Traveling with Brodie

A few years ago while I was in Grad School, I had the opportunity to travel to Costa Rica and live there for a month during a Primate Behavior and Conservation course, put on by DANTA.  It was one of those things that I asked my parents if I could do it, and I was totally expecting them to say no.  Instead, my dad, The Intrepid Traveler, decided not only to let me go, but since I had never traveled by myself (much less out of the country by myself), he decided to go with me.

The plan was to go down about a week early and do some Site Seeing on our own. Then when it came time for the course, The Intrepid Traveler would go to the airport, and I would meet up with my new classmates. Sounds like a great plan, right? Flawless even? When the Intrepid Traveler is involved, nothing ever goes according to plan, but it is always an adventure!

As much as he travels, you would think he would speak 50 languages and have friends in every village. He would blend in. Disappear. You would never see him again.  But the truth is he could get lost in his own museum (Love you, Dad!).

First of all, we asked AT&T if my phone would work in Costa Rica, and they said yes. It did not. We rented a car rather than get driven around in taxis. This also did not work. We are used to roads in Texas. Where if you miss your exit, you can just take the next one, and turn around. I thought it was that way in all of the US, but apparently not (more on that a different day). But apparently, missing your exit in San Jose is a much bigger deal than we thought. Somehow we managed to always find our destinations, but I think that was mainly the tourism people being used to stupid Americans, and giving really good landmarks as directions.  It also didn’t help that neither of us speak Spanish. Yes, yes I know. We are the stupid Americans that don’t bother to learn other languages and expect everyone to speak English. But Spanish is HARD!  The good thing was though, that we made a great team…more or less. Most everyone we encountered did, in fact, speak English. Of course they had Spanish accents but they were speaking English, so that shouldn’t be a problem, right? Except for my Dad. They would be speaking to him, in English, and he would look at me and asked what they said, because their accents were too thick for him to understand. So I was a great translator! From Broken English to English! I wonder if I could turn that into a career….

Now since this was a few years ago, and all but about 6 of my pictures somehow got corrupted by the time I got back to the US (I’m still upset about that!), I’m a little fuzzy on our adventures. However, I know that Dad and I went to a coffee plantation which was really cool, because we were the only people on the tour and go to look around at everything there. We also stayed at some really cute hotels, ate at great restaurants, and got to go white water rafting.  My favorite city in Coast Rica was La Fortuna.  There is a massive volcano that we could see from our hotel window, and the town had a very relaxed, surfer attitude.  Our first night in Costa Rica, we actually found a restaurant called Tex Mex. We thought that would be a safe bet to ease ourselves into the culture, so we decided to check that out. It turned out that the owner of the restaurant was from Las Vegas, Nevada, and came and sat down with us to tell us the secrets of Costa Rica. Such as, cover your luggage (or anything you have in the back seat/hatch back) with a black blanket so it is less obvious you have anything in there. I remember this vividly, because at our hotel the next morning while eating breakfast, my father asked the boy working there if he could buy the blanket from our room to cover our stuff.  The poor kid. He probably had no idea what my dad was thinking. I’m sure he thought Dad was going to murder someone and wrap them up in the blanket or something. As it turned out, the owner of the hotel wasn’t there at the time to ask, so the boy just said we could have it. I’m sure he didn’t want to upset the homicidal American by telling him he COULDN’T have the blanket. So as a thank you, Dad tipped the kid extra. At least we think we tipped him extra. I never could get that exchange rate right.

Come to think of it, we did see on the news that night a boy who was being publically flogged for giving stuff away at a hotel….I’m sure it was just a coincidence.

Anyway…

White water rafting was a blast. We had never done it before, so we were stoked! After going through a little demonstration with the guides, we headed down the river.  During the calm parts of the river, the guide also served as a naturalist tour guide, teaching us (but mainly me, because I think I’m the only one that cared) about the birds we saw, and he even made a special stop to find a species of bats called Long Nosed Bats, that are known for sleeping under leaves and on crooked tree trunks.

CR - Long-nose Bats

We found them, and I got a great look at them before they flew right over our heads. So cool!

After a week of driving around lost in Costa Rica (and in the rain because apparently it was the monsoon season…oops) it was time to go our separate ways.  Dad was to get to the car rental return and go to the airport, and I was to go to The Hotel Aeropuerto. That morning as we were leaving the hotel to head to the car return I said, “Shouldn’t we get directions?”

