Why giving back is so important during economic down turns

Ever since I can remember my family and I have done what we can to volunteer or give back. That reminds me, I should nominate my mother for QUEEN VOLUNTEER. I can attribute my inspiration from her. Thanks mom.

Well, we’re really bumping it up these last couple months and will continue to do so in 2009 and beyond.

Past ‘giving backs’ include:

Flash and I will volunteer on the 3Day Breast Cancer Walk CREW next week. 4 amazing days of cheering on the walkers. Our crew team decided for a 50′s theme this year. Stay tuned for updates.  I’ve walked the previous 2 years. And raised close to $5000.

My latest interest and drive is with micro loans. If you don’t know what they are – read up here.

I’ve had the pleasure to recently become a member of the Women’s Global Network here in San Diego. gWave has recently donated to sponsor an entrepreneur woman in Bukoba, Tanzania.  Please stay tuned for details as we’ll be connected and obtain photos and the story of who we are helping. Pay back on micro loans is an astounding 98% and sometimes higher.

So why is this so important. Well, I’m tired of watching CNN, I’m tired of everyone else getting down due to the media. Well people, time to reach outside your bubble and look at the reality of the rest of the world. Or those even living in our own town. If you have a roof over your head and job – then suck it up. Gain some perspective and volunteer. Nows the time to reshape old habits and create new ones. If you have a little extra to spare, then share with someone who needs it more than you do. I promise, it WILL make you feel better.

More later…

San Diego Brewers Guild Beer Festival

I love beer. There, I’ve said it. It’s out in the open now. You know it and I know it. I can now write this post without restraint.

I like all kinds of beers. I like ales and lagers; stouts, porters and pales; import and micro; light and dark; imperial, dubbel and tripel; lambic, gueuze and fruit. I was able to taste many of these different kinds recently.

On Saturday night Mel and I attended the San Diego Brewers Guild Beer Festival at the Balboa Park World Beat Center. The festival is a non-profit event benefiting the Brewers Guild and the Beat Center music program. Thanks to a friend’s recommendation we purchased the VIP tickets, and boy were we glad we did. The VIP tasting was from 5-7 and was significantly less crowded and had some special beers available.

San Diego has a world renowned group of local breweries. While San Diego and the West Coast in general are known for our strong IPA style ales (my personal favorites) most breweries are branching out into many different styles and experimenting with lots of different ingredients. We sampled many of those different beers. Below is a list of beers we tasted during the 3 hours we were there. I certainly wasn’t taking tasting notes, but I can say that each beer was excellently made.

  • Green Flash Le Freak Belgian Style IPA
  • Pizza Port Solana Beach Barrel Aged Stunna Shades Stout
  • Coronado Brewing Saison by the Sea
  • Alpine Beer Company Boris Barrel Aged Imperial Coffee Stout
  • AleSmith/Mikkeller/Stone Belgian Style Triple Ale
  • Rock Bottom Belgian Abbey Ale
  • Rock Bottom Espresso Oatmeal Stout on Cask
  • Karl Strauss Sour Red Blend
  • Firehouse Autumn Ale
  • Lost Abbey Gift of the Magi Golden Ale
  • Green Flash Palate Wrecker Imperial IPA
  • Ballast Point Dorado Double IPA
  • San Diego Brewing Company Hopnotic
  • Alpine Beer Company Icabod Bavarian Spiced Dunkel Weizen
  • La Jolla Brew House Nut Brown Ale

I highly recommend the Brewers Guild Festival and specifically the VIP session next year to any San Diego beer fans.

Gordon’s Go Green

So now that the elections are over, I can actually think again! Ever since I watched Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth I’ve been trying to find easy and simple ways to lessen our carbon footprint. Months ago I bought a bunch of the Wholefoods and Henry’s reusable grocery bags. I used them once, shoved them in the hall closet and forgot all about them. I realized these bags should be left in my car trunk, that I needed more than 2 and that it’s ok to reuse the plastic vegetable bags. Every bit helps. I’ll continue to hold myself accountable and ask that Flash remind me to use our reusable grocery bags.

Going Green Baby!

Going Green Baby!

The next step is to purchase 3-4 more so that we both have our own personal supply of reusable grocery bags in our cars.

