Looks a lot like adventure.

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Rabbi Andres the Hippy

Originally uploaded by trackbrad.
Andres was not your average dude. There was something unusual and refreshing about him -- an overwhelming joy and gentleness that seemed to ooze from his innards. He never wore a watch, didn't even know what day it was and, for his three day trip in Panama (in order to renew his Costa Rican visa), he brought only a bag with a roll of posters and a bottle of water.

As we were walking through the border, we asked Andres why he was in Costa Rica. "I live here," he said. "What do you do?" I asked. He then said something about farming and art and building a youth ranch... and coming because of "the call," which sounded a bit spiritual, so I asked him if he was a Christian. "Probably not the way most people think of it in America -- I don't even call myself that anymore... I follow Jesus... God is all I have... it's total surrender."

We talked some more about what we planned on doing in San Jose and tried to push through the crowd to get our bags out of the bus -- and he got a bit distracted with the rush and said, "Look guys, the only thing you need to worry about right now is getting one of those coconut drinks over there..." So, we took his advice and bought a freshly picked coconut, which we drank through a straw. Simply amazing.

When our conversation moved back to our travel plans -- Andres stopped and said, "Guys, the most beautiful waterfalls in Costa Rica are in my backyard..." He then showed us a poster of the guide company he works with... He explained that a man named John started buying up a bunch of "worthless" property in a small country called Costa Rica many years ago -- has held on to it -- and is focused on using that property in whatever way God leads him. Andres was given stewardship over about 25 acres to build a farm and a youth ranch.

Now, I know what some of you may be thinking at this point (Mom): "A stranger, you went with a stranger?!?!" We're traveling through this area and have to make gut decisions many times each day -- and we gather all the information and act... this guy was from Oklahoma, went to a high school we recognized, had a poster, credible story, American passport and we spent over two hours talking with him. My gut said it was safe, so we went...

Our biggest concern was how we were going to get back -- since the place we were going is pretty remote, and we had a schedule to keep. It was at that moment that we realized we were slipping into overdrive mode, where the schedule was more important than the adventure. Still, we were concerned that we could be set back a few days if we couldn't get out... Andres then called his fellow guides and found out that a few people were in the cave above a 600ft waterfall (where we were planning on sleeping the second night after a hike) doing a Native American "Sweat." His fellow guide said we could come see the cave, but there would probably be a lot of "naked guys throwing up." At that point, we all laughed and we agreed it would be best to not make the long hike and to instead to leave the next morning and head to San Jose to meet with our bulb farmer friends... which would keep us on schedule.

As we got off the bus at San Isidrio (just short of San Jose), we walked with Andres to the mechanics shop where his truck was being fixed. The door was locked and the mechanic was not coming back until January 2nd. Welcome to Costa Rica.

So, since we were fighting daylight, we insisted on getting a cab (which we think went against Andres natural inclination to take his time and hitch a ride) and took it all the way to the farm and met all the people living in the "community." Or, put another way, a modern day hippy commune designed to become a series of self-sustaining farms, sharing in all material items and whose intentional purpose is to completely surrender to God. For many in the community, that includes Jesus, although they do not insist that those living there follow Christ, only that they share in the work, don't use illegal drugs and love one another. In many ways, it is reminiscent of the first churches just after Jesus was killed.

Andres then had to run into town, so we went down for a swim in a freshwater pool just above a 150ft waterfall, where we met our friend, who we will call the Camarone Hunter -- or, CHunter for short. He was straight out of an ancient Mayan movie, except for the modern bathing suit, and he motioned to us, showing us paths through the jungle, how people rappel down the sides of waterfalls and his methods for catching fresh-water shrimp. Basically, he walks over to a still pool, grabs a handful of leaves and throws it on a dry, flat boulder. Amazingly, shrimp started flipping around in the pile of leaves. We had limited communication, but when we pointed up the river to some children and women, he raised his chin proudly and pointed to his chest and said, "Mi familia."

Finally, Andres got back, went for a swim also and then we went up to one of the houses at the top of the hill to eat dinner. For the next 12 hours, we discussed Jesus, American religion, music, art and what it means to follow and to surrender to the Great Rabbi, Jesus. In a very real way, we feel we were in the presence of our very own rabbi: Rabbi Andres the Hippy. Rabbi Andres spoke with deep understanding of the scriptures and the character of God, from a faith that had been walked, refined and burned to a reflective polish of the King. My heart often burned as he spoke. We ate some eggs (one of which was spoiled, cracked into the pan - so we dumped the first pan and started over (more or less)) and then headed down to an unfinished, open-sided cabin close to the waterfall. We fell asleep under the stars while Andres played the guitar and sang songs about faith, love and God. We were amazed at the sing-song chirping of rainforest animals that made the mountains truly seem alive that night.

The next morning, we awoke to the morning sun and sounds of the nature, ate fresh pineapple for breakfast and hiked down to the base of the water fall called Beru Falls (or also Sancto Christo Falls). We took pictures, saw a fairly rare "Blue Morpho" butterfly and then sat to dry off in silence, as we watched the amazing waterfall before us. After about 20 minutes of silence, Andres leaned over to Red Beard and said, "Brad, there's a revolution going on... the battleground is the heart... and the victory is love and surrender."

As we began packing, Andres turned to Hobo and said, "Michael, I have something I want you to do for me. I want you to figure out how much this tour was worth to you -- the meals, the hiking, accomodations, the waterfalls -- and divide that by what you can afford." He then paused and said, "And I want you to take that money, whatever it is, find a beggar, look her in the eyes and give her the money."

We then hiked back up the hill, looking at the rare flora and trees along the path. As we were walking, Andres said "The whole goal of this place and the Youth Ranch is to inspire people into true religion. And my Master says true religion is watching over and loving the widows and the orphans." (Isaiah 10:1-4)

On the drive back to the main road, we stopped several times to eat wild fruit, leaves and coffee berries, including a very strange fruit, whose outter skin looked like a yellow artichoke, but the inside was a sweet white and mushy pudding-like substance. The fruit is not available anywhere but straight from the tree, as it rots almost immediately upon picking, so this may have been our only chance to eat that fruit. All the stuff we ate, excluding bananas and pineapple, had exotic spanish names that we can't remember... but they were all delicious!

Andres then dropped us off at the road to catch a cab, but quickly flagged down an American who attended LSU and was in the music and art industry. He told us about his friendships with Avril Levigne (he took photos of Hobo and promises to give Hobo's email to Avril soon) and many others and his love for the women in San Isidrio, which he claims has the most beautful anywhere...

We then headed to San Jose, but we got caught up on the bus and because of very unfavorable schedules, we had to head to Arenal that day and miss our bulb farmer friends. We deeply regret this, but we had no choice in a country where travel is very difficult.

You can see Andres' art at Http://www.andresalle.com. It's very impressive -- check it out.

The man who drove us to town, Gregory Young, can be found at Memory of the Future

Great pictures and stories! We feel like we're traveling with you.
In spirit, we are. BEE careful.

Wow. Amazing post... very thought provoking.

Sounds like your encounter with Andres was a divine appointment. Praise God!

Very beautiful story. I loved it. I hope you have many more like this one!

I think i saw some eagle eggs at the top of those falls. make sure you get those, you will need the nutrients.

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