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Immersion is my favorite way to experience a new country. And you couldn’t wipe the smile from my face the days we spent at Miraflor Nature Reserve in Nicaragua. Not only were we deep in the heart of Nica countryside, we were also on a coffee farm.

Besides being a protected haven for flora and fauna, Miraflor hosts an agricultural cooperative where campesinos farm plots using organic methods. We stayed with Dona Corina Picado at her farm, La Posada Sonada. 

We explored the coffee fields, learning this is what a coffee berry looks like:

And a coffee flower smells like an orange blossom. 

And that coffee plants grow well under bananas.

We stumbled upon a few farmhands filling American-style backpacks with hand picked berries. Clearly, harvesting was a slow process.  We watched this young man dump the day’s harvest into the machine to wash and sort the berries.

Here’s where the berries dried:

Dona Corina showed us her earthen oven, fueled by a wood fire, where the coffee is roasted. And this is how coffee is ground, outside the modern world:

It was here that I learned a cup of coffee should be drunken slowly, and savored.

For more stories of travel and food, check out wanderfood wednesday!

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Twelve years ago this week, Brian and I went to Costa Rica.

We were midway through figuring out how to make the dream a truth and we were craving a research trip. We found a piece of paradise at Bosque del Cabo.

Located in the southwest corner of the country, in the rainforest of the Osa Penninsula where land meets the sea, Bosque del Cabo confirmed how sweet it is to live in the midst of nature.

Macaw parrots and toucans sailed through the sky above us. Howler monkeys woke us at dawn with their dinosaur-like bellows. When our luggage failed to arrive with us, we swam in the ocean in the nude—we had the beach completely to ourselves! We shared dinners with well-seasoned travelers from around the world. We drank water from a stream when we found ourselves thirsty while exploring after a campesino showed us how he drank from the stream (without even a visit from Montezuma’s revenge!). We examined the hydropower system in the river, decided cool water showers are lovely in late afternoon, bought freshly dried peppercorns from the owner’s son, and relished the romanticism of using oil lanterns in the evening.

Here is where we showered.

And here is where we relaxed.

We watched the sun set over the ocean and later, stars fill the night sky.

When it came time to go, this dirt landing strip is where we hopped on a plane to our next destination. This was the kind of flying of which I’d dreamed. Our pilot simply laughed when we told him that I too, was a pilot.

I hoped a fuel sample would be taken after refueling to ensure there was no contamination.


We then traveled to another part of Costa Rica and sorely regretted leaving Bosque del Cabo. But we enjoyed a visit to a nature reserve where two orphaned baby monkeys had taken up residence. This little guy took a liking to me and wouldn’t leave my arm until we peeled him off when it was time to go.

Our guide joked with us, “What does he know that we don’t?”

Nine months later, our daughter was born. Maybe the monkey did know something we didn’t.

There’s something about placing toilets and showers outdoors, without walls around them, in guest accommodations, that’s, well…..unusual.


We stayed at both, The Lookout


and Pillow Dreams


before we moved into The Treehouse (thanks Charles and Sharon for boating in that lovely cast iron tub and hauling it up the steep hill–that couldn’t have been easy).


At first, I too, would abruptly look over my shoulder, thinking I heard footsteps coming while showering. But it didn’t take long to get used to it. Once you realize your little bungalow really is a quiet retreat away from it all, you start to relax.

However, you may find some little surprises. Like when you need to pee after dark and open the toilet seat lid and something jumps out. You leap back in surprise, then grab a flashlight and look closer. You’re not going to sit down until you know there’s nothing else in there. Lifting the seat, you startle a handful of tiny quarter-sized frogs who hop away quickly.

Or you wash your hands at the sink and notice little teeth marks in the bar of soap.  What kind of critter eats soap, you wonder. (I’m pretty sure it was rats).

Or you start showering under the stars and hear a scuffling near your feet. You scream, it sounds big. It doesn’t scamper away so again, you grab a flashlight. You find a softball sized hermit crab determinedly attempting to climb the earth alongside the shower.

My own favorite memory of the bathrooms placed in nature is of showering one night at sunset, enjoying the colorful view between hair rinsings when a swarm of hundreds of bats flew high overhead. That was cool.

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