Sunday, September 6, 2009

Coconuts & Capriticas...

15 interesting things I've learned in CR (so far)...

1. Having a bike here is essential and cheap. Learning how to effectively dodge potholes (often full of muddy water) and bats (at night)....priceless.

2. Coconuts can and will fall at any given moment (heads up!)

3. Ants are everywhere; it's normal to squish them or flick them off your body at any given moment and it's not surprising if you eat or drink one occasionally. Dry foods need to be triple bagged!

4. DEET is my friend, especially after it rains...bring on the chemicals!

5. Black beans & rice (or gallo pinto) with every meal is totally normal (including breakfast).

6. There are no addresses here in Costa Rica, and directions are based on landmarks like restaurants, churches, city buildings, etc, that may or may not still be standing. 100M usually equals one block.

7. A “soda” is a small restaurant usually in front of someone's home that serves typical Costa Rican food like gallo pinto, meat, plantains, etc., and is usually around $3 for a huge plate of food.

8. Eggs & milk apparently do not need to be refrigerated and are always sitting out in the supermarkets room temperature.

9. Monkeys, roosters, and even frogs can be extremely loud!

10. Geckos rock! They eat the other insects and they're super fun to watch.

11. Gringo/gringa refers to people from the United States only (Canadians are not gringos)...and apparently this term originated in Mexico during the Mexican-American War. The US soldiers were dressed in army green and the Mexicans shouted "Green go home!" Eventually this was shortened to "gringo."

12. Limon=some kind of bitter lime. Normal lemons & limes are scarce. Vodka sodas just aren't the same here....but the Capriticas are delicious (these are like Caparinias but made with Guaro instead of Cachaca).

13. In most homes here, the TV is always on, even if no one is watching it. It's like back ground noise. Maybe ticos don't like to be alone.

14. Here in Costa Rica, everything is rica/rico (rich)...the food, the drink, the weather...if it's good, you say que rico (how rich).

15. Pura Vida isn't just a saying, it's a way of life. I think this is why ticos have such a high life expectancy rate....it's one of the highest in the world!

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I've been a bad blogger...no time or desire to sit in front of the computer for too long...but making a list like that turned out to be pretty fun. A quick run down on what's been happening here: I finished the TEFL course with flying colors, got my certification and a fabulous looking portfolio so I'm all set to teach, but I probably won't start a long term position until January. Most schools aren't hiring at the moment, but in January I should be able to start teaching for the new semester. In the meantime, I'm starting private Spanish lessons tomorrow and will be studying all this week. I feel like my Spanish has gotten worse after all that English study in the TEFL course! All in all it's improved a lot since I arrived, but now I'm starting to make stupid mistakes so I really want to study more and clear up my confusions. Then around 20th I'm heading out to travel around the country...so excited about this part...going to the Caribbean side and then down into Panama to Bocas del Toro! I have to leave the country by the 18th of October for my 3 month "visa run" (this is how a lot of expats stay here...just leave for 3 days and then come back with another 3 month tourist visa). Then we'll head back up the Pacific side to the Osa Peninsula and up through Dominical...and back to Samara by the end of October. It should be a super fun adventure and I'm traveling with a tico so I kind of have a built in tour guide and free Spanish lessons...pura vida! In November I'm planning to do some volunteer work, possibly teaching English to kids in local public schools, or in after school programs. I'm not sure exactly where yet, but I'm looking at some different options, including Montezuma and a small town north of Tamarindo called Potrero. If that doesn't work out I might go work on a farm or a ranch in the mountains or central valley. Time will tell!

Today was a great day...Sundays are always nice...a long walk on the beach this morning where I got a little too much sun (no worries...it should fade into a nice tan), and I encountered a dead baby alligator! It was so cute even though it was dead...only about a foot and a half long plus the tail...just a little baby...and I was able to get really close to it and examine it's scaly skin...so crazy! These creatures seem so archaic to me! Then I swam and showered and had lunch with several friends at a beach bar. Took a bike ride to do some shopping, then came home and relaxed until dinner. Marisol (my mamatica) made us fresh Lodo (parrot fish?) that she had purchased from the fisherman today...it was so fresh! She seasoned it lightly with garlic and rosemary and it was delicioso...muy rico pescado!

