Thursday, December 28, 2006

Winter Wonderland

Well, we have been in the States for almost two weeks now and spent time in Kansas with my family, and we are currently in Colorado with John's family. It is great fun, to be sure. At my house we watched the entire 5th season of 24, the TV show, with my Mom. It was intense. We also had a fabulous time creating sugar cookies with my fam. I let Laura dye the icing for the cookies, and she actually poured in about 1/4 of the bottle of red food coloring which meant that we had a bowl of blood-red frosting for our Christmas cookies. We did use this whenever a cookie broke to show that its little cookie apendages were slightly bloody. Merry twisted Christmas. They were very funny. The other highlight story from the McCulley house was that my mother's miniture dauschaund (not sure how to spell that), Lexi, suddenly disappeared from the living room for about 10 minutes. When she returned, her usually small stomach was bloated to three times its normal size, and she was looping dazily around the room rubbing her nose on the carpet. Puzzled and alarmed, we rushed around to determine what she had eaten. Moments later, my mom came out of her bedroom horrified. Lexi had eaten almost an entire gift of hot chocolate mix that included 3/4 cups of chocolate chips and tons of marshmallows. Mom immediately called the vet who told her to pour peroxide down her mouth to induce vomiting. Done. After the nasty incident, Lexi's stomach returned to its pre-gorging size and all was at peace once more. Our Christmas in Kansas was really wonderful, and we spent lots of time cooking and playing and just spending time with family, always one of my favorite things to do.
The day after Christmas we drove to Colorado. Yesterday we went sledding with John's whole family in San Isabel National Forest, about an hours drive from Pueblo. It was stunningly gorgeous with snowy mountains all around, and we created sledding trails down the hill that led out onto a frozen lake. Seriously, so fun. We bundled up like crazy to the point that everyone was actually hot from running around. Last night we drove to Denver to celebrate Becka's birthday with some of her good friends there. We went last night, because today there is another blizzard predicted (yes, "ANOTHER blizzard"...Colorado is still recovering from a blizzard one week ago) and starting in Denver and we didn't want to get stuck there. So, snow is coming down, and we are relishing the beauty of the whiteness that covers everything. We are really enjoying our time here and so blessed by family.

Monday, December 18, 2006

I'll Be Home for Christmas

Well, John and I arrived in the good old US of A around 7:30 p.m. Friday evening. We came back a few days early to surprise my Mom for her birthday. There were many funny plans surrounding this surprise, but in the end, Mike and Ashley picked us up, and we met up with the sisters and Mom at Olive Garden. She was thrilled to have all of her kids there for her birthday, and it was wonderful to see everyone. (note- I did have to beg to get on the plane in Dallas- you never know when a little whining will pay off if there are weight restrictions on your flight and they are trying to kick you off it.)
Our last week in Costa Rica was truly an enjoyable and charming time to round off our adventures. There was a Christmas party at International Teams with a gift exchange. Steph and Brian were to be helping out at a lock-in for the Tico youth group, and John and I were recruited to join the fun. Youth groups are pretty similar across the world. The kids were loud and wound up and stayed up all night, though we did not. Steph and I made no bake cookies for the party, but they didn't set quite right, and it ended up being a plate of no bake mess. Kids kept asking if it was beans and trying to dip chips into it. Very funny. At the last minute, we also made breakfast for 40 people. I learned how to make syrup!
It was sad to say goodbye to Brian and Steph, and we were so glad to have the time to spend with them and better understand and be a part of the work that is happening at Sonlife Costa Rica. It is good to be home and have some real down time, and we are looking forward to Christmas here and New Year's in Colorado!
**** I put more pics up, Album names are "Osa Peninsula" and "San Jose and Tico Fam."

Saturday, December 09, 2006

It's a Jungle Out There

The Osa Peninsula certainly did us right this past week. We had remarkably safe travel and an amazing trip. The drive down took about 9 hours, because the last bit of it especially was very slow going. Infastructure is definately a part of Costa Rica, but the southern peninsula is a little behind the rest of the country and the world. We saw many more bikes than cars. We bumped our way to Puerto Jimenez and arrived at our hotel out in the boonies, only to find that the road was closed. Not to be deterred we found another road through bamboo and arrived in the midst of their employee Christmas party. When John went to ask about our rooms, the manager was shocked that we had managed to get back there, and since there was a party going on right under where we would be staying that night, she bumped us up to the really nice resort also owned by her for no extra cost for all three nights. This place was a dream location where the four of us shared a two story bungalow overlooking the ocean. The only drawback was the fact that Howler monkeys wake up at 5:00 am and begin to howl quite loudly at that time. It seemed that they were right outside our window, literally. While in Puerto Jimenez, we enjoyed our time lounging on the beach, kayaking through the mangroves and lounging in our gorgeous surroundings.
One highlight of our time in Puerto Jimenez was our morning trip to Matapalo, a large bit of rainforest by the beach. Because hiring a guide was insanely expensive, we decided to drive ourselves out there and see what we could. We drove on a wretched road right into the heart of this place and had no idea where we were or what we should be doing there. We pulled over at what looked to be a farm of sorts with guys lounging about, and Brian went to ask some questions. At this place, there happened to be rare squirrel monkeys, Scarlet Macaws and a white-faced coati wandering about. The Tico man who owned the place was happy to let us run around his property and take pictures. Then he told us about a waterfall hike that he would take us on if we wanted. It is crazy, because everyone was literally just hanging out on a Monday morning. We were excited about going hiking and got our stuff ready to go. Our kind guide was shirtless and barefoot, but he did go get a machete to strap about himself. At this point we realize that we have locked the keys in the truck. We are quite literally in the middle of nowhere, but the guys at this place all jumped in to help try to break into the truck. As the guys worked on picking the lock with asundry items, Steph and I waited, when strangely enough, a gringo came riding up on a four-wheeler saying that his friend was badly hurt and asking if there was anyting we could do. Since Steph is mostly through med school, she got on the back of his four-wheeler and rode up to the accident, where she ended up diagnosing a broken shoulder. After about 45 very long minutes, they were able to break into Brian's truck, and we joined Steph at the site of the accident. Since the ambulence was due any time and the injured man was stable, we set off on a quick hike to some gorgeous waterfalls, quite rounding out our incredibly interesting morning in Matapalo. Who knew.
After our wonderful time in Puerto Jimenez, we drove to Drake Bay, on the other side of the Osa, which required driving through 9 rivers and across the beach for a stretch. This place was quite remote and very undeveloped, which meant it was quite rural. We had to ask specifically to get rooms with electricity at the lodge we stayed at. The four of us shared a bathroom with no light that had fiber glass walls with a giant frog painted on the wall. We also had to hike up crazy hills and stairs to get to our rooms, which did pay off with a fabulous view. From Drake Bay, we took a tour of Cano Island, a 3 mile round island about 45 minutes away by boat. We went snorkeling and hiking and saw ancient stone spheres. We also spotted whales and dolphins on our way back.
Lastly, we spent one night in Manuel Antonio, a tourist hot spot in Costa Rica that truly is gorgeous. John and I spent about 45 minutes watching white-face monkeys eat and play and steal pizza from tourists. We also saw another sloth, moving very slowly of course.
All in all, our trip to the Osa was really great. Now we are back at Brian and Steph's spending a week in the life of missionaries in Costa Rica.