COSTA RICA – LA FORTUNA, VOLCANO ARENAL: THE BUTTERFLY GARDENS

We are staying in La Fortuna near Volcano Arenal, a mysterious entity shrouded in clouds and overcast skies.  Despite postcards displayed in every La Fortuna store depicting lava spewing like fireworks, after 3 days of the same, obliterating weather obscuring any view of the majestic volcano, my brother is beginning to think the Volcano doesn’t really exist. Generally a chill guy, he can be irritatingly calm in comparison to my spastic tendencies.  His grumblings about the unseen volcano are translated into little, casual jokes that come across like a soft breeze rustling a few leaves – barely noticeable except to the sibling ear tuned in to variations of an enviable “whatever” attitude.  I can imagine wondering the same if I had not already seen Arenal with my own eyes, although my grumblings are comparable to the ones made by the fire goddess herself.

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AUSTRALIA – KANGAROOS AND KOALAS

Someone I met in Costa Rica is currently in Australia and has been posting various pictures and hilarious snippets on Facebook bringing back a flood of memories of when I was in Australia.

While I was there, I wanted desperately to see two animals:  A Kangaroo and a Koala.

Just as desperately, I did not want to run into a funnel web spider, or countless other dangerous and creepy creatures, and would tentatively look under my mattresses for fear of being surprised by the funnel web spider while I slept.

I had gone caving and spelunking in California some time before Australia, and a man named Pete had been on our tour of 3 people total plus a guide.  Being in the caves tromping around in the mud and crawling through tight spaces for 6 hours forged a particular bond between us.  Pete, a Kiwi from New Zealand, shared some of his beer and snacks with us afterwards at a picnic table and told us about his encounter with a funnel web spider while living in Australia.

His story involved running into the spider in his garage.  He used his hand to create intense gestures like shadow puppets in broad daylight, curling the fingers up to show us how the funnel web spider had reared up on its hind legs at him as he stood frozen looking at its fangs.

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Sonoma County Wine Tasting – Pezzi King, Sapphire Hill, and Spoon Bar

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I took a brief break from writing about Costa Rica over the last weekend to venture out and indulge in some backyard travel, playing tourist in Healdsburg, the town I grew up in.  Of course when I was growing up in Healdsburg the town was vastly different than it is now.

The agenda was simple: Healdsburg wine tasting and then to Spoon Bar afterwards for some light fare and cocktails.  I was able to twist my mom’s arm to join me in my wine tasting aventura and splashing through the puddles on a rainy day.

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COSTA RICA – Meatballs, Meatheads, and Pastafarians

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We are seated at Victoria’s, a restaurant in Manuel Antonio. The owner begins chatting with our large group and doing what I think every restaurant owner should do:  giving us various dishes to try on the house.

There was an excellent savory dish of meatballs, tuna with a reduction sauce that everyone wanted details of, and one of my personal favourites, a thin-crust pizza made with chicken and walnuts.

My stomach is arguably the way to my heart.  However, be forewarned: my innocent heart murmur means that I have some heart seepage and leakage.  Everything about my life should make perfect sense because of this but it never does.

I am an enigma. The door to the bathroom of Victoria’s is not an enigma.  The ladies room is the 2nd door on the right.

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IT’S OH SO QUIET…..DONUTS, DENTS & DIMPLES

Yes, I have been oh so quiet for a few days.

I’m still unpacking (seriously!), working, and trying to catch up on sleep while simultaneously trying to go on some sort of a post Costa Rica diet, which basically just entails NOT ordering ALL of the appetizers on the menu.

Easier said than done.

Today somebody kindly brought donuts, and they sat about 4 feet from me.  A partition did nothing to dissuade me from eating more than my fair share along with my impressive array of organic penance snacks from Trader Joe’s. In a moment of pure adolescent selfishness, I even told another person who pretended to take the entire box for themselves that I had licked them all.

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COSTA RICA – THE MANGROVES

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“So, you’re going to the MAN-grove today?” says Scott with the faintest hint of a smirk.

I laugh, feeling permanently ruined by the way he says mangrove, with the emphasis on MAN, as though we are going to some sleazy jungle night club and not the mangrove kayaking tour some of us have decided upon.

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COSTA RICA – CLARO QUE SI, UNTIL NEXT TIME

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Today is my last full day in paradise.  I am beside myself with a mixture of emotions, the primary I think being sadness and resistance to my time ending here.  It has gone far too quickly.

Last night I had to say “farewell, until next time” to some lovely friends who are leaving today.  I already miss them and, while I am grateful for the time we had together, I feel greedy like I want more and it will never be enough.

