Is Costa Rica My “Middle-earth?”

In many ways, YES! And in more than one place I have used the following Tolkien quote in relation to my nearly 7 years of continuous exploring the most magical place on earth to me – Costa Rica!

“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”

-J.R.R Tolkien
The Wingfeather Saga uses maps and your imagination for their spirited land.

I just finished the Wingfeather Saga of four books where Andrew Peterson created his own imaginary world called “Aerwiar” and, like Tolkien before him, created this imaginary world before he wrote all the stories so that the places helped shape the stories. I don’t know if Lewis created Narnia before his stories, but as a best friend to Tolkien, he probably did! 🙂 And I can assure you that Costa Rica was created long before me and shapes all of my stories! 🙂

The Stone Bridge in the movie-version of Narnia.


The Wingfeather Saga started off a little slow but ended with a powerful impact on me and probably most other readers. The many places within his world of “Aerwiar” not only influenced his story but also how we the readers react to it. You can easily say the same thing about Narnia and of course the most powerful sense of place in the make-believe world remains Tolkien’s “Middle-earth” that people still study and the fantasy of it keeps readers coming back for more!

Frodo runs through the magical Hobbit village in movie version.

But to me, the best fantasyland of them all is the real country of Costa Rica! It has greatly influenced not only my blog reported adventures here but how I’m living my new “pura vida” daily life in Costa Rica. In some ways I’ve tackled this country the way the Hobbit Frodo approached Middle-earth and how those children approached Narnia & Aerwiar; all with a sense of awe, adventure and purpose! I think it’s the way to approach all of life, wherever one lives! I just think it’s easier in a magical place like Costa Rica! 🙂

And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places.

Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.

~Roald Dahl

My Magical Place is Costa Rica!

Everywhere in Costa Rica is magical like this view from Villa Calletas, Jaco.

¡Pura Vida!

Old Enough to Read Fairytales

The WingFeather Saga

You may not know that my favorite kind of books or stories are the ones written partly for children or maybe it is “the young at heart!” JRR Tolkien, CS Lewis and JK Rowling. I was about to start re-reading Tolkien (the most difficult of the above) when through the sharing of friends in the Goodreads club/blog I discovered The WingFeather Saga (link to author’s description of the books). They are children’s books in this general fantasy/adventure style of the above three mentioned authors, with it quickly obvious that the author, Andrew Peterson, admires CS Lewis the most and would like to create a Narnia.

The 4 Books of The Wingfeather Saga

My Review of Sorts . . .

Continue reading “Old Enough to Read Fairytales”

Adventure by Chicken Bus

Members of the ARCR (Association of Residents of Costa Rica), an organization formed to help expats get to and live better in Costa Rica get a subscription to the bimonthly magazine El Residente and I hope this link to the March/April 21 issue works for non-members! 🙂

The first main article in this issue is titled “Adventure by Chicken Bus” which is actually one chapter of a book by the same title, this chapter about the Canadian family traveling Central America while homeschooling is specifically about their efforts at helping Costa Rica save the endangered sea turtles on our east coast. A great story for nature lovers and wildlife preservers that will make you want to visit Costa Rica.

At the end of the story is a link to the book by this family’s mother and school teacher, Janet La Sole, Adventures by Chicken Bus, An Unschooling Odyssey Through Central America. Be sure to check out the tab “Chapters Gallery” which summarizes the chapters and where all they traveled through pretty much every country of Central America. Amazing! And they were backpacking with two young girls! That’s her book website. If you want to purchase, go directly to Amazon.com Adventures by Chicken Bus.

And in case you don’t know, “Chicken Bus” is the nickname for the small, rural, cheap buses (Used U.S. school buses painted bright colors) found all over Central America for cheap rural or out of the way places of travel. We do have big, modern buses in Costa Rica between major cities and towns and major tourist attractions, but these are common all over rural Central America and yes, they do carry their chickens on these buses. 🙂

¡Pura Vida!

