This one is written by both of us. I think you'll figure out who wrote which part.
I suppose that our life is exciting enough that we don't need to make up stories. But it was really fun! Happy April Fools Day! Here the real truth about what we've been up to for the past few weeks.
So... how's the surf? It's great, thanks for asking. I suppose it's not surprising that my surfing has improved vastly since September. At the start of our trip I stood out as a bit of a newbie on a board, and I now don't stand out at all, I blend in with the crowd. Which is a nice feeling since surfing is one of the most challenging things I have taken up.
Most sports you can teach someone in a week or so and they are pretty competent; not so with surfing. Put someone in a kayak, on a snowboard, on water skis, or most other sports and they wont be great in a week but they will have the general knack down and not look like a fool. Maybe it is because there are so many aspects to surfing in order learn it.
As any beginner surfer can tell you, the most challenging thing to learn first is paddling out. If the waves are anything but small you need to have the strength to paddle, the skill to dive under the waves with your board as they come crashing down on you and the endurance to go through several of these waves in order to get outside the break. On days with bigger waves simply paddling out can be exhausting so that once you are in position to catch a wave you need to spend a couple minutes catching your breath.
Once in position the next step is to actually catch a wave. This takes a lot of practice in both spotting waves well before they break and the timing of when to paddling and kick your way onto a wave just before it breaks. The timing is critical since if you are too early the wave won't be steep enough and you can not get enough speed to catch the wave; too late and you will not have time to stand up before the wave breaks crashing you over the top of your board tumbling toward shore. This is affectionately referred to as going “over the falls” and happens to be how I broke my board in Costa Rica. Missing the wave often puts you back in front of the breaking waves forcing you to, again, paddle back out through the breaking waves.
Now that you've caught the wave you can actually stand up and do some surfing. Depending on the wave you just caught this could be a nice easy slow breaking wave that gives you lots of time for turns up and down the face of the wave. It could also be a fast breaking steep wave that you can just barely stay on your board for as you hear the crashing of the wave just behind you. The wrong angle on a wave like this and that that nice hollow barrel comes crashing down right on top of you making you feel like a rag doll being shaken by a pit bull.
Is it fun? Hell ya! I've caught some waves that are around 8 or 9 feet tall that I came screaming down the face of for a few short seconds. I've also been on some 4 foot waves that seem to go on for hours. It is a beautiful feeling.
So... how are the people?
Playa Venao has been an amazing experience in terms of meeting people. Before I go on, I should tell you that all of the people mentioned in this blog post (including Gar) are friends from New York so it feels like we just helicoptered into a fab circle of New Yorkers much like our friends at home.
During our three week stay at Playa Venoa, we bounced around a bit in terms of housing. We spent our first few days staying in the hostel, then we moved uptown and spent our next week at Casa Mango which we shared with Tahiti, Noah and their son Ruvane. Kiyoshi and Ruvane proved to become very special friend. I would go so far as to say that Ruvane was Kiyoshi's first real friend. Since we have been traveling for so long, Kiyoshi hasn't made friends with any other children. It would be nice to see these two keep in touch as they were both born on the same day (August 15, 2007) only 12 hours apart. Not only that we had a wonderful week with Tahiti and Noah. They spoke so highly of Brooklyn that we are keen to hopefully visit them one day.
Uptown living at the Casa Mango
Photography compliments of Kiyoshi
Kiyoshi and Ruvane
We've spent all our money on yoga, surfing and beer so we can't afford a sun hat for Kiyoshi. Please send donations to our poor deprived child.
Following our wonderful week with Tahiti and Noah, we moved in with Vince and Libba. They moved to Panama with their two kids, Henry (seven) and Francis (three), almost a year ago. Libba is the yoga instructor and is chasing her dream to run yoga retreats on a beach. Vince is working at Eco Venao being an all around handyman and managing construction projects. They live in a large yellow six bedroom house overlooking the beach and use this to put people up in conjunction with Eco Venao during yoga retreats.
The view from our Yogini house balcony
I'm not sure who was more excited at the prospect of moving into their house, Taro or I. When we told Taro that we were all moving in with Henry, he threw his arms around Henry and beamed, “I love you Henry!” Poor Henry stood there with his arms at his side and looked terribly uncomfortable with Taro clinging to him like a parasite. Though I didn't throw my arms around Libba and profess my love for her, I too was really excited to move in with them.
Kiyoshi tried his hardest to keep up with the big boys
Kiyoshi, Taro and Frances
Given the size of their place it really became ground zero for group meals and evening activities. It was an amazing place to stay and we spent many hours in their hammocks and drinking Panama beer.
Uncle Gar eating at the kid's table
And finally....the yoga
Were I trying to construct my perfect vacation, it would have paled in comparison to our last few weeks in Playa Venao. I'll get right to the point and say that the yoga instructor Libba is quite possibly the best yoga instructor I will ever meet and I took one of her classes every single day. During our last week at Playa Venao Libba taught a workshop. Yoga – three hours a day for seven days. You may think that that sounds like a long time, but I never once thought to myself, “like when is this class going to be over.” In fact, Libba was so inspiring that I often did some warm up yoga before our three hour class and then practiced more handstands and back-bends on the beach after yoga.
Yoga before yoga and yoga after yoga
Here's a shot of the yoga deck right on the beach
There were two other yoga instructors Alison and Sarah who joined us from the States for a week. Here are a couple of shots of us goofing around on the beach.
At the workshop, I learned that there are 8 different limbs to yoga. What we know as yoga is only one part of a whole package that also includes breathing exercises and meditation etc. I can also tell you that yoga does not “make you feel like a rag doll being shaken by a pit bull.” But for anyone who thinks that yoga is for lightweights, you try holding your leg out with one hand and holding a beer in the other.
Once we were done with yoga and surfing, we spent a considerable amount of time drinking beer at a restaurant on the beach.
Poor kids had to fend for themselves for hours on end while their parents were too busy drinking beer at the bar
Taro had to drive us home sometimes when we got too drunk to drive. You can tell he is very disappointed in us.
All in all our three weeks at Playa Venao were magical. We're now off to a hostel named the Lost and Found which is in the jungle of Panama and gets us closer to Nicaragua, our final destination.