Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Reflecting

It has been seven months since our travels ended.  We are definitely back in the swing of things here at home.  We talk about our trip often nowadays and our memories have sweetened all the hard moments and bumps we experienced along the way.  Harper and Cal still remember a lot and my favorite dinners around our table these days involve a random memory that sparks a list of good times.  Just tonight we looked at the date and realized we landed in Santiago one year ago today and that evoked all kinds of stories...the park at Plaza Peru, our favorite places to eat, the polluted and exhaust-filed tunnel we took into the city that first day, the amazing MIM hands-on science museum, empanadas all the time and of course helado (much better than Penguino!) to wash it down.

Life back in Carbondale is fast-paced and hectic albeit fun.  Although we lost our old dog Sadie just a few months after coming home, we recently adopted a new puppy whom has stolen all our hearts.  We named her Santiago after one of our favorite stops along the trip, and affectionately call her Santi.  She is a good pup so far and her crazy mix of breeds keeps everyone guessing at the dog park.

Harper and Cal have had a great start back in the scheduled and organized life of school.  Kindergarten agrees with Harper quite well and her Spanish occasionally comes in handy even if she won't admit so much.  Her favorite activities at school are digging in the sandbox and drawing.  We have been happy to see that learning to read has come together for her on its own this year as well and now she is trying to read anything she can get her eyes on.  We also really like her teacher Mrs. Salazar and my improved Spanish has helped our relationship grow.  Cal loves Waldkinder preschool and how could he not, especially when so many times in our travels Harper, Danny or myself would exclaim, "Karen would love this!"  All the exploring and random adventures of Waldkinder are a little like a miniature version of our last year- following your curiosities, playing as much as you can and talking together about everything you experience each day.

Danny has jumped back into his position teaching fourth grade, although he gets to see the schooling experience from a different perspective this year with Harper at CRES.  They commute together each morning which is really a special and happy way for both of them to start their days.  Danny and I realized just recently that up until he reaches his technical "retirement" year he will have a child riding bikes with him to school each day.  What a blessing!

I have fallen back into the stay-at-home mom role pretty easily.  Although I loved moving from place to place, eating meals in any and all kinds of situations, or dropping our laundry at the lavadora, I missed our home.  I missed making bread in my kitchen, trading recipes with my friends, picking food from our garden, and cooking with my kids.  I did not miss and still do not enjoy the laundry however, and the lavadora in Canoa looks good to me just about any day of the week.  I have also starting volunteering in Harper's classroom a couple days a week and I've enjoyed being back in a classroom.

The addition of a new brother or sister to our family in early March is the next big adventure the Traveling Stoneleys will embark upon.  Danny and I talked so much about this possibility as we traveled that I feel like this little one was somehow already along for the ride.  He or she will probably tire of our stories and the occasional sit down and rehash of South America traveling through photos and memories, so we are pretty confident another year away is on our horizon sometime. It will have to take a different shape with school-aged kids, but living in a new place for an extended time again has appeal for sure.

We are blessed by so much in our life.  We can see the impact our last year had upon us all and we are grateful to have had so much time together as a family.  Until next time...

Monday, April 30, 2012

As Uncle Eric would say,



“You did it.  You did it.  You finished your travels. You did it.” 


Harper-
"I am a little bummed and a little glad.  I feel good about leaving and I feel bummed about not being here longer.  I am sad because we are at this place that has a beautiful ocean.  There are also 2 kids here to play with, Kalana and Dakota.  I will miss the pool and the ocean and the kids.  The ocean has big waves and I will miss surfing because I just learned this week and I am getting pretty good.  The pool was fun too because I love to swim under the water on the bottom and I learned to dive off the side in the pool here.  I won’t be swimming in Colorado for a while.
I am glad we are done traveling because I can’t wait to see every single friend and cousin and grandma and grandpa and aunt and uncle.  Chicago will be so fun with Caroline and Tallulah.  In Carbondale I want to see Sadie and when I see her I am going to pet her and kiss her and give her love.  I want to sleep in my room again when I get home.
For now I won’t miss traveling.  I’m excited to be done with being so close to my brother.  I kind of liked, but not so much, having to share a room and sometimes a bed! with Cal in some places we visited."

Cal-
"I feel really good going home.  I remember in Quito and Santiago and Berito (we never visited any place named Berito!) we ate good ice cream in South America.  I want to see Emily and Renee again and Caroline and Tallulah.  I am going to miss all the beds I was sleeping in in South America but I think that the bathrooms at home will be the same as the traveling ones (Ha, not all of them!).  I want to play with Caroline’s pink bus and my garbage truck when I am home.  And I like all the standers in South America.  Now mom, that’s all I want to say!"