For the last week, I’ve consciously questioned everything I’ve thrown in the garbage at home. We live in a high rise building, so I do know there is a large recycle trash can in the underground parking. It collects paper, plastic, glass and aluminum. However, the trash shoot is at the end of our hallway which makes taking out the daily trash very simple. Getting to the recycle trash can involves a couple more steps of getting into the elevator and trucking down to the parking garage. I think we can handle a couple more steps. But Flash asked, “where are we going to collect/store the recyclables?”

We live in a 800 sq ft condo, no pantry space and barely enough room for our dry food! So I’m on the hunt for some great containers. Still researching and will keep you all posted.

Vote!

San Diego, CA – 8:30AM PST Nov 4

We voted this morning. We arrived at 6:40AM to a small line and were in and out in no time once the polls opened at 7. The rain started shortly after we got back into the car, thank you to the sky for holding out for us!

PLEASE get out there today and vote. It’s an honor and privilege we have as Americans, don’t take it for granted! No matter who or what you vote for, just do it, let your voice be heard!

Living the pure life

Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica – 3:30PM MDT Oct 21

Sunday a tour guide took Jeff, Mel and Randy to Cocles waterfall. Vicki held down the fort and sun bathed and curled up to her favorite book, In Search of Captain Zero.

Juppy Hansel picked us up in his ‘jalopy’ at 8:30am. The hotel owners had mentioned we could follow him in our car if we like. However, the 3 of us took one look at his 1996 Prizm with the muffler and bumper hanging on the ground, and no door handles and said, “We’re driving with him!” We wanted the full experience. Juppy is a 40 something Puerto Viejo native. He could be mistaken for 100% Jamaican, but we found out he’s Hindu Indian, BriBri, Asian and African. Such a diverse culture here.

He lead us on a nature trail, we spotted 2 Tucans, crossed a couple streams and then headed for the jungle. This wasn’t as quite the strenuous hike from Saturday, but we were climbing. The waterfall was breath taking. We hung out, swam and took pictures.

Juppy also led us to a native BriBri Indian village. We entered the village through a suspension bridge. We visited one of the homes and bought some authentic crafts. We experienced first hand what the general population only ever sees on a Nat Geo show.

Monday the Broman’s were headed back to San Jose, CR so they could catch their flight back home to Reno. It was hugs, and tears of joy from mom. Jeff and Mel are staying 2 more nights at Banana Azul due to an airline mix up. Jeff and Mel rented beach cruisers and set out on a ride … let’s just say we have bruised butts.

We managed to make it half way to Punta Uva and had to stop at a street side cafe for juice and rest. Our original goal was to get to Manzanillo (1.5 hour bike ride away), but then Mel realized what a ludicrous idea that was in the Carribean sun and heat not to mention our bike seats were not padded which doesn’t align with non paved roads!. We hung at Punta Uva beach, snorkeled, belly-uped to Punta Uva Lounge for beers and lunch. We were hoping for clouds and rain for the bike ride back, but no luck. So we braved the treacherous, dirt/rock road, with crazy drivers, insane dust and face melting heat. What a work-out.

Tuesday – We took it a little easier today, skipping the butt bruising bikes for a walk along the dirt road that parallels the beach on the way out of town. Then we walked back down and into town to buy our tickets for the bus back to San Jose tomorrow. We had lunch at one of our favorite places, Chili Rojo. Then we opted for a cab back to the hotel, the sun was blazing and we just weren’t down with getting all sticky and dirty. Then it was a few hours in the hammocks on the beach, reading and napping. What a great way to enjoy our last day here.

We’ll be up early tomorrow to pack, then it’s a 5 hour bus ride back to San Jose where we’ll spend the night. Thursday we have an afternoon flight out of San Jose to Charlotte, where we’ll spend another night, then a 7am eastern time flight back to San Diego. Friday night we will be attending our friends’ wedding in Temecula, and then, finally, on Saturday we’ll be back home. What a trip!

Please tell everyone we’re not coming home…

Just kidding. We are sitting on our deck, listening to the waves, birds, geckos, and the thunder roll in. Can’t wait for dinner and hoping for one last Carribean thunderstorm. Banana Azul serves dinner Monday – Saturday at 6:30pm sharp. An amazing 3 course meal for $10/person. Tonights menu is Salad, Red Snapper and a yummy ‘milks cake’ dessert.

