in the suitcases. I copped out and still filled a box with stuff to sort at the Ferrills. Dick could not help be load up the suitcases and carry the rest of the remaining house stuff to the 3rd floor (ah Sam, now I really know how much energy you put in to every moment of climbing and carrying). We could not wait to get to the Ferrills with their warm relaxing hospitality· great healthy food, a feast for Thanksgiving, a wonderful blessing at dinner, stimulating conversation and just plain catching up with lives. We got up at 6:30am to go back to Boston (Alex asked, “Can we go to the Scheuerells?” I said they were on their own adventure in NYC). So we did 3 quick errands waiting for Dick to sign some final papers. Then off to 78 Hull to sneak a look to see if the new tenants arrived. We were happy to see the new grass was growing. I go back for Dick – did not even have to wait (a good omen) no more cell phone calls, no more planning, yea we are finally on our way!!! We return the rental car (since I sold my van which had served me well for the last 6 years!) I’ll get a new one when we come back – one which looks better and has a lot more fancy gadgets· I wonder if I will look better when we get back with a lot more fancy notions of the world – I certainly hope the ‘looking better’ shows itself within my soul and I come back centered! I can’t wait to soak up 9 months of cultural knowledge and people interaction and titillating visual scenes! The reasons for this trip are sitting next to Dick and I. How do they feel? (as many people have asked them time and time again!) I think they are “ready” for the big, long adventure. They don’t know what awaits them but they seem ready and willing to go. Dick and I are very excited as we did this type of trip 15 years ago but the kids have a clean slate but in a different way. We are talking about trying to capture our favorite thing in our journals each day. So time will tell – the greatest pleasure in traveling and the worst is “the unknown”. This trip will take us on paths we don’t know about that can be unsettling and make one insecure (I think this is happening to Alex) but the beauty of spontaneously experiencing the world every minute is thrilling!”

Well, we are now 4 days into Costa Rica and besides being burglarized and our car broken into and the kids backpacks stolen with all the picture books (Laura remember the pictures you helped me put together) and toys and home schooling folders (just the first week of actual work they had already done in the airport on the first day but all of Alex’s answers were in there) and worst of all Ben’s bear that Lynda Cain had given him, Timber and the 3 journals the teachers had given them. We need to ask your help to help us replace some of this but more on this later. We were very shaken by this because it happened on the first real day as we were looking on a bridge of enormous crocodiles and we were only gone for 2 minutes. They broke the glass and so it was a mess. They could have gotten so much more in terms of value· computers, cameras, money, passports but unfortunately they got our prized possessions. I told the kids, “They got nothing but everything!” I’m sure they are disappointed. We went around offering a reward of 10,000 to 20,000 Colones (no, we are not this rich!) it equals $30 to $60. but if you look around there are bars and barbed wire and gates for burglary. It must be a real problem. We are just so lucky not to have anyone hurt and it did put us on a more realistic level to work from. It just was such a bad way to start experiencing this amazing country.

But yesterday made up for it. The kids have been in the various pools with gorgeous Pacific views and rice and beans and fresh watermelon or banana juice to drink. We organized a guide named Leo who happened to bring his 6 year old son with him to go on a boat ride thru amazing mangroves to see white-faced monkeys with babies on their back which would eat bananas from Katie’s shoulder and be right in your face, crocodiles, herons, egrets, striped tail hawks, and coiled mangrove boa constrictors. Then our guide ‘invited’ us to go to a short hike to a waterfall on his friend’s property. We saw trails of leaf cutter ants carrying leaves and purple petals back and forth. We had seen leaf cutters in a museum so to see all these things in their natural habitat was amazing. Then on thru cows with floppy ears and finally to the jungle where a 3-tiered waterfall awaited us to swim and climb with our guide and his son. The kids immediately claimed this to be their favorite for the day. We passed local families where our guide would sort of sing “Hola!” to each one. This is one of those countries that everyone is outside and there is such a sense of community notwithstanding a lack of material things. I got into a major ugly argument at the hotel with people from Atlanta that immediately decided these local people were not intelligent because they did not do things our way. I went nuts and could not let it go, especially after we had just spent the most wonderful day only experiencing local people who love this land and every animal in it.

Dick is working on his Journal as I write. It will be interesting to see how his first impressions compare with mine.

From December 2nd – December 8th we will be pretty much incommunicado at Lookout Inn on the remote Osa Peninsula in Costa Rica. We think that they have radio communication for emergencies, logistical arrangements, etc. but, per Dick, no telephone or fiber optic links and therefore no e-mail. (We decided against Iridium and satelite phones for weight and cost.) We will be certain to respond to any e-mails as soon as we :”return” to civilization (or at least late 20th century technology).

Until then, our thoughts are with you.

Patty and Simon Family