Angela-
At times this trip felt like we would be traveling forever and now I can’t believe we're done.  We’ve had such a great time all together as a family this year.  I feel like we have grown in ways we might not have at home.  My children have amazed me over and over: speaking Spanish, swimming like fish, making new friends, feeling so comfortable in their interactions with new people, trying new foods, taking care of one another, and learning to roll with all the twists and turns our adventure has presented us.  I am so proud of Harper and Cal and I feel so blessed to have shared this with them.  And as for Danny, there are not words enough to describe how happy and lucky I feel to have had him by my side through out it all.  I can only say that I have the best husband ever!

Danny-
(Oops we missed him on this time at the computer!) 

Headed back to the States

We fly out of San Jose tomorrow morning bright and early for our three-flight journey to Chicago.  Harper and Cal are VERY excited to be nearing our traveling end.  They can’t wait to play with all of Caroline and Tallulah’s toys and Harper is looking forward to a change of outfits (although Kalana just gave her some hand-me-downs that Harper hasn’t taken off since.)   Even still Harper has her fingers crossed that she and Caroline are still the same size!

The final repacking of the backpacks!!! Yahoo!

Pool Party and Ciao to Jaco

We left Jaco on Sunday after celebrating Dakota’s third birthday.  We enjoyed our first kids’ pool-party and Harper and Cal were totally wiped out afterwards.  Harmony and Randall decorated the poolside in pirate theme and Dakota was one happy kid.  It was nice to share with them in all the fun (and especially nice to taste the really cool pirate ship cake!)
Harper and Harmony
Cal, Dakota, and Hunter splashing around.


Fun times with Dakota and Kalana.  We'll miss them!

Surfing in Jaco


Harper rides a wave up to the beach.

Danny and Harper took surf lessons this week.  They had great teachers named Mike and Andrea.  They made surfing really fun for Harper and made sure to build in breaks and snacks for Harper.  She did well for her first time.  With a little help on the timing she was catching little waves and riding them into the shore.  She played around on Kalana’s board later in the week and was able to ride the little ones in.  
Harper and Mike
Break time
During their lesson, Danny and Mike started in the little surf and then went out into the bigger waves by the end.  Danny was catching some waves and also getting rolled around by some, but he was happily exhausted out at the end.  On one crash he got knocked by the board just above his eye and got a nice little shiner.
Danny rides one in.
The ocean was so warm and the surf in Jaco was perfect for us.  We took a trip to a nearby beach on Friday to watch a kids surf competition and the tide and currents there were so much stronger than in Jaco.  I was grateful we were staying on the tranquil side.  Harper swam a little at playa Estillo and I was nervous the whole time about her being washed out in a riptide.
Harper gives Cal a lesson riding the surfboards they drew in the sand.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Quarantined!

After our night of bugbites Harper’s dolls spend a few nights in the freezer, just in case!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Harper is getting OLD!

Her two bottom teeth are getting ready to come out!
"One day I had a wiggly tooth.  My name is Harper."

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Puerto Viejo on the Caribbean side (briefly)


On the road again

We celebrated Earth Day by saying our goodbyes to the Pacific Ocean and saying hello to the Caribbean.  We arrived in the town of Puerto Viejo on Sunday evening after a long day driving from one coast of Costa Rica to the other.  We stayed in a little cabana in the jungle just a few blocks from town.  The weather there was much wetter than we saw in Jaco but the wildlife right outside our door was great.  We watched toucans perched and squawking, iguanas resting and contemplating, and howler monkeys howling and crashing around in the canopy all above our cabin.
On Monday we woke to some seriously loud rainfall.  Our cabana had a tin roof and the rain was falling from the sky in bucketfuls! Since we had yet to stock up at the grocery store, we went out to breakfast at a great little local Caribbean/vegetarian place on the main drag.  A woman named Veronica and a bunch of her family members run the place and she gave us a really sweet welcome to the area.  She made the kids sticky sweet banana pancakes and Danny and I tried her traditional rice and beans breakfast with some corn empanadas and a fried egg.  Yum!  She also shared with us a custard apple and Cal was a big fan.
Custard apple on an ice tree leaf
On Monday we visited the animal rescue center where we spent time with howler monkeys, baby sloths, toucans, deer, hawks, frogs, snakes (there were about 10 yellow eyelash pit vipers in one big open area!), and a small wildcat called a Margay (we witnessed that eating a live mouse.)
Eyelash pit vipers
Baby two-toed sloth (a relative of the anteater and armadillo!)
Tadpoles swimming in their sticky eggs
Poison dart frog
The monkeys were all in a big enclosure and we got to walk among them. They jumped and climbed all over the place and one even climbed up on Danny’s head.  Cal was happy that he got some monkey attention too, when one ran up to him and pushed off his chest as he jumped up on a rope hanging from the top of the enclosure.  It was really neat place and we were happy to hear about all their efforts to reintroduce all the animals to the wild.  Our only complaint was that our guide was bent on giving us every single detail about the dangers of animals in Costa Rica.  It was a little much hearing about each venomous snake encounter she had experienced!
We couldn't take our camera into the enclosure or the monkeys would steal it!  So I took this one of the baby monkey, Jet, with one of the volunteers.  They were headed out to the forest to keep developing his comfort level outside of the rescue facility.
We ended up only staying for two nights in Puerto Viejo because the kids were eaten up by bugs and the weather wasn’t great.  Harper’s right arm made a tasty snack for some little insect creatures the first night and the itching was pretty intense.  They got a bit infected so we had to see a doctor.  Cal also had a weird allergic reaction to some bug bites and his hand swelled up all big.  As a result we decided to hightail it back to the Pacific side.  We didn’t want to end our trip on a down note and since we have friends in Jaco and we know the area it felt like the best spot.
We spent last night driving through the cloud forest of Braulio Carrillo National Park.  It was intense driving in the dark through all the rain and clouds but Danny didn’t flinch.  The kids fell asleep before 8 o'clock so we could concentrate on the road without Cal’s big mouth yacking the whole way!
We arrived in Jaco with two sleeping children and a lot of laundry (just in case any bugs hitched along for the ride!)  We awoke to a clear sunny day here and news that the bloom of algae ended so the ocean is great to swim now!


