Thursday, June 01, 2017

May Daze

I had no sooner got settled into our new home, then I was packing my bag and heading to Bothell to spend a week having fun with one of my favourite Kinley boys.....Magnus.

Brad and Anette flew to St. Lucia to celebrate their 10th anniversary and I got to hang out with Magnus and got a refresher course on keeping up with a 4 year old.  Magnus was really good for me that it was far easier than I expected and he reminded me so much of Brad at that age that I often found myself calling him "Brad".

Brad at 4
 It was fun chauffeuring him to music appreciation, gymnastics, pre-school (where I was a parent volunteer one day), and to swimming.
We went to the Seattle zoo and spent an interesting few hours exploring exhibits and checking out the animals.

Magnus loves to read as much as Brad (and I'm sure Anette as well).  Trips to the library are a must!

After a week, Anette's folks came and took over the reins for the last week and I headed home for 3 days.  I really missed Magnus -- he has such a great sense of humour, and the two of us had a very special time together.  He just cracks me up.

I repacked my bag, and headed south to Costa Rica to visit Roger.

I took a 12 seater plane from San Jose to Limon, and was treated to a display of  a volcano erupting in Costa Rica.

The island you see is the project Roger is working on. It will be a
computerized container port for bananas and pineapples to be exported.

Roger warned me Limon, where he is working, is not the resort type place people associate with Costa Rica.  Taking the advice of our friend, Dwayne, I aimed low and avoided disappointment.  But first he surprised me with a weekend in Puerto Viejo - a seaside town an hour south of Limon where we kicked back, drank Margaritas and ate some great seafood.

Puerto Viejo is a backpackers destination a long with rastafarians and mid-aged men in pony tails.

On our way back to Limon, we stopped for a hike through Cahuita National Park.  It was fabulous hearing the ocean crash nearby as we walked through a rain forest.  We kept our eyes open for wildlife and were lucky to see a good selection.

I love leaf cutter ants.  They carry 3 times their weight and are incredibly industrious. 
A banana snake which we found out later are extremely poisonous.  

A very prehistoric looking lizard

Lots and lots of monkeys

Roger took this picture of a sloth on a previous trip to the park.
I'm sure they saw us, but we couldn't find any the day we were there.
 For all our driller friends - I took a couple of pictures of an abandoned drilling project from 1910.

The house is in a compound with about 15 of the guys from the project living in a house and a motel like building.  Only the bedrooms were air conditioned, and Roger didn't want me exploring on my own, so I spent a lot of time reading and watching TV.

Our crack guard dog.  At least he was at the front of the house......

Limon is a port city with a population of about 55,000 on the east coast of Costa Rica.  It was founded in the 1800s and has survived it's share of earthquakes and hurricanes.  And it shows.  Having said that, I found people friendly and many spoke English.

A view of the city and port from a great hill top restaurant 

One of the best parts of the week, was spending time with our nephew, Chris, who is also working on the project.  He is smart, kind and fun.  It's the longest I'd ever spent with him and loved it.  I'm glad he and Roger have had each other to hang out with.

It wouldn't be a project without having a  BBQ for some of the workers.  I enjoyed cooking 2 nights and enjoyed getting to know some of the local "Ticos", and staff from California.

Clockwise from left:  Roger, me, Alberto, Ally, Conner, Juan and Chris

One day he had a super guy, Luis, who does work for the project sometimes, take me on a tour of Limon.  It gave me a chance to practice my Spanish and I was relieved and surprised to remember Spanish words I hadn't spoken in 6 years.

Limon would never be described as pretty, but this building with the multi colored windows was neat.
 I love going through markets throughout the world and seeing the fresh fruits and vegs.

Luis took me to see his 90 year old grandmother.  She was amazing and showed me her beautiful garden and sent me home with a bag of mangoes from her trees.

The ocean was super warm but very rough all week.

I went on a Ceviche tasting quest -- this one was pretty darned fabulous.
The day before I left, Chris, Roger and I went down to the beach.  We met one of the guys from the project and chatted for several minutes.  I then said I'd go check out the water that was probably 50 ft from us, and gave Roger my camera while I put my purse down beside him.

 Roger then handed the camera to Chris to take a picture of the two of us.
 And then a rogue wave came and swept right past us as well as Chris......
That moment of realization when I saw my purse -- complete with passport,
phone and wallet --- starting to fill up with sand and water......
I dashed to my purse and scooped it up.  Fortunately my passport wasn't damaged, my wallet dried out and my phone was also spared.  Close call.

By Sunday it was time to start heading home.  I flew to San Jose on the little plane I came to Limon on.  Only this time, it wasn't sunny with blue skies.  There were storms all around and it was a sphincter clenching trip to remember.

Leaving Limon
Shortly after heading west to San Jose it got bumpy.  And then REALLY bumpy.

I could only see white outside the windows and the GARMIN radar of the plane's panel had big splotches of red and yellow.  I assumed that wasn't good. The pilot and the female co-pilot periodically spoke to each other, and alarm bells sounded enough to give me a flash back to watching a movie about Buddy Holly and how he died in a plane crash during bad weather.

