Corcovado, Costa Rica

I apologize for jumping off the map for the past couple of weeks, but I have just been allowing myself time to “heal”.  For those who don’t know where I have been, I am up in Eugene, OR. visiting family, pretty much.  Most of my time has been spent between Doron and Sierran’s with weekend visits paid to Aria.  I have passed a little time with Francesca in between.

Little by little I heal, though I am not sure I will ever return to the old days of reckless abandon, driving long distances through strange cities, visiting places I’ve never been before, alone.  But who knows; I’ve discovered my memory may not be so acute, but once I start doing something, it comes back and the memory kicks in like an old engine that tends to work when you have given up on it.  

Sierran and I were reminiscing this morning about an excursion he and I took to Corcovado a few years back.  Corcovado is a National Park in the southern portion of Costa Rica.  I don’t recall what the purpose of our trip was, other than just doing a tropical rainforest hike; he had been to Costa Rica once or twice before, but the season was different so he knew Corcovado would produce some new angles on the outing.   

National Parks in most developed countries are much like the parks in the U.S: well developed, oriented to fees, camping, a well defined trail system, and rangers to maintain order and keep wild game from becoming a problem for the tourists that want to get up close and personal with the big game that attracts the sight seers, but I can say for certainty that in undeveloped countries that once you pay your fee, you are on your own.  You are suppose to use common sense which is a huge help in avoiding conflict between animals and humans, but that alone does not guarantee peace between parties.  

In Corcovado the trekker had to cross rivers and there were records of people being attacked (and killed) by bull sharks, so crossing at the mouth of a river wasn’t where one wanted to dawdle.  If you went up river there were crocodiles (as opposed to the smaller, more docile caiman also present).  There were always risks, but it was a three or four day trek that afforded lots of opportunity to prove your mettle. At one point I tried to goad Sierran into a free lunch by betting him that I would swim across a river and back said to have crocodiles, if not bull sharks.  I was sure that if I made lots of noise it would make a wary beast more wary.  I had my plan but Sierran wouldn’t take the bet.  Later I asked him why he didn’t take me up on it and he said because he thought I was dumb enough to take him up on the wager and he’d be the one forced to go into save my foolish ass when I was attacked by a crocodile.  I chuckled to myself thinking there might have been some truth to that especially when I found out that making noise was the opposite of what I should be doing while trying to cross the river.  Be very quiet I was later told.  I thought to myself how again I had been more lucky than good while trying to win a bet.  

Before we started our trek, we began our evening on the ocean shore where the rainforest pushed up against the steep, sloping  beach front.  We swam out in the semi dusk and treaded water together as we we watched the colorful macaws fly in tight flocks up the beach  and the monkeys run and jump from tree to tree up the beach.  We finally came to shore after concluding it was a good place for bull sharks to be and the right time of a 24 hour cycle for them to show up.  

We were two nights and 16 miles in when we reached a campground that had vacant log buildings that for something like $15 you could spend the night, but neither of us were willing to spend the money and we said we would stay in our two man pup tent at the end of a very verdant air strip for free.  About sunset, I told Sierran I would sneak into a room (for free) and he could join me if he wanted but he insisted that he would pass (in order to save himself the humility of being caught in a room neither of us were willing to pay for).  In the room, I slept in a bunk and felt pretty good about going the entire night without getting caught like a  common burglar.  

The next dewy morning, I went out and met up with Sierran who was suffering a bite some jungle arachnid laid on him that was swelling and festering, turning all fair living flesh surrounding the wound into dead flesh.  It was a wicked looking bite.  We went down to a stream to indulge in our lunch and at the same time, clean the wound out when Sierran decided to sink his wounded wrist  into the cool of a jungle stream and it was immediately attacked by a school of small, but toothy fish who ate every iota of dead flesh from the wound.  It reminded me of those piranha-like minnows in Thailand they use for cleansing the feet of dead skin.  Good racket.

It was a tough hike, up mud slopes, across deep streams, and sleeping where I doubt I would sleep today if given the opportunity.  I did get bit by one snake.  It was a harmless looking snake (if found in the U.S.) and I tried using a method the Crocodile Hunter used to use: grab the snake by the tail and lag it out when it came into bite, instead of my technique of pinning the head down with a stick then grabbing it behind the head.  It turned out the snake laughed at my technique and reached in and bit me with no problem.  I later counted my lucky stars that the snake was non venomous.  

I confess, we saw lots of animals we probably would normally never see: basilisk lizards, spiders (by the dozens), caiman, and a tapir at night and by day javelinas, four different kinds of monkeys: squirrel, howler, spider, and capuchin;  coatis, exotic birds and a coral snake I had by the tail but released out of fear of it coiling back on me and getting a good bite on one of my fingers.  Coral snakes are first cousins to cobras and their venom is basically the same.    

