Photographic evidence

This will be a pictures-mostly post for a couple of reasons.  First, we are in a resort on the slopes of a dormant volcano.  The only internet access we have is at the restaurant, although I’m surprised we have any at all.  J-M is watching me type and that gets boring real quick.  I promised him I’d just upload a couple photos.

Also, there’s so much to say about today’s trip but words fail me.  We rented a 4×4 and drove from the beach to the volcanoes.  We were in transition most of the day, from one hotel to the next, but the transition was so fascinating, to travel past ranches, into the city, and up into the hills.  We are definitely seeing another part of Costa Rican life. Let me give you a couple snapshots.

Where we came from – Guacamaya Lodge.  Those are the bushes where the hummingbirds visited us last night.

Our rented 4×4 – Suzuki Jimmy.  J-M barely fits.

We stopped and took a lot of photos, including photos of taking photos.  (Don’t I look like I know what I’m doing because I borrowed my friend’s paparazzi lens?) We would have arrived in half the time if we didn’t stop every few seconds.  Look at THAT!

Like where we’re headed…

Or how about the VULTURES right out of a Disney movie.

There’s nothing for miles and then a school house.

This poor little calf on the road escaped from the pasture.  A clue as to why there are so many dogs around?  These two were keeping him company.

Look up, waaay up.  The depth perception is hard to see in this photo, but that’s a steep incline with dense forest opening up to a pasture on the top of the hill.  See the horsies?

A few homes like this spot these hills.  Note the satellite. Note the dog.

This house isse vende (for sale).  J-M suggested it would be the perfect retreat for me to blog.

J-M also suggested I post the words mi corazon in the middle of my blog just to make it more Costa Rican.  Because he’s bored, I’ve obliged.

I just liked this colourful guy, struttin’ his stuff.

Men walking these winding paths.  We are so fascinated this place, I would love to sit down with them and hear about life in the hills.  As it is, we say hola! as we pass by and will never meet again.

We see lots of people riding bikes like this one.  J-M suggested it would be a good way to travel around here.  I suggested that he forgot the ups that accompany the downs…

Last one!  This is me tonight, Facebooking with my sweet Mallory!  It still freaks me out that I can access the internet from places that are so hard to reach by car.

Tomorrow we’re horseback riding and zip lining.  Yipes!

OK, the limits of J-M’s patience have been fully tested (and found wanting).  Must go!


A man’s best frenemy

Here is some photographic evidence of our new furry four-legged “friends.”  I would even use my friend Kim‘s appellation for my husband when he teases her relentlessly: frenemy.

Anticipating a Costa Rican Anniversary Adventure

In just one week, John-Mark and I will be going to Costa Rica to celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary.

Before you go saying how romantic this is, I would also like to point out that John-Mark purchased our accommodations via wag jag (sketchy) and we’re not even going to bother about our transportation till we get there (cheeky).  This, my friends, is an ADVENTURE.

I know next to nothing about Costa Rica.  I’ve heard of two other people who have travelled there before and one person who ran a resort that went bankrupt (didn’t sell enough wag jag coupons?).

I know that Costa Rica is located in Central America.  I know that it is hot and humid and we’re visiting during rainy season.  I’ve heard that the wildlife is “quite something,” which scares me more than excites me about the trip.  I know they speak Spanish.  This is the extent of my knowledge.  Typical dwellings? Cuisine?  Handicrafts? Clothing? Music?  No clue!  But can’t wait to find out!

John-Mark, on the other hand, checked out every travel guide the library had – 11 seems right – and read them cover to cover.  He would have checked out 12, but one was out on loan by another patron of the library.  However, John-Mark was sure to put number 12 on hold, to be notified for immediate pick up.   I forbade him to check it out.  11 was enough.  More than enough.  If he read that 12th travel book, he would no longer need to visit Costa Rica.  I would go without him.

He knew that was an empty threat since I have no idea where I’d be going or how to get there.  Still, he was kind enough to remove the hold.

I love the idea of going in “cold” and discovering Costa Rica, as shown to me by the country herself.  This is the opposite of our regular Ghana excursions, as we are always trying our best to understand cultural practices and to pass them on to others who visit for the purpose and benefit of our partnership.

But this trip is not to Ghana and it is not a mission trip.  Crazy, eh?!  This will be the first vacation that J-M and I have spent alone together since our honeymoon.  We plan to do nothing for 10 days but explore Costa Rica, relax, read lots and… other private stuff.

I am anticipating that time will slow down a little.  That might be unrealistic?   It will be just us and no real agenda.  I am bringing my camera and my laptop.  J-M is letting me write while we are there.  I can pretend I’m a travel journalist and let you know about some of my discoveries.  Maybe I’ll make friends with a monkey.  You’ll want to know about that.  John-Mark would check that out at the library.

