(Which of these shots “doesn’t go”; but does ’cause it’s on the wall?)
Here is my newly-discovered Costa Rican destination resort, The Fauna Luxury Hostel in San Jose, Costa Rica, just an hour from the airport. It is so easy to meet people in hostels
I have made all of these wonderful friends in just one week! Imagine that!
I’ve extended my stay in the Fauna Luxury Hostel in San Jose, Costa Rica for another two weeks. This hostel puts no limits on one’s timeframe, contrary to most; so, some guests stay for months. Here’s why:
This colorful inner patio contains ping-pong and pool tables and this glorious mural. It’s an outdoor lobby leading to all rooms, the bar and huge dining room/cafe, and our hostel kitchen. My 5-bunk dorm room has the new-fashion cubicle bunks. We each get a comfy, wooden box with a descending curtain for darkness and privacy. I haven’t seen the private rooms yet but maybe I can get some shots of those too. My dorm bed costs $13 a night but the ensuite privates are only $35 to $50. All including breakfast. Such a deal!
It’s 2019 and I’m petsitting in Costa Rica and using my day’s full of downtime to cull my old journals for excellent blogging material. Here’s one written in Slovenia, Eastern Europe in 2005: I was 64 years old.
“As I pass through the world’s hostels, I’ll try to describe how life is in them. This hostel is very quiet and cordial, with young, hands-on owners. Everyone speaks English and will help with enthusiastic advice; as will the ever-changing, full compliment of guests, who all seem to be from Australia, Canada or England. Young professionals: teachers, nurses and doctoral candidates. One man spent three weeks in Irkutsk, Russia, as part of his PhD work. Eleven years ago, I was in that same beautiful region of Lake Baikal, Siberia, leading US/USSR group tours for almost a month. I must get back there, someday!
The subject of one’s travels is usually the first thing we all talk about: Where you’ve just been and where you are headed, It’s at these times that I realize what a Road Warrior I really am, because my experiences often rank me equal, or senior, to them and this is surely why they don’t see me as representing my age; but, as simply, a fellow traveler.
Now, what’s it like to sleep in an eight-bunk, mixed dormitory room witb fifteen other men and women sleeping all around you? Just fine! Mutual consideration makes it work out. Even having just one toilet room… with only one toilet. And another shower room, with one shower and no toilet…is managed very easily. Though, it helps to rise early, as I did today.
Everyone else was out until midnight and I turned in at 10:30 p.m. But,I barely heard them come in.
This hostel is similar, in principle, to those in Nicaragua, which I enjoyed so much. Those cost only $3 to $6 a nigbt, compared to $27 here; but that reflects each country’s economy. The Central American ones all had FAR more toilets and showers; but the friendly, welcoming ambiance was just the same. As were the backpackers, themselves.
People of my generation are probably stuck in the Hippie mentality, as far as their impression of backpacking goes. I was, until I met this serious evolution of “under-the-radar” traveler. They are lovely, lovely, highly-educated, very-considerate men and women, who behave like brothers and sisters of one another.
All are naturally attractive, clean-cut, fit, and in good health. Everyone sleeps in loose,
comfortable clothing: shorts, tee shirts, mumus or sundresses. No one talks in the dorm room after the first person turns in and it’s reading lights only. I always curtain my lower bunk sides with sarongs; simply for darkness, rather than modesty or privacy.
Now, a brief look beyond the hostel walls! I just saw a traditional Babushka, a granny, standing in tbe hot sun, bundled in sweater, skirt, a head scarf and heavy knit stockings. It would probably be immodest to wear anything less. She had the stocky, square peasant’s body and was either my age or younger. Otherwise, all people here are leading the fashion parade.
Such a clean city! With good sidewalks! Everything is under repair here, with none of the poverty I found in Central America. Slovenia is known as the richest portion of Old Yugoslavia. The land is not suited for agriculture, so it has become the center of industry, learning and finance.
I highly recommend this whole, less-traveled, anciently-civilized region!
I am now happily ensconced in a lovely, modern home in Grecia, Costa Rica; takibg care of Cara, a young and very exuberant, middle-sized doggie, while her owner, Kathy, is in The States visiting family. Cara is the main reason I’m here, but I also keep the house occupied during the many weeks of its owner’s absence. This is a win-win situation for everyone.
I get to live in a foreign country as an expat, at no cost except my food and the incoming and outgoing transportation to Costa Rica. Americans get a 90-day visa at the border, which can be renewed by exiting znd re-entering.
Kathy has the peace-of-mind of knowing that her precious child is safe and happy and not “imprisoned” in a boarding kennel at great expense. I get to indulge my love for dogs and to spend many long hours culling my accumulated journals in order to write my next book. These many journals contain twenty-years’ worth of wisdom and forgotten adventures and fill a medium suitcase. It’s about time I took them off my sister’s hands and relived my “most adventourous traveling life”. So, days are being filled with research, cutting the valuable pages out and tossing the rest. All in the company of a sleeping dog.
