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Journal November 29th - December 12, 1993
Posted July 3, 2023 - for the Full Moon
Welcome to the first post of Songs of Forgiveness’ new section entitled In Her Words. This section of the newsletter is dedicated to Mom’s writings. Posts from the archives that include mom’s words will live here, plus anything new that I transcribe. I have plans to do so. As a section, you can go to the settings page and toggle on or off which emails you want to receive. Sign up only for her words, or sign up only for the main Songs of Forgiveness letters, by default right now, you are signed up for both. If you have questions, please reach out and I will help you. Thank you for being here. This post will take the place of my usual full moon post as I head off on my own adventure in my tear-drop-shaped ship’s berth of the road (aka the Vistabule). Photo essays of my trip will be coming from Songs of Forgiveness.
This journal was written by Carol Lee Baudler during the period of November 29 - December 12 of 1993 while she was an escort for TNC’s Cruise touring Costa Rica’s National Parks, The Darien Jungle and The Panama Canal. Transcribed to digital format by me (Tina Laurel Lee) on Sunday, June 4, 2023 from a photo PDF of the original spiral-bound, handwritten journal. By 1993, Mom had lived in the DC area and worked for TNC Government Relations for 7 years. This would have been the first year of Clinton’s first term as president. Mom and Will attended the celebration of his inauguration earlier in the year. Mom was 44 years old. I was 24 and working at the Minneapolis Crisis Nursery. Becka, 21, and living with me in Minneapolis in Uptown. Rachel, who is mentioned herein, would have been 12 years old and in 7th grade. Grandma, who joined Mom on the trip, was 64. I have recorded an audio version of the text, in case you want to listen. See below.
November 29th, 1993
Jitters and tension about leaving life and work kept me awake last night, even after a sweet day with the family and a sweet goodbye was said by all. The trip is too remote, too long. complex timing because of holidays and Rachel's involvements - Also TNC - BOG- dread.
But as the day progressed concerns fell away and excitement begins to take over. Joy at seeing my mother- she's excited and it rubs off.
We greeted several of our fellow travelers on the flight and at the airports. Mother was relieved to note that she is among the younger members of the group. Rick, my coworker and fellow escort, is a knowledgeable, plain spoken, kind person who right away spots a couple in their 80s who need his help.
The hotel in San Jose is typical Latin American - low to the ground, lots of stucco, wooden beams, tile floors and open air rooms and restaurants.
Good seafood at dinner. Rick talks mostly about his 5 daughters. Then TNC becomes the topic. Mom says she enjoys listening so she can learn about what I do.
November 30 -
A group trip is good for the self-indulgent travel enthusiast - it teaches patience and tolerance; also helps you see the world through the eyes of others. In this case, through the eyes of those older, more well-off, and less tolerant. Not my mom tho, in that category. She seems to want to try everything - Including calamari (and I didn't have the heart to tell her what it really is).
We toured the official coffee plant today, and a happy experience it was. They even had skits of coffee history, a wedding, plus coffee tasting, all in a pretty, laid-back setting on a hillside.
My guess is that these people in Costa Rica are pretty happy. Everyone is outgoing and ready to laugh. What a contrast from the shy or sullen demeanor in BVI or the rough lifestyle of the masses in the DR. Everyone waves at the buses going by! And most people smile and help without begging. I'm anxious to see country people and the indigenous people to see if this good mood is prevalent there too.
The pleasure of coffee in the morning, rum in the p.m. Who wouldn't be in a state of euphoria?
Tonight we had a lecture by a woman who works for an NGO partner here. I enjoyed dinner with her, comparing life and work. Similar yet different. How does one get headed down one's own path?
December 1 & 2 -
We had a butt burner bus tour on narrow hilly roads - Poás Volcano, a great typical Tico lunch, shopping - all recorded in photos. We left on board this luxury liner and everyone (including us) was so eager to hike Etc we all signed up for the earliest possible tour.
I think that this fascination with Fauna and Flora of the natural world is a great escape. It is an all-absorbing trip into a community, complex systems that attracts and titillates our earthy, most basic side.