At one point the pilot made an announcement, but neither me nor the only other adult passenger understood what he said.  After a half hour of turbulence and not being able to see anything, the clouds cleared enough for me to see San Jose in the distance so I started to relax thinking we'd be on the ground soon.

But then the pilot flew right past the airport.  And we kept flying.  I whipped out the airline's magazine and looked at the map trying to figure out where we might be going and wondering how I could make my 6:30 a.m. flight the next day.

After about 10 minutes, the plane banked and we headed back.  It was a relief, but the red lights still lit up the plane.  It wasn't until we touched down did I really exhale.  The pilot and co-pilot actually kissed each other when we came to a stop!

I got back home safe and sound and happy to be on the island.  Roger is hoping to be home by June 23rd and he is excited about seeing the house.  And to get out on the boat.

There is a saying in Costa Rica:  "Pura Vida".

It literally means "pure life", but it means so much more.  It speaks to the Ticos' easy going nature and their optimistic spirit.  It conveys that things are going well and another way of giving thanks.

Pura vida.

Friday, May 05, 2017

Home Sweet Home

Thirty eight years ago, Roger and I moved into our first apartment.  It was a fourth floor walk up near Chinook Centre, no dishwasher and the laundry was in the basement.  We thought it was fabulous -- and it was.
Our first apartment - 1978
We moved to this house in 1979 and we still have good friends, Jodi and Paul Ikert,
who were our neighbours there and who now live in Parksville.

Over the years we moved to our first house in Midnapore, then to Sundance, and then a small condo in Okotoks.  I loved them all because it was home.  Our global trekking years saw us make homes in a tent in the Kalahari, fabulous condos in Medellin and Adelaide, and not as fancy places in other countries.  But they were home - albeit temporary.

We then put down roots down on Vancouver Island in a cute little cottage in Parksville.  I loved it and thought Roger did too until he started talking about how he missed not having a garage.  So at the end of March he sent me a listing for a 2 bedroom/2 bathroom house which I grudgingly agreed to see.  I always said I wouldn't move unless I could see the ocean.  As soon as I walked around to the back of the house and saw the view of the ocean - I was hooked.

So in lightning Kinley speed, in 34 days I/we:
  • bought the house
  • got our Parksville home ready for selling
  • went to Hawaii for 10 days with the family
  • sold the Parksville house within 4 days of listing (along with the furniture)
  • bought all new furniture, linens, patio set, BBQ, etc
  • packed all our personal things from the Parksville home and arranged movers
  • did all the changing services from one home to the other
  • moved into our new home

Phew!  No wonder I'm tired and have been popping Robaxacet every night.  Oh yeah - and I was working full time at the university until the day before possession.

Thank goodness for good friends, Jodi and Paul Ikert and Victoria Wilson who helped hang pictures and masks and my handyman that did some of the harder tasks. Our realtor, Andrew Simons was fantastic and went above and beyond when I moved in and discovered I didn't have hot water.  He tried over the weekend to get it working, but in the end he arranged for a new hot water tank to be installed.  Four days without hot water wasn't fun, but that first jacuzzi sure felt good!

After our trip to Hawaii, Roger fortunately got to see the new place for an hour and spent an hour at a furniture store with me before flying back to Costa Rica. I've been sending him pictures of how the house has come together and he's pretty happy with the outcome.  He's anxious to get back to spend a few days in it before we rent it out on Airbnb for July and August.  He got his garage but I'm pretty sure it won't be for cars -- no doubt he will make it into a man cave.

So without further adieu -- welcome to our new home!  It is in a gated community called Qualicum Landing just 10 minutes north of Qualicum Beach.  It's right on the ocean and I've already been warmly welcomed by several of the neighbours.

Jodi and Paul helped hang the the masks we've collected around the world.  Makes me feel at home.

Master bedroom with a jacuzzi that Roger has always wanted. 
Guest room

Patio with a view of the ocean

View from the patio of the community clubhouse and swimming pool.

A sandy play area with picnic tables and a community fire pit overlooking the ocean.
Firewood split and stacked and ready to be use!

Fabulous beach combing area.  Today I went down to the beach and there were several seals swimming just off shore.
Heady stuff for a prairie girl.
This home feels like it could be our "forever" home. We can grow old in it because it's a rancher so no stairs to worry about -- Roger has his garage, and I have my ocean view.  I feel like we're standing in tall cotton right now.  The only thing that could make it better would be to have Roger here with me but he should be home by mid-June.

May is shaping up to be an exciting month as well.  On Saturday I'm heading to Seattle to look after Magnus for a week while Brad and Anette go to St. Lucia to celebrate their 10th anniversary along with their good friends, Amy and Sean Cowan.  Anette's parents will tag team me after a week when I'll go home for a few days then fly to Costa Rica to see Roger.  I haven't been there before so can chalk up another country to my list.  

I love travelling, but I'm going to be excited to return home and look out to the ocean.  And maybe see a seal or two.

"Home is where your story begins".

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Fabulous Family Fun!

Ridiculous.  That's what we kept saying all week.  Everything was ridiculously fantastic.

