Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Travelog from the Past: Part V

Selva Verde, Manzanillo, Punta Mona, Costa Rica
We are up early for breakfast and with our slimmed down baggage back on the bus toManzanillo. We go by several banana plantations and Zack tells us about workers who have gotten ill/died from the pesticides. There are many for sale signs for houses all around Costa Rica. I wonder about retiring to a tiny shack. Lunch at Manzillo is at "Soda Lidia". Soda is a small restaurant or cafe` where locals might eat, see more here. I have a fish fillet, the usual and desirable rice and beans cooked with coconut milk, and a little cabbage salad. For dessert we have a very dense and chocolaty chocolate cake, not very sweet, but very, very real. We drive to the beach and our packs are loaded onto a fishing boat, we won't have to carry them on our hike. We set off into the jungle with our respective machete bearing guides. Ricco is a paunchy lively older black man with dreads. He shows us the Noni fruit tree and tells of it's various medicinal properties. It tastes like rotten Camembert cheese and the texture is jelly like. The jungle trek is narrow paths, up and down. There are, it seems, an innumerable variety of ants, most quite, quite large. Stopping to appreciate the leaf cutters even the kids are awed by these hard working agricultural creatures. Annette is bitten by a Bullet Ant. Bullet Ants can be used for stitching wounds together, you get them to attach to either side of the wound, then pinch off the body. This was not demonstrated. The Bullet Ants sting/bite is very painful and Annette's cries mingle with other sounds of the forest, cicadas, frogs, howler monkeys, macaws, the drip of condensation, for the next two hours. Later she tells me it didn't hurt all that time, but she needed a good cry. There are vines everywhere. We take a couple of quick stops at beaches, but can't dally, we have to put on speed if we are going to get to Punta Mona before dark. Night falls early and quickly at the equator. Ricco decides we have to take a short cut. This involves going through some deep mud and a few of the boys loose their shoes. We did warned them to tie them on, but tying shoes is not cool. My boots are just the thing, the mud is just up to the top, I am sure they look stunning with shorts. We walk past a cultivated plantation where all the laundry in set out on barbed wire negating the need for clothes pins. It is just dusk as we arrive at Punta Mona. We are fed some dinner, a vegetarian fare from the farm and jungle.

These boots were made for walking.

Annette, Patrick (dad/chaperon), and I share a bunk house with a large non-poisonous spider. We had met a similar one in the jungle and Ricco had made it crawl on everyone who would allow it. Everything is mosquito netted and for good reason. The bath rooms are quite a walk through the jungle, so peeing at night is done "al fresco". I spend quite a chunk of time in the middle of the night listening to the jungle.

Punta Mona, Costa Rica
It is an early morning with Qi Gong (!) at 7 and breakfast at 8. I go to the Qi Gong to see if it is anything new, not really, but the fellow leading the session is charmingly enthusiastic. Our group is off to tour the farm. It is hot and buggy, but interesting. I hope the guide's love of plants rubs off on the kids. It was supposed to be a 3 hour tour, but was shortened to 1 1/2 due to heat and bugs.We get some free time and everyone is off to the beach. The water is warm with lots of leaf bits, but welcome all the same. After lunch the kids are off to farm projects from which chaperons are exempt. I am really tired so I take a very nice nap. There is an Ultimate Frisbee game in which Dexter distinguishes himself. Like his kindergarten teacher said "he will play any game with anybody. "

Punta Mona, Costa Rica
Our group has free time in the morning today, most them choose to hang out. Annette and I wash dishes and do beach duty. A rainstorm hits in the afternoon, farm chores are cancelled. Everything and everyone is wet, and somehow fairly happy. Some make chocolate, some just hang out on the big deck in hammocks, or play foozball down stairs. To make chocolate you roast the beans, peel them, grind them, then mix with coconut, banana and cane sugar. A tree in the courtyard falls and Punta Mona inhabitants are at it in a minute with their machetes, cutting off branches and calling for strong boys to help. Dexter is one the first called, apparently he did a great job with his chores. I consider seeing if I can leave him here as he seems to be blooming. The boy cannot pick up a sock at home, but is straining at the leash to throw around chunks of a tree. Maybe heavier socks are called for.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Monday Bunday

The Spots make it to the top.

