Last week, we had the Ocean Healing Group stay at Shaka. They are a non-profit group that helps to provide surf vacations for disabled individuals. 3 surfers + 20 family members/volunteers and camp was jam-packed!

This was my first OHG camp, but it certainly will not be my last. There were moments when I was overwhelmed by the sensitivity and selflessness expressed by these humans. The parents in particular. I watched as mother’s gripped one another’s hands and passed knowing looks of concern. For some it was more of a challenge than others. 🙂 It was all beautiful.

I am so grateful to have come in contact with Joe, Jake, Douglas and their families. They are each at different stages of, Ataxia telangiectasia (A-T), a hereditary disease that causes severe disability. It was interesting to hear about their day-to-day lives and even more than the struggles, the things that make them absolutely human. Joe has a fabulous sense of humor and had everyone in stitches often! Jake enjoys video games and will talk to anyone about anything. Douglas has looked fear in the eye and conquered it; I loved watching his face light up at 30m in the air on the zip line! I hope to stay in touch with them and visit another camp at Shaka

If you would like more information about Ocean Healing Group, please see http://www.oceanhealinggroup.org/ or find them on Facebook!

Ooooooh Puuuuura. VI-DA.!

Aha… so This is Pura Vida.

Three weeks ago, I made the decision to quit my job (and essentially my life) in the United States. I bought a backpack and a plane ticket to San Jose, Costa Rica. I made a deal with a beach retreat on the west coast of Costa Rica to exchange work for room and board. I made the plan to stay for about one month and figure the rest out later.

From nearly the moment I stepped off the plane, I began hearing “Pura Vida!” Though the translation is simple, “pure life”, the conceptual meaning can get quite complex. Ask a Tico (how the locals in Costa Rica refer to themselves) and they’ll give you one answer. Ask a visitor from a foreign nation and you might get an entirely different response!

Living the pure life for one person means living a simple, sustainable lifestyle: leaving no trace, being kind to the planet and other beings, promoting peace. Another individual defines the pure life as relaxed, no frills, taking it easy. Ask a surfer about pura vida and he’ll probably tell you life is like the ocean: calm and smooth one day, rough and tumble the next. Pura vida is about taking each wave as it comes, being patient enough to wait for the best ones and not wasting your energy on the ones that break too quickly. Such is life… with its ups and downs.

For me, I think as I continue this experience in paradise, my definition will change more than a few times. Simplicity always seems like a distant dream for me. I get caught up in the moment, inviting my brain into places it doesn’t belong. As an athlete (I play roller derby), I can’t tell you how many times my brain has given up when my body has lots of life left in it. Or in my jobs when I’ve gotten caught up in disappointment or mistakes and it kills my whole day. I’m sure you can relate.

On a more physical side, I have so. much. stuff. Things I hardly or never use, cluttering up my space. I have such a hard time leaving things behind, or even getting rid of them each time I move. Living out of a backpack makes it easy not to accumulate much more than memories. I hope to take that mentality home with me.

One of the benefits of my job here is access to yoga and surfing lessons. Yoga has been a dear friend of mine for years. I’ve turned to my mat in times of sorrow, anger, happiness and stress. I become uncomfortable in the mundane, bitter when life becomes too consistent. Yoga is a constant in my life when I’ve allowed so few other things to be permanent. As I move deeper into my practice, connecting my mind and body to the nature that surrounds me, I am grateful. I know it won’t last forever and eventually I’ll have to go back home and pick up where I left off. For now though, I can breathe. And it feels so good. As for surfing, to be continued…

“Here we are, in the present tense of a future memory.” – Dave Matthews


Where the yoga happens

Where the yoga happens

This is the hangout spot at Shaka

This is the hangout spot at Shaka

Entrance to one of the cabinas here at Shaka

Entrance to one of the cabinas here at Shaka

How laundry is done

How laundry is done

This is the door I am currently working on sanding and varnishing. It is extremely therapeutic!

This is the door I am currently working on sanding and varnishing. It is extremely therapeutic!

Pura Vida?

Hola! I’ve finally arrived at Shaka Beach Retreat. The trip here was long and relatively painless. I left Hinton around 10:30 am, dad gave me a lift to Omaha to catch my 1:20pm flight. It was a quick ride to Denver and we made it right on time.