Dad’s. Exact. Words. “I’m sure we can find it.” Oh good. Since that’s been the way this WHOLE trip has been going, right?

We were up on a mountain heading into San Jose, and you could see the airport from where we were, so I thought maybe, just maybe, he could get us there. Except that every time we would exit off the highway, or even go straight on the highway, I swear the airport got further and further away. It was like it was in a parallel airport universe.  We ended up pulling over and asking directions a couple of times. When that didn’t work, Dad actually got a guy to drive in front of us and LEAD US TO THE CAR DROP OFF. The whole time I was thinking, he’s going to drive out into the middle of nowhere and demand more money. He’s going to rob us. He’s going to get lost himself, because he doesn’t have permission from the Airport Overlords to enter the parallel universe.  But it worked.  He got us to the drop off.  I couldn’t believe it. I guess all the years of travel have paid off for Dad!

The final challenge was telling my taxi driver where to take me from the drop off.  Dad sometimes speaks really quietly because his ears are a little out-dated and he thinks he’s speaking at a normal volume. He told the driver to take me to the Aeropeurto Hotel, but he said hotel so quietly, I was afraid the driver would take me to The Aeropuerto!  Not the same thing, so I tried to make sure it was HOTEL Aeropuerto, but when I started to say it, the driver just nodded and waved me off. Fingers were definitely crossed as I headed away from Dad, but I ended up at the right place.

So a few things I learned about Costa Rica while I was there:

  • Summer is the rainy season. Don’t go then. Mud slides are a daily occurence, and the mosquitoes get bigger and meaner with every raindrop. They are like Gremlins.
  • Pay very close attention to the road signs. If you miss your exit, just pick a new destination further down the road. It would be easier than trying to turn around.
  • The hearts with halos that you see painted all over the road and intended to remind drivers to be careful – every heart represents a pedestrian that was killed by a car. And only if they died on the scene. If they died in the ambulance on the way to the hospital, they  don’t count. There are halo hearts EVERYWHERE.

I wish I had pictures of this trip. I guess it’s just an excuse to go back. Now that I know what I know, I think it would go much smoother. Maybe I’ll even take my dad again…?

Crab Wars

To take advantage of the wonderful weather we have been having lately, Hubby, me, Bro-In-Law, and Friend Annie went down tot he beach for some fun in the sun.  The beach, however, had different plans.  A few weeks ago the Brazos River over-ran its banks from flooding up-river.  Now, all the junk that was in that river has made it to ocean, and now is washed up on the beach.  I can’t believe I didn’t take a picture of it. It looked like an entire forest was washed up on the beach. There was so much wood, children’s toys, and other debris on the beach, we really couldn’t get to the water. And on top of that, there were storms out in the Gulf so the water was really choppy. Surf-worthy almost. So instead, we found a quiet little inlet to fish.

Nice, calm water

There were soft-shell crabs all over the beach where we were, and they kept stealing our bait off our hooks, but they were entertaining to watch.  Especially, when in my head, their voices all sounded like this guy:

"Your mother is a fraggin aardvark!"

It was difficult to stand in the water though, because every time you stopped moving, they would pinch your feet!

We started catching young Red Drum like crazy, but of course we had to throw them back because they were about 1/4 of the legal size.

First catch of the day!

I was getting a little bored, and was going to reel in my line for the last time and then go walk on the beach, when a crab chased me out of the water. Seriously.  Claws ready to go, running after me like I stole something.  There may or may not have been shrieking involved. When I was finally done running away in fear  acting manly and tossing the crab back into the water with my bare hands, I turned back to my line to reel it in. And it was gone. My line had been cut. By a friggin’ crab. 

Little dude was ready to fight

This means war. 

Anyone have a good recipe for soft-shell? Cuz I’m gunna need one.

How Well He Knows Me

I just have to open up with this: I married a great man. He tends to spoil me, he cooks, and he’s pretty tidy.  But for some reason on Friday, he went over the top, so I have to brag about him for a minute.