Looking forward to visiting with some other travelers we’ve met in the common area. We met the USA Today travel editor and her husband. She’s on assignment and interviewed us. Hopefully we’ll be mentioned in the November article she’s working on.

The Bribri Jungle

Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica – 8:15PM MDT Oct 18 Last night we found another good restaurant, “The Jungle Love Cafe” and stuffed ourselves again. We traversed our way home through the Friday night crowds in the town center and spent another night relaxing – noticing a trend here?

Today was the day we had scheduled to meet up at Barry and Nancy’s house. We met a 13-year old Bribri boy named Alejandro and his 10-year old brother Willie. Randy, Mel and Jeff went with the brothers on a jungle hike while Vicki stayed behind to help the Stevens prepare their weekly soup they provide for the Bribri families.

Now, this was a JUNGLE hike. They took us the long route around “their jungle” to their “house” and then back again. We spent two hours sloshing through the mud, plants, trees, streams, ants, bugs, spiders and snakes. Alejandro speaks a little spanish and almost no english, Jeff speaks a little spanish and zero bribri. It was mostly a quiet hike with Alejandro pointing things out and saying them in spanish, getting an english confirmation from Jeff, and everybody shaking their heads in agreement.

“pajaro,” “bird.” Everybody shakes heads, yep those are birds.

“araña,” “spider.” Everybody shakes heads, yep, thats a spider, can we get away from it now?

“tapa de la montaña,” “top of the mountain.” Everybody agrees we’re at the top.

Not long into the hike Willie was nice enough to cut us some walking sticks with his machete. Yes, the 10-year old had a machete, and yes, Randy was jealous. They showed us a good amount of flora, fauna, and wildlife including some ripe cacao fruit (chocolate plant) that they tried to get us to eat (before roasting it’s a slimy, gooey mess, only Jeff was brave enough to get near the stuff.)

The hike was an amazing experience, not only for the chance to get really deep into the jungle where most people will never go, but also to see the way these families live. This is a 30 minute hike (taking the short route) from their house to the main road. No roads, power lines or water pipes go out there. We’ve got more thoughts and words to describe what this was like – too much to put here in this blog post. You’ll just have to wait to hear it from us!

Here’s a video of us hiking through the jungle.

We turned funky piano into groovy

Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica – 3:45PM MDT Oct 17

Upon arriving out our dinner destination last night, we found out the calypso band had canceled last minute. We sat down to a ‘funky piano’ single man band. Within minutes we couldn’t bare it and left. Think keyboard meets karaoke. We headed down the road to El Loco Natural for some great curry food and a live local band.

Friday was a lazy day, as we all hung at the hotel, at the beach and in the hammocks. One of the gardeners spotted a SLOTH. We spent most of the day laying under the tree and watching her.

We decided to forgo any scuba diving and save $$ for another trip. Also, the surf is FLAT. No surfing for this trip, but we’ve had some amazing body surfing!!

Well it’s Friday night and we are off to find some reggae music.

Pura Vida

Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica – 6:00PM MDT Oct 16 After last time’s massive word dump we’ll be short and sweet this time around.

Tuesday – Beach, Books, Beer, Naps, Hammocks, Sand, Food, Happy Hour.

Wednesday – Massages at Pure Jungle Spa. Lunch at Maxi’s in Manzanillo, the true END OF THE ROAD, this part of the road doesn’t go all the way to the Panama border, it just ends a few km before the border. Relaxing and enjoying the good after massage soreness the rest of the evening.

Thursday – Back down to Punta Uva to do some more snorkeling. It was an overcast day and the swell was a bit bigger than Sunday but there was still good fish to be seen. A few beers, fruity drinks and tequila shots at the “grass hut bar” and then it was back up the road. We pit stopped at the end of the dirt side-road with the sign labeled “Chocorart” promising real chocolate plantation tours. We didn’t end up taking the tour but we talked briefly with the owner and left with about $30 worth of real organic chocolate bars of all varying flavors. Now we’re relaxing, listening to the rain (it’s rained every day here, but we love it) and waiting to head out to a restaurant to eat and listen to some live Calypso music.

