w r i n k l e d
ADVENTURES IN TRAVEL, WRITING AND AGING GRACEFULLY
ADVENTURES IN TRAVEL, WRITING AND AGING GRACEFULLY
If Panama was Isoo’s choice, Costa Rica, with its monkeys and sea turtles, was Oona’s. We had earmarked several days to volunteer with a sea turtle conservation program in the Osa Peninsula only to learn that the hatching season had yet to start. So instead, we flew to the Papagayo Peninsula and checked into the trendy Andaz Hotel to await the arrival of my cousins, Stella and Spencer, along with his family and their parents, who had booked a fancy villa on the property.
We had only intended on staying in Papagayo for a couple of days, but two days turned into four and finally, after much pleading from the kids, we dragged our battered bags to their place and officially moved in. I didn’t require much persuasion: When my brother called to ask how the trip was going, we told him we’d spent the day drinking margaritas on the private boat charted to cruise us to a secluded beach. Once there, the crew made us a big buffet lunch and we spent the afternoon snorkeling, boogie boarding, paddle boarding, kayaking and jet skiing. Afterwards we came back to the villa and went swimming in the private pool. Kyung’s response? “Ah, you’re on rich people’s vacation.” If you’re going to crash someone’s vacation, you should definitely crash my cousins’.
Thanks to Stella’s expert planning and the generosity of the entire Lee clan, we had a great time. The kids had a blast playing Pokemon and ninja and catching up on movies while the adults lazed and enjoyed delicious meals prepared by the private chef. Seriously, it did not suck.
Throughout the trip, we’ve been floored by the kindness of family and new friends: Alex and Mar who opened their home to teach us how to make a traditional Spanish tortilla. The Skibbereen Soccer Club that allowed our kids to practice with their teams. Pottery teacher Rita who kick wheeled through a power outage to make sure Oona’s birthday was special. John and Becky for ensuring a Christmas filled with joy and love. Janice for tour guiding us all over Chiang Mai. Komang and Elah for taking such great care of us in Lovina. Birders Steve and Begley who took Isoo under their wing in Sydney. Sylvia, for putting aside a busy work schedule to generously host us not once, but twice! in Macau. Miguel and Cristina who welcomed us like old friends and treated us to a delicious lunch and hike. Carol and Shannon for bending over backwards to anticipate our every need in Hong Kong. Natasha and Luke for allowing complete and total strangers to stay in their home without expecting a thing in return. My family in Korea for the lovely meals and priceless stories, and Katherine who trekked in to Seoul just for the chance to share a cup of tea. Helen (and Hans) for the sunny, fun, L.A. hospitality, and Mike and Elaine for the great hike and amazing views. My new buddy Kelly, whom I miss already. Stella, who insisting on sleeping on the couch to make room for us in Costa Rica. Kyung, the awesome Chung family, and Grandma and Grandpa for flying out to meet us and share in this crazy adventure. And my ladies Susan, Tavia, Lillian and Elaine who have been researching apartments, summer camp registration, and keeping me abreast of news back home to smooth our return. And especially Grandpa, for acting as our defacto accountant and executor for the last 10 months. Last but not least, my bro, Jisun and Cousin Jeanine for checking on my parents. The world is pretty remarkable and filled with amazing people. It would have been a long, lonely 10-months without them.
As for Costa Rica, while it turned out that it was not yet sea turtle season, we saw our fare share of howlers and white-faced monkeys, and many, many long tailed coatimundis. Aside from the abundant wildlife, there’s not much else to say about Costa Rica as much of the region’s indigenous tribes were wiped out by the Spanish 500 years ago, and the various Central American countries share deep similarities without many distinguishing features. Their collective history, coupled with the fact that 60% of Costa Rica’s industry is rooted in tourism means two things: very little in the way of cultural individuality, and a wide economic chasm between the locals and the tourists they service. All one needs to do is venture a couple of miles outside the lush, green property and through the pearly gates of the Four Seasons for a glimpse of the arid farmland and corrugated metal shanties to grasp the disconnect.
After six days in Papagayo, we loaded up the 4x4, said a begrudging farewell to the Lees and headed for the final leg of our trip – five nights in a remote jungle retreat in central Costa Rica. No TV, no Internet, solar powered utilities and no paper in the toilet. Just us four, the scorpions and long days left to reflect on our adventure.
Monkey Head Rock
Smooth sailing to our day at the beach.
Black sand beachcombing.
All smiles with Emo Stella.
Indulging in our need for speed.
Spen at the head of the table.
Chris and Oona take Auntie for a spin on the jet ski.
Isoo and Spencer hit the water.
Proof that if you hang out by the captain long enough, he will let you steer the boat.
I'm lucky to come from a big, noisy, crazy extended family of cousins. Wish they were all here for this fantastic day!
What’s not to smile about?
Me and Stella
Palo Verde river boat ride to see crocs, monkeys and you guessed it, birds.
Miyoung and Stella show me the ropes during my first yoga class.
Compare and Contrast: The entry to the Andaz/Four Seasons property. The corrugated metal rooftops of a typical Costa Rican village.