Merry Christmas!

Santa fam

2014 has been “The Year of Sabbatical,” planning for, living, and recovering from Dave’s pastoral sabbatical (this blog, if you care to keep reading, is all about the sabbatical adventure and what God taught us along the way). Dave enjoyed 3 1/2 months off from his job as Associate Pastor at Moraga Valley Presbyterian Church. The first 6 weeks, while the kids were in school, he took a series of short trips – camping with family and friends, school overnight with Quinn, backpacking with his brother, a pastors’ retreat with his covenant pastors, and a fishing trip with a friend.

Within days of the kids’ official start of summer, we were off: two months in Costa Rica! God provided in amazing ways and taught us great lessons about Himself, life, family, friends, creation, recreation, work… Understandably, the kids kept saying the trip was “too long” (a lot of family time without friends) but both have since admitted that the trip has changed them for the better.

We returned one week before the start of the new school year. Corban is 16, a sophomore at Campolindo High School. He has been hitting the gym after school most days and enjoying the beginning of rugby season. Quinn, 10, is in 5th grade at Camino Pablo School. In year two of trumpet he recently declared, “This is my gift!”

The theme for Dave’s sabbatical was “Sabbath, Service, and Sustaining Relationships.” Resting with and enjoying God; serving others; cultivating deep and abiding friendships – we think these are important, necessary, ways to live an intentional and meaningful life, and we pray that you will enjoy each in equal measure in 2015.

What a Gift!

Two months ago today we returned from Costa Rica, weary from travel but thrilled to be back in “our” place – in our home, our neighborhood, our town, nearby our church, thanks be to God. When Quinn learned the significance of this day he threw his arms in the air and shouted, “Hooray!” Yup, home is good.

But so is travel. This trip changed us. A few weeks ago, and coincidentally on the same day, both kids individually confessed that they feel different, more mature, and attributed the change to having lived out of the country for two months. Of course we had hoped this would happen but we wouldn’t have been surprised if it had taken them years to admit it.

The grown-ups have talked a lot about the difference. We are conscious of wanting to go slower, of intentionally driving slower and spending at least a few minutes here and there doing nothing, just being. (Siv cleaned the tortoise cage and spent time watching the tortoise walk around the grass – that’s “nothing” for ya!). We are more conscious than ever of the frenzied pace of Lamorinda life and the struggle of trying to resist being sucked into the whirlwind. We haven’t yet hung a clothesline (we will, eventually), but we’re reading more and watching less TV; we’ve been hiking on our days off and shopping as often as possible at the farmers’ market. We’re attempting to use what we have and not give in to the temptation to buy what we want. Our goal is to prioritize relationships.

A few weeks ago Dave and Siv shared with one of the adult classes at church about the first phrase of the Apostles’ Creed:

I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth.

A simple statement that packs a wallop.

I believe in: We believe in, not about. It’s easy to believe things about God. It’s life-changing to believe in God.

God = Father: God is not an impersonal diety, but Someone with whom we can have a loving relationship. He is our Father. We are His children. With Jesus we pray, “Our Father…”

God = Almighty: Our loving Father knows the number of hairs on our heads. He is all-powerful and nothing happens without His knowledge. We may not always understand Him, but we can trust Him.

God = Source of Everything: As the Creator, it’s all His. He’s put His “maker’s mark” everywhere and we can get a good sense of His character as we stop to notice this great big gorgeous world.

As a family, we talked about our trip to Costa Rica as a “God Treasure Hunt.” We went looking for God in His creation, in the opportunities He presented, with people who served in His name; it wasn’t just a long vacation but an opportunity to seek God in new ways in a new place.

As we prepared for the talk we gave that morning, three phrases bounced around in Siv’s mind:

The glory of God is the human being fully alive. –Irenaus of Lyon

The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. –Westminster Shorter Catechism

Pura Vida – Costa Rica’s unofficial motto

In Costa Rica we experienced a heightened sense of reality, of life, because we received it as a gift direct from God’s hands, and a gift in which we expected that He wanted to show up and show us new things.

The challenge now is to come back to “normal” life and to receive each day as that gift, to always be looking for God, to honor the Father-child relationship He wants to have with us, the Almighty power He holds and displays, and to be good stewards of His creation. To God be the glory, great things He has done!

