Lucky Man

(The song playing is one of my favorites)

Happy New Year!

Last night was a special treat. Instead of pursuing the usual New Year’s Eve “awe-inspiring” intoxication levels, I choose to spend a tranquil night on the beach with close friends. We arrived on Playa Hermosa in the Guanacaste Province of Costa Rica shortly after sunset. There we gathered under a near-full moon, bare feet in sand, and enjoyed the warm breeze coming off the Pacific Ocean. My heart goes out to those that could not join us—likely bundled in freezing temperatures around the globe. For us, it was a pleasant 75°F.

I will pause to allow you time to liberate the profanity that you are whispering under your breath…

We began the night with some drinking—of course. Even in the early hours, many tourists and locals set off fireworks along the entire stretch of the beach. Many likely illegal in the United States…so they were, of course, awesome.

Now, in addition to fireworks, a common staple during a Feliz Año Nuevo de Costa Rica are flying lanterns. People tend to light them for many reasons; including wishes, resolutions, or missed loved ones. We had about ten lanterns that a Canadian had smuggled into the country. Luckily for us, the instructions on the packaging are written entirely in Mandarin—let the games begin.

There were many “respectable” attempts to send these lanterns into the night sky but failure did come calling. In fact, the first lantern (that essentially burst into flames) helped us light our bonfire. Crisis averted. Meanwhile, just down the beach were a bunch of 8 year-olds that had just finished launching their fifth. A very proud moment for all of us. We gave it one last attempt (after an unpublished number of losses) to launch and finally had success. We watched as our (companionless) lantern penetrated the night sky—flying straight to the moon and eventually joining the other lanterns already inflight. Beautiful.

chinese-new-year-flying-lanterns

As the hour pulled closer to midnight, fireworks continued and laughs ran abound. Beer flowing. A surreal moon reflecting off the water. We walked down the beach, bonfire to bonfire, meeting fascinating people from different corners the world. Some more “fascinating” than others but fun nonetheless.

Finally, midnight hit and the sky lit up. We were able to see hotels in the distance put on large firework shows. Meanwhile, our own fireworks continued in unison—adding to the overall pyrotechnics. The result was an array of light constellations that were truly breathtaking.

I finished it off with a stroll directly into the ocean and enjoyed the cosset of the ocean waves with a heartwarming kaleidoscopic sky overhead. There I reflected on my past, present, and future. 2015 will be interesting.

Thank you Costa Rica for helping us start the new year right.

WatchFireworks-iStock

Ashcroft, Richard. Lucky Man. The Verve. Youth, 1997.

En el Paraíso

It has been awhile since I have been able to write—my sincere apologies. I have traveled non-stop for work in what felt like 15 simultaneous directions at once. I have now departed the cold and snowy existence of Washington DC, only to arrive in the warmth and clear blue skies of Costa Rica. I am here, at last, to celebrate the holidays with my father and friends.

I will keep this entry short as it is the first of many that I will write while I am in Central America over the next three weeks. Included below is a favorite quote of mine. Hopefully it helps you take pause and embrace the true spirit of the holidays.

“Christmas is not a time nor a season but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy is to have the real spirit of Christmas.”

– Calvin Coolidge

Merry Christmas everyone. More to come soon.

Cheers,
Michael

Christmas Tree on Beach

Not Goodbye, See You Soon

My time in Costa Rica had to end at some point. I spent 24 eventful days there. Yesterday was the day that I returned home to California. It is always difficult to say goodbye. Heavy hearts abound. My father. My friends. My mosquitos. Fear not all, this is not my last flight through Liberia International Airport.

Recap
I could not help but take a quick retrospective look at my latest Costa Rica experiences, both private and shared, as I sat aboard the flight home. Many of which I can track by photos.

As a sampling, this latest trip included:

  • a large amount of great heart-to-heart talks with my father, my rock;
  • an extended amount of time with personal contacts and friends, also making some new ones along the way;
  • a few amazingly intense Costa Rica World Cup games;
  • a number of new areas in Costa Rica, including a number of gorgeous beaches along the western coast;
  • a large dose of sun, for my ever-so-white (almost transparent) Anglo-Saxon skin;
  • a very quick jaunt across the border for a day in Nicaragua;
  • a few dreary nights in San José, with the extra perk of a long drive;
  • a few active volcanos and absolutely gorgeous cathedrals;
  • a higher (than usual) level of inebriation during a few fun nights in Playa Coco;
  • and nearly boarding a bus to Rio for the World Cup. Tempting.

Take a chance, my 2 cents
Adjusting to a new international location is never easy. Even scary to some. There are cultural sensitivities to account for, language barriers that cause consistent misunderstandings, and a laundry list of climate and digestive challenges that require you to adjust. These are realized whether you are vacationing, temporarily working, or permanently moving to an international location. Your length of stay will likely decide the level of impact. I implore you to take a chance regardless.

To those who are not willing to take the chance: You are missing out. Difficult, yes, but it will broaden your horizons. Stop judging. Get off your ass.

To those who are willing to take the chance (or have already): Go. Eyes open. Stay strong. Enjoy. So long as you maintain a positive attitude and surround yourself with loved ones (new and old), all will turn out better than you ever imagined. Do not get me wrong, you will hit turbulent times. Be smart and agile. Laugh off unfathomable calamities. All will be worth it in the end.

