On October 1st, Jeff dropped me at the airport, then continued driving west to spend 3 weeks working at his California office. I flew to Manila, Philippines where the next 5 days were both fulfilling and fun!
21-yr-old Ramila Adhikari is one of the young people we’ve sponsored at a children’s home in Nepal. Home of Hope provides food, shelter, a good education, and life skills to children from as young as 4 years old until they are independent adults. Ramila’s parents live in a remote village, but she and several siblings, a nephew and a niece have lived and attended school in Kathmandu. https://www.homeofhope-nepal.com/
Ramila went on a church mission to Bangalore, India. Most of the young missionaries from Nepal who serve in India are able to go with other missionaries to the Philippines to attend the temple there. BUT during the pandemic all the temples worldwide were closed, so Ramila did not have that opportunity. Now home from her mission, she has been teaching kindergarten in Kathmandu.
Jeff and I were humbled to be able to help Ramila go to the temple in Manila. She flew from Kathmandu, I picked her up at the airport, and we spent the next 5 days enjoying the temple, getting to know each other better, and even doing a little sightseeing nearby.
My journey to Manila went smoothly, but Ramila had a couple of challenges that she handled wonderfully. On her way out of Nepal, the officer questioned her about the purpose of her trip to Manila. She replied, “To go to the temple there.” The officer said “Why do you need to go to the Philippines? There are so many temples in Nepal.” To which she responded “But there isn’t a Christian temple in Nepal.” BAM! And away she went.
Upon her arrival in Manila, Ramila was detained again and questioned for over an hour. They are understandably cautious when a young woman is traveling by herself. Finally she was able to explain sufficiently that her “American mother” was waiting in the lobby for her, and when I emailed two photos for her to show them, they released her. Whew!
Once we were finally together, everything went extremely well. It was peaceful to attend the temple and feel the spirit that is there. While we worship regularly in our respective church buildings in Kathmandu and Lehi, Utah (or wherever Jeff & I are traveling), going to a temple is something extra special. If you have questions about the temples, click here for a 1-min+ video that covers some basics.
Ramila is sweet young woman who comes from an honest, hard-working family of humble circumstances. When she and her siblings moved to the children’s home, it was all about the educational opportunities. The students are provided the necessities (basic food and clothing, school supplies and uniforms, safe shelter) but there are few extras (eg. occasional outings to the fun park). They make regular visits back to their families in the village.
Ramila’s different type of upbringing provided me with a few heartwarming observations. One in particular—We went to the mall and I gave her a little cash “to buy anything you need or want.” She found an inexpensive chain for the temple charm that Jeff & I had given her, and a plain white t-shirt. After that, she really did not know what to buy for herself. She was selflessly stumped . . . all she could think of was others. She ended up buying a dress and shoes for her tiny niece back in Nepal. It was a good reminder that I could be happy (and possibly happier) with a lot less of the material things of life.
As as side note, we were able to fit in a little sightseeing day trip. Our guide drove us first to the Taal Volcano overlook. It violently erupted last in January 2020. Miraculously only one person died in the eruption . . . a fisherman who was sleeping in his boat and did not wake up to evacuate. As we were about to leave the overlook it started raining lightly . . . then the most perfect rainbow appeared!
The rest of the day we spend on a river trip to the Pagsanjan Falls, also known as Cavinti Falls. What an adventure it was! Our two boatmen paddled, pushed, and pulled us in our wooden canoe up the rapids through a lush jungle gorge. We passed countless waterfalls of all shapes and sizes. Our destination was the powerful Pagsanjan waterfall. There we got out of our canoe and onto a bamboo raft, and were pulled across the pool and UNDER the waterfall into a little grotto behind the falls called “Devil’s Cave.” It was very wet and fun! Finally we shot the rapids back down the river – SO exciting and yes, a little scary!
It was a MAGICAL and MEMORABLE five days in Manila with Ramila! She returned to Kathmandu, and I returned to California for the final two weeks of work with Jeff.