On Fridays, Hubby only works half days normally, but last Friday was Good Friday, so he had the day off completely.  He was helping our neighbor plant some trees in his yard, and they were planning on going to lunch in town somewhere. However, Hubby snuck up to my office and lunch with us instead! What a nice surprise! That totally made my day. However, when I got home that afternoon, I had another surprise waiting for me:

Hubby got me a lawn! And not only did he get me a lawn, but IT WAS A FREE LAWN. Boom.

Since he was helping our neighbor plant trees, there was a bunch of left-over dirt from the ground where a tree now stood. So they took the extra dirt to his parents’ house to dump and he had a whole pallet of sod in the yard, left over from a job he did. 

So we were told to water the crap out of it, until the grass learns how to swim or grows roots. Whichever happens first. It’s already starting to turn green, too!

This was a great surprise, considering my yard did look like this:

Best. Husband. Ever.

There Will be Blood

Hubby and I had the great plan this weekend, to go for a long run in a nearby park, then head to Whole Foods and make ourselves sick by eating an entire box of ice cream bars. This is what we looked forward to all week.  But the plan changed after this happened:

I'm suddenly having a flash back to Grandma's driveway, asphalt, and a bar of soap....

 We planned ont he park being ubber full because of Easter, so we parked about a mile away from the park, and decided to run in, around, and back. We were going at a pretty good pace when Hubby asked me if I had remembered to grab something from the house before we headed out, and of course I had forgotten it. So as I closed my eyes in frustration at my goldfish brain, I tripped over an uneven part of the sidewalk.  You can see the scar from my childhood on my left knee. This is not the first time this has happened.  But as an adult I got up and planned on finishing the run. Hubby kept checking on me, making sure I wasn’t just being tough, and I wasn’t bleeding to death. When we got to the park, i had the bright idea to wash my knees off, and that’s when they started to feel a little bit on fire. Crazy on fire. I felt tough though – people would look at my knees as we ran by, and I just kept going. Even with the fall, our first mile was a 10:10!

But of course, now they hurt, and are swollen, and I’m much too old for this. For some reason, my ribs even hurt. Still can’t figure that one out.

Hubby says that since 1 in 3 runners develop an injury while running, he’s safe for now. After our run, we went to Whole Foods, but instead of getting sick on ice cream, we got a giant salad and some other deliciousness for lunch, and sat outside to eat. All the while, my knees look like this. I got a few funny looks, but I’m sure people thought I had just fallen in the parking lot or something, not fallen an hour earlier, and just hadn’t gotten around to doctoring them yet. Meh. How else am I going to test my immune system?

Be careful out there! And watch your step!

Spring Hard: With a Vengence

After my three near-brushes with death on Saturday, we decided to take the boat out for a beautiful day on the lake. It seems my curse has been lifted! We had gorgeous weather all day.

Driving out in the Open, with Trixie along for the ride.

The original plan was to knee-board and tube all day. The water was a little chilly still, so we ended up inflating the giant tube we have, and just hanging out on it all day.

Eating strawberries, enjoying the sun.

It was fantastic. Such a lazy Sunday afternoon. We even got to see not only an adult Bald Eagle fly with a juvenile flying with it, but then the juvenile flew back over past use, and DOVE INTO THE WATER. He came up empty, but it was so cool! Then he went and landed in a nearby tree so we could watch him for a while.

Driving around the lake, we went under a couple bridges and power lines, when I saw a huge nest in a fork of the power line. I thought it was another eagle nest, but it was in fact utilized by a family of Osprey! We killed the engine and heard the Osprey adult quietly chirping, or screeching, or whatever you call a small vocalization from a big bird. We left the area, but when we came back, we came up on the other side of the nest and got to see either the other adult or a juvenile (They were really high up) flapping it’s wings in the nest, while the adult stood by to defend the nest.

The Osprey Family (One of the adults on the line, and either an adult or juvenile in the nest)

Now, the reason this is Spring Hard: With a Vengence, is that after we spent the whole day with the unbelievable appreciation for the fact that we live in a climate where we have the ability to go to the lake in March and April in a swim suit and not freeze to death, we realized how burnt we actually got. Told you Spring was short.

now, Trixie is extremely pale, so she got the worst of it. I, on the other hand, thought I was only tanning because I didn’t get that usual bacon smell and sizzle that comes with burns. Instead I was confortable and cool all day. Much to my surprise, my chest and shoulders are incredibly pink. And itchy. As much as I love her, nature fights dirty. Tiny mosquitoes, terrible roaches, venomous snakes, and even after you beat all of those, she still has the sun to beat you into submission.