Bienvenidos (“Welcome”) – Aug 18

Two months ago today we landed in Costa Rica. We returned home this weekend after a major airport itinerary revision that took us through El Salvador instead of Texas. We are slowly unpacking, grocery and school supply shopping, and beginning to reconnect with friends. Truthfully, we are feeling a little overwhelmed. As we drive around Lamorinda, Quinn sighs, “I love this view… this road… these trees…” We are happy to be home, but continuing to process the adventure we shared.

For the last Sunday of this sabbatical, we chose to attend another local church. We walked in just as the pastor explained that we would be singing in Spanish. God has a sense of humor! All summer in a Spanish-speaking country, we worshiped in English; now at home, we worshiped in Spanish. Not only that, but the sermon was delivered by the pastor of a church in the Dominican Republic entirely in Spanish!

The sermon was on John 5:1-15, Jesus healing the paralyzed man at the pool of Bethesda. His points: Jesus comes close to us; He sees in us beloved children created in His image; He desires to heal us body and soul, and heals us in order to send us out: “Get up, pick up your mat, and walk!”

The Sunday before we left for CR, we attended a local church where we prayed in Spanish. The Sunday after we returned, the majority of the service was in Spanish. In worship, God book-ended our trip with reminders that He is God of the whole world. It’s like He wanted to say to us: “I heard your prayers, and I provided this trip as a gift for you. I have done things for you that you don’t fully understand yet. I am at work, healing you so that you can do great things in my name. Get up and go!”

Jesus Calling for Aug 14 (our coming-home travel day) says:

“This world is constantly changing- time passes, seasons change, people change… But I never change. I am always the same – yesterday, today, and forever. Because I never change, you can always count on Me. You never have to be afraid, because I am always with you and I never change.”

Dave is back to work. The kids start school in a week. Summer is ending, fall is beginning, and things are changing. But God remains the same, our Solid Rock. We’ve had a tremendous adventure this summer; who knows what adventures God has yet in store for us? Thank God we can trust Him!

 

Pura Vida – Aug 14

How was your summer?

Oh, how to answer that question…? In many ways this summer has been like others:

  • We’ve shopped, cooked, and cleaned
  • We’ve done laundry
  • We’ve paid bills
  • We’ve played with the dog
  • We’ve read, relaxed, and rested
  • We’ve taken day trips and road trips
  • We’ve been to the beach and the mountains
  • We’ve had good days and bad days, boring days and exciting days
  • We’ve laughed together and gotten on each other’s last nerve
  • We have lived out our particular personalities – needs and wants, insecurities and strengths – as well as our particular pattern of family dynamics.

The difference? We’ve done all these things while living in a foreign country, facing the challenges of an unfamiliar language and culture.

Tsh Oxenreider writes: “[Travel] strengthens our family bond. Together, we smell smells and see sights collectively that no one else will at that exact moment… When we travel, no matter how near or far, we share moments that shape our family culture. Each exploration, to the next town over or the next flight out of the country, is one more chisel notch in our family’s sculpture.”

Almost three years ago our family participated in an MVPC mission trip to the Dominican Republic. That trip changed us, and we believe it set the precedent for this trip. We saw God at work in the world, in our family, in our lives.

We came to Costa Rica for two months of Dave’s pastoral sabbatical. It has been amazing, long and short, hot and wet, frustrating, lonely, beautiful, intense, interesting, educational, challenging, restful… And we almost can’t believe this adventure is coming to an end. We fly home this evening.

Culture shock hit us harder than we expected, but we’ve been here long enough to adjust, to learn, to grow, to become comfortable. Embarking on this “God Treasure Hunt” we knew we’d find God in the beauty of His creation, and we have. We knew we would go places and meet people and see God at work – in people caring for creation, in ministries caring for God’s children. We expected to see God at work “in the world” but forgot to expect that God would also desire to work in us. Travel has given us an opportunity as a family to limit distractions and share experiences and conversations about important matters: how we live and how we want to live as people faithful to God and making a difference in the world in His name.

Pura Vida (“pure life”) is CR’s unofficial motto. It’s similar to Aloha – “welcome,” and “until we meet again,” and “all is well and all will be well.” Last night we read in Jesus Calling:

I came to give life – life in all its fullness. John 10:10

“Life is my gift to you – enjoy it! I want every day to be a delight as you live in My Presence and discover My blessings. Choose to enjoy life, and let the world see Me through your Joy!”