Sydney likes to look out the window from this vantage point.

Tyler wonders if it looks different from a higher elevation.

Have a great bunweek.

Travelog from the Past: Part VI

6/06/04 Punta Mona, Costa Rica

Acappella Rapping as performed by Los Chaperone's with dance steps!!!!

Things You've Heard Before.
Refrain: hey, hey, guys, guys, girls, 2 strikes, clean the bus, do you owe me money?
Patrick: don't grope, wash your hands, don't throw food, sit down, be quiet, no free time for you!
Annette: listen up, pay attention, Per and Nick don't mumble, speak up, hold hands, join the circle pronto.
Diana: where are your shoes dude? sunblock, bug stuff, come back James!, hurry up, pack up, get on the bus, and don't call me dude.
Janet: SHHHH..., that's rude, be quiet, don't run, can't have fun, who's there?, lights out, no TV, I'm just doing my job.
All: Hey teens you know we love you.

And here the journal ends....the above was, as you can guess, performed as part of a talent show the last afternoon. I am happy to report that we managed to keep the beat and our dance steps were totally synchronized. As to the rest of the trip I'll continue with the best memory can serve. I can't leave me stranded in Punta Mona.

During the talent show and after, much was made of the students by the staff of PM and our tour guides Zack and Mel. Although I know it is a bolstering up of the young, I feel like a worn out shoe, ready to be discarded. We have been taking turns helping to make dinner. This last day it is our group's turn. Salads were always present at PM. They consisted of an interesting mix of foliage, none of which would be recognizable stateside. Indeed a common ingredient were the leaves of the leaves of a tree that bordered the path down to the beach. There is something made with peppers being assembled and one of the PM cooks makes the mistake of wiping her face with her peppery hand. She starts to cry, almost screaming, they try to wash off the pepper juice with water. Janet, who is a nurse and who is usually taking a nap is roused, she suggests cold water, which already hasn't worked. I remember something and tell them to try a dairy product, any dairy product. Some cream goes on her face and the tears stop.

That night there is surprise birthday party for one of the girls. Most of us sneak down to the meeting hall and await in the dark. The birthday girl and some of her friends arrive a little later, she is thinking they are doing something daring, then we all start to sing. Not Happy Birthday, some other song, something less common. There is chocolate cake at the party. I am given a big piece, which I piggily wolf down. I am up all night from the chocolate rush. The next day I am an old shoe.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Travelog from the Past: Part IV

We are up as early as possible and after breakfast on the road. In retrospect I wish I had written down every meal like Annette did. I have checked my memories with Dexter's and we agree that the breakfast was buffet style with, of course, fresh tropical juices, rice and beans, handmade tortillas (so good, well it was all SO GOOD), stewed beef and more "regular" American food like scrambled eggs, bacon, cereal in a box, toast and coffee. I didn't have any of the coffee because, unfortunately my adrenals just can't handle it (I know you are thinking I'm a basket case) but it smelled fantastic and I did had a tiny sip, yum.
Today is River Rafting on Class 3 rapids. One of the guides, Pablo does a very funny intro, his delivery really hold the kids attention. I am shuffled off to a raft with 2 girls, a boy, Zack and a river guide, Luis. Once again we wear the ubiquitous yellow helmets which signal safety to the adventurous tourist but may not do so very much in an actual situation. Since this is river we wear life jackets too. On a raft you wedge one foot under the seat in front of you and the other under the seat behind you. We are given group commands to follow; forward, backward, left forward, right backward, stop, lean in, high side, get down. These the guide calls as he steers with his paddle.