I hate good-byes.  I am terrible at them.  My friends all say the same thing – it isn’t good-bye, it is until next time.

The thing is, we never know for sure.  There is no permanence in life.  There is no such thing as a “sure thing”.  It is the reason I do not make promises anymore.

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Quincy And The Queens Of Quepos

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Quincy is a well-known man in this area of Costa Rica, and if you come here and haven’t met him around town, you may have seen his pot brownies for sale at la feria in Quepos.  

My introduction to Quincy was some years ago in a bar while with friends.  He was telling us these bizarre stories and talking about strange things finally accumulating in him asking me, “If I were a dog, what would you name me?”

Caught off guard, my reply was something inane while the responses to my Facebook post were more amusing.  My favorite contribution was, “I would name you spot, and then get some spot remover and make you go away.”

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COSTA RICA EARTHQUAKE

Yesterday I went to la playa for some much needed sol and had some fun drinking cerveza while writing my last blog post, which was truthful yet poking fun at myself and my inability to pursue travel hardships of any kind.  I was laughing to myself out loud alone on the beach, even occasionally snorting, which just made me giggle harder, and was drinking my 2nd cerveza when I suddenly feel the ground moving. 

EARTHQUAKE!

It didn’t last too long but my body went on high alert.  I looked around and nobody was stopped in their tracks looking about or acting as if they felt anything.  I’ve never been on the beach just meters away from the water during an earthquake before.  Am I being a stupid girl for just sitting here dumbfounded?  Is there even a remote possibility of even a mild tsunami?  Continue reading

BURY ME SUNBATHING

The overcast sky is a scrim, masking the unrelenting, impervious sun overhead.  In spite of my poor water drinking habits, sweat pools on my upper lip and drips down my face, my arms, my legs. An insect lands on me and I slap it away.  Already a man has noticed and impolitely pointed out the small bruises on my legs – one of the allergic reactions I get to mosquitos, sand fleas, and other critters that bite me. 

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COSTA RICA: Circadian Rhythms, Café Con Leche, and “Wild”

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One of the nice things about staying at a bed and breakfast is that you get breakfast, except of course when you sleep through breakfast hours.  It was understandable on that first day, because I had slept very little and was exhausted by my travels.  The second day it was more of a bummer and I felt disappointed.  When I finally went to breakfast on the third day, I was filled with appreciation, not just for the juice, food, and café con leche, and the glorious view, but the conversation.  It is a great way to meet other travelers.  Sharing a table with strangers over food breaks down a barrier, I suppose in the same way that sharing an airplane seat with the arm rest up lifts a kind of mental barrier.  People are more apt to talk when what is mostly a mental line of separation disappears.

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COSTA RICA – DEPARTURE AND ARRIVAL

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There is a man exerting great effort in some bizarre version of a power-walk up the hill of the residential area in San Bruno, California where I have parked my car at my cousin’s house in preparation to leave for Costa Rica.  The man might actually be running in slow motion. He has a rope tied about his waist.  My mind can’t make sense of it all for a minute as my eyes follow along the taut length of the rope and see it is dragging a tire along the cement.  Across the street, I exhale a plume of smoke out my car window and fumble for my camera to capture what my mind can barely make sense of and what is in direct opposition to my current desires; to rest my body, soul, mind, and heart on my favourite beach in Costa Rica and do nada.

A part of me detests this man because he is a reflection of myself on a daily basis, trudging up the insurmountable mountain of life, dragging a metaphorical tire along the way, using every ounce of energy, and having something which is already difficult be much more challenging.  It is not of my own volition; I am not training for something for fun or glory or simply to get in shape.

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COLOMBIA ARTICLE ON WE SAID GO TRAVEL

Thank you to We Said Go Travel for publishing my article, “Captivated In Bogota, Colombia” on their website!

Travelling to Colombia was a great experience and I am happy I went by myself, although next time I would like to go longer than 5 days and see more areas.  There was one moment in particular that resonated deep in my soul and where I realized that Bogota was after my heart.  I did my best to convey this moment and feeling in my article even though a part of me felt it was indescribable.  Click on the below link to one of the videos I took trying to capture at least the visual portion, and I hope you also have a moment to read my article.

Video of Bogota, Colombia

By Naomi Fino

“One of the byproducts of not planning a trip is that expectations drop to ambiguous media tidbits and scattered commentary from friends or fellow travelers, as was the case of Bogota, Colombia.  It was the last stop of 3 months of travels through Central and South America, and was a close contender with Peru, Chile and Ecuador.  After much vacillating, Colombia won out, partially due to its dangerous reputation that appealed to my illogical sense of adventure despite concerns of being a woman travelling alone.

