Friday, January 29, 2010

BU-YA! Back to Cabuya...

The Road to Nowhere
So I spent my first few nights in a hotel in Mal Pais waiting to be placed in a homestay (meanwhile enjoying the beautiful wide beaches and hanging out with some uber chill surfer dudes who live there part of the year). Then I came to Montezuma and stayed a few nights with the local partner William who runs the waterfall canopy tour here. Unfortunately my homestay options were not totally worked out yet and as it is here in Costa Rica, things were moving kinda slow (Side note: I think this was a rare case as most of the other volunteers were placed immediately and really happy with their homestays). I had been in contact with the family that I stayed with back in November when I was here and finally decided to go and live with them again in Cabuya, which is a little tranquilo town sort of in between Montezuma and Mal Pais. I can't tell you how good it feels now to finally be all set up in my own space with a sweet family who has been very welcoming...mi casa es su casa kind of vibe.

Mi habitacion
My room is a private cabina just in front of the family's house surrounded by gardens. It's really comfy and has tons of space, a set of bunk beds for visitors (hint hint), and a clean private bano. They've even made some improvements on the place since I was last here like lining the ceiling with wood to keep it cooler during the day and adding a bigger bed. Last night I did some decorating with the few things that I had to make it feel more like home. I'm eating all my meals with the family, which means rice and beans with every meal, but the company is great and there's always Salsa Lizano! My new family is: mom Yessenia who works part time in a hotel in Montezuma, dad Lukas who works at the local super (grocery store), brother Jaudi (16) and sister Kataryn (14) who both seem really mature for their age, and little sister Tiffany (5) who is the cutest and most friendly of all.

Tiffany (right) with friend Sofia & the neighbor's dog Lula
It's really different here in these small towns because it's basically just a few big families who have been here forever, own the land, and live and work in the community. Quite a change from city life. Next door lives Lukas's mom and brother with his family, and Yessenia's sister lives down the street. The local partner in Mal Pais is a primo (cousin) and so was my taxi driver the other night! Everybody knows everybody and there's a strong sense of community here. I'm stoked to call this place home for a while.

I ordered my new moto the other day and it should be arriving at the dealership in Cobano by Monday or Tuesday! It's a brand new silver-grey (I hope) Honda Wave 100cc!!! It's semi-automatico which means there are gears to change but there's no clutch. Just need to practice driving it around the hood until I get good...I'm trusting that it will come quite naturally and I'll be riding like a pro in no time;)

Last night I had a meeting with the Camara de Turismo in Mal Pais to determine my class schedule over there. We will be doing placement tests this week to group the students and classes will begin the following week. I'm still working on getting things organized for my classes here in Montezuma, but like I said before, everything moves a little slower here so I'm not surprised. The kids schools are closed right now (this is like their summer break) so trying to find the right person to coordinate with has been tough, but I'm sure we'll get it figured out soon. And at least this way I have a little more time to plan my classes!

Sign in Cabuya
Although Mal Pais is only 7 km from Cabuya, the road between the two is so unbelievably bad that it's almost unpassable. I'm planning to take the longer way around when I go during the day, but there's no way I can come back at night. So it turns out I'll be spending two nights a week in the Mal Pais-Santa Teresa area when I have my classes over there (Wednesdays and Thursdays) . At first I was a little bummed when I realized I'd be away from "home" so much, but now I'm excited because I'll have the chance to get to know that area a little better now (and have some beers with my students after class). The Camara offered me a place to stay there (with a local family) on the nights that I teach and they are even going to give me a little gas money, so it should be an easy once a week trip.

Other than that everything is good, I've been making friends and running into people that I met here before, spending time on the beach and at the fabulous Montezuma waterfalls, and gathering materials for my classes. Soon everything will be set in motion!