Our boat gets stuck on a rock during the toughest rapids. We get unstuck but the boat buckles. The buckle makes me loose my "wedge", I loose contact with the seat completely and am thrown out of the boat. I do keep hold of my paddle and am able to grab the "Chicken Line" on the side of the raft. I get pulled along, bumping and scraping my knees on the bottom of the shallow rapids. Luis hauls me abroad. We are going along pretty well when suddenly I realize that Luis had disappeared, I put down my paddle and pull him in. He says the bumps he received to his ribs are nothing compared the the hard time his fellow guides will give him. We make it through the rest of the river without incident. Arriving at the river access to the hotel Pablo gives a speech about rivers and damming. At the hotel we are greeted by pictures of ourselves taken by the rafting company for 5 dollars US each.

Selva Verde is set in the jungle with the various units of rooms connected by covered passages. We all do a super quick change and enter the dining room just in time for the end of lunch. Annette and I are on chaperon duty for the rest of the day. The kids have a cooking class(empanadas), then dinner and salsa dancing. They are well occupied and the pace is beginning to wear on me. The jungle is green, and damp.It is gorgeous and loud with birds, insects and rain. I feel sad because I am too tired to draw. While walking along one of the covered passages I hear a thump in the foliage and find that an enormous, and I mean very very large, Iguana has dropped out of a tree and is unconcernedly making his slow way to wherever Iguanas go.

After dinner BF and I talk on the phone. The phone card he got is finally working, though I can barely hear what he is saying through the rain and the cars outside. It is the first months of our "courtship" and feels excruciating to be separated. OTOH my senses crave these new sights, sounds, and smells.

Since we are leaving for Punta Mona tomorrow we must pare down to the bare essentials. These instructions are given to the kids several times. We can only take as much as will fit in a small backpack. Considering the the usually outfits for the girls this could be two weeks worth of clothing. Annette and I are in charge of overseeing the boys and go room to room checking on their progress. Two of them are particularly rude, not letting us in and repeatedly calling us "Dude", which, I inform them, is not an appropriate form of address for an adult. We suspect that one of the girls is in their room and quickly check the whereabouts of the usual suspects to find that one is not in her room. On our way back to the rude boys room we pass her.....

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Travelog from the Past: Part III

Continued from 6/01/04
That evening before dinner, a scheduled late dinner, we go to a hot springs. Once just a public hot stream, the area had been manipulated, pools built, restrooms and changing rooms added etc. Full moon tonight and had circumstances been different the springs would have had the possibility of being quite transformative. There are deeper pools for soaking and shallow places where the hot water dances and swirls with whoever is there. As chaperon it is my job to be sure behavior is all on the up and up. This is not always easy and in the dark, in the water, with kids in bathing suits, the skills required are super human. Not that there was anything more than tops or bottoms coming off or the distinct possibility of same, but that was, yes, inappropriate. Chaperons could use with some high tech equipment. Time to leave and all our charges are putting on clothes in their respective dressing rooms, I gather some abandoned towels and walk them out to the bus. Walking through the parking lot I hear a tap, tap, tapping. Stopping and looking, a small rounded form emerges from the darkness, an Armadillo. His long claws being the tap, tap, tapping. We look at each other and look at the moon, then go our separate ways. It is one of those "Ah, this is why we travel" moments.

For dinner, pizza and salad. The pizza crust is truly great. I have a wave of being really tired of the kids and their "ugly American" attitudes. There are a couple more food throwing incidents and while Zack gives them another lecture I wander into the bar area and watch the news on the TV. Then I wander outside to get some quiet and am asked by one of the waiters to come back in because it is dark. Later I realize he was concerned I might be kidnapped. Returning to the table I eat one more piece of excellent pizza, the best I have had. The girls with only one or two exceptions are wearing skimpy outfits and some are still in bathing suits because they didn't bring clothes to change into. And yes, they were told repeatedly to do so. Everyone is noisy and self absorbed. On leaving one of the girls tells the waiter that she thinks he is cute, then she flees the restaurant shrieking with giggles. I am embarrassed.