The US embassy websites did nothing to assuage my concerns but further piqued my interest. While securing travelers insurance in the U.S., a kind woman on the phone explained my benefits should there be an emergency abroad. I perversely, and nervously, wanted to know, ‘Does it cover kidnappings in Colombia?'”

To read the full article, click on the link below.

HAPPY NEW YEAR! – 2014

HAPPY NEW YEAR! – 2014

Happy New Year, Everyone!

This is a mostly a travel blog, but I veer from that occasionally if something even remotely fits in the “adventura” category and sometimes just because I can.  My recent posts have been me catching up over the past few months, and while I still have much more travel writing to catch up on from my excursion to Central and South America, this post at least brings things a bit more to the current date and provides some highlights.

2013 was a challenging year for me and some parts were devastatingly difficult on a deeply personal level.  However, I traveled more than I ever have before in my life and experienced things that I wouldn’t trade even to make those devastating things go buh-bye, which says a lot for how highly I regard some of my experiences.  That might be an overstatement of sorts but I’m going with it.

So where did I go in 2013?

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Everything But The Turkey

IMG_5812Thanksgiving comes around and suddenly everyone is grateful for one thing or another.  The list usually entails friends, sometimes family, and occasionally health.  Yes, I have much to say on that particular ordering of things people are generally grateful for. Half of me is annoyed by the sudden surge of grateful posts on Facebook feeling like so much of it is perfunctory BS and the other half of me is genuinely touched.

Years ago, while living in San Francisco, I was listening to my car radio on my way home and the theme on the talk show I happened to be listening to was, “The Worst Thanksgiving You Ever Had.”  Bitter and alone, go ahead caller!  One guy called in and won hands down with the poignant summary that his worst Thanksgiving was working the night shift by himself at a mortuary eating cold cheeseburgers with cadavers.

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ROARING THROUGH MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN

I hate waiting.  Inigo Montoyo and I lack the same patience gene. I will avoid waiting at all costs with an unparalleled passion.  I have more important things to work on with myself in this lifetime than to spend enormous amounts of energy focused on being more patient just to yield pitiful results that will still put me far below average with the entire human race.  Why bother?  I’d rather stand at the top of the cliffs of insanity and swear up and down on anything that means everything to me just to hear the waiting is over from the mouth of my mysteriously masked, sword-fighting foe with, “Throw me the rope.”

An exception to this is waiting for airplanes.  I don’t mind arriving an hour or even two earlier than I should at an airport, partially because there is plenty of people-watching I can amuse myself with and partially because I love flying and anything that has to do with airplanes, airports, and travel.  There is also that small caveat worth mentioning where missing my plane sounds like a little nightmare.

Isn’t missing your flight something every traveler fears?  Okay, well maybe at least those who are on a schedule or budget, which I was.  I was headed last minute to Milwaukee, Wisconsin for my friends’ commitment ceremony in October.

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Kenneth King – All Grown Up Now: A Friendship in Three Acts

My last blog post, Reverend Na in San Francisco, was a deeply personal post that brought together two story lines. One story line has been ongoing for 17 years involving the life, brief yet profound friendship, and passing of Mark Ankeles, who continues to be a presence in my life throughout the years.  The other story line involves officiating the recent marriage between my two friends, Tim and Burt. The common denominator of Friday the 13th is one aspect that creates a special intertwining bond between story lines and memories, both old and new, which reside in the beautiful depths of my heart.

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Reverend Na in San Francisco

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It started off as a joke, first in 1998, then years later on Facebook.  I was told I could become a Reverend online and, with a touch of youthful disbelief and curiosity, decided I had to try it for myself. I was quickly ordained, however, aside from labeling CD mixes “Reverend Na”, nothing else became of my Reverend status for years.

Then a few months ago, a Facebook post by one of my friends I met in Costa Rica caught my eye.

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SPRING LAKE RUMINATIONS

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Recently I met a friend from High School I haven’t seen in many years. After meeting her husband and seeing her house and garden with a beautiful hand-built arbor, Sheila, her precious dog Penny, and I went for a walk around Spring Lake.  It was so nice to catch up with her and spend some time after being one of those annoying people who says they would like to catch up then takes forever to make it actually happen.

Including the above, I have had several ruminations and realizations that stemmed from our Spring Lake walk I thought I would share:

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HIDDEN GEMS IN NORTHERN CALIFORNIA’S SONOMA COUNTY: HEALDSBURG PLAZA & SCHERRER WINERY ADVENTURE WINE TASTING

Hidden Gems In Northern California’s Sonoma County:
Healdsburg Plaza & Scherrer Winery Adventure Wine Tasting
In front of a hideous looking power station off of River Road, Spencer sat waiting for me roadside with his luggage.  Despite a few communication hiccups, he only had to wait for a few minutes before I pulled up in my car to start a 24 hour adventura with my friend visiting from Los Angeles.  The aesthetically offensive power plant gave off a middle-of-nowhere vibe, but just across the street is John Ash & Co., one of the best restaurants in Sonoma County.

