Happy Holidays! Trust you are all doing and being great. Busy year with lots of traveling, traveling all over Texas, and vacationing in Hawaii, we added: Costa Rica in July, Tyler in August, San Francisco in October, Caribbean Cruise in November, and Colorado, San Antonio, and Tyler again for Christmas. We were not able to make Burning Man this year for various reasons, but have put it on the priority list for 2014.
Melanie put a new garden in the back and has been working hard earning money. I am happy to announce that I got rid of my school loans so we are now debt free. Been doing some work for an International Tantra group, gave a few classes, then placed them on a temporary hold in order to revamp them and fit them into the big picture, and started writing a fantasy novel. Any advice on writing and publishing are welcome. Also, I was recently diagnosed with a severe case of sleep apnea, and got a CPAP machine to help me breathe at night. Hopefully, this will give me more energy. We shall see.
So, on to our travels. Costa Rica, where to begin. Wow. We were there for ten days, traveled all over and watched many wild animals in the rain forests. Among them were Agoutis (giant rodents), beautiful birds of all kinds (including Toucans a few inches from my face), an Anteater (in the trees), two and three toed sloths (2 separate species), a plethora of white faced capuchin and howler monkeys (which sound scary by the way), an abundance of both Caymin (small alligators) and huge crocodiles (our boat guide got out and fed a half ton one, on shore right next to him; I was a few inches from his tail), a regular and an emerald basilisk (giant lizards), poison dart frogs, iguanas (in the treetops), leaf cutter ants (up to 15 million in one hive) and bullet ants (whose bite feels like being shot), a crab eating raccoon (caught on video catching a crab), a family of lake otters, mongoose, butterflies aplenty (including native blue morphos), bunches of bats (most numerous mammal here), moths and hercules beetles the size of my hand (and I have a big hand), and leaping Lizards (who run on water). A lot of these were cute babies and it was especially cute watching young sloth trying to climb the trunk while hanging upside down, but couldn't get a grip or think to climb up the branch he was hanging on.
Out of the dozens of bird species we saw, my favorite was the Scarlet McCaw; we watched around twenty of these huge rainbow colored birds fly around a tree for 15 minutes as couples (who mate for life). We also had adventures. Among many boat rides in biological protected zones, we did an intense 3.5 hour white water rafting trip. This had intense level 3 and 4 rapids that killed three people last year. We discovered the secret 8 day process of making chocolate along with its history. We learned how to make ox carts (traditional symbol of this country) using ancient technology. We survived swimming in the ocean during rain and major surf. We tasted all kinds of great food, including a variety of unusual fruits I never knew existed.
We luxuriated in Baldi hot springs, a resort with ten different elaborate pool areas while viewing the live volcano heating our water. They also had the most intense water slides I have ever been on; going down head first on one, I hydroplaned about a hundred feet on my back when "landing". We also saw many waterfalls, volcanoes, an animal refuge with jaguars, an aviary, butterfly garden, and hummingbird habitat with horde of them flying around in all different varieties.
In August, we attended Rosenfeld Rapier Academy in East Texas. This was a great rapier event with about 100 people that was hosted by my old SCA (Society of Creative Anachronism) group that I helped start over 20 years ago, as their Seneschal. It was nice to see the legacy I created that lived on after me. We wanted to do more fighting events this year, but between our travel schedule, work, and health issues, we missed out on quite a few. Will see if we can do more next year.
In October, Melanie and I traveled to California where I joined the Council of Stewards of Ipsalu Tantra International to help create a business plan. We camped at Calaveras Big Tree State park. We witnessed some amazing Sequoias, including the 30 ft. diameter stump of the largest living thing on earth. In San Francisco, we ate at Fisherman's Wharf, saw the Sea Lions and solved the mirror maze there. We then danced our booties off at a wild Afterburner party (by the Burning Man folks).
In November, we had a family cruise that for the first time included half of my immediate family and Melanie’s family. There were 12 of us, but we'll see if we can get everyone to go next time. We traveled to Belize, Roatan, Honduras, and Cozumel. In Roaton, we visited the beach and swam in the rain, enjoyed coconut hot sauce flavored food, some of us went zip lining, others of us went snorkeling, all of us went to the monkey park. We had some really cute Capuchin monkeys jumping around all over our bodies and hanging from our necks by their tail (one tried to put on my hat), and some more aggressive Spider Monkeys reached right through their cage and grabbed Janet’s glasses right off her face and played tug of war with the strap to my hat. We retrieved her glasses without damage (I won the tug of war) and I had some McCaws and Toucans then roost on my head and shoulders too.
In Belize, Melanie and I scuba dived in San Pedro, where I finally got to swim with sharks. A large group of them circled us and I even got to touch a couple. These were nurse sharks and fairly safe (though still a bit scary at 4 to 5’ long), but the Moray eels we saw that were longer than me were way scarier. I thought our guide was a little crazy when he grabbed one, and was petting it while it tried to get away and bite him. In Cozumel, we went to their Chankanaab State Park again, which is almost like a resort, with dolphin tricks, manatee, a sea lion show, nice snorkeling, and where we saw all types of fish and even sea horses in the wild. Feasting and fun was had by all.
In December, Melanie’s family and I spent a week traveling to Pagosa Springs Colorado. After a series of car issues and $2700 in repair costs to the vehicle, we arrived safely and had a relaxing family time in the beautiful snowy mountains. I skied for the first time in 15 years, which was a blast. And we went to their famous healing hot springs for a day. They had 18 pools at different marked temperatures from a large 90 degree pool (I think most pools should be this warm) to a 110.5 degree pool that even I couldn’t stay in for very long (at 113 degree’s Fahrenheit, it starts burning one’s body). We then celebrated Christmas in San Antonio twice with Melanie’s immediate and extended family, once in Austin with our housemate (and probably another time with the housemate’s we missed), and am off to Tyler today to celebrate with my family in Tyler.
Best wishes this holiday season and all the New Year!
With love, joy, and celebration,
Melanie and Scott