Thanks for reading and keep in touch...I miss you all mucho! Here's a few pics (there's a bunch more on facebook). xoxo

Local tico English students including mi Mamatica Marisol (center)...the TEFL graduates...the pig roast party...another beautiful day at the beach...gringas!


Sunday, August 9, 2009

Buenos Dias! Finally I’ve found some time to blog! Between all the traveling, studying, lesson planning, teaching, and socializing, I’ve been a very busy girl…I haven’t even had much time to sunbathe and my tan actually started to fade this week! But luckily I got some beach time in yesterday at the World Surf Tournament in Playa Hermosa. We took a busetta down from Samara and spent the day on the black sand beach which was packed full of people…it was a little insane and chaotic, but we enjoyed the day drinking on the beach…although we didn’t catch much of the competition (it was so packed we couldn’t get that close up). I’ll post a few pics below.

The TEFL course began on Monday and we hit the ground running! I taught my first 2 classes on Wednesday and Thursday with a partner and had my first solo class on Friday. I can’t believe I made it through all that lesson planning! It was a long week…and I remembered what it felt like to be stressed out after two weeks of pura vida…but I am really enjoying the teaching, the locals here are so nice and easy to work with, they really make it fun…and it’s totally rewarding to hear them speaking English with the most adorable accents!

Last weekend I went on an excursion with some friends from the Spanish school up to Volcan Arenal, Tabacon Hot Springs, La Fortuna, and Monteverde. The first night we visited a hot springs resort called Baldi…it was super nice and had a huge variety of pools at different temperatures with waterfalls and swim up bars. One pool was close to 150^ F…needless to say no one could really hang out in there…but it was really cool to feel. Then on Saturday we went to a river with a rope swing and hung out there for a while…super fun! Here's a video of me screaming...

video

Then we went up to La Fortuna, which is a bigger town…we ate lunch and did a little shopping…I bought a watch! (they don’t sell them in Samara) It’s been so weird without a cell phone, I never know what time it is…and it’s even weirder not to be able to text…if you make plans with someone you pretty much have to stick to it…and if it rains you both assume it is cancelled. It makes dating really different for sure! But it’s kind of a nice change of pace…takes you back to a slower time. Now I can say I really understand the meaning of being on “tico time."

Anyways the last part of the excursion was the zip line canopy tour in Monteverde…super adrenaline rush! They apparently have the longest cables in the country at the place we went, and to top that off a Tarzan swing! You jump from a platform and free fall for a few seconds before the rope catches you (that was the scariest part…but they push you off the platform so you have no choice) and then you swing back and forth through the tree tops…pura vida!

Everything is pura vida here… How are you? “Pura vida.” Thank you. “Pura vida.” Adios! "Pura vida." I'm sorry... "Pura vida.” Is he a nice guy? "Yeah, he's pura vida." So funny!

Que mas? My Spanish is good, but I really want to get better...I can talk for hours but my verb tenses aren't that good. I've been learning a little slang which is fun...and I can totally talk with an attitude;) Pero quando tango demasiado sueno...mi mente no funciona en espanol. And then there are the occasional slip ups...one night during my second week here I accidentally asked the bartender for the most expensive beer they had...oops...I meant to say cheapest! I'm thinking about more Spanish classes after the TEFL...it would really help.

Here's some pics and here's the link to the facebook album I posted today with tons more pics:
http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=30396&id=1061919043&l=4368621d95

Sunset in Tamarindo


Mi Mamatica & Sistas


Volcan Arenal


Zipline crew in Monteverde


Surf Competition in Hermosa


Scarlet Macaws!

Sunday, July 26, 2009


“20 years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
– Mark Twain

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I’ve always loved this quote…life is so much better when you take chances. It feels so good to actualize a dream...especially in Costa Rica...what an amazing place!!!

