Monday, February 28, 2011

Half Empty or Half Full?

Sorry for the blog delay. I don't really have a good excuse, except that life seems to have gotten sort of busy lately. Yes, yes, I know it's all relative.

We're officially past the halfway point now. Six months into our 11 month sabbatical. We're on the other side of the hill. Or wave. Or something.

Six months in and things have definitely picked up around here. Take the "family business" for example. My !Que Rico! duties used to be confined to marketing. Meaning I created a facebook fan page and occasionally posted items of interest on it. But now business has picked up substantially and I spend evenings cutting out tiny little circular labels and painstakingly taping them onto tiny plastic lids. I'm also in charge of ice making and with the increase in delivery demands I have to make ice ALL the time. It's exhausting. To top it all off, I have recently had to participate in the actual making of ice cream! And I don't mean just as the official taste tester. you might find me slaving over a hot stove stirring stirring and stirring and stirring chocolate. Whose idea was this whole ice cream making thing, anyway??

On the plus side, we have officially entered into the exciting world of BARTER. I've never had a barterable skill before (who wants to trade a massage for a wetland restoration policy?) and I have definitely been missing out. We trade ice cream for all sorts of awesome things now. Ice cream for organic kale, homemade fruit leather, cheese, boxing classes, a beautiful sign. At up to four batches a day the possibilities are endless....

In addition to selling (and trading) ice cream, I have decided to cast aside all fear of abject failure and humiliation and teach Zumba. That's right, you read it correctly. Zumba. While Ian and Sadie got their visas renewed in Nicaragua, I flew to Portland for a lovely weekend with good friends and one very long day at the "Diva Den" to get licensed to teach Zumba. No, I'm not going to explain what it is if you've never heard of it. And for those of you who have heard of it, don't even think about laughing! Class begins next Saturday - I expect to see all of you there. In the meantime, here's a preview:

Oh, and we've become property managers. The couple who was managing the property we are renting picked up and moved to Italy, leaving us to manage our own property, as well as the former property managers' property. Throw in another house on the hill that we are responsible for opening and showing to potential buyers and, voila, we have a drawer full of keys.

In addition to ice cream and Zumba and property management we are involved in many ways with Sadie's school. I'm on the environmental committee and Ian is on the community committee and also heading up this year's talent show/circus. The school is absolutely totally fabulous and I only mention our involvement as an excuse to bring up the school so that I can share this cute video:

Del Mar Academy Nosara Costa Rica from projectgfs on Vimeo.

Extra curricular activities also keep us busy. All three of us take boxing class now, at different times during the week - women's class, men's class, girl's class.

Ian still takes spanish lessons and sometimes yoga and I am occasionally found taking a "body sculpting" class when I'm not boxing. Sadie still loves her once a week surf club and swimming club begins next week (she gets yoga class at school - the fabulous school). Recently we also found a great afternoon drop-in kids art class. At a bar. Fun for everyone. Yesterday Sadie even got to go horseback riding. Here is the trailer for the upcoming movie of the adventure:

We're so busy but we have so much yet to do here!!

Yes, we've taken myriad classes, met great people, traveled to two other countries, become part of a very large Nicaraguan family, started a business, experienced a change of season, learned how to get a downed phone line repaired and where to get natural peanut butter. We've watched lots and lots of monkeys, we've seen hundreds of turtles lay eggs and watched thousands of babies hatch, we've read lots and lots of books, we've seen countless beautiful sunsets, we've captured (and released) dozens of bugs, we've seen several scorpions and one tarantula. We've even (finally) found a decent beer - Costa Rica's first craft brewery is now available and our fridge is stocked with two cases.

But...we haven't driven down the coast road to Montezuma, we haven't seen the volcano or the cloud forest, we haven't even kayaked up the Nosara River. Two of us haven't zip lined and none of us have tried stand up paddling or been fishing. Heck, we haven't even been on a boat! I haven't learned spanish and I still can't open a coconut with a machete. And we definitely don't spend nearly enough time these days walking on the beach or lying in a hammock.

The glass is definitely half full, but I have a feeling the next five months will fly by at an alarming rate. So much to do, so little time....