Our 9-week, 7,500+ mile sojourn into the Great White North and beyond (Alaska) was an epic adventure! We headed out July 20 in our pickup truck, pulling a cargo trailer with dirt bikes, kayaks, fishing poles, rockhounding gear, extra gasoline, spare tire(s) and a bucket toilet (in case we couldn’t find a bathroom along the way). Our truck bed contained a mattress (in case we couldn’t find a motel along the way).
For much of the time we traced the routes of the Alaskan Highway and/or the Yukon Klondike Gold Rush stampeders of the late 1800’s. As we braved the northern wilderness, we often felt like stampeders ourselves! Only, unlike the painting above, the main treasures WE sought were FAMILY and FISH. Another difference . . . Karen was an eager participant, unlike the woman pictured above. Jeff continued his work while we traveled, with sometimes sketchy phone and Internet connectivity. In the end, even 9 weeks weren’t enough. There were more things we wanted to see and do.
Our first day included a stop at Elkhorn Hot Springs (very rustic) and the next day rock hounding at Crystal Park near Polaris, Montana. Digging for crystals is not quite as easy as some of the YouTubers make it look! After about 6 hours of hiking, searching, digging and sifting, we came away with a couple of fanny packs of little crystals and clusters that we will add to our growing “treasure” collection. It is fascinatingly intoxicating to discover mother nature-formed crystals of varied shapes, sizes and colors.
Our second day was spent exploring dirt biking trails at Wolf Creek, Montana. After that, we headed north to cross the Canadian border.
From online appointment options up to 8:00 pm, we had chosen a 6:00 pm slot at the crossing near Glacier and Waterton national parks. It was close to 6:00 when we thought we’d take just a few minutes to view a lake on the US side. As we were approaching the border guard station, they pulled the barricades across RIGHT IN FRONT OF US. It was 6:02 and apparently we were too late. We understood they’d be open until well after 8:00 pm. SO CLOSE and yet so far away! A 4-hour backtrack later, we crossed into Canada at a 24-hour station further east, and finally reached our hotel in Waterton Lakes National Park.
In Waterton we spent 4 days enjoying the laid back town and exquisite scenery, and hiking A LOT. Karen collected digital wildflowers as we walked . . . they were too pretty and varied to pass by! Our most ambitious hike of the whole trip was Crypt Lake, one of the top-rated hikes in the Canadian Rockies. This 12-mile route involves a boat ride to the trailhead, several waterfalls, a ladder up an exposed cliff, a natural tunnel to squeeze through, and a cable traverse on a narrow ledge, with a pristine lake as the destination. Can’t beat that! There were plenty of animal sightings in the park too (can you say 10 bears plus more?). It was a tiny taste of the expansive beauty and wildlife we’d witness over the next 2 months.
On this Service Nomads trek, we knew we’d be moving around a lot, which makes embedding in a community and coordinating with local service agencies difficult. So we decided to spread some love along the way, by giving out HEART ROCKS to unsuspecting individuals. We acquired 70 rocks from a local nonprofit called Take Heart Creative Studio (click for link). Since we’d be on the road for 70 days, we thought that’d be a good number. Our first recipients were some folks on a challenging hike in Waterton . . . a dad carrying a daughter on his shoulders, a young boy leading his family up the steep trail, and a senior citizen tourist with a huge camera lens, struggling with each step.
