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Ecuador and Costa Rica 2008
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CAIMANS, ANACONDAS, AND PIRANHAS, NO WORRIES: We spent five days at the Sani Lodge in the Amazon, where Bunky enjoys our regular afternoon swim in the lagoon. The predators were supposedly scared by our splashing.

PIRANHA FISHING: We didn't catch any, but you're supposed to splash to attract them. This advice was seemingly at odds with the advice that our swimming would scare them off.

PARROT CLAY LICK: We visited a parrot clay lick at Yasuni National Park, plus saw two species of monkeys, six species of toucans, and stunning Blue-and-Yellow Macaws flying over the rainforest.

AMAZON STORM FRONT: Lots of rain kept the Amazon surprisingly cool, but it put a damper on Steve's birding.

AMAZON HOME: A typical home along the Rio Napo.

HOME VISIT: The Sani Lodge is owned and operated by a local indiengous community. We got to visit the home and family of our guide. We were surprised by the level of poverty. All their chickens were sick, as they had not been able to buy maize to feed them. The boy on the lowest step is 8 years old, underscoring the poor nutrition. We drank chicha at their house, a bitter fermented yaro drink that staves off hunger.

TORTUGUERO SUNSET: We spent our final week in Costa Rica. This was the sunset from Casa Marbella in Tortuguero, a little town on the Caribbean coast where we spent four days. Because Tortuguero can only be reached by boat or plane, there are no cars.

BLACK SAND BEACH: Tortuguero's dark sand attracts sea turtles, making it the largest sea turtle nesting beach in the Western Hemisphere. We got to watch one lay eggs. We also spent a lot of time body-surfing in the 85-degree waves.

CIUDAD QUESADA WITH THE RODRIGUEZ FAMILY: We spent the last few days visiting the Rodriguez family in C. Quesada. We volunteered in the father's elementary school four years ago. They now have a new home above the town, overlooking the Arenal Volcano.

With 33 years of teaching, William was able to retire this year with a full salary. Jeanette, also a teacher, will retire next year and enjoy their kids and new home. From their kitchen, one can look straight across at monkeys and toucans in the canopy.

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