All in all, it was one of those trips that left a lot of favorable memories, if not a few potentially close calls.  These are the kind of trips that a guy like me just hates to stop doing unless there is just no choice—you do until you are sure there is no more do left in the will.

Corcovado, Costa Rica

Contemplating the Way It Is

I am listening to music and hanging at Sierran’s in Eugene.  It feels good.  I took a hit of marijuana to remind myself of how life can be when you let things slow down just a tad.  Sierran has gone to jiu jitsu to sweat a little then he may go get Brianna and see if she would like for the three of us to go out for a beer.  She has got to fly to Florida tomorrow to help her mom out when Hurricane Irma leaves Puerto Rico and most likely heads up the path of south and east Florida.  Not good because Irma is suppose to be the largest hurricane on record going into the Atlantic.  It would not be good living in hurricane country.  I learned a little more about Typhoons getting caught in the path of a type 4 last year and feeling it hit Sabong pretty hard though nobody lost their life.  But flooding and death would sure put a different hue on the perspective.  I was in one of few buildings that were shielded from the frontal assault of blistering wind and rain.  But death and flooding, wow!

I’m hoping time in Oregon might be what the doctor ordered though so far it has been a slide from Fresno’s gray into a dark hole in Oregon with all the fires and abundant smoke.  The whole state seems in a dark wall of fog.  It’s hard to tell if it is real cloud cover or smoke.  

Though there seems to be no ‘good’ choice regarding my personal well being, I am hoping Oregon may be a reasonable option for the time being, i.e. family and friends.  I may need that.  The only real concern I have is this being the onset of Alzheimer’s.  That would be a real drag.  But then it doesn’t seem Alzheimer’s is brought on by a dive accident and then abstention from alcohol, pain killers, and meds (I keep trying to emphasize though in small amounts hoping someone will see the ironic humor).  

I was once told, back in my 30’s you have nothing to worry about until you lose your sense of humor.  I thought that was funny, but it made good sense.  Now I see.  I am hanging on to it by a silk thread, but every once in awhile, something makes me chuckle.  Thank God.

I wonder what it means when you can no longer imagine what traveling to a certain place is like.  My dreams, literally, use to be smaller than the real experience.  Now I notice my dreams are even smaller than they used to be (though pleasant).  I wonder if that membrane that separates reality from imagination is something that can’t exist if one is to experience ‘all possibility” like maybe becoming president of the U.S. or maybe the most well-known person is the world, all the way up to a messiah.  

I have always thought I could handle just about anything that comes my way as long as it has a name.  But maybe there is an entire array of “things” that don’t have names, and maybe there are a number of things that are cumulative and numerous that make a person’s fate appear hazy.  Maybe a key to life is understanding that some things can’t be explained or aren’t going to be explained but that’s okay—it’s just one more thing to add to the mystery.  In the meantime, live life as though it is rich and full, and there is no membrane.  There are friends that are always with you, some that are with you a long time—the toughest to lose—all the way down to those who you’ve just met, you cross paths, and you lose them but never forget them.   I think sometimes we just get caught up on trying to hang onto what was just a temporary thing.  Maybe that is what I’m going through, just the realization that all relationships are temporary things on this plane…and it is okay; just the way it is.      

Contemplating the Way It Is

Reelin’ in Fresno

After wavering back and forth, trying to force myself to take on the biggest travel challenge of my career, I bailed on my Philippine trip.  I just could not bring myself to do it considering all my hesitation due to innumerable memory gaps that I felt would jeopardize the trip.  I talked to friends, I gave myself pep talks, I rationalized, but in the end, felt I could possibly compromise myself like I never have in the past.  I got to thinking about certain travel episodes last Fall and situations I found myself in, typical travel circumstances, and I just could not remember how I managed to get myself through the press, so to speak, but I did.  Now I am not sure how I would do it.  This concerned me.  How would I get through it when it started happening in the Philippines.  

After talking to Cousin Mike and Friend Gordon who both told me to be confident in holding off on the trip—both taking a very reasonable and non-judgemental position, my confidence peaked again.  However, within a couple hours I started doubting again which has proven to be the poison in my system…doubt.  I started thinking about no photos, may be limited diving, limited traveling while I waited for Gordon to make it to the Philippines, and worst of all, how I accessed my cash which is what gave me a certain freedom while traveling abroad in the past—I couldn’t remember how to access my cash! The memory thing, i.e. the apparent loss of some key information, which included the names of people, things, towns, and places just simply scared me.  It’s bad enough going through that struggle while here in the U.S. where I have friends, a car, and I know my way around, roughly speaking, but to have that happen in a foreign country—that was unsettling.  I kept telling myself it would work out, but down deep I evidently have not been convinced.  