Not done
I have many more aspirations for Central America (and other regions). My father is there of course. Motivation enough. Beyond that, there is plenty more to do and visit. We almost made it to the east coast, near Limón, but had to change plans due to a mudslide taking out the main road. Not as rare there as you might expect. Eastern exploration of Costa Rica is a logical next step. There is also much more of Nicaragua to see as well as Panama.

I am planning a return to Costa Rica in December to celebrate Christmas, New Years, and my birthday. Should be a very busy and tantalizing bundle of weeks at the end of the year. Exciting.

Imminent timeline
I am unsure, at this juncture in time, of where my next travel destination will be. I may travel across the pond as the Middle East and Europe beckons. Time will tell. For now, I may travel around California a bit more until the next opportunity presents itself. More to come soon.

Ciao.

Costa Rica vs Uruguay

I have always been a fan of sporting events. Attending games with my family and friends. From the insane fans to the dazzling theatrics, sports have always provided an exciting experience. It can bring people from varying regions, races, and creeds together for a common purpose. The United States has the Super Bowl, the World Series, March Madness, the NBA Finals, the Stanley Cup, and many other examples. I always thought that the United States embodied these moments better than any other country. Until now.

I recently had the pleasure of watching a 2014 World Cup match between Costa Rica and Uruguay with my tico friends and family this past Saturday, June 14. Uruguay is a team that has more experience than Costa Rica and is ranked higher according to the FIFA World Rankings. Should be interesting. So we decided to enjoy the futbol (soccer) match from a local bar in downtown Coco. Cervesa was flowing. Emotions were high. The game begins. Then came the lluvia (rain).

We experienced torrential downpour in a bar with no roof. Women ran for cover. Most men remained in place and stood stoically in the rain. The game was on…we were going nowhere. This forced the bar to open a venue downstairs. The rain, it would seem, ended up being a blessing in disguise. Downstairs included a satellite projection that was large enough to cover the entire wall. Far larger then the television we were using before. We were back in business. Drenched. Tipsy. With smiles all-around.

That’s when the miracle began. Costa Rica scored! GOAL! Inexhaustible cheers. Hugs. Kisses. Chanting. Enemies became friends. The entire country of Costa Rica became one. We began repeatedly chanting, “Ole…ole, ole, ole…ticos…ticos.” Pounding on tables. Many more cervesas consumed. A few mojitos. Shots were “forced” down exponentially. Everyone was simply embracing and savoring the moment. Chanting resumed. Most began to surpass the tipsy stage. This continued for two more goals until…VICTORY! Costa Rica, a small Central American nation with a minor World Cup pedigree came from behind to beat the 2010 World Cup semifinalist Uruguay 3–1. Unbelievable.

I cannot help but compare this experience to American sports. Sure we have some fierce rivalries and superb sporting events. None of them, however, measure up to the passion and sheer insanity of the World Cup. Especially when seen from a country (outside of the United States) that is deeply dedicated and emotionally invested in a team that is representing their homeland. Fighting for global honor and, ideally, eventual supremacy. I was be simply amazed. One of the best nights of my life.

A Salute to My Father

It is a significant challenge to impart the intrinsic relationship shared by my father and I. To aptly describe his tremendous level of impact and fully express my level of gratitude for being blessed with such a wonderful father. Words are, at times, simply insufficient. This is one of those moments.

I was born on December 29 to Robert and Carolee DeWitt. Now, my father will often joke that he bounced ferociously on my mother’s womb to make sure that my birth occurred before the new year. Not necessarily because he wanted to meet his first and only son, but because he would then be able to write me off as a dependent on his taxes for the entire year (always a good laugh). Much to his surprise, the cost of raising and supporting a child well exceeds any amount of money he saved that year. Sorry dad, maybe next time.

Our family and friends have many fond memories, thus far, of my father. There are the vast abundance of corny jokes handed down by past-generations. Some dirty. Some not. Most head-smacking puns. A few that you will never see coming. There are also the plastic “candies”—in quotes because they are awful—known as Jujubes consumed by the handful. And, of course, the rocking chairs (sigh). He is consistently teased for being obsessed with rocking. Including, but not limited to, dragging Lazy-Boy (ish) recliners inappropriately around the house and outdoors. A bit odd but we all love him for it. Usually you will also find him attempting to create bursts of laughter everywhere around him, often for complete strangers. All simply intended to make the world a bit brighter, even if for a fleeting moment. He is a kind-hearted and genuine man.

Throughout my young life, my father has been a guiding beacon. We may have had our differences of opinion from time to time. Who has not? Where we stay consistent is our unwavering commitment to each other, our family, and friends. A torch passed to us by my grandfather, his father, with which we continually pass forward. Through good times and bad. Maintaining gracious hearts, strong personal relationships, and a willingness to go above and beyond to aid those less fortunate than us.

I believe life is best in simplicity. Free of unnecessary distractions and “red herring” styled drama. So I will simple say, I love you dad. You are my rock. You are my beacon. You are my father. Greatest in the world. Until the end of time.

Happy Father’s Day.

Now pass the damn scotch.