I’d sleep too, if I had romped so exuberantly with Little Man, next door, during our walk this morning! Our immediate neighborhood consists of eight lovely homes each surrounded by a landscaped lawn, on a dedicated, gated street.
Originally, all of this property was owned by one Tico family with seven daughters. As the girls grew, Mom and Pop, who still live here in the family home, built each one of them their own house, up and down this street. By now, even the next generation of their grandchildren are raised and gone but most of those daughters and spouses still live here. A few have sold, and a few rent theirs out, like this one to Kathy, but this is still a delightful, family enclave.
They all have keys to each other’s places, so that they can rescue clueless dogsitters who get stuck in the fenced back yard when the wind slams the door shut and locks one out! Just this morning! Talk about community!
This wee town of Gracia contains all anyone needs in the way of shopping; but it is near to San Isidro (one of several San Isidros here), which is only an hour from the capital city of San Jose and the international airport. We are in the mountains where the air is clear and the temperatures are mild. It is extremely quiet and peaceful. The country, itself, is one of the safest in the world and the native Costa Ricans are renowned for their genuine friendliness.
Now, how can you avail yourself of this Win/Win World of house and petsitting? Just google those terms to find the several excellent matching service websites. I always use www.trustedhousesitters.com. You can find so many listings for all over the world for long and short periods. Couples are especially welcomed; particularly, if the pets are big muscular dogs who expect and need long walks.
Once, I spent a month in Capetown, South Africa, minding a sweet little Yorkie. I forgot to mention that you usually get introduced to all of the owner’s friends, who then make up your delightful support group. This time, I’ve already gone out to lunch with Maggie, a Reiki Master and fellow Voice Hearer and we’re going to try to start an HVN group (www.hvn.org) here to meet at the Yoga Center. Expats famously gather in so many interest groups in their new communities, that you will find yourself fitting in as a local in no time at all. This is an excellent and very affordable way to checkout a possible future location for an expating move of your own.
And, in my case, I only speak English! Spanish would be nice, but I’ve done this all over the world without the local language. You can too!
Friday, March 16, 2018 – Vientiane, Laos: A quote from my journal:
“My life has changed! I’m hopping off the Tour instead of continuing south through Laos with the Stray Group, as I had intended. The clincher came at our visit today to the COPE Center, a museum detailing the atrocities caused by cluster bombing of this innocent country, Laos, by AMERICA during the Vietnam War. I feel a new sort of glint in my eye that tells me that I am really very mad all of a sudden! You might well get that impression about me if you will allow me to rant for a moment. Or, two! I am staying awhile in this capital city to volunteer at this center, or to help with the disabled…. and to learn all I can about this horrible atrocity. What can I do after half a century has passed? I have no idea, but I will find out!
There was a shameful secret here in Laos, with cluster bombs being dropped by OUR country upon this totally uninvolved and innocent nation, every eight minutes for nine full years, between 1964 and 1973! This is now referred to as The Secret War. Look it up on YouTube! Not that any of us have ever heard about this…. even now! You Tube, or not! I just looked it up there. What was the map on the Center’s wall showing American attack flights and bombings in bright red, if it truly was a Laotian Civil War as some stories on YouTube imply? And some stories say that Laos is a Communist country!? There is not a shred or a clue, over here, feet-on-the-ground, that it ever was!
And I spent eighteen months, altogether, between 1990 – 1994, giving grassroots, two-week-long, Citizen Diplomacy Tours twice a month, through Russia, Siberia, and the Eastern Bloc nations, before the USSR dissolved In fact, I was in Kiev, Ukraine, the day that it did. I should know what Communism and post-Communism looks and feels like! Laos does not fit in that company! It is one of the most peaceful, spiritual, and loving countries I have ever been in! And I sure have been in a whole lot of countries; including Communist ones. Well, okay, I see that its full country name is Laos PDR, which stands for Peoples Democratic Republic, which may be a hint at this type of politics. But, that’s the only tipoff that I can see. Belatedly, at that.
Buddhist! Ohmigosh, yes! So, so Buddhist! Not Communist! Ye Gods! I had to read You Tube to hear that claim!
Anyway, what were those nine years worth of constant American bombing runs over Laos, every eight minutes around the clock, all about? And, why were they using ammunition built by USA’s own Honeywell Company, where cluster bombs used to be produced until constant protest demonstrations made them discontinue? I wonder if cluster bombs were the product being manufactured at the Honeywell plant near my home in Clearwater, Florida, during those very same years that I spent at home, birthing and raising my two babies?