We expect to face more culture shock as we return home and see our lives with fresh eyes. It would be all too easy to simply worm ourselves back into the familiar, but we also know that this trip has changed us even though we don’t fully recognize how. We look forward to unwrapping the gifts God has tucked away in our minds and hearts along the journey.

By the way, here’s a short list of what we didn’t do this summer: we didn’t ride horses on the beach or to waterfalls; we didn’t go sport fishing; we didn’t learn to surf; we did not get fabulously tan; we didn’t spend hours (or days or weeks) swinging in beach-side hammocks. And though our Spanish skills have improved, we’ve acquired a nice vocabulary of animal names not likely to come up in everyday conversation (unless you’re anxious to discuss monkeys, snakes, or birds!). We had to leave a few things for the next adventure, right?

Thanks once again to The MVPC Foundation for their generous support of God’s work in our lives and in the world through this Costa Rica sabbatical adventure!

 

Costa Rica Travel Tips & Ricketts’ Best of – Aug 13

Some things we’ve learned about traveling in CR:

Packing –

  • Pack light, quick-dry layers, including long sleeves and pants (good for keeping sun/bugs off), more than you think you’ll need – you will get wet and things don’t dry quickly in the jungle.
  • Bug spray might be more important than sunscreen.
  • Keep a light rain jacket, pack towel, handi-wipes, and water with you at all times.

Driving –

  • GPS = essential! Many roads are unnamed, unmarked, and/or unpaved, there are NO street addresses (everything is relative to a locally-known landmark), and Ticos are notorious for bad directions.
  • Drive defensively. The rules of the road are merely suggestions.
  • Keep cash/change in the car for toll roads.
  • All gas stations are full service.

Food –

  • White rice and black beans (sometimes red) are served breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
  • Comida Tipica is a lunchtime “plate of the day” consisting of rice, beans, veggies (often a picadillo of a variety of potatoes, onions, squash), a protein, and sweet plantains.
  • Roadside fruit and veggie stands or farmers’ markets are the best places to shop for food. Grocery stores are expensive.

Miscellaneous –

  • Now and then, hiring a hiking or fishing guide will be a good investment.
  • Most Ticos are generously kind!

 

Sabbatical4Ricketts Best Of list (in no particular order):

  • Excursion: Puerto Viejo de Talamanca
  • Accommodations (besides our “home” in Escazu): La Ceiba
  • Beach for collecting shells: Tamarindo
  • Beach for long walks: Uvita (Whale’s Tail) and Matapalo
  • National Park hike: Carara
  • Road trip pit stop: Rio Tarcoles Bridge and the frutera
  • Adventure experience: Snorkeling/Scuba Diving Cano Island (and the boat trip both ways)
  • Spontaneous family fun: creek walk/swim to the waterfall near Matapalo
  • Cultural experience: A day with the BriBri people in Yorkin
  • Animal interactions: Proyecto Asis
  • Animal rehabilitation: Jaguar Rescue Center
  • Reptile park: Parque Reptilandia
  • Spot to see snakes in the wild: Sierpe River area
  • Restaurant: Amimodo (best pizza we’ve had in CR + the coconut shrimp and tropical ravioli were out of this world!)
  • Drink: Mint Lemonade at Cafe Milagro
  • Snack food: Chile-Limon Plantain Chips
  • Chocolate: Bananas dipped in freshly made chocolate syrup in Yorkin
  • Spot to meet/interact with others: ASVO (Playa Matapalo turtle project)
  • Souvenir shopping: Mercado de Artesanias

 

For our last full day in CR we returned to Parque Nacional Braulio Carrillo, the site of our first CR hike. Last time it was pouring down rain and, fortunately, this time the rain held off until we completed our hike. It was interesting to note that the sights and sounds that seemed so Jurassic Park when we first got here now seem “normal,” though still beautiful.

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And another gift: the boys had lost their third soccer ball in the bushes (the dog bit the other two) and we weren’t going to buy another. Hooray, the gardener found it for them this morning, so they had one last game!