Travelog from the Past: Part II

San Jose, Costa Rica, La Rosa American
We are served fruit and cake with a  Nutella center for breakfast. I had gotten up early and did a little Tai Chi while supervising the girls during their swim. Bugs are big here and some are quite large indeed. At night there are huge beetles that bumble around in the air, quite harmless, but a lot bigger than I have ever seen. Some of these are in the pool this morning, causing girly screams and gross outs. We pack and herd the students onto the bus. Away we go! Annette and I both get carsick so we are granted the seat behind the driver. It is a rough and windy ride. I manage to get through most of it by doing acupressure on an inner arm point known as P6. Finally I have to go to sleep, this always helps. 

Our next hotel is Los Lagos just outside of the town of La Fortuna and on the side of an active volcano. It is expansive and sort corny. The pool has water slide that would never be allowed in the U. S., though safe enough, I suppose.

After a hike first down  endless stairs to a water fall then back up endless staris we are allowed to have lunch. The educational part of the day is a tour of a Botanical Preserve. Located in the middle of fields, it simply represents 7 years of zero cultivation. Secondary jungle growth appeared after 4 years and then the animals started coming back. We encounter broad billed herons and sloths. Our guide, Diego is really good and able to keep the kids' interest. He tells about the interconnectedness of species and special uses of plants. At the preserve they are growing endangered species and selling them cheap to national forests and whoever wants them. The mosquitoes are fearsome and despite the use of repellent I get bit, a lot. Mosquito bites are always problematical for me, I itch and swell more than average and if I get too many I feel just bad. Invariably I will get bit bit on the eyelid, like happened on a school trip two years ago and will be horribly misshapen for a couple days. I am not the only one grateful to return to our hotel to have a swim and dinner. 

Canopy Tour, La Fortuna, Costa Rica
After breakfast we are bussed out to the beginning of journey into the Rainforest Canopy tour. I am disappointed because Dexter (my son) pleads fear of heights and is not going. I suspect he prefers some time away from the group, I tell him to have a good time and we will all miss him and I'll tell him about it at dinner.

First we are helmeted (color:yellow) and mounted on scrappy little hackamored horses. Mine is named Bin Laden, it is important to remember your horse's name, you want to get the same one for the return trip. The guide gives the steering and stopping instructions, adding it is OK to pass. He tells us to watch the horse's ears because it will tell you the mood of animal and may indicate that you have to re-position. It is OK to trot. The horses are all over the trail, unlike trail horses in the U.S. who seem content to plod sadly in a line, going a bit faster on the way home. Many of us do trot at the urging of the guide, who cracks his whip and whoops. It is raining a little and there's much mud at the corral where we leave our steeds. We are fitted with harnesses like one wears for rappelling, we get to keep our lovely helmets, then after one last pee and water break, it is up, up up, so many steps....and we are in the Rainforest. 

At a platform we get a safety lecture and instructions. The basic idea is one goes sailing through the forest hundreds of feet above the floor suspended from cables strung tree to tree, each ending in a platform requiring a variety of landing techniques which one must instantly acquire. Once the harness is hooked on to the cable you have to sit back,  lift your knees and cross your ankles. One hand is on your hook up and the other, sporting a thick leather slab is on the cable and keeps you upright and when you pull down slows and can stop you. We hike another fifteen minutes to the starting platform. Surprisingly, I don't feel nervous or scared. Mel suddenly decides to send some adults along and before I know it I am being connected to the cable. I assume the position and am flying out over and through the jungle. It is a real "be here now" kind of thing, steadying with the one hand, trying to breath, wanting to not go fast, but fast enough to get to the next platform...... It doesn't really make a difference that we are in the jungle, you would have the same experience anywhere the first time out.  I land well slowing at the right time, but climbing up stairs attached to a tree to the next cable my legs are shaking. And so it goes, fly, land, climb, fly, land and climb. At one point we have to wait, sort like being stuck at the top of the Ferris wheel, for the guide to get ahead of us so he can catch us as we fly in. 

