Thursday, March 25, 2010

Solo Bueno...

This morning my Tico father called me into the kitchen to see some kind of animal whose name I didn't recognize in Spanish. He seemed excited for me to check it out, so I jumped out of my seat and darted over to the open air cocina, only to find out that it was a SKUNK!!! (or as they call it, a zorillo or mofeta.) Lukas then informed me that this furry friend lives in the kitchen, under the cabinets, and eats the food that falls to the floor. Sometimes it even enters the house and does a loop around the living room. "And this is ok with you?" I asked, "Isn't this the animal that sprays that horrible scent?" He shrugged his shoulders and said with a smile, "Only if you bother him, otherwise he's's a little bit of nature inside the home!"

Rainbow Rock it all makes sense. It wasn't long ago when I thought I smelled a skunk-like odor in the kitchen. My Tica mom had told me that it was probably a skunk and that the neighbor's little dog had scared it, causing it to release it's odor. No big deal, I figured, it was outside of the house; but no, that little devil lives right underneath where we keep our pots and pans, just waiting for scraps to fall. Occasionally he even comes out and steals the eggs off the counter (eggs here are rarely refrigerated). Now I know why they often keep them in the microwave!

Oh, Cabuya. My little town is super tranquilo. Aside from the fisherman and the farmers working the land, there really is nothing going on. There are only a few grocery stores, a little bookstore, and a couple cafes around. So the other day when I realized I really needed gas for the quad and I was no where near one of the two bombas - gas stations - in the area (one is in Cobano and one is in Mal Pais), I asked around Cabuya, and sure enough, there are two houses in the hood that sell gasoline. Que dicha! I also discovered through a friend that there is a lady just across the street that does pedicures for a measly 1,500 colones...that's less than three dollars! I immediately made an appointment to get my toes painted. Then last weekend I had a llanta ponchada - a flat tire - that needed fixing, and I also wanted to buy a 6 pack of beer after the super closed (which is early in Cabuya). Well, what do you know? It turns out all of these things are available here, you just have to know which door to knock on. The beer is sold out of a fridge in someone's house, prohibition style, and there is a makeshift taller just down the street that can change my oil and fix my flat tire on the cheap cheap. (Plug for a flat, air and balancing of all four tires, $3.80) And of course, the owner is the brother-in-law of my Tico father. Go figure.

Pilsen, mi cerveza preferida

Que calor! It has been extremely, overwhelmingly, unbelievably hot here lately. Like WTF, are you kidding me, it's-supposed-to-cool-off-at-night-and-I'm-still-freaking-sweating kind of heat. The only ounce of relief I've felt was when I heard from a friend traveling in India that it's 110 degrees over there. Well I guess almost 100 isn't too bad. Still, we could really use some rain to cool things down. I would definitely welcome some more pelo de gato, although I'm a little nervous about the rainy season on the quad. It's going to be an interesting, wet and muddy adventure with Rubi, but I think we'll manage. I've made it through every other seemingly impossible obstacle so far in Costa Rica, so why not conquer the rainy season on an ATV?

Mere & I in Cabo Blanco

Solo bueno... My girl Meredith was here to visit for a week and we had a fabulous time. We laughed so hard that I almost lost weight, but I made up for it by drinking lots of Pilsens and Imperials. We rode around on the quad por todo lado (Mere even learned how to drive it), exploring mother nature's wonders by day, and partying like rock stars by night. We went hiking in Cabo Blanco Nature Reserve, swimming at the Montezuma waterfall (where we met the most gorgeous guy from Uruguay - I think his name was Piero and I still can't get his image out of my head), checking out the beaches of Mal Pais and Montezuma, eating loads of delicious ceviche and garlicky grilled calamaris, dipping into rivers to cool off, and taking a boat trip out to Isla Tortuga where we snorkeled, ate fresh fish, and napped on the white sand beach. It was stellar having a good friend like Meredith here to share my little world with me, and I'm pretty sure she loved it too - she was already talking about coming back in August ;)

Isla Tortuga

My classes are in full swing and they're starting to feel like little communities. All of my Santa Teresa classes had their first exam this week and I'm in the process of grading them. It's nice to see how much progress they have made already (well, most of them), and to think they didn't know any of this stuff just 6 weeks ago! My Montezuma groups are finally feeling groovy after having to change a few things around. We have Semana Santa (Easter week) off, so classes will resume on April 5th. In the meantime, I'm heading back to Samara for fiesta! Just a long weekend trip to see a few friends and a few rodeos, I'll be driving the quad (with a friend) up the coastal road from Mal Pais to Manzanillo, Punta Islita, Carillo, and finally into Samara. There are supposedly some really nice views and secluded beaches along this drive, so I'm stoked. Should be quite the weekend!

And my love for this life in Costa Rica continues...PURA VIDA!!!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Dichos Ticos

Lazy Days

Ticos really like to RELAX...

