Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Apply to be a volunteer for change...teach English in Costa Rica with my program!

EVOLC is looking for volunteers to start this summer as teachers' assistants with the Costa Rican program INA. This is a great way to gain teaching experience and help make a change in a beautiful country! Check out the website for more details.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Visa Run, or an excellent excuse to visit Panamá...

 Isla Perro, San Blas, Panamá

February flew by before I had even gotten used to the fact that it was 2011, and suddenly I was looking at my calendar and realized that I was almost in the middle of March. Dios mio! It was almost time to do a visa run...and the calendar was filling up FAST.

My girlfriend Terri left on March 4th and another set of friends arrived about a week later. Laura and Eric have been my friends for years and they came for an almost two week vaca in Santa Teresa. It was great to see them, and they stayed on a really nice, secluded part of the beach close to the Hermosa side of town. We did a few meals together and some beach time as well as some sunset cocktails, and on one of their last nights here they got engaged on the beach under a full moon! Congratulations you guys!!! 

Laura and Eric at Koji's Sushi in Playa Hermosa

While they were here I realized that my time was running out to do a visa run. I needed to leave the country before my 90 days ran out on March 30th, but I also had plans to hang out with another friend and my four awesome cousins who were all arriving before the end of March. So after throwing around a few ideas with my new man who luckily also needed to go on a visa run trip, we decided to take a cheap flight to Panama City, Panamá, and from there make a sidetrek to the San Blas islands which we had both heard was unbelievably beautiful. I've always wanted to see both the city and the islands, and we both have friend who live in the city who we planned to visit. 
Concrete Jungle

About four days later, we were off. SJO to PTY. Quick one hour flight. We got a hotel in the city and spent the first weekend there, saw our friends and did some marathon shopping. Compared to the prices in Costa Rica which are tourist/US prices, everything is way cheaper in Panama. Asaf (that's my boyfriend, he's Israeli but he lives in CR) needed to get stock for the surf shop he runs with his brother back here in Santa, and I just wanted to shop for some cheap clothes and a dress for a wedding. It was fun to be in the big city for a weekend - after living on the beach for so long it came as a welcome change of pace. And it's a tropical kind of city, where the juxtaposition of palm trees and skyscrapers keeps you feeling just a little bit beachy. 
My girl Amanda who teaches English in Panama City

On Monday morning, we made the trek from the city to the islands. San Blas is an archipelago of tiny islands off the Caribbean coast of Panama, and I would NOT recommend getting there by car/boat. We tried to fly, but our last minute timing didn't work out so well, so we got a taxi to Miramar where we waited for the boat. An hour later we realized we were supposed to board a tiny fishing boat, and ride across the choppiest seas I've ever seen in my life for an hour and a half. There was no other we took the WORST BOAT RIDE ever. No joke. At first I thought it was funny, how the biggest waves I've ever seen were rocking our little boat and not breaking overhead like it seemed they were going to...but after about 10 minutes of slamming over waves and hitting my ass on the hard wooden seat, I realized this ride was going to be hell. We were all freaking out. One girl puked. I fell off the seat into the row behind me at one point. We thought we would never get there...

The island where we stayed in San Blas...EPIC!

But finally we arrived at our little island in paradise. It was a small island near El Porvenir (that's the bigger island where the airport is). It only had about 5 or 6 straw huts on it, one of which would be ours for the next few days. 

Our little shack in San Blas

The lodging was muy rustico, sand floor and palm leaf walls and roof...but on the most beautiful secluded island surrounded by the most blue and green crystal clear waters I've ever seen in my life. Everywhere we turned looked like a postcard...I couldn't stop taking pictures. Food was provided by the local kuna people and it wasn't bad - fresh fish and potatoes, salads, fruits and the occasional lobster. On the second day we did a tour to some of the other islands nearby - including Isla Perro, or dog island, which is famous for it's shipwreck snorkeling spot. 


