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Costa Rica a different world ago

by Shawni

I am working hard to catch up on life over here. And on the documenting of it. I’m working on my “March little things” post and realized I haven’t posted about the trip we took for Spring Break right before the world shifted due to COVID. Before any travel bans or masks, oblivious as to what would be coming. Yep, I need to document this. So here we go.

We were off on a new adventure with Dave’s business partners, (his brother and brother-in-law), and their families and we were all filled up with great excitement and anticipation as we all gathered at the airport.

All three of our families have two kids still at home, and these kids sure love each other!

I often think back on this trip as the most golden blessing before things started falling apart. So so grateful for these memories.

We flew through the night (on a red-eye) and were greeted by the most gorgeous sunrise.

It was a fiasco to get our 12-passenger rental van, and we didn’t have a stitch of room for any luggage if we were going to cram all 12 of us in that teeny thing so we got a taxi too and headed from hot and dry to green and lush up near the volcano (Arenal) where we are staying for the first few days.

That first day (Sunday), there was no church nearby so we had church in the van en route to see a gorgeous waterfall. We read Joseph Smith history together and I loved our discussion. Loved having other parents ask my kids gospel questions and for them to hear their cousins giving their own answers.

It was a “walk” to the falls, and Lucy, true to form, complained and didn’t want to do it, and also, true to form, the “walk” was more of a hike, but we got her distracted and ROCKED that hike!

Seriously I think that goes down as one of my favorite memories, her walking along beside me, holding the nook of my elbow tight, me pointing out all the variations of leaves and having her examine them with me as best she could and having her excitedly talk through life at my side.

To be a mother is grand.

To have this guy at your side in parenting is pretty grand too:

Loved how he helped Lucy maneuver up and down all those steps.

As a side-note, there were a lot of hard things on this trip, and Dave developed this new cheer where he proclaimed “hot dog!” when she did something great, (inspired by “its a wonderful life”) and that proclamation got a slow smile to creep across her face ALMOST every time. By the end everyone on our group caught on to the “hot dog!” cheer.

The waterfall was beautiful, down a thousand stairs to feel it’s spray and then back up again, Lucy valiant, then the rest of us sprinting a mile further up to the blue pools after Dave claimed he wanted to head back down with Lucy (the trail got much more treacherous after that so I was glad he insisted).

It started POURING two minutes before we got back to the car and we ran, soaked more by the minute to reunite at the bottom.

Then back to town and the grocery store (I love grocery stores in other countries), laughing how much this family loves to dance (and how their spouses do not) outside in the parking lot when all of them started busting out dancing to the Spanish music going on in the park across the street.

Lucy kept busy in the car every time we drove anywhere keeping track of the days in her journal. Man I love that girl!

Not a bad place so stay in:

Games at night:

We had a little miracle on our canyoneering adventure, repelling down five different gorgeous waterfalls.

We figured Lucy could hang out above and meet us below like she did in Africa when we did something similar but didn’t realize it couldn’t work that way with the logistics. There were some seriously miraculous things that happened though, from the fact that the guides promised Lucy she would be safe and she believed them to the fact that the lady next to me on our huge 4-wheeling bus happened to have extra water shoes my same size that I could borrow to the fact that it happened to be sunny and we got to see the volcano without wispy clouds surrounding it for the first time.

Lucy really was a miracle. She gracefully let the guides hook her in at each turn and actually really enjoyed it all, repelling down these huge waterfalls, rainbows glistening through. It was a triumphant day for us. And all I have is this picture to show for it:

We visited an animal sanctuary complete with toucans, sloths and a giant cougar…

…and then headed to town for dinner, all twelve of us shoulder-to-shoulder on this little table with a thatched cover eating the BEST food, followed by gelato next door .

They had a little area you can ride a shuttle to where you can tube down these rapids and hang out, so we packed up, all 12 of us, and had a little tubing adventure.

There were several natural spring volcano-warmed pools that we loved:

Lucy in her element:

Big scum card game that night after hanging on our balcony hot tub, learning that Harvard was closing it’s doors due to the corona virus, and dinner in town after soaking in this view one last time:

And finished it all off with gelato:

After our stay in the tropical volcano area, we drove for three and a half hours on those windy roads leaving the volcano rain forest La Fortuna to get to the beach area.