This has been no fun, struggling with doubt, which I have never had in such large quantities.  I am completely baffled struggling with things that I have never known.  All my life I have scoffed at doubt—I have just done what I have done and figured things would work out.  Now I am a different person, hesitant and unsure about so much.  Where has it come from? And admitting this, publicly, wow! What a tough pill to swallow.  

So I gather my wits about me.  Take a few deep breaths, and then a few more, and tell myself a lifetime of being brash, being kind of reckless within reason, will prevail over three months of doubt, reservation, and simply the forgetfulness of all the things that seemed so simple in times past.  Is this what happens when one hits a certain age, or is this a fluke; the potential of what can go wrong for no explicable reason between injury and the withdrawal of medications.  

All I can say is there seems to be no choice except to stand up and face the things in front of me: confusion, doubt, and a certain self-imposed aloneness.  It has seemed easier to hide in a bedroom, a house, than to get out and face the little mundane chores that lead to progress.  Maybe this is where recluses are born: first comes doubt, followed by fear, then habit.  It is always about some new way to shrink away, inexorably into a smaller, less dynamic character.  Ugh. How does one draw the line and simply say, “enough”?  

Reelin’ in Fresno

Cold Feet

I feel like a lazy day has been tugging at tears all afternoon, and here it is an hour or so before the sun is down. I have kept myself sequestered in the house, my room, most of the day, wondering about my fate. At one time my mood swung all the way to the left and I was sure I was not going to the Philippines. Maybe that is why I feel like I have been crying; it’s been a tumultuous episode with which to contend. I thought about maybe whose words I most trusted to touch with insight. I thought about Cousin Mike, Deacon Fletcher, at least a deacon until very recently, in the Holy Roman church. And I thought about Gordon Olson, simply insightful and level headed. I had tried to get a hold of Sierran, certainly wise for his years. There are more people I could mention, but those are three names that came to my mind this time. Eventually I talked to all three.

I wrote a whole blog on what I was going through, but maybe as a test to my fortitude regarding heart tweaking issues, I lost the blog in trying to print it out. So now, this blog is of an entirely different mood, different spirit. My moods have been seeing and sawing all afternoon. But I think the conversations I had with Mike and Gordon have pulled me back across the line of panic regarding the general mood of what to do with the Philippines. As Gordon put it, don’t think of the trip as a permanent thing—go over there believing it is just a vacation and if I have to pay more to get home (as I would to cancel the trip) just accept it—the original intent was just because I had no idea when I was going to be returning anyway I just threw out the most outside date I could imagine being gone and to have a return ticket is a lot easier than not to have one.

I wanted to call this blog “Cold Feet” because that is what I most felt: cold feet. I began to doubt whether or not I could do such a trip, but I think it was because I was getting too far ahead of myself. If I just thought six weeks ahead at which time Gordon would arrive, a seasoned and experienced Philippine traveler, all would be fine. I like to believe that even in a worst case scenario I could handle six weeks wandering the streets of a foreign city without my traditional means of accessing money. There is always a way to make things happen, as inconvenient or extra the cost of things might get. But after talking with Gordon (and Mike) I think it is just another adventure. And putting the trip into vacation mode, being away from my kids: Doron, Aria, and Sierran won’t seem too long, which strangely is becoming a factor whereas there was a time I could travel (and assume) things were fine. I have to chuckle because, like it or not, I am beginning to act/feel like a grandparent and relationships, i.e. close proximity, count.

One might ask the logical question: if a trip causes stress, why take the trip. The answer is not simple to a guy like myself. But if I had to simplify it, I would say because I need to rub elbows with a zone that challenges me. And if I stop doing things that were once comfortable, the zone gets smaller. That zone is me, who I am. And I know from experience (which I must remember), once I return to the zone, I will be fine, even if it takes some adaptation…

Cold Feet

Hot and Smokey Day in August

It blows my mind that I was going to head to the Philippines back around the beginning of August. What was I thinking. But then maybe I have just forgotten I was getting better as I was prepping to head for Az. and Colorado. What the heck could have been the setback?! All I can say is thank god I am beginning to improve again ½ % per day again. Yes, it’s slow but at least it is in the right direction.

Today I went to the hospital to get an MRA which is the brain’s version of an MRI. I am not sure why I went since I won’t be around for the results. Then a couple hours later my doctor called and asked if I could postpone my trip. He knows a very good psychologist who is an expert on memory. Now the two were not knowingly connected. It put me in a terrible spot since if I cancelled my trip at this time it would be like throwing a German Chocolate birthday cake on the floor upside down despite what truth there might be in his words. True, my memory is a mess. True, if I can create a mess out of an already messy situation, the Philippines would be the ideal place to begin—a foreign country where I had no real rights and an inkling of no true idea where to begin if complications did start to manifest. As the old saying goes, “six of one, a half dozen of another”. Or maybe it is more clear saying, “damned if I do, damned if I don’t”. Take your pick.

