We just completed three retreats, two in Costa Rica and one in Guatemala, two very different countries and histories.

When I was a human rights activist in Guatemala, I used to avoid Costa Rica because it seemed too “tame” for me. I liked the “rugged reality”  of Guatemala and it’s never-ending civil war. I was attracted to the drama, I suppose since my own inner life was also a drama at that time.

Guatemala’s civil war is now over, and they have a former comedian as President, a good start! There is more peace, but they have a ways to go to reach the stability and peace of Costa Rica, which has not had a military in over 60 years!

While these countries are very different from one another, I love them both, and I especially love the people. Guatemala has a large Mayan, indigenous population, who have somehow survived, while ironically, the country with more peace of late, Costa Rica, has lost over 98% of its indigenous population.

But Costa Rica has preserved more of its trees, wildlife and environment, with more parks and safeguards. Guatemala is trying to catch up. Yet both countries are beautiful, and we saw monkeys, coatis, toucans and other critters in both places.

All the retreats were very good, as was most of the food, and most of the shuttles were right on time. The one hotel in Guatemala that was supposed to be the most luxurious disappointed some people, as did the food at that hotel (until they heard our cries and turned it around nicely!), and the rest of the trip was wonderful.

In Costa Rica, this time we mixed it up, first visiting our usual Goddess Garden, right in the rain forest, and predictably beautiful, great food, tons of frogs, nice beaches. We had a nice group of 15 of us.

The second group was only six of us, and we did a northern Costa Rica tour of some areas I had never seen: Lake Arenal, Arenal Volcano, and Playa Grande, a hot and beautiful beach area on the Pacific. We saw tons more frogs, snakes, crocodiles, monkeys, sloths, parrots and more. One of the highlights for me was soaking in a natural hot springs river, and also swinging from a rope swing into a deep swim hole.

But the best is always the connection with the people. I like the workshops and classes where we witness people come alive! And I especially like the time at dinner when we hold hands and each express our gratitude for something that day. We must always remember how fortunate we are to travel and visit all these beautiful lands, taste their foods, see the creatures and meet the people. As the Mayans say, In Lakech: You are another face of me.