SINGLE INGREDIENT “ADVENTURAS”

Single Ingredient “Adventuras”

I am not a calorie counter and have no future plans of becoming one.  I count on my brain using a ¼ of my caloric intake.  I will wait until my stomach feels uncomfortably full for 2-6 weeks straight with daily prospects of wearing a Brazilian bikini before I start saying things like, “I don’t feel so good and look like I am 4 months along.  I think I need to stop eating so much.”  This is called a “perpetual food coma” and the feeling is categorized as being “no bueno”.

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MALTA ARTICLE ON WE SAID GO TRAVEL

MALTA – FREEDOM FAIRY TALES
Thank you to We Said Go Travel for publishing my article “Freedom Fairy Tales – Malta” on their website!
By Naomi Fino
I visited Malta back around 2003 as part of a 2 week family trip in honor of my grandma Violet who had recently passed away.  Even if you love and have fun with them the majority of the time, travelling with family can be highly annoying and you can reach points of exasperation where you say things like, “I am never travelling with my entire family again!”  There is another more beautiful side to this; one where memories are created that couldn’t have existed if it weren’t for these exasperating loved ones.  There is also the beauty of experiencing a place not only rich in ancient history, but rich in personal history.  Seeing firsthand with your mother, sisters and brother the site of what was once just a family story told around a dinner table has a profound impact: it will not only last a lifetime but it may even make you weep.

“In the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, slightly below Sicily, rests Malta, the largest island in the Maltese archipelago. Valletta, the capital of Malta, is a fortified city built on Mount Sceberras between two harbors with defense in mind during the architectural planning.

Walking through the entrance is like being magically transported back in time and the steady flow of people through the gates is reminiscent of the Renaissance. An enchanted feeling descends as if you are in a fairy tale. A
myriad of shops, vendors, and restaurants can be found by wandering the uneven streets or traversing the famous steps of Valletta, built for the Knights
walking with heavy armor as these were pre-spandex times; the very steps
bemoaned by Lord Byron for their non-conformity.”

To read the full article, please click here: WE SAID GO TRAVEL
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UPSTATE NEW YORK

UPSTATE NEW YORK – GROTON, “ITHICKA”, AURORA & SKANEATELES

July 2013

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ROLE PLAYING AT THE WILLY WONKA FACTORY OTHERWISE KNOWN AS THE BENN CONGER INN

There is nothing quite like driving at 3 a.m. in a late rush to catch an early morning flight out of SFO and seeing those flashing police lights come out of nowhere behind you, the only car on that stretch of the dark freeway, to ruin all of that “good time” you were making.

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Costa Rica Article Published On We Said Go Travel Website

Manuel Antonio Beach Photo by Naomi Fino

Thank you to We Said Go Travel for publishing my article “To Costa Rica With Love” on their website!

By Naomi Fino

For those who know me, Costa Rica is the love of my life, and I had the opportunity to write about that love back in February while enjoying my last days of a 6 week stay.  While it was impossible to include all of the stories, experiences, and details that spanned over so many years, this article captures a few key highlights. I had this up on my other blog but neglected to add it here, so I am doing so now in an effort to get them in synch. I hope you enjoy it!

To Costa Rica With Love

“15 years ago, I fell passionately in love, not with a person, but with a place.  On my last night in Costa Rica, while sitting on the balcony of a hostel in San Jose surrounded by my sister and friends, my heart surged with the resistance one feels when parting with a loved one and I broke down in tears and cried.  There have been many return visits since that first trip, sometimes with family members, sometimes with friends, and often as of late, by myself.   This is the last week of a 6 week visit to Costa Rica, and the familiar feel of heartbreak has descended, like the first spattering of rain that falls, gathering force until it becomes a torrential downpour, so deafening and fierce, that it is impossible to hold a conversation without shouting.”

To read the full article, please click here: We Said Go Travel – To Costa Rica With Love

AN INTERMISSION OF DISCLAIMERS

AN INTERMISSION OF DISCLAIMERS

The day after returning from New York I fell sick with a bad flu/cold which was likely due to being in so many airports and had me out of commission for several days.  I have been delayed on my blog postings for a whole host of reasons and this is just another to add to the growing list. However, as you can see, I am trying *really* hard to get caught up.  Please bear with me, but also be on the lookout for my New York blog which I am working on finalizing as I write this.

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