Luckily we were able to get a flight back out to Panama City, and we spent the last day relaxing in the air conditioning and eating good city food. Flew back to Costa Rica with our bellies full and our hearts content. Visa run success! :)

More to come soon...pura vida!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Just another midsummer daydream...

This town is funny. It's sort of a melting pot of a lot of different cultures. Because of the world class surfing and tranquilo beach lifestyle that Santa Teresa has to offer, people from all over the place have landed here and set up shop. Obviously there is still a predominant Tico population, but there are also tons of Gringos, Canadians, Argentinians ("tinas"), and Israelis ("izzys"), as well as a smattering of people from various other countries worldwide. And now there are certain areas of town that are sort of the designated areas for these cultures. Last year when I first came here, I was shocked to see such a Gringo-esque shopping center at the crossroads in Playa Carmen (the entrance to town). I had seen stuff like this in places like Tamarindo, but the Mal Pais/Santa Teresa area is a little bit smaller/less developed, so it was kind of a surprise to hang out in a commercial center with outdoor seating and lounge areas that reminded me of being in California. Nice to have around though for those days that you crave American food and air conditioning...we fittingly deemed it "Gringo Plaza." Not that all the businesses are owned by Gringos, but that is definitely the place where you can find the most Gringos hanging out.

So now we've come up with names for all the culture heavy areas in town. There's "Little Tel Aviv" at the other fancy shopping center at the start of Santa Teresa, where most of the businesses are run by Israelis and you can be sure to hear Hebrew being spoken. There's "Tina Town" down by the Brunella's Hostel complex where the Argentinians abound with their funny accents (where "Y" and "LL" is pronounced with a "J" or almost "J-SH" sound) and weird "Is that a mullet?" haircuts. And then there's the always good for a laugh "Tico Town" down by the Pizza Tomate in Santa Teresa, where you can almost always find the local boys hanging out in or outside the restaurant on the street, or in the gutter by the Supermarket, probably drinking guaro and smoking puros. And finally there's us, living somehow in the middle of all these places, making friends with everyone, and trying to remain we call ourselves "Little Suiza" (Switzerland) AKA "Maya Town" since we are right by the big and fabulous Super Maya (which we have also deemed our "pantry" since we never have to buy lots of groceries in advance because the supermarket is just steps away from our gate...the lazy cook's dream).

Life has been pretty fun lately, living with my two fabulous roommates from New York. We are loving our little home, our morning surf sessions, and our ladies nights. We cook a lot of yummy meals together and make poor man's Sangria with Chilean boxed wine and OJ from the super. We laugh a lot. And we have nicknames for everyone.

Surfing is interesting. It's a lot of fun, and I've definitely been getting better, making progress on my pop up, balancing, paddling, and riding skills, but getting out past the break here in Santa is freaking hard. When I lived in Samara and when I visited Tamarindo it was way easier to get out. The waves were smaller and there weren't so many waves in a set to fight past in order to get on the outside. But here it's big. The waves are way more powerful. It's a work out just trying to get past a few of them. So I've been taking it slow and most days I just practice on the white wash. But at least I have a good time and I get a good workout just getting out there. I finally got out with a little help and motivation from a friend the other day, but then I got really scared as I saw big waves rolling in and crashing in front of me. How was I supposed to get back in? I kinda freaked out and didn't want to try any of the big waves that were coming by, so I paddled towards the shore during a lull and finally rode a wave back in on my knees. But this is how you learn, poco a poco, little by little, so I'm not trying to push things. I need to be super comfortable with my technique before I start trying to catch the big waves. And I love surfing the white wash because I can easily get like 10 good rides in a session!