What we saw on December 2nd - Carara Biological Reserve Tropical Kingbird Least Sandpiper Spotted Antbird Great Blue Heron Little Blue Heron Tricolor Heron Cattle Egret Magnificent Frigate Bird Wood Stork Black Vulture Turkey Vulture Hook-billed Kite Pale-billed Woodpecker Long-tailed Hermit Rufours-naped Wren Coati Crocodile Alligator
December 2 -
My responsibilities on this trip have been minimal. Basically I talk up TNC. But the trip has had successively more serious troubles. First illness. Then a burglary in the hotel. Tonight a death. Eighty three years of a rich life as I understand it. Except no children. Travel extensively. His partner seems to be handling everything well - although she must be having a hard night tonight.
What do I think? I wish I could help her. I'm glad he lived long and happily. I consider myself lucky for every day of this life.
December 3 -
I can't help but think about work today. BOG - The reception last evening - was the VP there?
At the very moment my committee was discussing private property rights, I was heading out for a hike in Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio, viewing white-faced monkeys, iguanas, and osprey
This afternoon I spent with Virginia, who lost her companion. She was strong, intelligent, and positive, but frustrated by Latin American slow motion and sick of cruise happy-talk. We talked of travel, families, politics, life, music. We spent lots of time standing in the rain waiting for a car from San Jose that was expected any minute for 8 1/2 hours. She was in good shape and beautiful with her glasses off. I'd say she was in her 60s. Very together. I hope she continues in that healthy direction.
After she was on her way and we - Rick and I - were the object of an exciting zodiac rescue, I kept thinking - another lucky day!
85° water and air, sun, palms, white-face monkeys, zodiac, my mom with me, the boat outlined in white lights against a dramatic sky and high rolling waves. Life is rich and satisfying.
December 4 -
Yesterday was a good day but I was a little tired and wrung out from the trials of the previous day. We hiked and saw birds in the a.m. I enjoyed thinking of a return visit with my family to stay at the lodge at Marenco. The afternoon swim made me feel better and evening brought a dinner at the Captain's Table
Two great finds on this trip. Rick of course and Susan Aide, an American and senior naturalist. She will be a resource for me in the future, I know, in work on ESA and international conservation.
December 7 -
The last two days have been travel days - afternoon stops basically for swimming. With Juan Jose, Susan and Patty on board however we always do birdwatching and beachcombing when we dock. Also they point out traveling wonders such as dolphins or brown boobies diving for food.
Life on board is pleasant and everyone is getting to know each other better. My favorite passengers are Fred and Rube a couple from San Francisco. They are always the most fun to be with, and we had a lovely dinner with them last night.
Except for a little snorkeling and swimming and a half hour on a motorbike, I spent most of my shoretime on the telephone. I called the office - they're very sympathetic about the death on board and let me know that Karen had her baby. She seems to have given birth almost at the exact moment of the death. I also called Will at work. He sounded wonderful, and I could hardly sleep last night because I was homesick.
Today the Darien - amazing rainforest, birds, local people. Better photos than words to describe. The Indians provoked extremes of feelings - very mixed emotions. I'm not sure this ecotourism is the best idea. On the other hand, would the slash and burn development leave them any life? Would Total Protection be possible? Very complex and intense. I wish I knew the answer. At least, after this trip, I now know the question.
What we saw in the Darien - December 7 Black Crowned Night Heron White Ibis Wood Stork Cocoi Heron Yellow Crowned Night Heron Great Egret Snowy Egret Osprey Black Hawk Cormorant Pelican Little Blue Heron Laughing Gull Mealy Amazon Brown Hooded Parrot
December 12 -
The last few days have been so incredible. From the Darien we motored back to Las Perlas for a swim. The current was strong and scared me. But the water is so warm and clear - it feels wonderful on the skin. I've been swimming every day and now I'm using flippers in the the swims off the boat landing. It makes me feel like a new person.
Every night we have a delicious dinner and drop into our beds by 10:00 p.m. Nights at anchor, everyone walks around the Promenade Deck and gazes into the water under the spotlights in order to spot barracuda or flying fish. The sunsets are fabulous from the sun deck especially. TNC sponsored a wine and cheese up there the evening of the Darien Trip. It was a very nice party - lots of camaraderie developing.
