Archive for ‘Observations’

It’s On Sale!


Happiness for Sale, Portland, Oregon December 2019

It’s been said that money can’t buy happiness (with some important caveats). After basic human needs are met (food, shelter, and safety for example) happiness does improve with additional income, but only to a point. After that, more money ≠ more happiness.

While I don’t usually try to buy it, I was pleasantly surprised to find Happiness not only for sale, but on sale. I’ll let you know how it works!


Can’t Argue With That


Graffiti, Tucson, Arizona December 2019

I spotted this graffiti Monday afternoon while driving through the barrio on my way to Anita Street Market (a must stop every time I visit Tucson). They make the best tortillas ever –  I know it sounds weird but they’re made with cottage cheese. Delish!

Of course, I had to stop to snap a photograph. Think about it: not only did a lot of effort go into creating this statement (schnazzy, two color design) but the artist risked a misdemeanor for property damage in order to declare his pot pie passion. And really, who’s going to disagree? Pot pie is fantastic!




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Advisory Sign, Tucson, Arizona December 2019

There are many things to love about my old hometown; the mild winter weather, abundant sunshine, accessible natural areas, prolific wildlife, laid back atmosphere, nice people, and delicious food. And every once in awhile, there’s a little something, like this sign, that makes me smile.

I had to flip two u-turns to take this photo but I couldn’t pass it up. So many questions come to mind: How many man hours did it take to nail down that exact measurement? Does anyone really think any driver has the spatial capability to discern those extra three feet? If the sign was off by the three feet would people just randomly drive into the desert instead of deducing that they should use the upcoming turn lane? And lastly, why not just move the sign the three feet?!

I am convinced that no other signs are that precisely situated, which leads me to think that they should all just say 300-ish feet. That would certainly simplify the sign making and placement process!


Cumbia, Costa Rica

I spent my last Costa Rican day in Alajuela, a small town now engulfed by the capital city of San Jose. After settling into my hotel, I set out to enjoy the warm afternoon by wandering the neighborhood. The sound of live music enticed me over to the nearby park and I was pleasantly surprised by the scene.

A large band, replete with a beautiful marimba, had gathered a large Tico crowd. I was mesmerized by the rhythmic swaying of the many dancers. Though I stuck out like a sore thumb (I was the only guera* in attendance and by far the tallest woman – well, to be honest, I was one of the tallest, period) everyone was very welcoming. I was even encouraged onto the dance floor a couple times.

With my uniquely imperfect blend of Spanish/English I learned that the band plays every Sunday afternoon in the park during the dry season. What a lovely way to wrap up my stay. Thanks, Costa Rica, for all your amazing hospitality!

*Guera: White girl or blonde girl.



Day 1: Wandering and Night Tour

For my first full day in the cloud forest I followed a meandering road up to a massive Strangler Fig (Ficus aurea)These towering, Gaudí-esque trees are crucial components of a healthy cloud forest. They not only provide food and habitat for a wealth of animals but they can support thousands of epiphyte plants and mosses on their broad branches. While much of the area here had been heavily logged and is now a secondary forest, Strangler Figs were often spared since their unique growth pattern meant their wood held little commercial value.

After a quick bite for dinner I was whisked off for a nighttime tour of the nearby Kinkajou Preserve. As we munched delicious guavas off the tree, our guide enthusiastically pointed out various creatures along the way. Though sadly, the park’s namesake was not one of them. The Costa Rican Orange-kneed Tarantula (Megaphobema mesomelas) and the Side-striped Palm Pitviper (Bothriechis lateralis) were favorites among the young people in our group while I was partial to the sleeping Hoffmann’s Two-toed Sloth (Choloepus hoffmanni).

It was a great introduction to the cloud forest and its denizens, I just wish my photography skills had been up to the challenge!


Santa Elena Impressions

What a difference from my recent beach stay! Santa Elena is located at about 4500′ elevation, up in the cloud forest. It is a good 20 degrees cooler up here so I finally get a chance to wear pants!

I have a private room in a cute hostel near the center of this little town. The mountainsides around here are dotted with parcels of privately owned, protected land. Many of these reserves offer guided tours (which, thankfully, include transportation to and from my hostel).

In addition to having a rustic road system through most of the countryside, Costa Rica has yet to utilize any method of addressing. This lack of organization makes locations difficult to find, especially for visitors. Some Ticos tackle this problem by posting hand-painted directional signs showing their houses. I’m not sure how functional they are but they’re fun to look at!

Chao, Santa Teresa


Sunset, Santa Teresa, Costa Rica November 2019

Magical sunsets made my time on the Pacific Coast so very memorable! Though I am looking forward to visiting the cloud forest at Monteverde, I will certainly miss this quaint surfing village.

Maybe Not Such a Good Idea?


In-line, Electric, Showerhead Water Heater, Santa Teresa, Costa Rice November 2019

Most Tico homes don’t have the necessary wiring or amperage to support water heater tanks (not to mention the fact that heating water requires a lot of electricity, which can be expensive). Those logistics coupled with the fact that hot water isn’t often necessary in this warm climate means that a simple, cheap option is often installed (note that I didn’t say that it was safe or even effective).

Enter the suicide shower, an in-line, electric, showerhead water heater. My first night using one was truly a shocking experience. There weren’t any instructions and since the water wasn’t warm, I reached up to adjust the knob. The little zing I received for my efforts immediately encouraged me to give up on that idea. I finished my cold shower in a hurry.

I have since learned that these devices seldom work, no matter what the setting. Now, I just try not to worry about it and hope for the best. Which is actually a pretty good way to deal with life in general, don’tcha think?

Tropical Paradise?

Well, it was bound to happen. Even though I’ve been careful, I am now host to the lovely intestinal parasite, giardia. This little bugger causes a diarrheal disease aptly named giardiasis. I’ll spare you the gory details but I will say the symptoms are triggered by food. So, not eating has suddenly become quite appealing (thankfully, drinking doesn’t seem to be a problem).

I had this once during college and clearly remember the experience. I even know exactly how I contracted it back then, I drank untreated water out of a mountain stream (hence the nickname “beaver fever”). It was so unpleasant that I don’t drink out of streams any more. There are any number of ways to ingest giardia down here so I can’t pinpoint the source this time. Ah well, this, too, shall pass.

I am sharing my misfortune so that those of you dealing with the record breaking cold spell understand that as I stroll down the sandy beach on a warm, sunny day I am suffering, too. That’s living in paradise for ya!