IMG_2941 IMG_2942

All God’s Creatures – Aug 12

Last night we heard a new noise, something like sprinklers, except the garden doesn’t have sprinklers. Upon investigation we discovered a moth as large as a hummingbird flitting around the kitchen ceiling light. Beautiful!

IMG_2851 IMG_2852

This morning, Dave spotted a pair of blue-crowned motmots in the backyard. We are so enamored of CR’s “common” creatures.

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We spent this morning at Roblealto Child Care Association, a Christian non-profit working for the welfare of high-risk children. Founded in 1932, they currently serve 700 children through a Bible home (residential care), three (soon to be four) child care centers, and a home for adolescents. In addition to providing care for children they also work with parents, providing parenting workshops, social services, and discipleship opportunities. We were impressed with Roblealto’s longevity as a ministry and with their commitment to the health of the whole family and desire to reunite families whenever possible. We were happy to leave with them a large suitcase of clothing, shoe, and toy donations.

A unique aspect to this ministry: Roblealto has an adjacent large farm with cows and chickens that provides milk, cheese, eggs, and chicken meat to the Bible home/school but is also for sale to the community and beyond; farm proceeds help to pay Roblealto staff salaries.

Roblealto will have 9 homes, but currently has 7 occupied homes with 10 children in each

Roblealto will have 9 homes, but currently has 7 occupied homes with 10 children in each

Doing puzzles with Brandon

Doing puzzles with Brandon

An average bedroom

A bedroom in the preschool home

The dining room of the newly renovated Arco Iris home

The dining room of the newly renovated Arco Iris home

The on-site school serves the students who live at Roblealto + about 100 students from the local community

The on-site school serves the students who live at Roblealto + about 100 students from the local community

The dining room - great food! All school kids eat lunch together

The dining room serves great food! All school kids eat lunch together

Making friends with Rashid

Making friends with Rashid

The volunteer team house sleeps up to 20

The volunteer team house sleeps up to 20

Clouds & Quetzals – Aug 11

After a long car day on Friday we flopped over the weekend, lots of reading and playing and Netflix. Oh, and we began the packing process (hard to believe it’s here – this two-month adventure is coming to an end…). We attended church Sunday evening; Pastor David preached the story of Gideon (Judges 6-9) with the encouragement that God is with us, a timely reminder as we fly home in a few days and assimilate back into our life. It has been a tremendous blessing to find an English-speaking church, close to “home,” where we have felt welcome and comfortable and worshiped with fellow believers – another gift from God.

Deck view - good for coffee, reading, birding, and watching kids play

Deck view – good for coffee, reading, birding, and watching kids play

Today we drove 2.5hrs to Monteverde, a cloud forest reserve. For the last 45mins we were on the worst road we’ve seen in CR, and that’s really saying something. But the drive was almost instantly worth it – the views from the mountaintop looked all the way out to the Pacific Ocean. Even better, we had walked only a few minutes when Siv said aloud, “Let’s find a quetzal,” and there it was!

Check out that tail feather!

Check out that tail feather!

We fell in step with a newlywed couple and they paid us a generous compliment by saying that we make good tour guides. We have learned a few things on this trip! They showed us a tarantula snugly tucked away in a crevice of a rock wall (how they found it…?) and together we saw some Capuchin monkeys playing in the trees.

The challenge of this hike: watching the rocks/mud at our feet while also watching the trees

The challenge of this hike: watching the rocks/mud at our feet while also watching the trees

Hiking through clouds

Hiking through clouds

So nice of this hummer to pose for us

So nice of this hummer to pose for us

A suspension bridge

A suspension bridge

On our way back down the mountain we saw a fellow hiker gazing up into the trees – he’d spotted a juvenile quetzal. We thought we wouldn’t see one, and now we’ve seen two. Woo hoo!

Juvenile quetzal (no tail feather)

Juvenile quetzal (no tail feather)

The am view was better than the pm view, but still...

The am view was better than the pm view, but still…

La Montana Christian Camp – Aug 9

ADVENTURES THAT IMPACT YOUR LIFE.