My English classes have been going well. Most of my groups usually have around 8-10 students in attendance, with anywhere from 10-15 registered for the class. It's tough to get students to come every week, and a lot of them will skip a week or two here and there without thinking twice about it. But it's fine, I just do a good bit of review each class from the previous lesson, and try to keep everyone updated on the homework. I've done at least 2 songs in each group so far this semester, which are always a big hit, and we've played some new Q&A games as well as board games and team races at the board. I've been drilling the intermediate students on the irregular verbs in the past tense for the past month (it's pretty much all memorization with the irregulars), and the advanced group is working on past participles and conditionals. It's funny when I forget the correct English, like last night with the verb SWIM. Simple past = SWAM. Past participle = SWUM. That just sounds weird to me. I have never swum in the ocean? But apparently that's the way it is. So I have to be careful...but it's good for my English and even better for my Spanish, when my students are translating everything into Spanish out loud as they write down the English. "I would if I could, but I can't so I won't." = "Lo haria si podria, pero no puedo entonces no lo haré." Impressive, no?

In other news my girlfriend Terri from ATL came to visit last week and we had a BLAST. She loved it here and fit right wish she could've stayed longer! Here are a few gorgeous pictures from our day trip to was the most perfect sunshiny day for the trip and a visit to the waterfalls! Que suerte!

This next month and a half or so will be the month of visitors. I have four more friends coming (two just arrived last night and are staying down at the end of Santa Teresa on a secluded beach, and one will be here in 2 weeks and is getting married on the beach in Mal Pais), and four of my cousins are also coming together at the very end of the March for a cousins reunion trip! It's bound to be an epic month. So stoked. I love summer.

Bueno chicos...nos hablamos. Happy Spring back home in the States, hope you are finally getting some warmer weather! Love from Costa...xx

Friday, January 28, 2011

The Big Bang Theory

Hola from 2011! Back in paradise and things are going well. After a somewhat messy break-up with my tico boyfriend followed by a perfectly timed mini-vacation adventure with one of my best gringa girlfriends, I am finally getting back into my groove in Santa Teresa. Just finished my first week of English classes and had about 60 students in attendance. Hoping that number may go up a little during the second week, but feeling good about the size and energy of most of my groups. Decided to cancel my class in Montezuma after considering opening a new group there, but due to lack of interest and no desire to travel so far by myself once a week, I just let it go. The good news is I am now officially a Spanish teacher as well, currently working with two Swedish boys who have recently moved to town, and looking for a few new recruits. Beginner lessons only, but I have to say I'm pretty proud of my Spanish after a year and a half here. In addition to that I've got a few private lesson English students, so that should make for a decent monthly income. I've also got a great new house with my bestie from NYC. We are loving it...a nice big kitchen, living room with an actual couch, a hot water shower, 3 bedrooms, and a nice big front porch. It's pretty sweet for Ticolandia.

So as I said the year started off with a few big bangs...

Bang! Too much fighting with the boyfriend finally led to the end of us. Sad face. But we are both better off without each other...and it feels good to be single again. Getting back in touch with my soul, and studying "Women who run with the Wolves" to awaken my wild nature;)

Bang! I moved into a new house.

Bang! My long time girlfriend Krista AKA Kritta K came to visit and we went on a whirlwind adventure to the southern zone of Costa Rica to the Osa Peninsula. I finally made it to Corcovado National Park, one of the most biologically diverse places on the planet, where we spotted tons of wildlife and enjoyed la naturaleza. A few pics below. Kritter also got to come see my new house and check out the area where I live for a few was so great to share it all with her! Then we made it down to Dominical for two days on the way to the Osa, where we just chilled and surfed and danced a little salsa;) So glad KK came down...and if anyone else reading this is thinking about making the trip, DO IT!!! So worth it...and you get to see ME!

Bang! I got a surfboard! Meet the lovely "Reina" 6'11" funboard! We are still getting to know eachother, but I'm feeling really good about the future of our relationship. She's just big enough that I can get up on her, but small enough that I can become a better surfer. I am still in a very beginner mode, but owning my own tabla should help me learn a lot faster. Love her.

Final Bang! Today I got a bike! Don't have a photo yet but she is a pretty in pink beach cruiser with a jumbo basket on the front...I am calling her "Rosalinda." Now I have a whole little family of friends...Rubi the red quad, Reina the royal tabla de surf, and Rosalinda the rosada bicicleta.

Love from Costa Rica XOXO