Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Costa Rica

In November, Katie, Bryant and I had the opportunity to go to Costa Rica with Oceans Healing Group. A wonderful organization that takes families who have a loved one with a disAbility on a week long adventure in Costa Rica! 
Here we are meeting Christiaan for the first time at LAX. Another friend, Gilmar, from Wheelchair sports came to the airport to see us all off (he and his dad have gone to CR with OHG before and were so excited for us)!
I am not the best traveler (I have a hard time going on the freeway for more than 20 minutes... so 24 hours of traveling and facing every single fear of mine was almost too much)....
 I almost backed out a hundred times, but then I realized I had to face my fear and dig (really, really) deep so I could do this trip. I am so glad that I did, because it ended up truly being a trip of a life time! 
After two plane rides (one of which a huge man fainted straight on my face), a long drive, an hour long boat ride and another two hour bumpy ride through the dark and muddy jungle... twenty four hours later, we were there! I still can not believe I did all of that, but it ended up being a great adventure! Katie was the biggest trooper and kept a smile through all of the travels. That smile kept me going!
Once we arrived at the Shaka Surf Camp, we were greeted by the most friendly staff and volunteers! They got us unloaded and into our rooms and then we were fast asleep! It was dark when we arrived, so we had no idea what we would wake up to. It was quite the treat when we woke up the next morning to this view!!! Truly amazing! 

The next day morning we ate breakfast and then did not waste any time, we got the kids out to the beach and into the water to surf! Above, Katie and her new friend Shawn! 
Katie surfed every day and loved it so much! She really got the hang of it and was able to take the board in many times by herself! 

Meanwhile up on the beach.....coconuts right off the tree were being gathered for us to enjoy!

Shawn, Katie and CJ were the three children who were invited to come on this fun trip! 
We loved getting to know Shawn and CJ and their families! 

Awesome Shaka Surf Camp! Such a great place! Jungle on one side, ocean on the other! Monkeys swinging from the trees above us! It was incredible!! 

Bryant relaxing during an afternoon rain storm! It was so tropical and green everywhere! We loved it!
Right in front of our room. It was accessible all around camp which made it easy for Katie to get around really well! Thank you Frank for making Shaka so wheelchair friendly!!!
Another great thing about Oceans Healing Group, is they encourage the parents to have a break and take advantage of the extra help. Bryant and I were able to take walks and relax while Katie had a blast with the volunteers who were so nice and so much fun! Katie was in heaven. However, we spent a majority of the time with the group because they were having too much fun to miss out! One funny story I want to remember is on our first day there, I wanted to get a soda. So we went for a walk to the local mini mart. We thought we were told to turn right. So we walked and walk and walked through the mud and got deeper down the jungle road only to feel like we had gone the wrong way. We kept trying to ask people who were walking by where the store was but they did not speak English. Finally, this kid on a bike stopped and I said "coca cola?" and he was like "YES!" but pointed to the other direction. Come to find out, should have turned left out of camp and just walk a few feet and we would have found the mini mart, but because we turned right, we went on funny adventure that made me glad we turned right! We were cracking up the entire time and were SO muddy by the time we returned back to camp! 
These sweet girls/volunteers became dear friends as the week went on. 
We love them all so much! 
Bryant was in surf heaven and was able to surf a ton. He woke up every morning for Shaka "Dawn Patrol," surfed with Katie, and often surfed in the afternoon or evenings too! Endless surfing! Speaking of surfing... I took surf lessons one morning and had a blast. This was about the best I did, but it sure was fun! 

The beaches were incredible. 
The lazy afternoons were awesome. We would get back from surfing and then walk, or ride the quads to the mini mart for ice cream and soda. 
One afternoon Megan (the yoga instructor from camp) came over with her new goats! Katie loved petting the baby goat! 
This day was one of our favorite adventures ever! We went on a long quad ride all through the jungle and beach! It was AWESOME!!!!  
 We rode for awhile then stopped at a great little place for some lunch....
Katie and Bryant with Frank (the owner of Shaka and the master mind behind Oceans Healing Group)! He and his new wife Nicole both have the biggest hearts and we absolutely adore them and their endless love and kindness. They are both such a gift to our adaptive community! Love them to pieces! 
Some of the awesome volunteers from Oceans Healing Group! We love them all so much!!! Such a great group of people with huge hearts! 