I’m really happy now because yesterday I bought a bike! I feel like a teenager with my first set of wheels, so excited to be able to get around the town easier…and it has a basket for my stuff…love it! He doesn’t have a name yet…


I wish I had it on Friday when it torrentially downpoured! Here I was thinking, ‘oh, the rainy season isn’t so bad…’ and then the biggest rainfall came in on Friday afternoon. It started with really a high tide…here is my video:

video

I was stuck at the school for a while during the storm, and when it let up I started walking home with a trash bag over my stuff. There was so much water in the streets, and when I turned down the street towards mi casa, it was a full-on river! I was literally walking through at least a foot of water for several minutes, laughing at myself…I’m in the middle of Costa Rica stuck walking in a river, losing my flip flops, and soaking wet! Later on that night it cleared up, and we ended up going out to the bar to watch the big game – Costa Rica vs. Mexico in the Gold Cup – we lost, but of course everyone still celebrated. I danced a little salsa (I’m learning) and had my first drink with Guaro – the national liquor of CR, made from sugar cane but strong like tequila...que bueno! On the way home that night the frogs were so loud I couldn’t hear myself think…or maybe it was just the guaro talking.

Samara is such a small town: everyone knows everyone, they all know my Mamatica, and if they don’t know eachother there is only like one degree of separation. It’s very different from what I’m used to but I like it. It feels like an authentic Costa Rican experience. I’ve already met some of my TEFL instructors (at the bars, naturally), and I’ve already met some of my future students (during the TEFL course we practice teaching with locals). I can’t believe by the middle of next week I will already be teaching!

Yesterday, the 25th of July, marked the 185th anniversary of the annexation of Guanacaste. Before that this region belonged to Nicaragua. I asked my Mamatica if there was a fight over the territory, and in typical Pura Vida style, she informed me that it was an easy, friendly decision…but of course! People just give things to Costa Rica, like the bridge from Puntareanus to Nicoya, which was provided by the amigos de Taiwan. Anyhow, we went to the town of Nicoya last night, where there was a big celebration in the square, with street food and kids games, and live music and performances. We saw some typical dances from the region, and at the end of the evening was the most popular band from this area, Mal Pais:

video

Que mas? The food…the food has been a lot of fun. I haven’t always liked everything but for the most part it’s great (and when I don’t like it, there’s always Lizano sauce to make it better, right B?). Some of my favorites were a banana leaf tomale filled with corn stuff for breakfast (pictured below), tortas de yucca (which we made in cooking class), and the typical sopa negra (black bean soup with cilantro, onions, eggs, and in my case, hot sauce…so good!!!)

















A few more pics below...thanks for reading and sending encouraging words! Love to all!

Mi Casa

Krista and I on the road to Nicoya

My first visitors, Junx & Cayce

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Bienvenidos!

Hola from Costa Rica! I’ve only been here for 5 days but all the experiences I’m having make it seem like so much longer. I arrived on Saturday to San Jose, stayed overnight with a family in a neighboring town called Heredia, and then got a ride with a Tico to Samara on Sunday. Here in my little beach town on the Nicoya Peninsula, I am living with a sweet Tico woman named Marisol, who cuts hair and does nails in the salon in the front of her house (nice…I can get pedicures!!!) Also living there is her son Bryan (19), 3 other students from Europe, plus a Swiss girl and her Tico boyfriend, which makes for a nice community. I can easily walk to my school from here, which is located in the center of town directly in front of the beach (que lindo!)…

The first night in Heredia I encountered 3 roaches in the bathroom and the bedroom…yikes!..but no more since then. The second day in Samara I took a shower with a frog, and last night with a green and brown gecko – so cute! One of the most beautiful things I’ve seen so far is wild horses running on the beach! There are a bunch of horses and dogs and cats that seem to be running free, but I’m not sure, they very well could have homes, but be allowed to roam…all of my MamaTica’s animals (dogs, puppies, kittens, chickens) roam around the outside the house, and they aren’t really allowed inside.

My Spanish is improving quickly and I took my first surf lesson today! It was super fun! My super cool friends Junx and Cayce are here visiting from Atlanta (they just happened to plan a trip here during the first week of my stay) so we took the lesson together and we all got up! All the people here are so nice, the locals are very welcoming, and there are tons of international students at my school to hang with…and the food has been muy delicioso!!!

Having trouble uploading pictures so I'll do that next time...hasta luego…voy a cenar!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Adios ATL

I'm leaving July 18th for Costa Rica!!! I'll be taking 2 weeks of Spanish classes followed by a 4 week TEFL certification course during the month of August...then I hope to find a job teaching English. I started this blog as a way to keep in touch, so you, my dear friends and family members, can see what I'm up to. I will be without a cellphone (at least in the beginning) so all communications will be via the web. Ok...time to pack!