So, I went into a quiet period of “meditation” and thought, “yes, I need to stay”. But after thinking it over (and over again) I realized just go through with the trip—everything is sprung in that direction and I won’t have to worry about finding a home during the winter (now that I’ve rented my house out). Two full days to go: Friday and Saturday. Then Sunday Nick will drive me by my house to park the car, leave the keys with Patty, and I am off for the Train Depot. In the meantime, it is hot and it is smokey. And it is the last day in August. Be patient old friend. Trust yourself—that you will prevail…though this is like no trip I have ever taken before. So, just to make it clear, after wavering for an hour or two, I am back on the Philippine track.

Hot and Smokey Day in August

One Big Knot

I find that as I get older I tend to forget things, not remember more and more as it seems like I should. Right now, my biggest concern is my camera and photographs. It seems tricky tying it all into the right camera, land or water, blog or regular photos. Every year since coming to the Philippines, I have done a stint with Klaus Stieffel and he has sort of an upgraded photo system and both times I have worked with him, he has attempted to align my system with his, and both times something has gone awry. This last time we had to have the fellow working the dive shop we were working out of make adjustments for us but it has added some steps to the whole process. Somewhere, I have lost out on the steps so it seems I have to start over. But the catch is I need to sync it with my blog. Maybe a year ago this would not have been such a big deal, but now it is, SO…the bottom line is I am not sure how I am going to do it. I am thinking either forget the photos, (which is anathema to my travel nature) or wait until the opportunity presents itself to me in the Philippines. It’s hard to imagine diving without adding photos to the dive narrative.

And then there is the whole narrative that goes with travel. The thing I like most about travel is everything seems like it is always refreshingly new. But again, the ornery energy that goes with learning an area, having an experience, pushing the limits is having the energy (and the will) to test everything (within limits of course). As that shrinks (with age) travel takes on a new meaning. I have found that adventure is still adventure and having a relationship with a new woman can be as adventurous as climbing a good mountain. It just depends on how you see, experience, and express what it is that transpires. I know I have never climbed a world class mountain, but I also know that no one has climbed the mountains I have climbed as I have climbed them. That is the unique thing about adventure—it is very personal and has everything to do with how we experience it.

I am about to embark on the 412th adventure of my life (give or take a couple hundred and what you call an adventure) and it is as tough a challenge as any I have ever gone on. Why, you might ask. Well, it has to do with memory, and age, and condition, and most of all the stubborn will to keep going into the unknown. Granted I have been to the Philippines twice before and not all that long ago, but it is the doorstep to the rest of Asia. It’s a good place to start. I have tried to clear the way for a trip of many months, but I know realistically that I could be back in weeks, depending on memory, will, fortitude, and luck.

So in the meantime, even though I probably have tons to do to get ready, I do a little each day, related, kind of related, to catching a train Sunday and a jet plane just after midnight Monday to Asia. I hope to meet up with Tin Tin, i.e. Christine, in Green Belt Makati and head for Puerto Galera shortly thereafter. I wish I could remember the names of the towns and cities, the islands, people who have helped me, but alas, I will need to put this trip together like a rubix cube, one side at a time. It will be like one big knot I slowly have to pull apart before I can have a fair chance to untangle it all.

One Big Knot

Bracing for the Philippines

According to my plans, made several months back when I was closer to returning to my game, my departure for the Philippines is this Sunday and my departure is just on the other side of midnight, Monday. I’ve tried to leave that date open, thinking it might cost me $200 to make a change if necessary. But the cost is probably going to be more like $500. In the big picture of things, $500 is not that much, but I am feeling a little more 60-40, maybe 70-30, go. So the $500 is irrelevant.

In my mind I always try to anticipate how I will be spending my time. I’ll be okay once I hook up with Tin-Tin. And though I arrive on the 5th sometime, I want to be in Sabang by the 7th. That will give Tin Tin two days to make it to the Copa if she is going to join me (which I believe is her plan).

All of my time here is being spent closing the door on remaining behind. Each day except Saturday, has been spent running errands, making sure as much is done making the Philippines possible as I can do. Today I did my doctor appointments which proved kind of fruitless as I expected, purchasing a ticket on Amtrak, changing oil on the VW, and a couple of minor errands, and tomorrow more errands to boot. The big thing is getting the gal at Wells Fargo to make it clear how to transfer money from Wells Fargo to my PPI account. Without Pesos in the Philippines it’s all useless.

I know I am not at the top of my game so I anticipate lots of challenges. I am proceeding anyway. I visualize lots of challenges and I don’t dare imagine smooth sailing. But so goes life. If I can just get through 5 or 6 weeks till Gordon arrives in Green Belt in Makati (Manila), then I am thinking I should be good. It should be interesting, a foreigner, me, wandering around in one of the world’s mega metropolises at little better than half game trusting on old travel instincts to see me through.

Bracing for the Philippines