(Editor's Note: This post was written on Thursday, April 29th.)
There was a time when I used to be squeamish about bugs. I used to jump out of my seat if a beetle was flying too close. I would run out of the room and call someone in to come remove the spider or cockroach that was hanging out in my space. There was screaming and lots of goose bumps. As I got older, I got a little better about not freaking out over insects. I got to the point where I could take spiders outside in a glass jar and release them. And I got really good at killing cockroaches (I feel no remorse when it comes to those nasty suckers) when I lived in a cheap rental house in Athens that had a huge infestation. You could say my nerves had been shot down a good bit before, but nothing could of prepared me for what I would encounter in Costa Rica.
Did you know that there are over 300,000 species of insects in Costa Rica? Ok, I knew this place was biologically diverse and all, but out of the 500,000 species living in this tiny country, over 300,000 of them are insects! And I can tell you now from first hand experience, it's true: there are a plethora of bugs living here!
From giant grasshoppers and crickets the size of a Twix bar, to huge "garden" spiders living in my bedroom, I've encountered a good variety of Tico insectos.
Then one day along came the Abejones de Mayo, which are some kind of flying beetles that take over the land in the month of May, and they have already started showing up in the past few weeks of April.
These guys are really big and really annoying. The regular ones are about the size of a raspberry, but today I saw my first gigantor abejones, which are more or less the size of large strawberry. And apparently they get even bigger. They seem to be dizzy or drunk when they fly around, because they are always crashing into your head, or arm, or any other given body part. Sometimes they dive bomb into your flip flops, and sometimes you find that one has somehow made it underneath your shirt and is now stuck there. They don't bite, but they come like the plague, in multitudes. I was literally dodging them in my classroom tonight, and my friend Trinity keeps a frying pan handy so we can play 'swat the beetle' when they start swarming the outside light at night. I can't imagine how many there will be in May, if there are already so many now. At least once they roll over or land on their backs they're pretty much dead, since they have trouble flipping back over. It's kind of like the crabs in the roads; now there are loads of dead abejones laying on the floor everywhere you go. Nice. I wonder if anybody eats them...fried beetles? Or is that only in China?
In May, the rainy season officially begins in Costa Rica. It seems to have come early this year, as we've had hard rainfalls for 4 out of the past 5 days. I am quickly realizing that I was crazy for thinking I would be ok on an ATV in the rain. Sure, if I only had to go a few blocks or even 15 blocks, I could get a little wet, go home and dry off, and I'd be fine. But driving between towns on muddy roads in the pouring rain? It's insane! Not only do the raindrops peg you like little stinging bullets, it gets cold in the wind when you're getting wet AND you can hardly avoid splashing mud puddles on your legs. So everyone says you just need a good pair of rubber boots, a poncho, and some waterproof pants, but I'm thinking I just need a car!
I didn't listen to my Tica mom months ago when she told me I'd be better off buying an old car instead of a quad. I thought it would make more sense to have a newer quad that wouldn't have any mechanical problems, and since I don't know the first thing about mechanics I thought it would be silly to buy an old car that could have issues. Who wants to have a car that's always in the taller? But after seeing how intense this rainy season is going to be, I'm reconsidering my options. Rubi (the quad) is so much fun and I love her...but I could buy an old 4x4 for the same price, and then the rain wouldn't be such a struggle. This is the next 8 months of my life I'm talking about, May through December, which in this country means rain, rain, and more rain. I know it seems crazy to trade in my wheels so soon, and it will definitely be a hassle, but it will greatly improve the quality of my life for the rest of the year. Vale la pena? I think so. Suddenly an '89 Suzuki Sidekick has become my dream car...
My Tico friends will of course help me figure this all out. My mechanic uncle will check out the car and my lawyer friend will transfer the title. I may even have a friend offering to drive me to the Central Valley to find my perfect ride. Now the vision is set in place, time to create a new reality...carro manifesto! I'll keep you posted on my progress ;)
My Montezuma classes had their first exam this week, a "midterm" of sorts, and most of the students did good. It was exciting to see the wheels turning in their heads as they labored over the test for an hour. Then we played a game called "Crazy Dictation" which everybody loved. I forgot how much fun this game was and I'm excited to use it more often or create variations on it. I learned it in my Costa Rica TEFL course, and it's a race between pairs of students. One student reads a text to his partner who then has to run across the room and write down word for word what he has just heard. It's a great listening and writing exercise, and the element of speed and competition makes it a lot of fun. You can have a speed winner and a winner for correctness...but in the end everyone learns something and laughs a lot. Good stuff.
In Santa Teresa I gave the students a take home exam to do during the next week when I will be out of the country on my visa run. I had to cancel classes for a week so I could go get another stamp on the old passport, so I figured it was a perfect time to give them an open book, do-at-home test. I was happy to see that two of my students got together the very next night for a couple of hours to work on the test when I ran into them at a friend's house. "Teacher, Teacher...is this right? What about this one?" I was happy to give them some clues and see that most of their answers were spot on.
May is also my birthday month, so this time I decided to go home for my visa run. I really wanted to see my family and my friends, so I figured I'd treat myself to a trip to the ATL. I honestly didn't feel like going to Nicaragua again, and this way I can try to gather all the necessary paperwork to apply for a volunteer visa here in Costa Rica. With the help of ALIARSE, I should be able to get at least a 6 month visa (hopefully longer), which means no more annoying visa runs for most of the year. It's going to be a bit of a headache going around to the government offices in Atlanta, but it should be worth it if I can get the visa. Hopefully it won't take up too much of my time at home. I really want to relax and spend some QT with my loved ones :) So far plans include a birthday dinner with the family on Sunday night at one of my favorite Thai restaurants in da A, Nan's, and on Saturday (the day I get home), it just so happens that around 10 of my best girlfriends are getting together for a women's gathering called a Moon Circle. I didn't plan this, but how perfect...I will get to see them all at the same time in one central locale. And the best part is no one knows that I'm coming! I'm going to surprise them all when I breeze in out of nowhere...YAY! Que grand sopresa!
Hasta la proxima...