Theseheart rocksgave our days added purpose, as we were always on the lookout for people who might benefit from some encouragement to “rock on.” We gave some rocks WITH the cards and some with just a smile and a “Thanks, you’re awesome.” A few especially memorable heart rock recipients were:
A young First Nations brother and sister duo in our hotel with their foster parents, on their way to take part in a tribal celebration
Residents of a homeless shelter in Nikiski, Alaska, who we cooked dinner for, visited and ate with one evening
Karen’s rainy day fishing buddy John who gave her—not the shirt off his back—but something more important to a fisherman . . . the leader off his line (including weight and hook) . . . to make sure she was successful
Friendly mechanic Adrian and his wife in Whitehorse, Yukon (originally from Bern, Switzerland) who saved us in a pinch by repairing our failing trailer wheel hubs
One major goal of our trip to Alaska—up through Alberta and down through British Columbia— was to see members of Karen’s family and birth family, some of whom we’d never met before. We had many loving reunions and fun first-time meetings. Mission accomplished!
In chronological order of visiting:
In between jobs, Ethan bought a ticket to join us in our Alaska Airbnb for one week, helping with a “socks for the homeless” project, among other fun activities.
Our last 5 days in Alaska before heading south again was spent at a remote fishing lodge on the Togiak River with son Jordan and friends/colleagues Tyler and Mason.
The last week of the lodge fishing season, it was very stormy (our inbound plane barely made the scary landing!), and the river was unrecognizably flooded.
When our guides miraculously found where the fish were hiding in the new waterscape, those fish bit HARD. We were able to fill the freezer back home with Silver Salmon.
It’s impossible to fully encapsulate our experience in this blog post. Two words come to mind —
. . . but we’ll try to communicate with these additional photos and highlight lists . . .
As well as the Crystals mentioned earlier, we did a little hunting for Jade, Agate, Ammolite, Opal, and Gold (some hunting in nature, and some in rock shops!)
Other misc things that we experienced include: frost heaves, sinking power poles, potholes, ice castle, a gazillion boats, trains, tunnels, countless churches AND cannabis dispensaries. Unique service opportunities. Most and best of all . . . friendly people everywhere we went!
Thank you for reading about our northern adventure! Our next (and shorter) post will be soon, since Karen’s journey to Manila, Philippines has already come and gone (she returned one week ago). Please stay tuned for the what’s and why’s and photos of her special pilgrimage…
This post is about 2 months tardy, as life was a whirlwind after leaving our Airbnb in La Ribera, Costa Rica. Our final two weeks (of 10 total) in this beautiful country continued our exploration of its diverse landscapes, people, animals, and activities.
The first stop out of the San Jose area was La Fortuna, home to Costa Rica’s most famous active volcano – Arenal. On our drive there through incredibly lush mountains, we stopped and hiked to the waterfall “Catarata Del Toro.” As with much of what we saw and did in Costa Rica, the hikes were hot, humid, and stunning, with photos that don’t do them justice.
We were blessed to have clear enough weather in La Fortuna to see the volcano from top to bottom at times during our stay. Arenal Volcano is as classic as they come, perfect cone shape with steam wafting out the top.
While in the area we also hiked to La Fortuna waterfall, toured a Rainforest cocoa plantation and learned all about chocolate, soaked in the hot springs river near Tabacon, went on an ATV tour/hike, and explored the Mistico Hanging Bridges forest where we found a variety of interesting plants and creatures.
After La Fortuna, we travelled to the Monteverde Cloud Forest for a couple of days. The rare microclimate there between the Pacific and Caribbean oceans creates a 24/7 cloud, under which an amazing variety of flora and fauna exist. One of many highlights was seeing the Resplendent Quetzal bird – rare to see in the wild, along with a myriad of other animals.
Another great find was the Choco Café, where we enjoyed a healthy green salad drizzled with . . . wait for it . . . Chocolate Balsamic dressing – Yum!
The last leg of our trip was a west (Pacific) coast tour. Our home base was a modern, off grid Airbnb on a ridge above the town of Uvita. It overlooked a large “whale tail” formation that appears only at low tide. We took advantage of a 4-hour low tide window to scramble out to the far reef end, swim and explore. Our reward included a sunburn chest “brand” where Jeff’s daypack straps gave him a reverse halter top pattern that he’s still sporting! The entire coastal area was beautiful and a great way to end our trip.