I always knew this was true, but it wasn't until I discovered the following that I realized how deeply seeded the slacker culture is here in Costa Rica. My Tico family has this posted on the wall in their house. So without further ado, here is the ultimate profession of the Tico love for relaxation, or shall we say, huh-hum, laziness:

Los 10 Dichos del Tico Vago: The 10 Sayings of the Lazy Tico

1. Se nace cansado y se vive solo para descansar: I was born tired and live only to rest.

2. Ama a tu casa como a ti mismo: Love your house as you love yourself.

3. Si ves a alguien descansando AYUDALO!: If you see someone relaxing, help them out!

4. Descansa de dia para que puedas dormir tranquilo de noche: Rest during the day so that you can sleep soundly at night.

5. El trabajo es sagrado, ¡no lo toques!: Work is sacred, don't touch it!

6. Aquello que puedas hacer mañana no lo hagas hoy: That which you can do tomorrow, don't do today.

7. Trabaja lo menos posible - lo que tengas que hacer, que lo haga otro: Work as little as possible - whatever you have to do, just do something else.

8. Calmate, que nunca nadie murio por descansar: Calm down, no one ever died from relaxing.

9. Cuando sientas el deseo de trabajar, acuestate y espera hasta que se pase: When you feel the desire to work, sit down and wait until it passes.

10. Si el trabajo es salud; que trabajen los enfermos: If work is healthy, then let the sick work.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Seasons Change

The seasons are different here: we have the dry season and the wet season. Verano (summer) is the dry season, when it gets a tiny bit hotter because there's no rain to cool things off, and invierno (winter) is the wet season, when the massive amount of rainfall brings in clouds and moisture to deflect the sun's piercing heat rays. Right now we are in the dry season (December to April), but we actually got a touch of rain today, and it was sort of magical...everyone stopped what they were doing to listen to the pitter patter of the pelo de gato (a light rainfall or mist, literally "cat's hair"). Apparently this has almost never happened before: rain in the dry season. Everyone is talking about the crazy weather, and the changes that are happening all over the planet. This past wet season wasn't normal either. Sure, it rained a lot, but it started late, and there would be runs of several days without rain here and there. As a newcomer to Costa Rica during the rainy season, it didn't seem so extreme to me, but everyone assured me that this rainy season was a mild one. Well, the times are definitely a-changin'.

Sunset in Santa Teresa

No spring and no's kinda strange to live with only two seasons, especially since spring and fall were always my favorites. The perfect weather, not too hot and not too cold, the newness and fresh energy that comes with spring, and the crispness and reflective repose that fall inspires: these seasonal changes are embedded in my soul; after 30 years of living with the same cycle, I still instinctually feel the shifting in seasons, even if I'm not immersed in the physicality of them. I realized the other day how things seemed to be starting to bloom around me, internally and externally, and how my spirit seemed excited with the possibilities to come, and I realized...this is spring that I'm feeling! Then I started thinking back to the fall, when it was the rainy season here, and how there were moments that reflected the darkness of fall, especially when it was raining. I am still on a four season cycle. My internal clock just doesn't believe these ticos when they tell me that January is summertime. Sure it might be hot outside and school may be closed for a break, but my summer still starts in June, and that's when I will feel the freedom that summer has always brought to my life. Luckily I have a two week break around run, perhaps?

My Classroom in Montezuma

I taught a full 18 hours this week, and to top that off I've been planning like a madwoman! I literally spent around 4 hours every morning this week working on lesson plans, worksheets, and tests for my students. But I did it all in the name of freedom - when my fabulous friend Meredith comes to visit next week I want to be free to hang out, explore, and party with her! I'm really stoked that she's coming and looking forward to keeping her wildly entertained with trips to waterfalls and secret beaches, a little surfing, a little snorkeling at Tortuga Island, lots of rides around on the quad, and plenty of sunset cervezas ;)

Classes generally went well this week, although I had some hiccups with my newest group in Montezuma. Let's just say I had my first behavioral issues, but I have a plan to nip it in the bud next week, so hopefully it won't be too much of a struggle. With a location like this, I can't really complain...

View from my "office"

All of my other classes are usually a pleasure to teach; the majority of the students are eager to learn English, and I feel appreciated. As I go over new vocabulary and watch them scribbling down words in English and Spanish in their notebooks and then looking back up for more, I feel a sense of accomplishment. These students want it all, and they remind me of myself when I was first learning Spanish. I wanted to get at it from every angle. Music, movies, poetry, online quizes, googling new words, anything to put a little more español en mi mente. I hope I can inspire them (if they aren't already inspired) to absorb English from everywhere possible. I guess with each group and with each student it takes something different, but hopefully my classes will be dynamic enough to reel them all in. Next up on the agenda (after our pre-Easter test)? Activities with music. Yes please!