Katie and Nicole riding the quads like wild women on the beach! Katie was in HEAVEN!!! 
We rode all down the beach, through the jungle, through mud puddles and little rivers! It was so much fun! 

We had a blast riding with all of our new friends.... who apparently don't love helmets as much as we do!

The aftermath!

CJ and Blake got stuck a few times, which meant MORE mud for them!!! 
about ready to get showered off
Sunset watching with my sweet girl! It was so fun to have this special one on one time with Katie. She ate up every minute of the trip and we loved seeing her so happy! 
The Sunsets were breathtaking! 
Sunset Yoga with Megan and Shawnee!  

On one of the nights, we got to go on a beautiful date night at a gorgeous resort a few miles away. We ate a yummy dinner while listening to the waves crash on the sand right in front of us. It was truly magical! 

My favorite day was when we went ZIP LINING through the jungle! Unfortunately, Bryant (and most of the guys, actually) was not feeling well this day (he caught a bug while we were there) so it was just us girls and Christiann on our zip lining adventures! 
(The Mama Bears), Sandy, Michelle and I riding in the back of the truck on the way up to the zip lines! 
Getting all geared up and ready for our adventure!!! 
Katie with Christiaan who is an old pro at this! He is such an awesome example of never letting his disABILITY get in the way of new adventures! He is such a great person and friend! 
Katie laughed and smiled the entire two hours she was zip lining through the jungle!
I had faced all my fears this trip, so when they asked me if I wanted to zip line upside down, I said "I have come this far, why not!" Holy Cow it was AWESOME!!!!!! Such a thrill!  
We got really high up and the view was amazing! 

Seriously, one of the best moments of my life! 

Such a fun adventure with this group! 
Loved lazy afternoons on the beach with Katie while Daddy surfed. The sand was so soft and the water was so warm, we would just sit and relax while the waves crashed over us! Paradise! 

On the last night together, we all went out to dinner at a beautiful restaurant overlooking the ocean. It was such a special night spent with friends that truly became family within that week! 
After dinner we enjoyed a bon fire and smores on the beach! 
Steve! He became such a great friend as we LOVED his happy, outgoing personality! When Steve was around, it was always a party. He and his son, Blake volunteered for the week and they are two of the nicest guys we have ever met! Steve is a Grandpa, but you would never guess with his youthful personality. One afternoon, he and Katie spent at least and hour or two snorkeling all over looking for cool fish! Often times we would wake up to Steve knocking on our door saying in his thick Texas accent, "Katie can do and... I CAN TOO.... WAKE UP!!!!" 
Steve gave us all a little scare last month when he was on another fun adventure and got an infection and had to flown home via life flight! Blake gave us updates and we are such glad Steve is back to his Happy self again! We love you Steve!

This was Katie's face the entire trip in Costa Rica!
Truly Memories that will last a life time! 
Such a Daddy's girl! These two surfers melt my heart!
Fun around surf camp with Shawn! 
We LOVE the Oceans Healing Group Volunteers!!!
Thank you ALL for taking the week off and spending it with us! We love you!
We were sad to leave Shaka, but getting Ice Cream on our way out helped to bring a few smiles! 
The scenic drive was gorgeous! 

back on the ferry boat. The ride there was a little rocky, but the ride back was smooth sailing! 

We looked over the side to see a sting ray swimming along side of us!

We flew to CR and Back from CR with the traveling expert, Christiann who made the travels so much easier. We were so thankful for all of his help! He also got Katie doing some extreme wheelchair moves, even through the airports!!! These two were a hoot together in their chairs racing through the crowds! 

Costa Rica was truly a trip of a life time. So thankful for everyone who is involved in Oceans Healing who helped make this trip a reality! It was such a gift to us! 

They might not be able to walk...
but they sure can SURF!!!! 

Thank you Oceans Healing Group!