Where traditional service opportunities didn’t exist, we became the gringo street greeters as we walked around, which nearly always elicited a reply and put smiles on the greetees’ faces. “Buenos Días” (Good Morning) was easy. It took awhile to learn that the transition time from “Buenas Tardes” to “Buenas Noches” is 7:00 pm. Simple gestures of friendliness can make a difference quickly, something this self-interested, conflict-ridden world could use more of.
We returned to La Ribera for our final night and Covid testing (required for US re-entry) and were able to have our last dinner at our favorite neighborhood restaurant or “soda.” We also provided an impromptu ride to some church members we found walking along the street, and said “Gracias y Adios” to Karen’s beloved Spanish teacher..
As we departed, we felt a sadness that was a bit unexpected, as our love for Costa Rica kind of snuck up on us. Another little piece of our hearts left in another part of this incredible world we are blessed to experience.
Back in the USA….
The journey from Costa Rica was fairly smooth considering all the travel problems that were occurring at the time. The big issue was re-immersion into American life – fast driving, fast food, and “fasten your seatbelts” life routines to catch up on things. We had about two weeks to enjoy family time, plant a garden, replace trees, see doctors, get haircuts, etc. before heading to work in California, then on to our northern adventure . . . Stay tuned for another Service Nomads post soon, next time from Alaska.
We’ve enjoyed seven weeks of “the pure life” in Costa Rica, and have left our San Jose/La Ribera home base for a final 12 days of touring the central volcano/cloud forest region and west coast of the country.
It has been a great “mezcla” (mixture) of learning, adapting, and engaging. What were initially moments of misdirection and confusion have become a pattern of living, with almost a sense of comfort as we navigate our way through each day around a foreign country with its friendly culture.
At the beginning of our stay, it was too easy to compare new experiences to what we were accustomed to back in the states. Then, almost unnoticeably, it somehow became ok to travel only 140 miles in 6 hours of driving (other than the bladder effects of not finding a good place to “drain the radiator”). Traffic is heavy and frenetic at times, with needle-eye-threading motorcycles all around. Hand-out-of-window signals for “please let me merge” and “thanks” are much better than the “flying of the finger bird” more prevalent back in the US. Similar to what we’ve experienced in other places around the world, even in seeming chaos there can be a cooperative attitude and approach that results in success for all.
After solid days of remote work for Jeff, Spanish class for Karen, and daily rainy season deluges, we have enjoyed getting out to the neighborhood “sodas.” These small cafes feature tasty local cuisine and, most importantly, Limonada de herbiabuena – fresh lemonade blended with mint leaves and crushed ice – Yum!!! We have had some great food and especially love the chicken and gallo pinto (seasoned rice and beans mixture).
Unfortunately for our waistlines, the local and abundant panaderias (bakeries) are loaded with sweet, flaky pastries. We have also discovered an amazing bottled sauce called Lizano Salsa — delicious on foods of all kinds. Jeff says he might even try it as a shampoo one of these days!
Interestingly, though we can’t find every item we’re used to, the grocery store shelves are well-stocked with all the foodstuffs desired here. No shortages of anything that we have seen, differing from the US . . . even plenty of baby formula. An abundance of fresh fruit (pineapples for 75 cents, bananas and melons for 1/4 the price in the US) has been a nice treat. Our zeal for pineapple has created some mouth sores and digestive accelerations, so we are cutting back a bit to avoid a Costa Rican TP shortage started by two gringos.
Some Street Sightings . . .
During our 7 weeks in the San Jose area, we took some mini vacations and day trips. Our first venture was to the Faith Glamping Resort on the jungly beach near Manzanillo National Park, very close to the Panama border on the SE Caribbean coast. Here we observed lots of new flora and fauna, including a furry sloth or “oso perezoso” napping not very high in a tree about 100 yards down the beach. It didn’t move more than two feet the entire three days we were there, and we were reminded of the biblical verse warning against being a “slothful” servant. At least it was easy to locate!