That’s the motto of La Montana Christian Camp (and a motto we’re surely living out this summer). The camp is associated with Hume Lake and runs a Hume-style program. Their passion is to minister to 12-18 year olds and see them come to Christ, and to accomplish their goal they run 100 camps each year (52 weeks/year = A LOT of camps!). Their primary audiences are divided between private school kids and church groups. In CR, anyone who can afford to sends their kids to private schools; schools send kids during the week to receive a great outdoor-education/super-fun/lots of sports/(&-oh-yeah-it’s-a-) Christian-environment experience. Church groups attend on the weekends.

We drove 2+ hours today to visit La Montana. We met Morris, camp director, and Luis, volunteer coordinator; Luis gave us a tour, including a delicious lunch. The camp was the vision of an American couple who spent 52 years serving the Lord in Costa Rica. The camp itself has been in operation since 2001 and is a beautiful retreat spot. Although their heartbeat is for teenagers, they are beginning to recognize that a 3-to-4-day camp is a drop in the bucket if they send kids home to families who don’t know Christ. As a result they are beginning to expand their ministry to include family camps as well, and they have plans to expand their building facilities to make that an even more appealing option (they already have the land).

The camp has pretty much everything a kid could want: a soccer field, volleyball courts, rollerskating, a gym complete with rock-climbing wall, archery, lakes, mountain boarding – FUN!

All four Ricketts enjoyed seeing this camp, hearing their heart for Christ and for teens, and watching as a few of their anticipated 300 campers arrived for the weekend.

Dave, Morris, and Luis

Dave, Morris, and Luis

The Chapel

The Chapel

The lake, complete with water slide, bike ramp, swing, and BLOB!

The lake, complete with water slide, bike ramp, swing, and BLOB!

The Fireside

The Fireside Amphitheatre

The cafeteria deck

The cafeteria deck

A river, volleyball area, and field, all below a small lake

A river, volleyball area, and field, all below a small lake

We had hoped to combine our camp visit with a cloud forest hike. That plan got thoroughly thwarted: a late start, inexact directions, a long opposite-direction detour to get gas at the only gas station anywhere around, pouring-down rain (of course!), and a washed-out road. Combined with atrocious traffic on the way home, today’s journey was almost nine hours long for a one-hour camp visit – not one of our better car-to-activity ratio days. Truth be told, some attitudes got bruised along the way as well. Thankfully we have a comfortable “home” to return to this evening.

Shifting Focus – Aug 7

It took about two weeks for the adults to fully unwind, to stop thinking/dreaming about work, home, etc. And on Aug. 1, with exactly two weeks left in CR, we allowed ourselves to begin thinking about home again.

Things we’re looking forward to (in no particular order):

  • Our home – our beds, couches, cooking in our own kitchen, the view from our windows
  • Our pets
  • Friends
  • Fishing, biking, basketball, and other pastimes
  • Longer days (light past 6pm)
  • MVPC
  • Work and School (yes, the kids admitted to missing school!)
  • A regular routine
  • Football games
  • The ability to communicate easily
  • A sense of belonging/not being a foreigner
  • Our familiar Lamorinda community
  • Trader Joe’s
  • Corban’s guys’ Bible study
  • Small group
  • No bitey bugs
  • Flushing TP

Things we will miss from our summer in CR:

  • The beauty and comfort of this summer “home”
  • The back deck – a great spot for morning coffee, reading, and enjoying the view day or night
  • Mild weather in the Central Highlands
  • “Our” dog, Chris
  • Playing soccer and Frisbee in the big backyard
  • Extended family time
  • Every imaginable shade of green
  • Extreme biodiversity
  • The rainforest jungle
  • The sounds of geckos, cicadas, and howler monkeys
  • The rainforest version of “Where’s Waldo?”
  • So many animals! – reptiles, fly catchers (birds), geckos…
  • Unexpected adventures
  • Ridiculous family jokes
  • Fireflies
  • Lightning and thunder
  • Time to read and write
  • The warm ocean
  • Learning, without even trying, all the time – Spanish, biology, culture, etc.
  • Watching “new” movies together
  • No distractions
  • The phrase con mucho gusto (“with pleasure!”)
  • Family game time – Monopoly, Uno, Spot It
  • Our CR church, Escazu Christian Fellowship
  • Road trips
  • The gift of beautiful people
  • Farmers’ Market & pupusas
  • Trying new fruits & veggies
  • Standing out (“Gringos”)
  • Random fireworks
  • A whole culture that understands pura vida (“relax and enjoy the journey!”)
  • This edition of our “God Treasure Hunt” (because we know the treasure hunt will never end, though this edition will)

Today marks exactly one week until we are on an airplane bound for SFO. But meanwhile, we are more committed than ever to enjoying every last minute. We spent the day at La Paz Waterfalls, a really wonderful spot we enjoyed during our first week in CR. La Paz makes for a great day trip, but if you know anyone planning a honeymoon or romantic getaway, the Peace Lodge is worth serious consideration!