"Una Puma"
I'll end with a little bit of Tico slang I just learned:
1,000 colones = un rojo (because the bill is red)
2,000 colones = un delphin (because there's a dolphin on the bill)
5,000 colones = un toucan
10,000 colones = una puma
There's a joke you know about the ecological tour of San Jose? A guy at a bar with pumas and toucans in the pockets and a fox on each knee. Jajaja.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

CREST Volunteer Orientation and Training - January 2010


Teacher orientation began on Friday, January 15th here in Costa Rica. Most of the new volunteers were flying in from the states on the day before. I met up with a few of them in San Jose and we were driven out to El Centro Espiral Maná in El Imbu de Peñas Blancas de San Ramon, just south of La Fortuna. On the first day we met with Marta Blanco from the Presidential Office, Aitor Llodio from ALIARSE, and our new leader/teacher trainer, Emma Torres. We discussed the project, it's goals and mission, and how we would play an integral part in achieving those objectives. I felt inspired to know that I was going to be involved with such an important program for Costa Rica, and that I might play a role in improving the lives of my students by helping them get better jobs. Through this work the program also aims to improve the economy of Costa Rica by making it a more appealing place to develop international businesses - with more English speakers more jobs will be brought here. And how exciting to know that each one of these teachers here will become a part of some small community or another, reaching out to the locals and making an impact on their education.

Lodging at Centro Espiral Maná

For the next 5 days we worked on preparing ourselves to teach. We covered topics such as lesson planning and objectives, learning styles, ECRIF, and cultural issues. Emma was great about answering all of our questions and addressing any concerns we had about the program. We also enjoyed delicious home cooked meals made by two lovely tica cooks 3 times a day. They even made us snacks for our breaks and desserts too (the class favorites included coconut cookies and rice pudding...YUM!) On Sunday we had the morning free so we took a trip to La Fortuna. We hoped to visit Volcán Arenal but as is often the case it was really cloudy and we couldn't see much. Instead we opted for a relaxing visit to the hot springs which was really nice. We spent some time walking around La Fortuna and meeting some of the locals there as well. It's a beautiful little town with stunning views of the Volcano as a backdrop, definitely a must see here in Costa Rica.

La Fortuna

We did some practice teaching on the last day with the local students in El Imbu and the class went really well! We all felt good about getting up there in front of the class and realizing that we weren't as nervous as we thought! The Costa Rican people are usually super nice and easy to work with, and I think we all got a little more excited about all the wonderful people we will be getting to know in our respective communities. Connecting with the locals and making new friends will be one of the most rewarding parts of this program. And we've already begun to experience that with each other. The last night at training we had a little party, danced and played poker, and drank (maybe a little too much) Flor de Caña, a delicious Nicaraguan rum. It was a great ending to our orientation session!

Fiesta de Despedida

Yesterday we headed out to our sites...Montezuma/Mal Pais, Turrialba, Uvita, and Puerto Jimenez. I was super excited to finally arrive in my community and get settled in, but it was a little sad to be parting ways with the other volunteers - we've all become good friends and naturally bonded after spending 5 days together. We do plan to keep in touch and possibly take trips to visit eachother on the weekends so hopefully we can make that happen. And with the internet we can keep each other posted on our progress and share lesson plan ideas. Are we ready to teach? I think we're all feeling a lot more confident and prepared now, definitely a little scared about those first few days, but ready to jump in and start swimming. Becoming a great teacher is an ongoing process and we will always be making improvements to our methods and critiquing ourselves. I think the best we can do is just to trust our instincts, embrace our mistakes, and strive to constantly be better. How exciting to have this opportunity to teach and to learn so much about Costa Rica and about ourselves! VAMOS!

Sunday, January 10, 2010


Happy New Year!
New Years Resolution: BLOG! In the past few months I sort of dropped the ball on my blog. I guess I got carried away enjoying this tropical paradise and didn't want to spend more time in front of the computer (I already spend enough time on facebook, right?). But I really do enjoy writing these posts and I want to continue. I'm thinking of it as blog therapy, to help me process what I'm feeling by sharing my adventures with my friends and family, and also creating a record of my experience.