Rincón de la Vieja National Park

Johnny took me to the Rincón de la Vieja National Park today and we hiked 5 kilometers. My favorite part was the two waterfalls, one in the park and one outside near the entrance but on hotel property. Currently it is not safe to go look into the active volcano but we did see the smoke, hot water and bubbling mud which reminded me of Yellowstone. It is a tight forest so difficult to see birds but I did get some shots of a Crested Guan and some other wildlife.

Waterfalls

 

2 Hikers & the Park

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Volcanic Activity

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Wildlife

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And at the end of the day, your feet should be dirty, your hair messy and your eyes sparkling.

– Shanti

¡Pura Vida!

Hacienda Guachipelín

Adventures of the Brig Charles Doggett

When Lee Holloway introduced me to and gave me a copy of the 1931 historical adventures storybook Yankee Ships in Pirate Waters by Rupert Sargent Holland back in the early 1970’s while at The Brotherhood Commission, I had no idea how far it would lead in my future research of an 1800’s ship with my name.

For a long time I have had the research website on The Ship Charles Doggett  (the definitive website on the ship) and along the way discovered the relationships of the ship to Nashville and a friend there who is a descendant of the ship’s captain, William Driver. Driver is buried in Nashville. (Click above link for more info.) Also while there I learned of the U.S. Flag first being called “Old Glory” while flying on the Brig Charles Doggett with the actual flag at The Smithsonian Institute National Museum in Washington, DC. My web page above tells exciting stories of the flag, especially during the Civil War in a Confederate State Capital.

Then later I learned that it was this ship that rescued the survivors of “Mutiny on the Bounty.” Wow! The stories go on and are many and exciting as presented in this one 48-page Chapter 7 of the 1931 book Yankee Ships in Pirate Waters by Rupert Sargent Holland. 

As I have always intended to do, I finally scanned or used a print shop in Atenas to scan the pages of the stories for me. I now include those pages here. The chapter on The Charles Doggett is titled “Children of the Sun” and was introduced with this summary:  “How the men of the ‘Charles Doggett’ angered a witch-doctor, fought Fiji cannibals, and saved a sister-ship from yellow pirates in the gulf of Tongking.” You can read the stories online here now at Chapter 7: Children of the Sun. A fun read! And just one more bit of valuable information on this website.    🙂

The Header above is the book title page and . . .

Here’s the first page:

Continue reading at Chapter 7: Children of the Sun.

¡Pura Vida!

New Kindle Today & Two Book Reports

That’s my new Kindle Fire HD 8 above beside a real book I’m also reading. It is my second Kindle ever and 1 inch taller which does make the print a little larger and easier to read, but there are some things I don’t like as well as on my old 5-year-old Kindle. First, the cover is simply not as good and does not stand up on my dining table as well as the old one. Inside it is more complicated and confusing to use electronically for this old man – beginning to show my age? But I will get used to it and love it eventually.  🙂

The Strange Juxtaposition of Two Books I’m Reading

DIGITAL ON KINDLE: The Seven Storey Mountain  

Written in 1948, this is the autobiography of a spiritual mentor whose writings I like and who is of the same generation of my parents, Thomas Merton. He describes his “coming of age” as an adult and discovering who he really is from first the adventures of life and then the spiritual dimension of life and at 68% through the book (Kindle tells you that)  he is still struggling with what his vocation will be but even more so with his relationship with God. Been there, done that!  🙂

REAL PAPER BOOK FROM FRIEND: The Gringos Hawk   (not available digitally)

I’m only about a fourth of the way through this hardback book which is also an adult coming of age autobiography of a young man of my generation this time, published in 2001. Not as spiritual as Merton’s, yet more adventurous as American Jon Marañon ends up in southern Costa Rica on the Pacific Coast (where I love traveling) and as a 23 year old buys a tract of land on the coast at a bargain price. Then the problems and adventures begin dealing with government regulations, local farmers, and even a “witch” along with illnesses, injuries, etc. And that is as far as I am in the story now. But it is the kind of thing I too might have done in the 1960’s if I had not been, like Thomas Merton, highly motivated by what I considered a “calling” from God. Young men struggling with who they are!

I will report back when I have finished both bios and how I am relating to them then. It is funny how I identify with both guys of two different generations and two different worlds and somehow ended up reading both stories at the same time.    🙂

The Power and The Glory by Graham Greene

Too Depressing for Me!