We enjoyed a four+ mile barefoot walk along the beach, hiking in the national park, and visits to a Great Green Macaw reserve and an animal rescue center. The wildlife was varied and fascinating, even when some spider monkeys in the trees above did some urinal aim practice on us below! Fortunately we made a narrow escape.
Another short adventure was to the northeast Caribbean coast. Tortuguero is only accessible by boat, and getting there was an adventure of its own! We didn’t see a car or motorcycle for 3 whole days. Tortuguero is a national park dedicated to the restoration and preservation of the diverse ecosystem there. It is widely known for sea turtle nesting and hatching. We were there out of turtle season but saw a wide variety of birds, frogs, lizards, spiders, insects, snakes (including a close encounter with the deadly fer-de-lance viper). The songs and chirps of hundreds of happy birds woke us up each morning. Turn up your volume and click the arrow below for a short recording of what 4:30 AM sounded like!
We met the common basilisk, nicknamed “Jesus” lizard because it can run across the water when being pursued. Geckos and iguanas are friendly neighbors, ranging from young and small and cute . . . to old and large and UGLAY!
A rainy Saturday trip to nearby Poás Volcano and La Paz Waterfall Gardens introduced us to many new species of plants and animals. Of special interest was watching butterflies hatch from their cocoons. We also hiked to four waterfalls, all incredibly beautiful in their rainforest environs. We love driving through the verdant green volcanic hills of Costa Rica and noting the animals grazing and the huge variety of crops cultivated in the black, fertile soil.
Besides the sweet tropical fruits and pastries, we have had other sweet experiences. Karen loved her Spanish school with the new skills and new friendships nurtured there. Her growing language abilities will expand our service options and effectiveness in non-English-speaking communities, at home and abroad. The Costa Ricans (Ticos/Ticas) have been very friendly and patient with us. We prepared and shared some meals with church volunteers. We also had a long discussion with a man we met at the market—a recovering drug addict—sober now for 10 years and still pressing forward to make life work.
Sadly, a couple of weeks ago we received word that Karen’s 88-year-old father passed away. Through the miracle of air travel, Karen was able to make a quick 4-day round trip to Penticton, British Columbia, Canada to attend the funeral service. We are thankful for the 6 months we lived in Canada the winter of 20/21 and all the happy times we had with Dad Godfrey. It was not long after we left that the impacts of dementia and older age told us that our goodbye was likely the last cognizant one.
Last Friday we visited another active volcano, the remote Irazú (elev. 11,000+ ft), about a 90-min drive from San Jose. We were approached by four young women from Europe (England, Italy, and France) who hadn’t realized their bus tickets to the volcano were only one way. Facing a five hour walk in a torrential downpour, they asked us for a ride back down to civilization. We had a fun time sharing experiences and safely dropped them to their hostel in San Jose. They even sang “Happy Birthday” to Jeff along the way (he is now 62-years-young)!
One of our frequent services here in Costa Rica has been driving people places (Karen’s school friends, neighbors, others). While here in our second base of La Fortuna, after traveling 1 ½ hours to the nearest church for Sunday services, we came across a young man who was crutching along a country road, and drove him the remaining way into town. He had lost one leg in a car accident. Language barriers have been eased by moments of tender mercies, enabling us to provide small acts of service as we have been on the lookout for them. As mentioned in previous posts, sharing these things on our blog comes from a place of gratitude, with hopes that readers will be encouraged with the abundant opportunities each day, everywhere to serve others.
Though we miss everyone back home, our life continues to be enriched by new experiences that stretch our minds, bodies, and souls.
Since our last post, we completed a month in Idaho by getting in some more skiing (downhill and cross-country), and a last minute visit from Ethan with a few of his ski bros.