I wanted my first post of the new year to reflect an emotion that I am inviting into my life more and more these days: Gratitude. In honor of an amazing 2009, the beginning of a new adventure in 2010, and the "gratitude journal" I've been keeping (which BTW is an app for the iPhone/iPod touch that I highly recommend...such a simple, easy way to keep a journal on the go AND it helps you stay focused on the positive), this first post will include a little compilation of journal entries and status updates to outline the past few months of my life here in Costa Rica. But first, the big news:

I got a job here in Costa Rica for the next 6 months (possibly longer) working as an English teacher in Montezuma and Mal Pais, two beautiful little beach towns located near each other on the tip of the Nicoya Penninsula! The job is through an organization called ALIARSE's CREST program (Costa Rica English for Sustainable Tourism), in association with the Costa Rican government's Programa Costa Rica Multilingue, and the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo (ICT). I will be teaching English to adults who work in the tourism sector in rural communities. The idea is that by speaking better English, these students can than find better jobs in tourism. The need for English speakers is at an all time high in Costa Rica, so much so that in 2007 President Oscar Arias began an initiative to make Costa Rica bilingual by 2017. The CREST program is a part of that initiative.

I will be living with a sweet Costa Rican family who will keep me fed (lots of rice and beans I'm sure), and I'm planning to buy a scooter to get myself around. The job is exactly what I was looking for and I am so grateful that I was able to find a position in a small beach town and not have to go live in San Jose where the majority of the ESL jobs are...this is truly the manifestation of a dream for me!!! I am in love with Costa Rica...the latin culture, the natural beauty, and the friendly people. I want to stay for a while and I hope some of you will come visit me! PURA VIDA!

In the spirit of gratitude, let me just add that despite this blessed life I've been living *gracias a dios*, I am above all most thankful for my good friends and my family - who are there for me through not only the good times but also the bad - because you make life worth it! So to all of you, new friends and old, here, there, and everywhere, whether you're reading this or not, THANK YOU SO MUCH & I LOVE YOU!

Catching up on the past few months...

*Mid-September to mid-October: Traveled around Costa Rica~Dominical, Manuel Antonio, Cauhita, Puerto Viejo, Heredia, and Bocas del Toro in Panama.

Sunset in Dominical

October 3 at 2:55pm starting to dream in SPANGLISH..

October 11 at 12:51pm went to an all TICO party last night...played Nintendo Wii and watched Costa Rica beat Trinidad & Tobago 4-0!!! learned more slang...spoke spanish for 6 hours straight!

October 14 at 12:16pm at first i wasn't sure who to route for....but alas...sorry USA, you've already qualified for the world cup...entonces...GO Costa Rrrrrrrrrrrrica!!! (that's a rolled "R")

October 15 at 6:35pm swam with some really big fish today like 2 feet long and a whole school of them! Now it´s time for coconut rice, pescado y platanos Caribbean style...loving Puerto Viejo!

October 20 at 3:39pm I am super in love with the fact that you can get fresh fruit drinks at almost any restaurant! so healthy & natural & refreshing, my faves are papaya in agua, banana in leche, and guanabana in agua...YUM!!!

*Back in SAMARA

October 26 at 12:00pm finally got stung by a jellyfish yesterday...and saw the biggest cricket of my life! but the best part of my day was watching these iguanas courting and then having sex!

November 2 at 3:54pm the monkeys are here for a visit!

November 9 at 12:29pm had both a racoon and a bat in the house last night...bienvendios a Costa Rica!

*Back to USA for a week

November 14 at 12:48pm feeling *blessed* to be in JOJA on this gorgeous fall day...yes yes y' to my athens peeps!

Nov 18, 2009 9:28 PM my awesome amiga tica Sofia y su mama...i was invited to stay with them at their home in San Jose on the day I returned from ATL...they were super sweet and made me dinner and breakfast!

*Moved to Montezuma/Cabuya to volunteer in the school and with the turtles for a few weeks
Toucan in Cabuya

Nov 22 2009 at 8:43pm stoked on my new homestay in Cabuya... super nice family, my own room and bathroom, meeting lots of nice people around town and other volunteers

Nov 23, 2009 8:36 AM dreamed I was moving to Miami last night...hmmm...prediciton for 2011?

Nov 24, 2009 9:44 PM I need a scooter...depending on other people for rides is's like high school, and without cell phones too!

Nov 25, 2009 10:24 AM give thanks for chiles and homemade hot sauce!!! i'm actually getting used to eating rice and beans at every meal!