One of several waterfalls

One of several waterfalls

We <3 toucans!

We ❤ toucans!

Trout fishing

Trout fishing

In the butterfly house

In the butterfly house

 

Lemons & Lemonade – Aug 2-5

It never occurred to us that we might not see turtles at the turtle project.

When Corban was in CR two years ago he saw turtles laying eggs and babies hatching  (eggs require an approximate two-month incubation). He was on the Atlantic side with Leatherback Turtles and we were on the Pacific side with Olive-Ridley Turtles, but still…

Sadly, the only turtle we saw during our three days at the beach was dead, washed up on the shore entangled in a fishing net. We had only just arrived, were engaged in our orientation with project leader Gabriel, in the midst of what would be a five-hour pounding rain storm (just when you think the rain has to stop soon, it rains harder!), and this was our first (and only) turtle.

Hey, guess what? It took us some processing to recognize the hard-yet-obvious truth: the turtles are a threatened-endangered species, hence the hard-working presence of turtle projects up and down both coasts! Of the five sea turtle species, the Olive-Ridleys are “vulnerable,” two others are “endangered,” and the remaining two are “critically endangered.”

We volunteered with ASVO, a non-governmental, non-profit conservation organization. In addition to turtle conservation, they supplement CR’s fire fighters and national park rangers. If you are an older teen or 20-something interested in animals/conservation, this would be an interesting place to spend the summer. They attract volunteers from all over the world; we met people from England, Ireland, Germany, Spain, Kenya, Canada, and of course, the US.

As with several of our other excursions, little about this trip met our expectations. The “charming” hotel was seriously bare bones – no towels, no air conditioning or hot water, broken fixtures, septic tank smell in the bathroom and water… We had to remind ourselves that Playa Matapalo is one of CR’s poorest communities (a few years ago the government razed all the homes within a certain distance of the ocean if families couldn’t pay a fee – understandably, this devastated the local economy) and the hotel owners were doing their best. ASVO had a few larger groups volunteering, so sometimes we felt more in the way than helpful. It wasn’t until our last morning, after we’d gotten to know better some of the staff and volunteers and “knew the ropes” so to speak, that we finally felt comfortable. This trip presented yet one more opportunity to face our own selfishness and the world’s brokenness and figure out how to “make lemonade from lemons” as we live as God’s people.

Humans pose the biggest threat to sea turtles. Pollution (mostly plastics), oil spills, fishing nets, climate change, and perhaps worse yet, poaching for eggs/turtles (soup? ugh!)/shells, human activity has significantly altered turtle populations. Some of it seems so simple to us – put your trash where it belongs, recycle, purchase less plastic, etc – and yet CR is really only beginning to understand what Californians have come to expect as “normal” practice. We are grateful for the CR National Park system and protected wildlife zones as well as groups like ASVO helping to promote environmental awareness. Two Canadian volunteers spending the summer with ASVO are working with the local primary schools (remember, it’s winter in CR and school is in session) to incorporate environmental education into the curriculum: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, people!

Green waves? We can do better...

Green waves? We can do better…

But as we learned, it’s complicated. ASVO knows who the poachers are, and also knows that these families have been poaching for generations – it’s their way of life and their primary source of income to support their families. We were impressed with the grace ASVO demonstrates – they work against the activity of poaching while showing compassion to those who poach.

Turtle volunteer work takes two primary forms: night beach patrols and hatchery shifts. During beach patrols, volunteers walk 6-12km in the dark (no flashlights, even on red light) looking for turtle tracks and, better yet, turtles. They patrol from dusk to dawn so many hours on either side of high tide, at least four patrols per night. Dave loved patrol and did three shifts; the rest of us did one shift each. Patrol leaders walk the beach regularly so it’s no big deal to them to speed walk in the pitch dark, but it’s a little more work and a lot more intimidating for newbies. One highlight for Dave: he noticed that on each patrol people opened up to him as “pastor” and he was able to have good, honest conversations addressing people’s questions and hearing their stories.