Lately I was thinking to myself that my Spanish wasn't really getting any better because I never study it anymore. Julia told me it most likely was improving, I just wasn't noticing it myself, like when you age or grow, it happens slowly so it's not easy to see from day to day. I think she was right. Not only am I constantly picking up new words in conversation (even if they don't sink in the first time it's still helping), but I'm learning things from my students too. They always seem to translate everything out loud, as a sort of mental check, and I love it because it helps me check my Spanish would I say that? Oh, right, of course, that's it. As they get more advanced I will definitely have to limit the amount of Spanish spoken in the room, but with beginners it's literally impossible to put a ban on their native tounge, so I'm enjoying it while it lasts.

Safe Traveler

Hope everyone has a great weekend and happy spring from the land of eternal summer!

P.S. Don't worry Mom, I'm wearing my helmet ;)

Monday, March 8, 2010

Charlando de Cafecito (Coffee Talk)

You know you live in Costa Rica when...

You can't wait to take a cold shower to wash off the layers of dust and sunscreen and sweat from a day at the beach and a few rides on a quad.

You catch yourself craving gallo pinto in the morning even though you've already eaten rice and beans every day that week.

It's totally normal for your students to arrive to class 10, 20 or even 30 minutes late with no apologies.

Rio Miguelon

The big decision you have to make most often is where to spend your free time between this beach or that beach, a waterfall, a river, an island, or a national park.

Your typical night out involves buying your drinks at a store and drinking on the street just outside the bar, and then going inside the bar to dance to a mix of salsa and reggaeton.

You frequently speak in Spanglish with no conscious effort.

You get really excited when you see a cheese like feta or gorgonzola on the menu at a local restaurant, and you feel a huge sense of achievement when you locate a grocery store that sells soymilk.

You're not phased by creepy crawly things even if they fly down your shirt, and giant iguanas and howler monkeys seem as normal as squirrels running around in the trees.

The Chilean boxed wine they sell in the corner stores becomes an acceptable choice of beverage (so do pre-mixed Cuba Libres sold in cans).

You are blown away by the kindness and hospitality of the locals who invite you into their homes for a fresco (fresh fruit drink) or a cafecito (little cup of coffee), and stop whatever they're doing to sit and talk (and laugh) with you...pura vida!


Playa Montezuma

Todo bien aqui, everything is good here, just getting into the teaching/planning routine and riding around a lot on the quad! I got the good news from ALIARSE that I can stay here teaching through the end of the year (till mid December) and I'm so happy! It's so nice to know I'll be here for a while and I can really settle in. It's also unbelievably exciting to know that I will get to see the progress my students will make over the course of an entire year. They will be speaking English so much better by then and it will feel like such an accomplishment, really getting to see and experience their improvement. I'm so thankful for this opportunity!

Teaching is going good. I've got five full classes in Santa Teresa and the students are great, very interested in learning. We have fun but we also work hard on grammar and pronunciation. I have around 70 students in my five classes in Santa Teresa (a lot of new names to remember, like Anayancy, Yadira, Crislay, Nubia, and Dago for example), and I'm expecting to have at least 100 in total between all of my seven groups. My two classes in Montezuma began this past week and there weren't too many students, but I know more will come this week. It's tough to get the word out around here. It's also tough to have new students coming in who missed the first lessons because I don't want to repeat too much, but it should be fine once we get going. The new classes went well, although they are each four hour time blocks which is a lot to plan for. I'm still figuring out how to plan for so much time and how to know which activities will take more time than others. The other issue is keeping everyone busy and learning when you have mixed abilities in one classroom. I'm working on ways to keep the quicker students busy while I help the more true beginners to catch on.

My Costa Rica Plates!

RUBI (mi cuadra) is freaking awesome, she has totally changed and enhanced my life. I couldn't be happier with my purchase and my gear shifting is getting smoother every day!

Julia from ALIARSE came to town this weekend for a volunteer visit. We met with the local partners and discussed the program's objectives as well as our own feelings and concerns, but the meetings felt more like casual visits with friends. We rode all over the place on the quad and Julia had no complaints about the bumpy rides and my less than perfect driving (thanks J for being a good guinea pig). It was super fun having a friend in town to explore with and we had a few incredibly delicious meals together: the first night at the Panaderia (Bakery) in Cabuya and then the best pizza in town at my friend Juan's restaurant on Saturday. Que rico!

Julia & I - Playa Carmen

Very excited that more friends will be coming to visit soon...some friends from Samara are coming next weekend and my girl Merideth from ATL is coming the following week. I can't wait to give them all tours of my area and surprise them with a jump off that 15 meter waterfall! This also means I've got a lot of work to do this week preparing my lesson plans...I want to have everything basically set up for the rest of the month ASAP! Hopefully I can pull it off and I won't have to do too much out of the classroom work while my visitors are here.

I also plan on returning to Samara the weekend of the 26th for the start of Semana Santa (Easter week holidays here - I have off). There are fiestas starting on the 25th in Samara with salsa dancing and rodeos all set up in the streets! It will probably be a bit crowded but super fun...and I can't wait to see my sweet mamatica Marisol and go dancing at one of the best bars on the peninsula, Tabanuco. YAYER!

More to come soon, thanks for reading and I hope spring comes soon for all of you people back home in the States!