November 26 at 5:15pm HAPPY THANKSGIVING! Interesting thanksgiving so far...played with baby howler monkeys, watched an ocelot kill a chicken, and got pecked by a beautiful tucan whose beak felt like plastic!

GIVING thankful for all the gifts and comforts I've been given in my life...seeing the humble lives of these people in small pueblos in CR who are so happy and grateful for the little that they have, it really makes you realize just how blessed we are, and that we could easily live with so much less...there are poor people here who are so happy, always answering "muy bien, pura vida, todo bien, gracias a dios." They constantly give thanks for their health and happiness, and find joy in the simplest of things. It is truly eye opening to be surrounded by this attitude...such a reminder that every moment of life is a gift that should be celebrated with gusto!!!

Nov 27, 2009 10:05 AM super fun thanksgiving dinner last night with my new friends from Colorado!

Montezuma Waterfall

November 28 at 1:56pm Spent the morning hiking and swimming under waterfalls...what a beautiful world!

Nov 29, 2009 3:29 PM best hangover cure ever = beach + advil + watermelon + sunshine...I'm so not ready to leave CR I am loving it here!

November 30 at 2:24 pm feeling inspired and longing to make art...perhaps found object sculptures with driftwood and shells...yes yes i need a space to do art in my new home where ever that may be

Dec 01, 2009 5:58 PM amazing experience with the tortugas last night!!! que suerte tengo yo! full moon lit beach, 2 turtles laying eggs in the sand, and 3 nests hatching in one night! I helped release over 200 baby sea turtles into the sand and watch them run to the ocean to begin their adorable! worked really hard but it felt really good to sweat like that...staying up till 4 AM with the babies, carrying bag after bag of pure sand back and forth to the hatchery this! thank god there are people who dedicate months at a time to do this work...the hours are insane, you don't sleep much, and the living quarters are muy rustico!

Dec 03, 2009 2:58 PM every night is reggae night somewhere!

Dec 05, 2009 2:05 PM sweet new Aussie friend, good conversation, girl talk on the beach, red wine & a yummy dinner

Dec 06, 2009 10:10 AM today i'm thankful for honesty...

Dec 07, 2009 4:01 PM enjoying the ride (litteraly) on the daily bus back & forth from cabuya to montezuma, always meeting new people...also stoked I'm getting paid $500 for my first graphic design project ever: new menus for a restaurant here in CR!

Dec 08, 2009 3:25 PM trust the flow and keep dreaming~

Boa in Cabo Blanco

Dec 09, 2009 8:02 PM crazy wildlife encounter with a BOA constrictor snake today at Cabo Blanco Nature Reserve!!! great hike, 4 hours of wildlife spotting and exercise...

Dec 16, 2009 3:44 PM YAY!!! 2 awesome job opportunities have fallen into my lap! loving that last minute magic~

Dec 18, 2009 5:32 PM I feel so good knowing that I can move to another country all by myself and carve out a life for myself, make new friends, find work, and experience other cultures first hand by making friends with the locals! this in itself feels like such an achievement!

*Tamarindo for NAVIDAD...

The Family

Dec 19, 2009 11:34 AM on my way to meet my family and two of my best friends who are visiting for the holidays! so stoked to be sharing this experience with them!

Dec 22, 2009 9:12 AM ahhh...air conditioning and hot water showers!

Dec 25, 2009 7:32 AM feliz navidad! an adrenaline rushing adventure tour is a great way to celebrate the holiday...horseback riding, tubing down class III rapids, ziplining through the canopy, and finishing with a volcanic mud bath and a soak in the natural hot springs...perfecto!
Melissa and Torey


Dec 27, 2009 4:56 PM stoked to be sharing my sweet little town of Samara with my loved ones and introducing them to my tico friends!

Dec 28, 2009 11:34 AM got the job in Montezuma & Mal Pais! so stoked!!!

Dec 31, 2009 10:38 AM almost the new year...what an amazing glad I got to spend the last 2 weeks of the year with my family and close friends! welcoming 2010 with open's to a new year full of adventure and new is all unfolding just as it should and I couldn't be happier. feliz año nuevo!
Ladies Night in Samara