I have no idea if we’ll have WiFi because I have no idea where we are staying.  J-M said we’re travelling from the mountains to the rainforest to the coast to the city.  Sounds perfect to me.

Different sides of the same lens

I spent most of the trip like this,

or like this,

and like this.

To see what was at the other end of my lens, check out my Flickr site with a gallery of photos from my trip.

Although I’ve only posted 53 of the 1,000,000 we took, I’ve exceeded my bandwidth for the month!  Feel free to subscribe to my Flickr RSS Feed for updates.

I will post more in June to save myself a whole $24.95 for the year.   That $600 ticket really did me in.

Offloading some stress

I’m writing this at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam because I missed my flight.

Who does that?  For many years, up until a couple of hours ago, I was all, Who are those people they are calling over the intercom and what the heck would they be doing to miss their flight?  It turns out it can be as easy as: sitting at the wrong gate like a nitwit for an hour and a half; freaking out like a ninny when you hear your name called on the PA system; and running like a nincompoop for 25 minutes to get to the other end of this massive terminal…  only be told that they’re offloading your luggage and you’re SOL in Schiphol.

At first I was relieved to see that I wasn’t the only one.  Another girl and I arrived breathless at the boarding gate.  They even gave us hope as they re-opened security.  Then I was not so relieved when this girl started giving security a hard time, blaming them for getting it wrong, which made them to decide to shut both of us down.  The girl started crying, “But it’s an EMERGENCY!”


A very dramatic scene. Quite disappointing.

I thought this gal and I could then at least join forces to figure out what our next step would be, but my delinquent companion was clearly traumatized and couldn’t get over the fact that this was actually happening to her.  She ran ahead of me into the crowd yelling to no one in particular, “How could they do that? How could they do that?!” I’m curious to see if she’ll rejoin me on the next flight Toronto and, if so, what state of mind she’ll be in.

Rebooking a missed flight is a lesson in humility.  I now know not to expect sympathy from anyone along the road to finding a way home.  Each KLM agent made sure to tell me that I had committed an almost unpardonable sin.  Did I know that I had kept other passengers waiting?  Did I know I had created endless work for them?  Did I know how much of an inconvenience this was?  Did I know that I had personally offended them, their children and their children’s children? Like beating myself up and waiting for another 8 hours wasn’t penance enough.  I nodded meekly not wanting to provoke further wrath and paid $600 to get myself a seat on the next flight out of here (for which I will be 4 hours early at the boarding gate so as not to miss it) in Economy PLUS.  Oh, the perks!

The idea of Economy PLUS makes me laugh.  Mostly because there was a very intoxicated Texan at the Ghana airport last night, trying to impress the ladies by telling us he had a seat in Economy PLUS.  Don’t worry, we didn’t fall for it.

This missing a flight thing is that last in a series of unfortunate events that started happening yesterday, at the end of a brilliant trip to Ghana with the new owners of Big Village.  At around lunch time, Leisha, Karen and I were smiling and sighing, thinking about getting ready to leave.  We wanted to go and we wanted to stay.  It had been a great time meeting the Big Village partners, seeing new and exciting things and laughing a heckuvalot together.  But we all missed our friends, family and life in Canada too.  Plus, we were tired out from pushing it hard the whole 10 days.  We decided to cheers the trip with my Coke and their malt drinks and do some last minute souvenir shopping.

But yesterday afternoon didn’t co-operate. The city seemed to be on edge and we saw and experienced all kinds of difficult scenes.  Without going into detail, the world around us wasn’t on its best behaviour, with crazy traffic, pushy vendors, and aggressive behaviour at every turn.  Or was it because we were so tired that we were no longer interested, patient, or accepting?   We might have taken one picture yesterday, as opposed to the kajillion we took earlier in the week, simply because we lacked the energy.  One of us would ask the other to take a picture of a scene out the window we were noticing through half-opened eyes. The other would say it’s too far away – referring to the camera. In her lap.

But then Leisha had a bad physical run-in with an aggressive person on the street.  No one was hurt, thankfully, but we all shut down after that (other than being totally impressed with Leisha’s Kung Fu skills and Karen’s vocal chords).   Felt a little like that boarding gate security guard, “GET OUT! ALL OF YOU!”

