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 neutral...so 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).
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 in...so wish she could've stayed longer! Here are a few gorgeous pictures from our day trip to Montezuma...it 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