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/39214757-the-power-and-the-glory

I read about a third of the book and quit because I found it rather depressing. It is very good writing and descriptions of rural Mexico in the 1940’s, but at my stage of life I do not care to read hopeless, depressing stories of misspent lives and that is how I see the story or life of this outlawed priest. Others will see it as an adventure!

Other Reviews on GoodReads

Available on Amazon

Jungle Camping Tomorrow

Tomorrow (Tuesday) morning early I fly to Puerto Jimenez with a ride into the jungles alongside Corcovado National Park for 4 nights. My most primitive stay in the park yet at Danta Corcovado Lodge.

Corcovado is the largest protected coastal rainforest in Central America
Danta Corcovado Lodge, Costa Rica

My Room is basically a wall tent on platform with mosquito netting on bed.
Danta Corcovado Lodge, Costa Rica

Lobby and Dining Room feature rustic furniture
and I will eat lots of beans & rice, other basic Tico food
Danta Corcovado Lodge, Costa Rica

Hope I get this close to an Anteater! And maybe a Tapir!
Danta Corcovado Lodge, Costa Rica

Night Hike promises frogs, snakes, insects & surprises!
Danta Corcovado Lodge, Costa Rica

It is one of the few places for the endangered Squirrel Monkey
Danta Corcovado Lodge, Costa Rica

My days will be filled with hiking on the lodge trails on my own, and tours with professional guides

for a birding hike, interior of park hike, kayaking a river, a night hike, and possibly a visit to an indigenous people village, panning for gold, or I might even be ziplining above the forest. This could be one of my most adventurous trips since moving here. All of the above photos were copied from the internet, but I hope to return with many more of my own! They are suppose to have wifi in the lobby, but I doubt it will be strong enough for regular nightly posts. We will see! I had scheduled 5 nights, but this afternoon, Monday, Sansa Airlines canceled the Sunday flight, so I now come back Saturday evening. Adventure is good! said Aesop

Read about the place at http://www.dantalodge.com/
-o-

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
-Mark Twain
Retired in Costa Rica
¡Pura Vida!

A Country Adventure in My Front Yard – Calle Nuevo

A pastoral vista like this sometimes requires a trip far away from a busy town, yet I found this one
maybe 500 meters from my house as the crow flies and maybe twice as far walking the streets to this spot.
Calle Nuevo, Atenas Costa Rica

The cow pasture across the street from my house.
A stream runs under that row of trees on opposite side.
On the other side of the stream and to the left is a little known street,
Calle Nuevo, Atenas Costa Rica

First I walk into town on Avenida 8 and turn left on Calle 1
making another left turn at next street, Avenida 10 for 2 blocks
where I walk past our technical high school above.
The pavement stops just past the school  and I’m on a gravel road called
Calle Nuevo, Atenas Costa Rica

It is so cool to suddenly be in the country! Past Roca Verde it becomes a dirt road going on to Rio Grande village.
Calle Nuevo, Atenas Costa Rica

After 200 or 300 meters on a rise you see Roca Verde up ahead, those roofs.
Before I saw this, I saw the pastoral scene photo above, my opening photo.
Calle Nuevo, Atenas Costa Rica

Then down that hill to a bridge behind the Roca Verde duplex facing the pasture.
That house is about one block from my house!
But seen here from behind on
Calle Nuevo, Atenas Costa Rica

The little stream opposite the cow pasture in front of my house.
Which the above bridge crosses over behind the duplex.
Calle Nuevo, Atenas Costa Rica

