Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Adventure on the Home Front

Who says staying home can't be an adventure? Forewarned by predictions of snow and ice, we weren't surprised to wake up at 4 a.m. on Monday morning to a loss of power. We WERE surprised, to say the least, a few minutes later, when we heard some loud cracks and then a HUGE crack followed by an even huger "THUD!" right outside our window. Upon investigation, we found that half of a giant oak had fallen under the weight of the ice, landing across our front yard, and taking a very small bit of the roof/eave with it. Boy, we were lucky! It seems like it could just as well have fallen into the house, although we do a pretty good inspection job every year to see that there aren't dead branches destined for such a fate.

When we learned later Monday morning that we wouldn't have power until Tuesday night, we spent a few minutes bemoaning the fact that our fabulous generator, installed in preparation for Y2K, hadn't been running for a number of years. Then we did the wise thing and called for a hotel room in town! Not to worry, we figured, we would call and get someone to come out and fix our generator. After a great try of several hours in the cold and snow, the technician declared that the machine was a goner! Later in the day, after calling every possible store in the area, we realized that there was nary a non-electric heater in sight that might help us keep pipes from freezing. So, we went back home to keep the fireplace going overnight.

We've always said that we could make a party out of most any situation, and we proved it to ourselves once again last night! We picked up a pizza, stoked the fire, snuggled up under every quilt in the house on mattresses in front of the fire, and watched a movie on Dave's new Mac. Somewhere in the middle of the movie we got a call from the generator folks, saying that they could install a new one at 8:30 in the morning! We set the alarm to feed the fire once every hour or so and made it through the night!

The technicians arrived right on time, installed the new generator and fired it up! It ran for all of 5 minutes, when our power came back on! So, now we have power from our electric coop, back up from the generator, and glorious, glorious sunshine. The whole place looks like a fairy tale today, with the sun on the trees and the lake. We are truly blessed today and always.

However, we are also feeling so very deeply saddened today by the news from Christchurch in New Zealand. If you haven't been following the news, an earthquake right in the middle of this beautiful and historic city has taken the lives of at least 65 people, and dozens are still missing in the rubble. New Zealand is the next stop on our sabbatical tour, as well as a magical place where we have spent many wonderful months, and the home of many dear friends. It is simply unimaginable to think about experiencing such a tragedy and it happens so often to so many people around the world.

We're still planning on New Zealand, followed by Australia and South Africa, and then (we think) on to Cambodia (where we have an old friend and brilliant development practitioner/consultant), and then India. We are blessed every day by the connections friends and family and colleagues are helping us make as we explore Dave's interests in "management and leadership practices around the world with the potential for transforming our workplaces, communities and societies." Ideas about who we should visit and interview? Send them along, PLEASE!

One final note: a great big "thank you" to Dave and Bailey for assembling my Costa Rica "peace chair" that now sits happily in our living room!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Sun Sets on Costa Rica

The sun has now set on our Costa Rica adventure, but we've gathered enough memories for a lifetime (as well as miles of sabbatical interviews, as Dave will share later). Here are just a few memories of our last few days in Pure Vida land.

Nicoya Peninsula
On the next to the last day at Tango Mar, we couldn't resist the temptation to rent a car and venture out to some of the Nicoya Peninsula's most beautiful beaches, even though we were told that the roads were a bit of a challenge (Kristi, Randy and Lisa - think a narrowed Hawkins Highway with no maintenance for several years and potholes the size of a Volkswagen Beetle)! It was indeed quite the adventure, we saw beautiful beaches, but we came back saying that Tango Mar and Tambor Bay had been a most lucky choice for a fabulous vacation.
Once we heard the Michigan weather forecast, we decided that another couple of days in the sunshine couldn't hurt anything. Thus, we headed back to Margarita's B & B near the airport for one prepaid night, and then landed ourselves back in our favorite place in Santa Ana, the lovely Villas Los Candiles. It truly felt like a homecoming, and we were able to have one more meal at each of two wonderful, world-class restaurants in the neighborhood, Doris Metropolitan and Bacchus!

Dave at Nature Air
As a bit of a long shot, Dave emailed a contact at Nature Air (http://www.natureair.com/, the world's first carbon neutral airline), hoping to get one last interview before returning home. A meeting was quickly arranged by the most accommodating Gabriela for the following afternoon. We headed out to the Tobías Bolaños Airport, made our way through some very tight security, and proceeded to Hangar 7 for the interview. We were completely shocked and thrilled to find out that we had a 30 minute interview with Alex Khajavi, the founder and CEO, and another 30 minutes with the COO, Roberto Kopper. The story of the airline, Alex's history and mission, and Roberto's management philosophy is one that needs to be told all over the world (more about that when Dave blogs about his interview experience).

Audi Store at the MultiPlaza
On our final afternoon, I convinced Dave that we shouldn't leave Costa Rica without visiting the MultiPlaza in Escazú, the neighboring town to Santa Ana. It turns out that Escazú is pretty much an expatriate enclave, where several embassies, including the US, reside. The mall was an absolute shocker, given what we had seen of Costa Rica in almost 3 weeks. It has more than 300 stores, all incredibly upscale, ranging from (I kid you not, an AUDI store on the 3rd floor) Carolina Herrera to Salvatore Ferragamo to Tiffany. And, totally in Costa Rica style, when we weren't sure how to explain to a taxi driver where we wanted to go next, a young employee of a shop near the mall entrance came out of the store, walked us to the entrance, hailed us a taxi, and explained where to take us! The people in this country are just astounding!

Typical Bars and Barbed Wire
Besides the amazing people, Costa Rica is full of wonder and contrasts. It was surprising to us to see that most people live behind bars and barbed wire in a country that is the safest in Central America, barely impacted by the region's drug trade, fairly free of poverty, and with a crime rate far below the US. Many shops have guards at the door, and we even went to a restaurant where patrons can't enter the premises without the guard unlocking the door.

Green McDonald's in Lindor Santa Ana
 Another fun discovery is that Lindora Santa Ana, near our hotel, is the home of the first "green" McDonalds's restaurant in Central America. They say that, "Sustainable design and construction elements will save 40 percent in drinking water consumption and 30 percent in energy use. Recycled materials were used in the restaurant’s lobby and dining areas and rain water is collected and re-used for irrigation purposes. In addition, restaurant crew members are trained to communicate with customers about the green features of the restaurant to build awareness of McDonald’s efforts and commitment on the environment." Note the flora growing on the roof in the picture!

On our last evening, we asked Adrian at Villas Los Candiles to arrange for a very early morning taxi to get to the airport for home. We had come to absolutely adore Adrian for his smile, spirit, and his impeccably helpful attitude. We had learned that he is also a budding entrepreneur with his own little tour company (http://www.findetours.com/), consisting of Adrian and his brightly painted old VW van. Just imagine our surprise when we went to the lobby to get our taxi at 6 a.m. the next morning - there was Adrian waiting for us with his van, wearing his ty-dyed shirt, grinning, and saying, "This is my gift to you. I will take you to the airport!" So incredibly sweet! Makes me get teary just to think about it.

The Always Charming and Generous Adrian
So now we are safe and sound, back home in the snow (Dave has been shoveling for hours!), appreciating every aspect of our life, and greatly looking forward to seeing our family and friends! We'll try not to be completely boring with details of our trip!