We made a special point of inviting TNC members who were not traveling through TNC and our special friends and compatriots.
A couple of people I thought were especially wonderful were Kathy and Aaron - mom and daughter from Tucson. Mom was from day one outspoken and radical, Erin, brainy and poised. We also invited Hal Egland, a sweet gentleman who really likes my mom.
We invited Jack and Rex Elders, a dad and son, probably a 50/70 age, and both smart and funny. Jack, son, kills me with stories about the snakes that live in his house - he's always disappointed we see only iguanas and other lizards. They both are masters of the one line subtle remark.
Then of course we invited my favorite new friends, Fred and Rube. The more I get to know them the more I appreciate them. They entertain me with stories of their lives and friends and they are great fun when we appreciate together the quirks of the other passengers.
After the cocktail party we spend the evening and all night through traveling toward the Panama Canal. I awoke very early and took a cup of Cafe au lait to the sun deck to look for the sun to rise. I found the horizon covered with lights all around and the stars disappearing. As the dawn came the lights became a great number of ships all pointed toward the Canal, lining up in order. The beauty of it all slowed down as the ships came awake and we entered the locks.
Some people were fascinated but I thought it was mainly a fine occasion to hang out on deck and socialize. My favorite sight of the day was Patty, our birdiest naturalist, who kept seeing and hearing Birds while everyone else was mesmerized by the crossing.
Just as the Darien and it's native people fascinated me, so too did the Cuna Indians of San Blas. They seem to live on tiny palm-covered reef-type islands, just a few inches above sea level in thatched huts. We spent a whole day in their area, visiting a village in the a.m. and snorkeling and swimming in the p.m. They have industriously produced the magnificent art of the Mola and they sell it in all forms. Again I questioned the role of J. M., who further reduced his credibility by making sexist and homophobic remarks.
The swimming and snorkeling was the greatest - the funny thing was, I felt confident and experienced. The naturalists were the only ones who had more expertise, and I felt comfortable and strong in the water. It was so great not to be scared - I nearly dived down - I will next time. And from my great teacher Claudia in Tortola, I even knew some fish and corals.
We traveled again at night - lots of folks were ill because of the strong seas while traveling, but I actually liked it. I didn't sleep well, but it was fun to get up early and enjoy the sun deck.
Our last full day on board was a morning stop in Portobello, a colonial ruin with a poverty-stricken tropical tin-roofed town, just built up in and around the walls of the fort. It was authentic tho. And it had a big run-down old church with a black Christ and a big run-down old bar in the bay with 50¢ Panama Beer. The best part was the African dancing - a relic of slavery - with a great drum beat and a lot of wonderful costumes.
After a hot humid morning in the town, a swim in the gorgeous Bay off the swim ladder felt delicious. The last swim. If that could have been the end of the trip, it would have been better. But there was disembarkation in Colon – an awful place. Then a depressing bus ride through a dingy countryside to Panama City. I have never encountered the likes of those places. That people live in conditions of poverty I understand; but the overwhelming squalor and the rough tough nature of it all was upsetting. Even the part of Panama I expected to be nice was awful. It makes me so glad Tia is not going to work there. It makes me want to gain a greater understanding of the US role in Panama, past, present and future. We should be ashamed that a country we have influenced so much is in such bad condition.
We stayed last night in a good hotel; still a place crazy with cultural elements and a slight feeling of danger.
An inauspicious ending, even including delayed flights and long lines - 50 of our people on the same flight to Houston including, it seemed, all the oldest ones.
But a good spirit remained and the camaraderie, even affection, that had developed among the travelers was wonderful to witness, and to be a part of. We all reminded each other of all that we had done and seen, and reviewed and remembered our favorite parts. Even though many will never again meet, it was a warm and even meaningful experience. I intend to stay in touch with new friends; Rick, Fred and Rube, Hal, the Fords are for sure. I have lots more thoughts and stories and I intend to keep writing them.
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