We returned south to Utah for some medical “tune-ups” and next venture prep. The day after returning to our home “base”ment in Lehi for a month, Jeff had a hernia repair and gall bladder removal. Ten days later, he followed up with ligament repair surgery on his thumb that was injured last October dirt biking in Wyoming. One challenge with the nomadic life is being in one place long enough to get needed medical care, so we have to cram it in when we can. Also during March, son Jordan (wanting to compete with his dad?) had some UN-planned surgery on a ruptured Achilles tendon, due to a wrestle with his snowboard.
With tax season in full swing, as well as other projects, plus a week at the office in California during March, there was little time to pursue service opportunities. We enjoyed tending the grandkids and having some good times with our local adult children.
The horrible war in Ukraine has struck home, even more so with Karen’s partial Ukrainian heritage. We found an opportunity with Lifting Hands International to provide backpacks for some of the Ukrainian refugees in Moldova.
With the marvel of instant information via technology, the atrocities and unjust attacks directed by one individual focused on ill-gotten gains and power have been almost surreal to watch. We have always struggled to understand how Hitler manipulated an entire population to do the things that were done, and now we are watching it in real time, as media and falsehoods direct and mold the attitudes of good people in ways that are outright inhumane. As the good book says, contention is of the devil, and unfortunately this seems to be a trend . . . abroad and sometimes at home. On the other hand, it is inspiring to witness the selfless service of Ukraine’s neighbors and friends who have welcomed fleeing citizens. The help given to Ukrainians and other refugees worldwide is an important and ongoing service need.
Some happy and not-so-happy news from our Nepalese missionaries. Janak has arrived in Bangalore, India and is adjusting well to missionary life. His sweet sister, Ramila, who served in that area for almost 10 months, has been diagnosed with TB (Tuberculosis) and was released to go home to Kathmandu and get better. It will be a long road, but she is getting good care and can expect a full recovery. Sister Adhikari gave her whole heart and soul during her time as a full-time missionary.
CURRENT NOMADING LOCATION = COSTA RICA
On April 4th, we departed Utah and flew south to spend a little over two months in the country of Costa Rica.
Our first seven weeks will be in the San José area, where Jeff is working remotely and Karen is taking Spanish immersion lessons for 4 hours each day. Karen loves her school and her teachers. In just 4 days of class, her ability and confidence are budding.
Friday night she successfully placed a pizza order on the phone for delivery. It arrived to the right place, at the right time, and amazingly with the correct toppings too! Learning Spanish will open doors to more humanitarian work we plan to do in Spanish-speaking countries.
So far we have found the food to be very tasty, with perfectly ripened fruits and vegetables, fresh-squeezed juices, crispy salads with delicious salad dressings, rice with the yummiest dark refried beans ever, fried plantains, salmon, shrimp, chicken, beef, pork, and SO many tasty baked goods. Some things are familiar, and some are interestingly different . . .
The lush and diverse flora . . . even in the city . . . is beautiful, contrasted with the iron gates and tall fences that secure properties everywhere in the San Jose area. We have a rental car, and driving is “exciting” to say the least. Many roads are extremely narrow, bumpy, and windy, with deep drainage ditches on the sides instead of safety shoulders. The traffic is heavy, with large buses and trucks passing you within centimeters, motorcycles weaving in and out, many pedestrians walking and cyclists pedaling in the streets. Stoplights and signage and parking spots are sparse. ¡Ay!
The insects here are abundant and we have developed various experiments after killing one type of bug, leaving it on the floor for a few minutes, and observing how quickly the little ants arrive and go to work. We have also increased kitchen cleanliness awareness, as any microscopic morsel is found and swarmed within moments of leaving it. Other than a friendly 4” inch tarantula on Night #2 (victim of a flip flop smackdown) and our “pet” kitchen gecko, it is entertaining and a reaffirmation of the circle of life.
The Ticos (locals) are very friendly and we look forward to meaningful participation in lots of culture, activities, and service during our time here in the wonderful country of . . .