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Dream for Monkeys

One of the things we love most about this house is the monkeys. We have a tribe of Howler monkeys whose territory includes the trees on all sides of our house and we spend lots of quality time watching them from the balcony.

After we had settled in to life in Nosara, we went looking for ways to spend our time, including volunteer opportunities. I perused the list of the various Nosara nonprofits, of which there are quite a few. Not finding anything coastal management related, I went for the next best thing. Monkeys.

The increase in tourism and accompanying development have had a severe negative impact on Costa Rican monkey populations. Between 1995 and 2007, Howler monkey decline in the country was estimated at 65%. In Nosara and surrounding areas, Howler monkeys are particularly vulnerable to electrocution from uninsulated power lines that are draped through the thick canopy of trees to houses, resorts, and businesses, mimicking the vines that the monkeys use to travel between feeding grounds (I'll spare you the graphic electrocution photos).

Refugio Animales de Nosara and the SIBU Sanctuary, together known as Nosara Wildlife Rescue, work tirelessly to save the Howler monkeys in Nosara and surrounding areas. Refugio focuses on rescuing injured adult Howler monkeys and orphaned infants. Medical care is provided, humane life term care is given for those animals whose injuries are too severe to be rehabilitated (99% of adults die of their injuries within a week), and around the clock care and feeding is provided for the orphaned infants. When the infants are ready, they are transferred to the step-down release facility at SIBU Sanctuary.

The entirety of Nosara Wildlife Rescue essentially consists of three dedicated individuals who work on a volunteer basis full time (or more) rescuing and caring for Howler monkeys and any other animal that is injured or abandoned and brought to them. By pure determination and passion for their cause, they have managed to subsist for over ten years in Nosara based on sporadic private donations, caring for hundreds of monkeys and other critters every year.

They are committed. And exhausted. And always in need of more help and more money.

My volunteer efforts with Nosara Wildlife Rescue has been mostly focused on working directly with Steve and Vicky of SIBU Sanctuary.

Vicky with the newest transfers to SIBU

Steve with a rescued orphan porcupine baby

Specifically, we have been working to design and implement an idea for a consistent source of funding that capitalizes on the strong environmental ethic of both business owners and visitors to Nosara, and the rise of "travel philanthropy" throughout the world.

“Dream for Monkeys” is a program where local hotels and vacation rentals make a donation to Nosara Wildlife Rescue equal to a percentage of the cost of lodging. Businesses that participate in the “Dream for Monkeys” program directly help mitigate the damage to the monkey populations caused by tourism and increased development. Guests who choose accommodations that help save the Howler monkeys enjoy their vacations with the knowledge that they are acting responsibly.

The program is a way for those in the accommodation sector to help alleviate negative impacts to local wildlife associated with tourism and increasing development, while also increasing profitability by providing socially and environmentally conscious guests the choice to help save the wildlife that is such an important part of their Costa Rican experience.

Sounds great, doesn't it? It is a great idea in theory (in all its variations), but honestly is proving difficult to actually implement. Nosara is a small town full of wonderful people committed to great causes - and all of them need monetary support. Everyone has fundraisers in January and February (during the busy season) and frankly folks get tired of being asked over and over to donate. In addition, though tourism here is big business, it is of course subject to the ups and downs of the global economy. Hotel owners are uncomfortable committing to a year round donation program. Finally, the idea seems overly complicated to them - full of extra paperwork and more time with their calculators.

Still, we continue to pursue the idea because the idea is good and a dependable funding source is critical. Nosara Wildlife Rescue is making a difference in the long-term recovery of the Howler monkey population, but the day-to-day fight for survival continues and increased support is essential.

Partially completed "Open Canopy" habitat at SIBU

One of the new transfers to SIBU

Bella and baby SIBU (the first baby born at SIBU)
Bella and her baby were recently released and are slowly acclimating to life in the wild

Ideas, comments, suggestions, etc. regarding the "Dream for Monkeys" program are welcome. In the meantime, I am focusing my efforts in the short term on the upcoming Nosara Wildlife Rescue fundraiser and auction, to be held February 25th. Even !Que Rico! is pitching in for the cause, with a donation of ice cream delivery once a week for a month. If you live in Nosara, I hope to see you there!