Manila with Ramila

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.

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.

The Manila Philippines Temple was the objective of our pilgrimage

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.

Swayambhunath or Monkey Temple, one of countless Hindu temples in Nepal

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!

The first picture I sent – With the children at church in Nepal, November 2018 (Adhyan, Rashila, Ramila, Narayan. Amit not present.)
The 2nd picture I sent – I promise we’re legit!

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.

In the temple, Ramila promised to live a Christ-centered life
It was a blessing to accompany Ramila. She even brought coordinating Nepali dresses for us!
She loved the Orchids

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 with her parents

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.

I Love to See the Temple
Ramila surprised me with this lovely poncho that she crocheted!

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!

Taal Volcano
A beautiful heavenly sign

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!

The AFTER picture – totally wet

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.

The Stampeders

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.

We took it slow on the way north . . . 4-6 hours of driving a day, a few multi-night stops, and 3 weeks in a Soldotna, AK Airbnb. We returned much quicker.
The ride was actually quite comfortable

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. 

Jeff in his “stampeding” getup
We found a honey hole with lots of little crystals
Surveying the Montana valleys

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.

We weren’t feeling particularly welcome after our border mixup

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. 

Wonderful Wildflowers
Karen on the Crypt Lake trail ladder
Jeff at Crypt Lake in Waterton Lakes National Park, Canada

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.

A meaningful message for everyone

These heart rocks gave 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:

Aunt Marilyn (and many cousins not pictured)
Uncle Rob, Aunt Wendy, cousin Andrea with her son Lincoln
Maternal birth half brother Bryce
Maternal birth aunt Sonia
Paternal birth half cousin Lorne and Deanna (and lots of cousins!)
Maternal birth half brother Jim and Charlene
Paternal birth half brother Rod and Rose, joking around
Brother David and Sister-in-Law Karen, trying to fit in the frame

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.

You know you’re cool when your clothes match your stepdad’s
This charity helps the homeless with a shelter and many supporting services. They give away 2,000 pairs of socks every year. We put a small dent in their need. Ethan: “I’ve never seen so many socks.”

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.

Jordan & Jeff
It was a combined business/pleasure trip

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.

View of Togiak River Lodge from the river
View from our stilt cabin toward the blown out river. Yes, the sidewalks were floating.

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 so fun when the fish bite
Another mission accomplished!

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 . . .

Mountains, Rivers, Lakes, Trees, Tundra, Fireweed, Wildflowers, Berries, Mushrooms, Lily Pads, Sunsets, Rainbows, Fog, Clouds, Rain, Waterfalls, Hot Springs, Beaches, Rocks, Glacial Silt, Tidal Bores, Icebergs, Glaciers

The vastness and beauty of Denali National Park is breathtakingly unique
Only one percent of visitors have a clear enough day to see Denali (formerly Mount McKinley) in the distance
Lake Louise in Banff
Kayaking on Vermilion Lakes in Banff with Mount Rundle behind
Famous Moraine Lake
We also made a digital collection of all the fantastical mushrooms and fungi we came across
Vivid rainbow from our back porch in Soldotna. A different heavenly wonder that we DID NOT get to see this time was the Aurora Borealis. Every single night that it should have been visible there was thick cloud cover.

Several locals explained that in Alaska the year consists of 9 months of winter, and one month each of spring, summer, and fall. It was summer when we arrived and almost winter when we left.

Glaciers in Prince William Sound
In front the HUGE Harvard tidewater glacier, 1.5 miles across
Icebergs calved off the glacier in Bear Glacier Lagoon, Kenai Fjords National Park

46 Bear (black and grizzly), 24 Moose, Humpback Whales, Dall’s Porpoises, Stellar Sea Lions, Sea Otters, River Otters, Harbor Seals, 1 lone Wolf, Lynx, Deer, Elk, Prairie Bison, Rabbits, Wood Bison, Caribou (Reindeer), 3 Coyote, Red Fox, Dall Sheep, Beavers, Mink, Muskrat, Arctic Ground Squirrels (too cute!), Great Blue Herons, Sandhill Cranes, Bald Eagles, Golden Eagles, Crows, Magpies, Seagulls, Kittiwake Gulls, Ptarmigans, Trumpeter Swans, Hawks, Ducks, all sorts of BIG Insects including Mosquitos

Grizzly sow and 3 cubs, taken with our iPhone from a bridge near Haines, Alaska
A handsome coyote in Denali
Frolicking adolescent grizzlies at Crescent Lake, Alaska
Napping after gorging on salmon
Caribou in Denali

Do you you know the difference between a Caribou and a Reindeer? Same species. Santa’s reindeer are just domesticated (and highly trained and talented!) Caribou.

Jeff wrangling a couple of Yukon-sized pests
But in the end they got him

The last type of wildlife we enjoyed, but certainly not the least . . .