Jungle Explorers

Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica – 8:30PM MDT Oct 13 During our travel planning, we reached out to a local non-profit, who provides educational assistance, food, and micro loans mainly to indigenous people in Costa Rica. We brought a 50 lbs box of school supplies for the school children. Through this experience we’ve communicated with the owner, Barry and Nancy and finally were going to be meeting them. They live one mile from our hotel. What amazing people they are. We visited for a good hour or longer and discussed:

  • The fact that Costa Rica was just recently bumped from 3rd world status to a ‘developing nation.’
  • We got to see how, according to the UN, 80% of the world lives.
  • We learned about the indigenous cultures within the Bri-Bri culture – where incest, abuse and alcohol and drug addiction is common.
  • All men in Puerto Viejo and surrounding towns carry machetes.
  • We met the local tow truck guy – he travels by horse and his 2 oxen are the tow truck.

The most amazing part is that our family will return this Saturday to assist in the center with the veggie soup kitchen, help children with homework AND a local 13 year old Bri-Bri boy named Alexandro will take Flash and I on a guided tour high up in the jungle (where there are no roads or vehicle access) to show us where he lives.

After visiting Barry and Nancy we headed out to Punta Uva for some snorkeling. After a quick detour (we missed the turn off and ended up at the ‘end of the road’ near the Panama border’) we plopped our stuff down on the sand and ran out into the crystal clear water. Punta Uva has a nice reef protected by a point – this leads to perfectly calm waters to kick around and get a good look at the local tropical fish. After trolling around on the reef for an hour or two we came back into the beach and hit up the beach front cabana for some Imperial beer and tequila shots. After a quick bite of nachos from the cabana the rains started to roll in and we headed back up the road to Puerto Viejo.

This town is a “small town.” On our way back into town we saw Barry and Nancy hitchhiking on the side of the road. When we were at their house they had mentioned they had done away with their car because they could get anywhere they wanted using buses and hitchhiking. Well, we were about to prove them right as we swung over and picked them up out of the tropical rain and they navigated us over to one of their favorite “sodas.” These small restaurants are cheap local eats and we all enjoyed a lunch of chicken, rice-and-beans, salad and spaghetti (don’t ask.)

After dropping Barry and Nancy at their place we headed back to Banana Azul for a quick nap and some rest, relaxation and reading (and maybe a little beer.)

Monday we again arose early because of the “nature” surrounding us. Roosters and visiting couples’ dogs DO count as nature I keep telling myself. Breakfast is again fruit and cereal. Randy and Vicki are testing out the “hot breakfasts” provided by the hotel – so far they have had a delicious breakfast burrito and a plate of scrambled eggs, toast and rice-and-beans. We were on the road by 8:30, stopping at a super-mega justBB outside of town for some beer, cola, sweets, and tequila.

Today was our day to hike the Cuhuita National Forest so we packed our “survival gear” into our car and headed out back north on the main road. A quick pit stop at the mega-super (we needed beer and tequila in the cooler for after the hike) and we made our way through the sleepy village to the entrance to the park.

The hike was (3.5 km two miles each way) along the beach around a point and promised wildlife. Well, it delivered. We saw crabs, lizards, snakes, killer ants, and monkeys who threw fruit at us. Since we somehow missed the monkeys on our first visit to Costa Rica we were very glad to be able to see them this time. The best way to spot a monkey along the trail was to just walk forward and stop whenever you’re almost hit with small fruit. At that point just look up into the trees and it’s a good chance you’ll see a monkey. Needless to say they were damn cute and they were the highlight of the hike.

Once back at Banana Azul we drug our cooler of beer and tequila out to the beach and proceeded to have our own shot, shooter and body surfing party. There’s something to be said for swigging tequila straight out of the bottle while sitting on a deserted beach in the middle of nowhere. I’m not quite sure what that something is, but I’m sure it’s much more eloquent than “awesome.”

Dinner at a “soda” in town (chicken and rice-and-beans, what a surprise) a beer or two at the local bars and it’s back to the hotel for some R&R and blogging. Tomorrow – I’m not sure what’s in store, we’ll see where the day takes us!