The horse back ride back in is very uncomfortable, the saddles are rock hard and I must be softer than in my riding days ever so long ago. Between the saddles and the harnesses my sit bones are incredibly painful. Luckily that night we are scheduled to go to a hot spring. 

To Be Continued................

Travelog from the Past: Part I

Mary Laure asked to hear about Costa Rica and I thought why not? Rummaging in a drawer resulted in the small red book I used as a journal. What follows is a trip (funded by the Burrito Revolution: see below) with some 18 8th graders, I was one of 5 adult chaperons. 

How could I leave these two?  my beloved Bandit on left 
and the little Agouti girl is Biscuit, an adopted stray.
Santa Cruz, California
Slept for maybe an hour last night between trying to make the "house" semi-presentable and getting rabbit care in order, the time just slipped away. It was a relief when out 4:45 a.m. pick arrived; what was undone would  simply remain so. It seems almost mandatory to start a journey already in a strange fatigued state that one might wake-up in a foreign land. 

I have a terrible fear of flying. I have to convince myself this is a good day to die and so if I do it is alright. On the plane one of the stewardesses complains to the teacher, Mr. S., about the rudeness of the students. It is true and they are being kids; sometimes sweet and thoughtful, philosophical even, and a bit rude.

The pilot announces the different countries as we fly over them; Guatemala, Nicaragua, El Salvador. Places hitherto only in the news and adopted into the hearts of the left. 

San Jose, Costa Rica-
Humidity is the first sign of the tropics. It envelops our skins and fills bodies from the inside. Our raggle taggle group manages to get through customs. Bananas and fruit relinquished and forms filled out in pen. It has to be pen or it will be rejected. Our guides, Zack and Mel find us, it can't have been hard and we are shuffled onto our tour bus. Suddenly we are turistas. Looking out the window as we drive through the night to the hotel we could still be in the states, San Diego, LA, Phoenix, San Antonio, except for the occasional guard toting a large sawed off shotgun on a strap. The boys are very excited by this armament.

Our hotel is La Rosa American and is a sweet little place with a pool in a garden setting owned and operated by Canadians. As we walk to dinner the kids are noisy and boisterous. The girls are nearly naked, showing underwear and bras as much as allowed by the new decency standards. They are whistled at repeatedly by groups of men on the other side of the road. The restaurant is a large open air affair whose name translates to "Corn Delicacies" and here starts our consumption of tropical fruit juices; Cas, Guananna, Guava....The desert is memorable, a coconut flan. (Indeed it is one of first things I think of when I recall this trip, now 5 years later). There is a food fight (a skirmish really). The kids are reprimanded by Zack. "There are so many people without enough to eat, that this really upsets me." The topic of the Ugly American is broached and reoccurs throughout the evening. 

Back at the hotel both Annette (another chaperon/mom and my roommate)  and I feel homesick for our animals and relations. However I sleep like a rock. 

Monday, June 15, 2009

Monday Bunday

A rabbit on every pot or Tyler visits the Fun House or ??????