I took the Sky Ride to Northglenn and made myself at home at my brother’s house there. Since I hadn’t had the foresight to hang on to some cash earlier in the week, I walked down to the credit union to make a withdrawal. Since it was after 5pm, I had to use the ATM. I realized much later that I had left my debit card in the machine! Ooops. Gave the Credit Union a call to cancel the card and have another one sent. Fortunately I was able to work a deal out with my family and get some cash to tide me over. I will have to have the card forwarded to me since I haven’t been able to reach the bank to have it expedited here.

I spent the evening with my family, had dinner at a cozy new restaurant in Boulder called Bru. It’s got a great concept, the chef has reused or refurbished all of the furniture, appliances, etc. and the food was fantastic. The service was extremely slow, but I still enjoyed the atmosphere enough to say I would return.

Katie brought me back to Denver to catch my red-eye flight to San Jose, Costa Rica. I made it just on time and boarded the plane quickly. To say the ride was uncomfortable would be an understatement. I sat in the row ahead of the exit row so the seats would not recline. I watched enviously as the girl in the row behind me sprawled out across 3 seats and sawed logs the whole trip! Thank goodness for some flexibility, I contorted myself into about 5 different positions throughout the night, but sleep never really came.

We arrived promptly at 5am local time (we are on the Mountain Time Zone here) and I realized catching the 6am bus to Santa Teresa probably wouldn’t happen. I milled around a while before catching a cab into San Jose to the bus station. I had intended to do a little exploring, but another cabby warned me that the area surrounding the station is not particularly safe for tourists. He sneaked me the wi-fi password though so I wouldn’t be totally bored during my 6 hour wait.

I heeded his warning for the most part and waited at the station most of the day. I got restless and took a few walks just around the block. My last walk was put to a halt when an elderly man who had earlier tried to sell me $1 knock off CDs approached me with a hug and multiple cheek kisses. He got a bit carried away and I panicked a little when he tried to turn my face several times and plant one on my lips! Blech! I booked it back to the station and only left again for lunch.

Speaking of lunch, I think maintaining a vegan diet will be a bit of a challenge. I found it difficult to read the menus and not all translations are direct. Vegetarian will be a piece of cake, but it will be fun to explore some new food options as well.

One the bus finally arrived, we loaded up and started our trek to Santa Teresa, a 6 hour bus ride. While on the bus I met Steven from Santa Cruz, California; Anne from Montreal, Canada and Sean and his girl friend from Sacramento, California. We all chatted on the bus ride and while we crossed the water on the ferry. I found out Anne had also made the trip to Costa Rica with little planning and traveling alone. I hope to meet up with her after my stay at Shaka and maybe do some traveling together.

We parted ways towards the end of the trip, Steven and Anne were headed to Montezuma and Sean and his girl friend to Santa Teresa. I shared a short cab ride with the latter and then continued on to Shaka Beach Retreat, I got there at 9pm!

That’s where  I will stop for now, there’s a beach to explore and breakfast to be prepared. 🙂

Question: What the heck is “Pura Vida”? Post card to the first one that nails it! =DImageImage

Some photos from the ferry ride. It was storming the whole way, but the scenery was still lovely. I didn’t bother to take any at the bus station, not much to see there. I was not impressed with San Jose, definitely not the eco-community I had envisioned… just another big city.

Relief in the unknown

I’m feeling the weight of a pack of elephants lifted off my shoulders. I just bought my ticket to Costa Rica! I’ve had a working holiday visa for New Zealand in my back pocket since January, a TEFL certificate in the works and ants in my pants for years! I’ve been itching to see some more of the world and now is the time. I gave notice at my job last week, my final day is tomorrow. It’s bitter-sweet. Being home in Iowa (well, shared with long stints in Alabama) has been truly a blessing. I found my niche in roller derby, a job that’s financially allowed this plan to come together, it’s filled with supportive friends and family (new and old) and it was a soft place to land during a difficult first year after college and a tricky attempt at business ownership. I’m grateful.

That said, I am ready to GO. I’m eager to pack my bag (as lightly as possible) and check a few things off the bucket list.

“And thou wilt give thyself relief, if thou doest every act of thy life as if it were the last” – Marcus Aurelius