At the foot of the bridge I snap this shot of the cow pasture in front of my house from the backside.
The duplex and two single family houses are to the right of those shrubs, all facing the cow pasture.
Calle Nuevo, Atenas, Costa Rica
It is fun to discover back roads anywhere and especially when they are this close to where you live! Eventually I will walk the entire road to the village of Rio Grande which is at the intersection of our Radial Atenas (Calle 0) and entrance to Ruta 27, the expressway that comes by Atenas. The day I walked this road (New Years Day) there were other walkers and several bicycles, so it is already a known recreational “greenway” if you please!  🙂  In the mountains or hills of Atenas.
I walked the road up past several Roca Verde houses and noticed at least 3 had back pedestrian gates into this greenway and even met a couple who walked out of one that they are renting for 6 weeks. I got as far as where the gravel turned to dirt and turned around because it was also uphill. But next time I will try to go all the way to Rio Grande and maybe get a taxi back. I like my newly discovered “greenway” which I had heard of earlier, but just now exploring for the first time. 
It is impossible to overestimate the value of wild mountains 
and mountain temples as places for people to grow in, 
recreation grounds for soul and body. 
–JOHN MUIR, US naturalist, 1838—1914

 See the Photo Gallery Walking Calle nueva

Integration – The Path to New Adventures

Since a copy did not work, I am linking to an article by my fellow expats and friends in San Ramon, Costa Rica who do the very helpful monthly newsletter/blog Retire For Less in Costa Rica. It expresses perfectly my philosophy about retiring in a country different from your birth country:


If you are considering a move to Costa Rica or any other country, I hope you will read the above linked article and not plan to just segregate yourself(s) with other foreigners as many Americans do. 
My Conversational English Club at a local high school.
 Atenas, Costa Rica 
I am not the perfect example of integration, but it is my goal and I am trying. Here is some of what I have done since moving to Atenas, Costa Rica 3 years ago: 
  1. Immediately got involved with language/culture studies at the local Su Espacio Spanish Atenas. I highly recommend it to anyone moving here from anywhere in the world! Though I am a slow language learner, they have stuck with me and slowly but surely I am able to “get by in Spanish” most places or have simple conversations, just not fluent yet! As we say in Spanish: “poco a poco” or step by step, or little by little. 
  2. Supplement my class studies of Spanish with two online studies occasionally: Duolingo is a free web-based language school with advertisements to cover the cost. It is very helpful and I highly recommend it. After realizing that Google Translate is not very good with Spanish, I discovered http://www.spanishdict.com/ which not only gives better translations, but has hundreds of articles and lessons on Spanish to help you. PLUS they also have an online course that competes very well with Duolingo as a slightly different approach that will fit some learning styles better, though it is not free! But well worth the moderate price! It is called “Fluencia” and you can get to it and a few free lessons from the dictionary address above. Once you do the free lessons and sign up as a student, you get a different app address. Great help!
  3. Attending church with Spanish music and sermons is a slow way to learn, but a help. The little Bible church I go to some has an English translation on the first Sunday of each month. At first that was all I attended. But now I prefer the other Sundays better and Ticos over expats. 
  4. Seeing a movie in Spanish at the mall theater in Alajuela.
  5. Watching local TV in Spanish of course! 
  6. VOLUNTEERING with local Angel Tree Project, fundraising for two schools, Spelling Bee in high school English classes, and as leader of a high school after school club for conversational English for those going to states as exchange students (above photo). 
  7. Walking everywhere (no car) is one of the best things to get me close to local people, not always communication, but communion, closeness, immersion, integration! And also . . .  
  8. Riding bus anywhere away from Atenas. I have now been on trips all over the country and it is not only getting easier, but I’m traveling like locals travel and feel integrated! 
  9. Traveling all over Costa Rica gives me more opportunities to use Spanish and meet more people and have more adventures and be a part of the broader culture! 
  10. Joining clubs: My first two years I was active in the Costa Rica Birding Club, which is an expat club of mostly rich Americans who drive their big cars all over the country for birds. I’m still a member, but more actively participating online in the local Costa Rican birding organization called Asociacion ornitologica de Costa Rica. I’ve met two local Atenas Tico birders and one has invited me to go hiking with him some weekend! A local expat club takes trips to concerts, museums, etc which has been good, but I’m hoping again to do less with expats and more with locals!
  11. My latest photo book is in Spanish! Plus most of the other books I have tried to give both the English and Spanish names for all the birds. And though my primary blog is still in English because of the audience, I also have a Spanish Blog. 



The deepest of level of communication is not communication, 
but communion. 
It is wordless … beyond speech … beyond concept.” 

¡Pura Vida!