Our 8 days on the Big Island of Hawaii with Brad's company trip (Valve Software) had it all.  First and foremost, the five of us were together.  Throw in opulent accommodations at the Fairmount Orchid, loads of extras care of one of the most incredible companies I've ever heard of....and well, it was ridiculous!
Everyday we received an agenda of events we could participate in.
Valve thought of EVERYTHING.  There were two games rooms --- one for teens and one for younger kids.  Both had video games (of course!!), air hockey, games, and refreshments.
Magnus and Roger (aka RaRa) playing air hockey

The 3 boys playing video games
There was also a Hospitality Suite -- complete with a candy buffet, granola bars, fresh fruit, iced Kona coffee and a photo booth!

Playing in the sand in 2017.....

....and in 1987.

Every afternoon, games were set up for the kids on the lawn near the pool.  There was a "snack of the day" that was always a hit with everyone.

On April 2nd I reached a big milestone birthday and turned 60.  It was fantastic being with those I love the most and I will never forget it.  I jokingly said that Gabe (Valve's co-founder and President) threw me a Luau for my 60th -- it was another spectacular event with more than 700 people attending!
We started the celebration with cocktails that were a treat from my
brother Russ and his wife Margaret who coordinated with Brad to arrange it all.
Leis....Mai Tais....Yes and Mahalo to everything!
The dinner was amazing and then the kids were taken away for a crash course in hula dancing before coming on stage to entertain.  There's little Magnus in the back row intently following the leader.

Gorgeous sunsets were a nightly occurrence
I remember my first helicopter ride was when I was 9 and my dad, brother and I went over the badlands of South Dakota and it was thrilling.  Since then, I've been a few more times and lucky enough to fly over Victoria Falls in Zambia with Brad, Anette and Roger, then over Uluru at sunrise in Australia with Roger.  We just couldn't pass up this opportunity to fly over the Big Island and to see the volcano with our family.  And seeing it through Magnus' eyes just made a great experience even better.

The last time I was near a helicopter it was the LifeFlight taking Roger to hospital.  That was a matter of life and death.  This trip was all about life.
Anette and Magnus were beside the pilot --- love this picture!

My usual poker face.

Kilauea Volcano has been erupting since 1983 - a year after Brad and Anette were born!

A lava tube flowing into the ocean

Love that man.  He's given me so many opportunities to test myself and embrace the unknown...and to seek out adventures.
We had a "ridiculous" suite with Brad, Anette and Magnus:  2 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, living room, dining room, 3 lanais....It gave us lots of opportunity to be together and we spent a lot of time laughing.

The beautiful beach area.  The quiet bay had lots of fish swimming in gorgeous coral, and there were huge turtles just past the breakwater that we had the privilege of swimming near
We had another fun "Magnus Day" while Brad and Anette were in a Valve golf tournament.  We went to a Seahorse Farm near Kona and it was a real highlight of the trip.  There, the 3 of us learned about seahorses and saw how they are being raised from wee little specs to some that are well over 6 inches long.  The best part was at the end of the tour when we all had a chance to hold one.  Magnus listened very carefully on how to do it, and he did a great job.
By touching fingertips together, the seahorses could curl their tails around our fingers.  A very special experience.

Magnus watching RaRa holding a seahorse

Crystal clear water.  Magnus is a true water baby and loved every minute in the water.
Anette took out a paddle boat and Magnus happily hopped on and off and even did a couple of yoga poses!

The black lava was a stunning contrast to the blue ocean

We played a LOT of Old Maid! 

My boys.

It's all fun.

Hanging loose with Anette.  So much fun.
Magnus being a cowboy and having a ball as he bucked on a floating bull!

Our last night dinner together
So what kind of company would fly 400 employees and their families, and enable extended family and friends to take part in many of the perks and activities?  Here are some fun Valve facts:

  • Number years Valve has existed:  20 
  • Number of full time employees:  342
  • Number of games Valve has shipped:  27
  • Duration of player hours of all Dota 2 (one their most popular games) matches played last year: 3.57 billion
  • Approximate number of hours that have passed since humans first appeared on Earth:  1.75 billion
  • Number of CS:GO players per month:  11.1 million
  • Number of employees and spouses participating in Valve's in-house personal training program:  245
The Valve Hawaii handbook included a note to spouses:  "This is not a normal business trip.  It is a vacation.  If your Valve employee is spending too much time (say...thirty seconds!) talking "shop" in front of you when you'd rather be building a sand castle shaped like Barack Obama's head, or drink 7 Mai Tais, or do literally anything else --- report them to the nearest Valve Vacation Compliance Officer."

There are many reasons Valve is so successful and attracts talented and passionate people to work there. They just really get it, and Roger and I are so happy and proud that Brad's hard work has led him there.

It was a truly ridiculous week, but oh, so very happy being with my amazing family.  We can't thank Brad and Anette for letting us join them on this trip.

My 50's were full of adventure, and I expect my 60's will be absolutely sensational.  Bring it on.

"If you never did you should.  These things are fun and fun is good."
                                                                            Dr. Seuss