Mangoes are falling. Branches shake in the trees high above me, moved by invisible hands. The monkeys are coming. I can hear chirps that sound like high-pitch dolphin calls. Soon a parade of monkeys jumps from tree to tree above our porch at Villa Titi. I sit frozen, afraid to even sip my coffee. I do not want to scare them away. It is early in the morning on our first day in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica. I am enjoying the fresh air of the soon to be humid and hot day on the porch of our rented villa.
As if by magic, I am suddenly surrounded by monkeys. There must be at least twenty of them in the large mango tree that grows above our villa. These are the squirrel monkeys; tiny, delicate, light tan monkeys with soft white faces. My eight year old son Max has come to the door. I slowly gesture him to stop. Max stares at our tiny guests who beam at us with small intense eyes. They are so close I tingle with excitement. I have never been this close to monkeys without a fence separating us. A baby clings to its mother’s back staring back at us in wide-eyed wonder.
After a pause, the monkeys begin the business that brought them to our tree. It is breakfast time. They begin their morning routine. They seem to have forgotten us completely. They throw the mangoes down from the tree. They run down to the ground to retrieve their fallen treasures. On the ground, they take a few thoughtful test bites before they carry the mango back up into the tree. Max and I watch with silly grins on our faces. As suddenly as they arrive, as if by mutual agreement, they all leave. The shaking branches and fading chirps mark their retreat.
Continue reading The Monkeys are Coming – Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica
Dancing the Sardana on Easter Sunday
We are standing in front of the Barcelona’s La Seu cathedral in the Ciutat Vella (old city) of Barcelona. It is Easter Sunday. Less than a half an hour earlier, I drag Claudia from her bed and we rush through the cobblestone maze of alleys from La Rambla to arrive in time. I do not want to be late. Already, a large crowd has formed in the plaza in front of the church. I push ahead in the crowd, not quite sure where the performance will begin.
It starts to happen. As if by silent cue, a few old ladies and old men solemnly place their belongings in a pile together. They join hands and back up, creating a circle with the items that they have placed together in the center. The placing of all of their belongings together symbolizes trust and community. Similar groups simultaneously begin to pile up their belongings and join hands. All around us, the crowd is now more filled with participants than it is with spectators. The circles, like ripples in a pond during a rain storm, are forming all around us. We are in the center. I can feel an electricity of anticipation. I see young and old, men and women, traditionally dressed and in jeans, join together in circles. As the music begins, slowly at first, the dancers execute little hop-touch steps. As the music accelerates, the dancers raise their hands, their faces fill with pride and emotion.
Continue reading Catalan – The Language of Resilience in Barcelona
Thousands of yellow butterflies float through the sky as we wind down the dirt road heading away from Monteverde. I first notice them in the morning as I stand one last time on the back porch of the Star House, the house we had rented in Santa Elena. The little yellow butterflies flutter like flower petals tossed in the wind. I watch them dart over the field behind the house, across the road and up the far hill covered with coffee plants and banana trees. They stream by as if someone has turned on a butterfly faucet. Steadily, they pour across the horizon.
This is our last day in Monteverde, the cloud forest paradise reachable only by unpaved roads and four by fours. Now we unwind the road from the clouds by slowly circling downward towards the Costa Rican coast. The yellow butterflies fill the sky. They fly over the trees, the green hills, the grazing cows, the coffee plantations, the towns, the churches, the soccer fields, the fences, and the dirt road. Every direction I look the yellow butterflies fill the air like a yellow snow storm. As I look, I think to myself “pura vida.” This magical moment can only be described as “pura vida.”
Continue reading How a Thousand Yellow Butterflies Taught Me About Pura Vida.