If only we could see in the dark

If only we could see in the dark

During hatchery shifts, volunteers walk around the perimeter of the hatchery, set up as two grids with rows/columns, every 15 minutes to be sure no crabs or other predators have gotten in and to see if the nests have had any change. Siv and Corban had a 3-6am shift and the worst part was getting up at 2:30am; the rest went fast, and we enjoyed watching the stars and then the sun rise; Quinn also enjoyed hatchery, especially as we all felt like, in the hatchery, we were able to genuinely contribute to the cause. In addition, we also planted an herb garden to support the organization and Dave participated in trash pickup along the main road into the community.

View of the Hatchery from the beach

View of the hatchery from the beach

We love the creativity of this garden - bamboo lashed together with "planters" cut into it, and the tops of plastic soda bottles as "pots." We planted basil, cilantro, parsley, and a "mystery seed."

We love the creative re-purposing involved in this garden – bamboo lashed together with “planters” cut into it, and the tops of plastic soda bottles as “pots.” We planted basil, cilantro, parsley, and a “mystery seed.” Bottles drain onto the ground where they plan to plant watermelon.

When we weren’t working we walked on long beaches, both in Matapalo and Uvita. We went to Parque Nacional Marino Ballena, a marine sanctuary with a unique feature: during low tide you can walk either from Uvita (to the south) or Dominical (to the north) to an exposed “island” between them. Fortunately, we also had beautiful weather for beach walking! We had a great lunch in Dominical and very briefly explored the small town. We swam in the small hotel pool. We read, napped, and played games. And we took our reptile-lovers to Parque Reptilandia, a really nicely done “zoo” devoted entirely to reptiles. We hung out with other volunteers and met some wildlife. We “worked” hard at having fun to counter some of the hard work involved with this excursion.

Standing at the Whale's Tale

Standing at the Whale’s Tale

View towards Uvita

View towards Uvita

Snail art

Snail art

Yummy lunch

Yummy lunch

A black water monitor at Parque Reptilandia showed off for us - took a swim around his pool and then posed

A black water monitor at Parque Reptilandia showed off for us – took a swim around his pool and then posed

A sweet and gentle guy, Frijolito nuzzled Quinn's cheek

A sweet and gentle guy, Frijolito nuzzled Quinn’s cheek

Frijolito ("Little Bean") is a young 3-toed sloth being cared for by a local woman; she spent 6 months training at the Sloth Sanctuary

Frijolito (“Little Bean”) is a young 3-toed sloth being cared for by a local woman; she spent 6 months training at the Sloth Sanctuary

We made reservations to spend our “travel” day horseback riding to a local waterfall before heading “home,” something we were all looking forward to. Unfortunately, Quinn came down with a fever and we had to cancel. He was feeling better but not 100% in the morning, so we went for a nice creek walk to a much smaller but also closer waterfall. Very beautiful and refreshing, and a nice way to have some spontaneous family fun on our way “home.” We stopped for lunch in Quepos at a sweet little coffee house/restaurant and the kids had the best lemonade any of us have ever tasted – blended with ice and mint, it’s a funny green color but tastes fabulous!

We had the river and waterfall all to ourselves

We had the river and waterfall all to ourselves

Family waterfall selfie

Family waterfall selfie

We made one last stop at Rio Tarcoles Bridge to see the crocodiles and buy our favorite chile-lime plantain chips and were graced by three pairs of scarlet macaws flying overhead, including one pair that tipped their wings so we could see not just their gorgeous red wings/body but also their royal blue and yellow wing tops. It’s incredible to experience animals we think of as “zoo creatures” soaring in the wild!

Rio Tarcoles Bridge

Rio Tarcoles Bridge

Boys counted at least 42 crocs!

Boys counted at least 42 crocs!

We have stopped at this "Frutera" so often they recognize us

We have stopped at this “Frutera” so often they recognize us

By the way, the MVPC Foundation generously provided the funds for us to volunteer with ASVO and we continue to be grateful for their support of our adventures!