She may have won the battle, but I will win the…next battle.

Spring Hard

The best thing about growing up in Southeast Texas is that Summer is never more than a few weeks away.

The worst thing about growing up in Southeast Texas is that Summer is never more than a few weeks away.

 In Southeast Texas there are two main seasons: Summer and Cold. There are small transition periods, I like to call Micro-Seasons. Spring and Fall last about 3 weeks each, and have nights with the temperature falling to the 50s and 60s, while the temperature during the day can vary from 70 to 90 degrees. So these are the times you wear layers because you are guaranteed to be freezing cold and burning hot in the same day.

Cold in Southeast Texas last from about the end of October to beginning of February.  It’s just cold enough to need a thicker jacket than you used in the fall evenings, but still warm enough that I people looked ridiculous when I people bring out the parka.  During Cold, we also have annoying drizzle the entire time, and Cold has its last hoo-raw the first weekend of February, when we get one last hard freeze. We did not get that this year, so the bugs have come out early, and ready for battle. But that’s for later….

Because Spring is such a short micro-season here, Hubby and I like to take advantage of it by being outside as much as possible. We spent Saturday bike riding through the park, and through a fancy neighborhood that advertises “From the $480s to the 1 millions!” While we ride through the neighborhood, we try to figure out if EVERYONE in the neighborhood is a doctor or lawyer, or if they themselves are the single cause for the housing crisis the country saw recently.

Flooded River
The flooded Brazos River. See all those little torrents spinning in the water? That's from the water hitting the submerged TREES as it flows.

When we got home we grilled outside and hung out with the dogs in the back yard. I watched Shiner, my very stupid dog, as he investigated a leaf near the garage door.

Shiner- so stupid, he's happy all the time.

He went to sniff the large leaf (I assumed it was from our neighbor’s maple tree), and when he did the leaf moved. Shiner jumped back, startled.  After that he was eye-balling that leaf for a good ten minutes. We had a good laugh, watching him try to get a better look at it without getting too close, repositioning, laying down to watch it, and I even thought about going to get a camera to document how ridiculous he was being. Then I noticed that the leaf had moved again. And stretched out. And gotten longer. And then I realized that the leaf was a copper head.

My stupid, happy-go-lucky dog, had just saved us from a venomous snake! As soon as we realized that’s what it was, I checked him all over to make sure it hadn’t bit him, and then Hubby did what hubbies do, and dispatched the snake. (As much as I love snakes, neither of us have the proper training to collect and relocate a venomous snake, so that was the safest alternative for everyone).

Then, only a few minutes later, while we were apologizing to Shiner for making fun of him (truth) Hubby pointed behind me. And I saw a G.I.A.N.T. Cockroach behind me on the wall. (I’ll pause so you can screech it horror for the appropriate amount of time).

…..

This has nothing to do with our housekeeping. This has everything to do with the fact that we live about 200 feet from a wooded area.  And, and I’ve already mentioned, it’s Spring.

Luckily, I have Hubby trained. See, I’m not scared of anything. I have a healthy respect for wild animals, but I am not scared of a single creature. Cockroaches however, are trying to take over the planet. They are disgusting, a huge, and CAN PREDICT WHAT YOU ARE GOING TO DO. Seriously. When we moved into this house, there were cockroaches everywhere. The house had been unoccupied for a while, so they had pretty much taken over the back yard and garage. I would try to smash one, AND IT WOULD DODGE ME. A cockroach. How did it know?! These things are smarter than they appear, and they are getting organized. So, back to the training – Hubby used to think I was ridiculous for my hatred of roaches. Not fear, mind you, hatred. And disgust. Now he understands that the cunning organisms are getting smarter. He, however, wields the all powerful…..Chaco Sandal. That sandal should have tally marks on it. It works. Usually. Seriously, I think roaches have perfected Adamantium. Or bionics. Or they are really tiny Terminators from the future. Either way, I swear 10 minutes later the same roach he had smashed was back for revenge. Ok, so it was probably another one, but come on! What are the odds!?

By this time, it was time to go inside. Where there were no tiny vampiric bastards causing anemia to be a common occurence in our neighborhood, and no bionic Super Roaches striking panic in the hearts of….hundreds.