In case you are wondering this is a giant stock pot used to make beans during the Burrito Revolution of '03-'04. Until that time it had been traditional for the 8th grade to sell lousy pizza to the rest of the school every Wednesday to make money for their class trip. Somehow I got roped into organizing burritos. Maybe because it was my idea. I tried to hire someone, but they bagged out, so I did it myself. With the help of three other brave comrades we turned ourselves and the school on it's head. Don't be too impressed there were only about 200 students. Fiasco's ? sure there were plenty. Like the very first time out of the chute, sort to speak,  the person delegated to counting the orders didn't really and we had to feed 2 whole classes with take-out burritos from the Mexican market. Or when some kid found a stone in her beans. And there was dissent within, as with so many idealistic movements. The true blue leader, yes, moi, was accused of trying to sabotage the beans! Sabotage and trying to ruin the whole project. This accusation confused me since the Revolution it was a raging success, we made more money half way through the year than last year's class had at the end of the year. But one of the comrades thought I should be using more salt. They gave me instructions on proper salt use, I followed said instructions and still was accused of  ruining the beans. Indeed of not even trying to add more salt. Ah well, I said, then you had better do the beans, I just can't get it right. Delegate, delegate, delegate.  as for the beans I thought they tasted OK, none of the kids had complained. One mom even said her children wouldn't eat any other kind of burrito. All movements carry a burden, a price that must be paid. For me, the Burrito Revolution demanded that at the end of the day I wouldn't even  be able to stand the thought of eating one of the retched things. But I did get to go to Costa Rica with the 8th grade, so it was worth it.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


This weekend I took the same class on Moku Hanga with April Vollmer that I took last year; my first Moku Hanga anniversary, the first anniversary is, appropriately, PAPER.  Having found out the image size the week before, I took some time in my design. I wanted to see  how much one could do with just two colors. The PAPER we got in class was a very nice, strong, very white, but delicate PAPER, which was quite unsuited for the large areas of color in my design. I think I am a glutton for color, though you wouldn't know it from the way I dress. When I was young I used to beg my mother to take me to the shopping center so I could look at the clothes displays. I loved seeing all the colors together.....My print in class was not so good because the paper had a buckling issue due to excessive dampness from my large color areas and so registration was off. And I wasn't entirely happy with the design.  Tenaciously and doggedly I cut and tweaked at home and printed on some thicker paper, Masa. Not the best in the world, be adequate for my needs. This print at 7 X 9 inches is bigger than I am used to working. So far all my work has been 5 X 7 inches or smaller. I experimented with a few color combos, shown are the ones that worked at all........

Pink!??? I never thought I would make a pink armadillo!

Cobalt blue and gold, my scanner doesn't want to show the blue correctly.

Again, Cobalt blue and olive green with a little gold in the corner.

Tyler says: I like to eat colors.

Sydney says: When is the Greens anniversary?

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Bunnies in Bulgaria

These three prints went to Bulgaria.

Three of my prints have been accepted at an exhibition in Bulgaria. It is the Lessedra Gallery Annual Mini Print Show. Some 653 prints were submitted and of those 535 were accepted. It is my first acceptance. I find it amusing to think of my animals hanging amongst the rather more serious works and am surprised they were not rejected out of hand for possibly being cute. Though I don't call my work cute, I may think of it as cute which is different. There are different kinds of cute. Cute is when you are surprised and charmed by something, like a rabbit flopping almost into the water bowl. I admit I am often surprised when a print works out and looks OK, then I think of it as cute. But not cute in the way that pictures of children and puppies with over sized eyes are thought of by some as cute (I think of them as scary, very scary). Looking up cute in the dictionary I find that it is derived from acute with roots in the Latin  acutus meaning sharp. The first meaning says cleaver, sharp, cunning as in a cute swindle. The second meaning is pretty, attractive especially in a delicate or dainty way. The Spots prefer the first meaning and hope to swindle me out of some extra blueberries by being cute. 

Earlier this year I donated a Sky Rabbit and a Heath Talisman print to a benefit auction. Only the rabbit print sold. I got a promotional card with Sky Rabbit on it. As you can see it seems rather out of place; what doesn't fit in this picture? But I know my Bandit (bun in the print) would have been pleased to be the bunrepresentative. 

Here's both sides of the promotional postcard. 


Monday, June 01, 2009

Monday Bunday; Mysteries

Why does Sydney appear so large? How does she do it?

What is Tyler telling Sydney? What do rabbits talk about?

Why are only the ears moving when Tyler cleans his face? How does he do it?