You see, these are the sudden questions that crowd the mind as one tries to assimilate shocking new information.
They told me yesterday at the COPE Center, that Laos is the most heavily-bombed country in the history of the world and Google does agree with that! And, that it was all America’s doing! I sure have a few questions for the American Embassy here. That should be interesting next Monday, day after tomorrow; unless I have popped onto their Suspicious Persons list by that time, and they won’t speak to me. You bet! I AM suspicious about all this! I’m mad, too! But, I want to give my government a chance to explain.
Sure, I knew about the Vietnam War and believed what I was told at the time: That it was to “stop the spread of Communism and make the world safe for Democracy!” Right vs Might, and all that stuff! My male contemporaries were serving over there! And dying. Some came home with PTSD, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder! I’ll bet they were the pilots that flew those airplanes, who even had orders to dump their remaining payload if they were returning from a bombing mission over Vietnam; so that they wouldn’t risk the aircraft carrier or landing strip, themselves included, while trying to land. Nightmare worthy, to say the least! I’m feeling it right now and I wasn’t watching or doing the dumping.
A cluster bomb is a whole bunch of explosives that look like metal tennis balls, contained in a bigger bomb which pops open as it nears the earth. These deadly pellets then scatter everywhere and explode on contact. Rather than destroying buildings, they are specifically designed to kill people, as the ball’s lead pellets penetrate every surface and do fatal damage. Seventy percent of these bombs performed as expected, and intended, by the U.S. Government during those Vietnam War years, probably with the brilliant military strategy of messing with the enemy’s Ho Chi Minh supply trail that curved through much of Southern Laos as well as South Vietnam. What will I find when I arrive there on this same trip?
Is that really an acceptable excuse, America? For the fact that these bombs are still going off, fifty-four years later? Now killing the children and grandchildren of those who were children at the time? I don’t think so! In the cold light of day…. and the passage of time…. no war is acceptable! But, bombing a country outside of the war zone and protected by the United Nations, covered by accords and agreements… and not, to this day, either admitted to, or “reparated,” by the good old U.S. of A…. is simply NOT ACCEPTABLE in my book!
How about yours? Stand tall, my fellow Americans!
You see, thirty percent of those small, scattered cluster bombs failed to detonate upon landing and they are still suspended in tree branches or buried under farm soil or the squishy mud of rice paddies, waiting to be stepped upon by water buffalo or humans, including me. Because, just the other day, I drove a plow behind a buffalo in a demonstration paddy of knee-deep mud. It could happen! Without warning! And it does all the time. Maiming or killing, in the blink of an eye!
I was the only American in my tour group and was filled with horror, guilt and shame and such a need for immediate action. But, the COPE Center does not need volunteers to manage, unless you are a member of an NGO, and thus, already under sponsorship. So, I have changed my goal to one of spreading this information just as far as possible. I thus, am turning to you, Dear Reader, to respond and forward this news to all of your friends to forward to theirs…. ad infinitum. This secret cannot remain so sacrosanct as it has been for so long. Yes, President and Mrs. Obama were here recently. I’m sure that helped; but we still don’t know about this travesty, as a nation. And we simply must find out so that we can help fix this lurking leftover of a ghastly problem that we caused in the first place!
All COPE needs is enough money to keep treating the amputees by supplying prosthetics; job training; continuing medical care, and always: searching the country with metal detectors and carrying out controlled removal and/or detonation. That’s not too much to ask and they are not begging for our assistance. Who can set up a GoFundMe account for them? Who can raise some money for that? Please do your part to help these Laotians, the most cheerful, smiling, philosophical and unblaming people. Is it Buddhism or living through the bombing?
Be prepared to read more about this subject, including a tribute to my departed firstborn, Randy. My son, Douglas Randolph Brown, died at age 48 in 2011, after living all of his life with Dejerine-Sottas Disease, a very rare neurological disorder. He wore leg braces; he used crutches, and finally, a full-time wheelchair. But, he could still drive that disability-adapted van of his! And, he could still live alone in his studio apartment attached to my bigger house. He had a happy and full life as a very talented artist.
With an incurable, progressive, almost-unknown condition, not unsimilar to Stephen Hawking’s ALS wasting disease, Randy was a brilliant, cheerful, wonderful painter, who was very accepting and low-key about his shrinking skills. He was also a long-time Buddhist and I lived with him as caretaker for his last eight years. I am sure he is why I take this story so very personally and I can sense him covering it from The Other Side. All of us are parents of some sort, and Grandparents and most of us have the luxury of living in health and peace. Let’s share the wealth!
And, dear, dear, dearest StephenHawking died just a few days ago, on Wednesday, March 14, Pi Day, and Einstein’s birthday, the day before I discovered these unbelievable details of America’s Secret War while I am right here in Laos on the very ground where that war took place! I like to think that Stephen Hawking and Randy Brown have quite a bit in common!