Saturday, April 21, 2012

Manuel Antonio National Park


On Friday we went to Manuel Antonio National Park.  Although it was way overcrowded with tourists we manged to see some beautiful wildlife.  We saw three-toed sloths, all kinds of iguanas, white-faced capuchin monkeys, a coatimundi (the raccoon, monkey, bear mix mammal we also saw in Uvita), frogs, crabs, and lots of butterflies.

"That frog looks like asparagus!" -Cal

Two of the sloths were up in the trees but one walked across the trail immediately in front of us!  It moved slowly and awkwardly dragging its belly on the ground.  It was reaching out with its long weird arms and folding and unfolding its legs as it went.  It was incredible and amazing to see it so close.  We were also surprised to see that the pattern of the fur on the sloths back looks just like an animal's face.  It has the same shape and coloring, but the stripe is vertical not horizontal, like the sloth's face.
video

See the face?
The monkeys were hanging out in the trees along the beach.  Unfortunately they were close to the tourists and they were snatching food and drinks when given the chance.  One of the monkeys stole a banana and another was drinking from a juice box (which we all hoped it didn't eat and swallow the plastic afterwards.)  It was pretty pathetic to see how many tourists thought it was funny to let the monkeys steal their food so they could snap a picture.


Danny visited this park about 22 years ago and it sure has changed.  In that area before there were no large hotels, no tour guides, no trinket shops all over the place, just beautiful white sand beaches and hiking paths through the jungle to see monkeys, birds, and other animals.  It felt a lot less wild this time around but we were still happy to see the animals we did.


This picture reminds me of (the muppet) Rolf the Dog

Jaco Hike with Randall


Scarlet Macaws - a group of more than 20 birds passed over the coast while we stopped at the lookout on our hike!

Poison dart frog
Wednesday morning Randall took us hiking up a hill on the south side of Jaco to look for wildlife.  We saw scarlet macaws, poison dart frogs, lizards, lots of different little birds and butterflies.  The scarlet macaws were definitely the most impressive.  They fly in pairs back and forth across the coast throughout the day.  We could hear their calls screeching out just before they all came into view at the lookout on the top of the hill.  Their colorful feathers were incredible, like a tie-dye shirt for Mountain Fair!  Randall is a really knowledgeable guide and we learned a lot from him about the animals and plants of the area while we hiked.  It was a nice morning.

Harper spreads the seeds from the balsa tree


Randall taught Harper all about ants- how they work together, the hierarchy in the colony, what happens when one gets lost in the line, all kinds of neat stuff!

Suncatchers


Jaco

Life is good.
We arrived in Jaco last weekend to met up with our old friend Harmony, with whom we used to teach at Carbondale Elementary School a long while back.  She lives in Jaco with her husband, Randall, and two kids, Kalana (8) and Dakota (3).  We’ve had a great time reconnecting with Harmony and getting to know their kids.  Harper adores Kalana and spends most of their time together studying her every move!  Last night Kalana gave Harper some of her old doll clothes and a couple little outfits that she has outgrown and Harper was thrilled.  Cal and Dakota have played together some but due to all the time Cal has spent with Harper this year and Harper's calm nature of play, when met with another three-year old boy’s crazy energy Cal has been kind of shy and uptight.  Cal will have his work cut out for him next year at preschool getting used to playing with kids his own age.