Now the extra hilarious thing – and by extra hilarious I mean totally upsetting – is that Leisha and Karen are right now exploring the city of Amsterdam.  They had actually planned a longer layover in order to enjoy a sweet little tour of the city and shop at the market.  Here I sit bleary-eyed and plane-faced pulling a Facebook faux pas and using my status to beg people for their sympathy.  Some of my friends fall for it.  Others tell me there are worse places to be stuck.  Well, I am in a European cafe, preceded by the words “Schiphol” and “Internet.”  I’m going to take advantage of my wifi day pass and upload some of those pictures we took of our trip when we were energetic, positive and curious.  Good memories, from just or a day or two ago, will see me through.

Before I do that, Constance Amartey, you need to know that, “You are delaying your flight.  Please proceed immediately to Gate B14 or they will proceed to offload your baggage.”  That threat is very real. Run like the wind!!!

But if you miss it, you know where to find me.

Bullet Point Update

Have we only been here three days?  We’ve packed so much in to our time here, it seems to be either moving very slowly or much too quickly. Whatever the case, so far this has been a wonderful experience with the two Big Village ladies.  Please accept this bullet point update until I find a moment to process it all and write in a cohesive manner.

  • I was moved to tears when the ladies sang and danced under the baobab tree.  I’ll let you read that again.  Yes, I said, “under the baobab tree.”  So, so beautiful. I cannot post pictures of these amazing moment until we get to a faster internet connection.  I am, by no means, complaining.  I still can’t believe I met with women under a baobab tree this morning and tonight you’re hearing about it.  I still marvel at the miracle of technology.
  • I mentioned it before the I am here with a couple of “crunchy mamas.”  They’re on the au naturel side.  They like to read “Hobby Farm Home” and say things like:
    • I should take a pro-biotic.
    • What kind of oil was used to cook this?
    • Would it be possible to pick fresh mangos from the tree?

    It turns out they are in good company with our host, Dominic, who is the manager of the women’s co-operatives.  He has joined ranks of Herbalife, a weight loss and nutrition plan.  When he met us the first day, he was wearing a pin, “Lose Weight Now! Ask Me How!”  We all tuned him out a little when he first started talking about his new passion to make Ghana a healthier, thinner place, but the more he talked about nutrients in food, what foods we should avoid eating, and reasons why guinea fowl is better meat than chicken, the crunchy mamas started to pay attention.  When Dominic mentions things like the super fruit from the baobab tree, that grows right here in Bolgatanga, right above those dancing women, it doesn’t get much crunchier than that.

  • Dominic’s new venture reveals the dichotomy of Ghana.  On one hand, in the world where food on the proverbial table that day determines whether you are rich or poor, to put on weight is a luxury and a sign of beauty.  To say, “you are growing nice and fat” is a compliment (at least I took it that way).  And yet, there are those who would call themselves modern, who hold the slim figure in high regard.  Many believe it to be the influence of the western cultures, which also brought blue jeans and Holiday Inn. In any case, weight loss is now marketable in Ghana.
  • I did this today:

    Yes, he’s real – and there are 200 more of his buddies in that pond behind me.  These crocs are in the northern town of Paga, just before the border to Burkina Faso.  It is a road-side attraction in this area. It is against the law to hunt the crocs for any reason.  They are revered because it is believed they carry the souls of the ancestors.  They are tame, as tame as any carnivorous monster can be.  A croc caller lure out the beast from the Zenga pond, which means hilltop.  Nothing this behemoth won’t do for a couple of live chickens!  Of course, one crunchy mama was absolutely horrified at the heartlessness of the scenario while I comforted her with these ever so sensitive words, “It’s the circle of life.”

  • While at the croc pond, a few devoted Muslim men made their way toward us.  One man in particular thought I needed to understand how the croc’s submissive nature is the product of the sovereign Allah.  Who else can tame a wild beast in this way?  To see it is to believe in Allah, would I accept this truth?  All I had to say was, “Ash-hadu an la ilaha ill Allah” (I bear witness that there is no deity but Allah).  Would I accept?  Now?  What about now?  Just say it!  You will be a Muslim!
  • Oh man!  While you moved from the last bullet point to this one, we experienced a wicked thunderstorm.  We felt the winds hit the building ahead of the storm and then saw the lightning and rain approach from the balcony of our room where we’re staying.  All three of us were totally freaked out in that giddy 13-year old way when the electricity went out.  This is the second storm since we’ve been here.  Yesterday’s storm took out some roofs, and threw around debris and tree branches.  Dominic commented that the traditional houses, even with their thatch roofs always manage to stay firmly in place.  I know that the people are so looking forward to this rain.  It’s a break from the heat of the dry season and we’ve seen small fires all around the region as they clear the land in order to sow seeds in the fields.
  • Tonight is our last night here.  We join Dominic at the basket buyer’s market in the a.m. and then leave for the city of Tamale, in order to catch our plane there the next morning.  Dominic will be making us a Herbalife shake for breakfast before we go.  A healthy send-off!