Please, somebody! Set up a GoFundMe presence to benefit COPE! I can’t manage it. Can they? Maybe, they already have one? I haven’t researched this online, hardly at all. Heck, I haven’t even checked my email for three days. I’m still out here on the round-the-world trail where wi-fi is spotty… if I’m lucky! But, I’ve got a lot more blogs on this subject. Be prepared for puns and Wordsmithing! Somebody, Upstairs, is a wiseacre! Or would that be wisecracker? Or whipcracker? Or whippersnapper???
COPE – Helping People Move On www.copelaos.org
COPE – Cooperative Orthotic and Prosthetic Enterprise
Almost two weeks ago, I flew from Tel Aviv, Israel, to Barcelona, Spain, and have been staying in the St. Christopher’s Inn Hostel here. Christmas passed quietly and I’m looking forward to the same sort of New Year’s holiday, where I’m enjoying the balmy, sunny weather and getting some of my neglected writing work accomplished.
The nine Christian sects controlling the church can’t agree to move the ladder some ancient workman left. The tiny Coptic group insists that it stay there because “nothing can be changed!” But, I’m sure that they simply enjoy exercising that kind of control over the more powerful churches of Christianity. The ladder is wooden and has been replaced over time, but it’s always there. History Rules!
Last night, for the second time on this solo, around-the-world jaunt, I taught some fellow-hostelers how to Jitterbug! That’s the fast, Rock & Roll Dance that I used to do in The Fifties, when I was in high school. Unfortunately, our favorite teen dance has practically disappeared from the planet these days and nobody has even heard about it. I discovered this fact at the Hostel Euphoria in Tallinn, Estonia, when I heard their band playing all of my old favorites. The only way I could conjure up some dance partners was to teach them the steps. We all loved the results and I vowed to find other teaching opportunities.
That was last August and I didn’t pursue it until the chance happened, almost accidentally, here at the lovely Abraham Hostel in Tel Aviv, just before I fly to Barcelona, Spain, tomorrow morning. I must get my videotaping act going, though. I came completely prepared to film this class; but got so wound up in selecting the music and setting up my computer, I didn’t even get the cameras out. When will I start recording this trip?
This dance was the last fast-dancing, Ballroom Touch Dance where the man leads the woman. In 1960, Chubbie Checkers introduced The Twist, where the partners faced each other and wiggled to the music, with no spins or even steps. Kaboom! That was that!
Dance Liberation! No more touching or Leading!
Much less fun, though the same amount of exercise! Boogie-Woogie is coming back in style, but it’s a strange conglomeration of the Lindy and some athletic show pieces, with women being thrown overhead and underfoot for the international competitions. You’ll find it all on YouTube. At least, I’ll do my part to bring a little authenticity to this modern-day interpretation of dancing. No problem that mycontemporaries who also danced this in high school, are pushing eighty. Let’s get out there all you 1950s graduates and set the record right! It’s great exercise!
My story is the same as it was a month ago, except that I’ve covered different ground. I flew from Paris, France to Tel Aviv, Israel on October 29 and it feels as if I’ve been here far longer than just three weeks. Maybe, TIME just expands here, or something that mysterious? Maybe, it’s because I caught a cold during my midnight layover in the Cairo, Egypt airport on the way, and I haven’t shaken it yet? Still coughing, hacking and feeling lazy with it, though I have stayed on the move, spending a week in each of the three major cities.
The first week, I stayed in the Abraham Hostel in Tel Aviv, enjoying the warm weather of my new latitude. Paris was definitely showing signs of Fall. Then, I took a Sheroot (a small bus/large taxi) for two hours to Haifa, up on the northern coast, where I stayed for ten days in the Port Inn and enjoyed wandering about in the city of Mt. Carmel. It felt wonderful to have chosen a hostel that was still in the flat, port area; as the mountain rises very steeply, just a few blocks from the water. Then, a few days ago, I took the bus to Jerusalem and am staying in another Abraham chain hostel. Next week, I’ll shift over to the Stay Inn Hostel, which is closer to the Old Town. I’ll blame my cold on the lack of photography but here are some few that I have taken this month. In my walking explorations in this hostel’s neighborhood, I discovered the nearby Marketplace, or Souk, which bustles with life and interesting activity; plus piles of merchandise, fruit, vegetables, meats and tiny restaurants.
Here are some miscellaneous shots of some curious things I’ve seen lately.
On my 79th Birthday, September 10, I came north in Russia to walk along the White Sea in Archangelsk…. The name commemorates the Archangel Michael. Who better to ring in my 80th year? It was a gorgeous, warm day, and my friend Karina from my Hostel Troika, suggested we take a walk along the White Sea Beach.