Cal can't get enough of being thrown onto this raft!
We are staying at Harmony and Randall’s condo association and it feels like we are on vacation from our vacation.  Harper and Cal have logged many an hour swimming and Cal was really happy to find that one of the pools is shallow enough for him to stand in.  He has been practicing swimming on his own and he is up to 6 seconds before he needs to put his feet back on the bottom (Harper's been timing him with Danny's watch.)  This summer is going to be a great time at the Carbondale Pool.  Harper is 100% fish.  It is practically impossible to even carry on a conversation with her when she is in the water because she is under so much!
We’ve shared dinners with Harmony and family most nights, twice going out once next grilling fresh-caught tuna for tacos, and another night Harmony spoiled us with homemade lasagna.  Having some other adults to cook and chat with has been fun for me and Danny and the kids have had fun night as well (especially one of the nights when they found a new hatching of baby toads hopping around just outside our front door.  Harper, Cal, Kalana and Dakota spent a while catching and releasing them and squealing with both delight and fear.)
Cal is brave enough to catch toads, too!  Who would have guessed? 
Cal, Harper and Kalana enjoy an ice cream cone.
 We haven’t spent any time in the ocean because earlier in the week there was a big bloom of algae.  The “Red Tide” can cause stomach problems if you ingest any water so we haven’t taken the risk.  Thankfully we got some good wave playing last weekend so the kids are happy as clams to be in the pool.  We’ve walked the shore, collecting shells and playing in the river that empties there, and we’ve watched some incredible sunsets.
Jaco beach- we wish we could swim!

 




Every other country we’ve visited we have taken Cal to a doctor and in Costa Rica we’ve continued the pattern.  Within an hour of arriving to Jaco on Sunday Cal had fallen off a bar stool backwards to bitten open his lip.  It was really swollen and bleeding a lot so Harmony took us to a clinic in town to check if he needed to be stitched up.  Thankfully she felt like it would heal up on its own.  Cal looked pretty beat up the next couple days but it didn’t stop him from swimming in the pool, eating fish tacos, or horsing around on the bar stool again.  He also got the bonus of extra ice cream and smoothies on doctor’s orders.
a fat lip, (but no stitches, phew!)



Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Bienvenidos a Costa Rica

We left Panama on Saturday and took the bus across the border to Costa Rica.  We arrived at a little ecolodge on the ocean in the afternoon and were promptly greeted by a bunch of white-faced capuchin monkeys.  They played in the trees outside our cabin although they moved so quickly I could barely snap a picture.
White-faced capuchin monkeys
One Toucan
Tou Toucans
We spent two nights at this ecolodge hiking the trails, playing in the ocean and swimming in a natural spring.  The food was really good and most of it was grown on their farm.  We had fun each night at dinnertime although our kids were practically falling asleep at the table by the time we wrapped up.  The view from the jungle overlooking the ocean was amazing.  The coastline in Uvita is protected by the Parque Nacional de Ballena, (Whale National Park), and you can see the shape of a whale's tail formed by the sandbars and coral reefs on the north of the beach.  Pods of Humpback whales frequent the area although we weren't there at the right time of year.
The whale's tail formation is hard to see in this photograph, but you can walk all the way out to the end at low tide.
Natural spring called a posa
Getting ready to jump (it was nice and deep!)
The waves and the beach were great.  We visited the town of Uvita on Sunday to hang out at the public beach and Harper was bodysurfing on the mellow waves all morning.  The surf was shallow for a nice long stretch and the current wasn't too strong.  Harper navigated a little Spanglish deal with a boy there and he shared his inflatable whale with her for a bit.  Cal loved jumping in the waves and when the surf got larger he just cracked up as he bounced around and held on to us for balance.
Here is the public beach in Uvita.  You can see la cusinga on the hill opposite.  
Just in front of the lookout area at the lodge we saw toucans and parrots both mornings.  We also heard howler monkeys throughout the day (and intermittently throughout the night!) but we never saw them.  Our first time hearing them we nicknamed them "growler" monkeys because their calls were really loud and kind of scary as we hiked back up the jungle trail from the beach.  Harper and I picked up the pace as they called to each other over our heads.
Another time Harper and I saw these crazy looking animals in the trees and I can't remember their names.  They looked like a mix between a monkey, a bear and a raccoon.  I wish I my camera to get a picture.
Iguana
The coolest leaf-imposter bug ever!
Golden orb spider (the size of my fist)
Hummingbirds are all over this place.
The people working at the lodge were really friendly, especially one guy named Adam.  He is Costa Rican and spoke English very well, but he made sure to chat in Spanish with Harper and Cal each time we saw him.  He gave them all kinds of attention and they were happy to see him at breakfast and dinner.  He also helped us heaps in navigating the bus schedule to Jaco on Sunday and we were very grateful for his advice as we just made it in time!

i heart this photo of Harper
Not a bad spot for a snack