. . . the catchable kind . . . Silver/Coho Salmon, Humpy/Pink Salmon, Halibut, Rainbow Trout

Jeff got the first catch, a healthy Silver in the Kenai River
The Kenai also gave up a beautiful Rainbow Trout. But we gave it back . . . Rainbows over 16″ must be released
One day we flew across the Cook Inlet to Crescent Lake. The surroundings were idylic, and we actually saw more Grizzlies than Silver Salmon that day. They were ALL OVER THE PLACE! Our guide was 50% fishing guide and 50% bear whisperer.
Karen managed to reel one in, with a very interested Grizzly nearby
We tried something new—Halibut shore fishing near Ninilchik. Jeff caught a little guy, mmm . . . tasty (once you wash the sand off)!

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!)

Jeff in Prospector mode with his gold pan and bear spray
Karen gave it the ol’ college try
Alas, we came up empty, but we enjoyed the GOLD of the changing fall colors
We tried a couple more times along the way
If you look VERY closely you’ll see some little gold flakes in Karen’s pan. Tip of the day: Roadside gold panning businesses make sure you don’t leave empty handed. This is a whopping $21’s worth.

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!

On the Lake Agnes Tea House trail, originating from Lake Louise in Banff, we noticed this sign
We are now official Tea House Helpers. Yay 🙂
The Big Beaver in (where else?) the town of Beaverlodge, Alberta
We drove to this spot in Anchor Point, Alaska. There ARE more westerly isolated, small, local road systems, but nothing further west that you can drive to—they are only accessible by boat or plane. Map below.
We learned about Native Alaskan peoples and cultures at the heritage center in Anchorage . . .
. . . and visited Gitanyow (pron. Kitwancool), an historic First Nations village that is home to the oldest-known and largest collection of totem poles in British Columbia.
Well hello there!
The Chena Hot Springs Resort has an ice castle. We DID NOT spend the night.
One of the sled dogs at Chena Hot Springs enjoying a little TLC
We rode a fun trail in Chena River State Recreation Area
Road maintenance along parts of the Alaska highway is a nightmare because of the permafrost heaving. Crews do their best to repair the continual damage. It takes concentration and swerving into the opposite lane to effectively dodge all the pot holes. We were semi-successful.
This was a common sight too. The utility poles sink into the permafrost. Long sections of line had been abandoned.
As we bid farewell to Alaska and the Great White North, one more view from our mini Airbnb in Haines.

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…

Hasta Luego, Costa Rica

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.

Catarata Del Toro is actually 270 feet high, much more than this photo suggests

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.

The view of Arenal from our balcony

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.

Tabacon Hot Springs River
Hanging bridges over the rain forest are a big thing in Costa Rica
Blue Jeans Poison Dart Frog, also known as the Strawberry Poison Arrow Frog

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.

This male Resplendent Quetzal’s red breast and long tail plumes are not visible in our photo, taken through the guide’s scope.
Resplendent Quetzal in flight. Image credit: “Off the Beaten Path”

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.

The Whale’s Tail in Marina Ballena National Park. Photo credit: “Costa Rica Vibes”

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.

It took some time after our return for Jeff to remove his Pura Vida bracelet

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.

Helping Grandpa Jeff plant and water the garden during our short layover in Utah

¡Pura Vida!

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.

A helpful guide to acceptable Costa Rican hand signals

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).

Gallo Pinto in the shape of a Costa Rican volcano

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!

Condiments are mainly found in plastic pouches here

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 . . .

More common than you’d think. Who needs a mini van?
Did we mention we love pineapple? Here are some beauties headed to market.

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!

A literal Shangri -La
Our furry sloth friend didn’t want to come down and play

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.

Macaws are beautiful, squawky birds

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!

Jeff found this poisonous viper just off the trail on our guided night hike through the jungle. Yikes!
Can you spot the stick bug? It was 12 inches long!

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 “Jesus” lizard on the side of the lagoon
An iguana wanted to take over our pool chair
The Caribbean Sea and Laguna del Tortuguero from the top of Tortuguero Hill

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.

Wildlife crossings here warn of monkeys, tapirs, and wildcats. We have seen all of those animals and MORE.
Most of Costa Rica’s many volcanos are still actively venting! Helmets are required at Poás.
Locals call the Gunnera plant “Poor Man’s Umbrella” or “Sombrilla de Pobre”
Waterfalls Galore!
Happy cows on the mountainside

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. 

Like Americans, Costa Ricans come in all sizes! School employees Dexther and Nena were extra nice.
A farmer with his cart and trusty team of oxen
These traditional brightly painted wooden carretas are still sometimes used in the countryside.

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)!

Click below to watch Jeff’s Happy Birthday song:

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.

Until next time . . .

Jeff & Karen

The Service Nomads

¡Saludos desde Costa Rica!

Greetings from Costa Rica!


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 enjoyed our February in Driggs, Idaho
Ethan (second from left) and his friends came to visit

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.

He also got a long-overdue haircut from daughter Emma

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.

Grandma Karen Story Time
Modified Blokus Game
Adventure at the Park

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.


On April 4th, we departed Utah and flew south to spend a little over two months in the country of Costa Rica.

Jeff’s office – same job, new view

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.

Karen y su profesora Evelyn

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 . . .

Some flowers in our Airbnb’s beautiful backyard

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 . . .