Which was so beautiful.

It was in the beach area that serious corona news started to ease it’s way into life. I wrote all about that back HERE, but I went to sleep uneasy about Dave and Claire leaving the next day for her volleyball tournament (lu and I were staying with everyone else until we had to head to Wisconsin for her doctor appointments a day later), sure they would have to be quarantined in Denver with all the unrest (1,500 teams expected, 60,000 spectators, someone was bound to be found with corona). But the tournament kept announcing it was still a go. Claire’s teammates were going to be meeting at the airport in AZ at 5:45am for their fight. We got news just after midnight that the tournament officials had decided to call it quits.

Dave and Claire were staying that extra day after all.

I was filled with the relief about that, still uneasy about Wisconsin. The world swirling to the unknown. Every conversation filled with corona talk, new news coming in by the minute: sports cancelled, college cancelled, college graduation cancelled, church cancelled, seeping worry about the bridal shower, the wedding, the reception, wishing all my kids could be right with us right then.

But hey, we were in a pretty amazingly gorgeous place that needed to be enjoyed and worry wasn’t going to do any of us any good. So we headed to Tamarindo (surf/beach town about 30 minutes away) to check it out. Happened upon this place called Waffle Monkey filled up with every kind of waffle topping combo you can imagine and everyone was dying over how good it all was.

We ate at some tables on the beach, the most gorgeous spot, a sweet Costa Rican guy making everyone little things out of palm reeds.

We rented chairs and umbrellas on the beach, gathered shells and talked and talked as the kids frolicked in the waves, low tide.

We ate at a great taco shop (green papaya) my friends had highly recommended.

Costa Rican money is pretty:

En route back to the beach Dave got a call from dr haws that Lucy’s appointment in Wisconsin would need to be cancelled. I kind of figured that was coming, but it was still a relief to know we could travel back with Dave and Claire.

We thought we’d head back to the hotel after lunch but the tide was high by the time we got back to our beach, the waves were perfect, and we weren’t too far off from sunset so we played in those waves and watched the sun sink to leave the sky and ocean perfect cotton candy pink, the most gorgeous light I’ve seen, so many people I love right there in one of my new favorite “thin places.”

The flight home was a whole new adventure, maneuvering airports in newly covid-laden-restricted airports. Long lines, the NICEST gate agent helping us though. It seems like we had ten thousand glitches, once trying to get on the plane (random new security check I think because we changed our flight a few times…trying to juggle 12 people with Southwest flights), one getting off the plane in Houston (they warned us over and over again not to forget anything because we couldn’t go back on the flight once we got off..new rule??)…and of course I somehow chose THAT for the one time in all my years of flying to leave my carry-on in the overhead bin (luckily Claire was still getting off so she could grab it for me). Then somehow the tail end of us getting off the flight accidentally got locked in an area (the security lady couldn’t get the door open).

But we made our connecting flight and are en route to HOME filled up with gratitude for such an adventure. Little did we know how much we would treasure those days together before the whole world changed.

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5 comments

Carla Olsen November 18, 2020 - 6:36 pm

Love your post – it’s so refreshing to see families enjoying this beautiful world, even if it was months ago. Gives us hope! And looks like heaven – we are headed there soon ourselves! I would LOVE any details of your trip you can easily share – Can you tell me where you stayed in Arenal and the tubing outfit you used there? And were the hot springs right there in La Fortuna? We are planning on soaking up some precious time before Arizona becomes home to our missionary daughter! (Feel free to email me if that is better olsencarla@gmail.com).

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Mom November 18, 2020 - 7:32 pm

How fun to see all this in living color! What a great trip! This is such a great combination of glorious nature, great relationships and a moment in history that you will always remember! Bless that courageous Lucy! Love that girl!

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Mom November 18, 2020 - 11:36 pm

great post! And wow, yes, what a different world 9 months ago! (dad)

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Nicole Taylor November 19, 2020 - 6:04 am

We were supposed to leave for Costa Rica the day the NBA cancelled their season. I loved seeing all your pictures, it makes me excited to make it there someday.

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Julie November 19, 2020 - 8:12 am

Would love more details about the itinerary. Sounds like an awesome trip to take with teens!

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