Thursday, February 26, 2009

This time four weeks ago, I was beyond nervous waiting for my host mom to pick me up from school. I hadn't met my family yet and had only been in Costa Rica for a few hours. I can't believe I have been here for a month already - time has flown by! I was talking with my host mom yesterday about how fast the days have gone by. She told me how sad she was going to be when I left and what a joy it has been to have me in their home. I couldn't even tell her how sad I was going to be to leave Costa Rica without tearing up.
I have rode a horse on the beach, hiked in a rainforest, watched the sun set, came within 2 feet of a wild monkey, observed all sorts of wildlife, traveled on my own, slept in a hammock, wondered around downtown San Jose, rode a bus to no where in particular just to see what was there, eaten so many different fruits and veggies, made great friends with my classmates, missed my family and friends from back home, met the most interesting strangers, adjusted to no internet car or cellphone, am okay with taking cold showers, developed an enjoyment of listening, and so much more.
This place has truly changed my heart, mind, and soul in just a short amount of time. I don't even know all that will come of the next 11 weeks..

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

mi vida

I am sorry I haven't updated in a while, this weekend/week has been crazy. Because I have so much to say, I am going to write in bullet points and you may pick and choose what you would wish to read. Or if you really love me, you can read the whole thing. :)

Thursday night I went wtih Eric, Rebecca, and my professor & her daughter to the National Theatre. We saw The Dream which was performed by the International Ballet Company. The show was good, but not at all like what I was expecting. The curtains opened to a rock band and a single metal ring hanging from the ceiling. It was more of a mix of modern, cirque de soleil, ballet, and rock. The theatre itself was absolutely breathtaking and I am glad I got to experience going to a show here like I do in America.

Friday night we all tried to go bowling, but it was a 40 minute wait. After an hour and a half of playing pool, the lanes still weren't ready so we left. We all went to this little resturaunt in our neighborhood which, of course, was delicious. We met some other Americans studying in Costa Rica for the semester. It's so much fun to meet new people!
Saturday for lunch a few of us had a picnic at this, what we call, a chicken hut. It's a rotissiere chicken resturaunt that is open to the outdoors. Four of us bought a whole chicken, that came with tortillas, chips, and juice for lunch. It was so delicious! The man at the resturaunt really enjoyed our company and enjoyed talking with us for a bit.

After our chiknic, we went to the Children's Museum. The building used to be a prison and then was turned into a museum a few years ago. All of us were immediately taken back by how pretty the outside was, it looked like an old castle and as we walked through the front hall it was as though each of us lost 10 years and were little kids again. It was so much fun to go through the exhibits which were all in Spanish and play the different activities. We got some great pictures.

Saturday night my family got school supplies ready for Ana Lucia. We decorated a folder and an old shoe box to put an extra change of clothes in for her to keep at school. It's always so impressive to me the different ways people down here conserve all of their resources. Nothing ever goes to waste.

This park demostrates all four land types here in Costa Rica. I didn't really enjoy it as I thought we were in a park viewing lands that we were living in, which is just a bit silly to me.

I went to Catholic mass with my family Sunday night. It was all in Spanish and the priest spoke rather fast. I concentrated really hard, which is certainly the way I should pay in church all of the time, in order to understand. I also had to copy my family in their actions with standing, sitting, and kneeling. I am so glad I went and I think my Tican parents were glad I went aswell.

My classes are getting a bit tougher with certainly a lot more work. It's so hard to sit inside at a table when I look outside and see a gorgeous landscape. I just want to be outside and play all day!

Friday, February 20, 2009

oh, public school.

Since I am an education major, while in Costa Rica I am expected to complete a practicum in a local school. Each Friday I must observe/help a teacher during the school day. I have been placed at Escuela Betania which is a public school about a 5 minute walk from MesoAmerica. It is known as one of the poorest schools in the area and its student population is declining rapidly as more families are moving away from San Jose. I am working with the English teacher which is perfect as back in the States I want to teach English as a second language. Throughout the day, I see each grade(1-6) for 45 minutes.

Because public school is so over crowded here all of the classes are on a different schedule. For example, the fourth graders go to school on Monday from 7 am - 3:30pm, on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10am - 5:40pm, and on Wednesdays & Fridays from 7am - 11:30am. It's really hard for parents and students to keep up with.

Today was my first day of my practicum. Even if I descrcibe in full detail about what I experienced, there is no way I could capture or recreate it all. This school is nothing like I have ever experienced before and I don't dare compare it to anything in the States.

To begin on simple observations - the building, classrooms, and supplies are vastly different. One must wait outside the locked front gate for the guard to walk by and let you inside. All of the paint is peeling off the walls, there are a lot of cracks in the tile floor, some windows are broken, and all of the walls are very thin. When I walked inside the classroom, I found 25 student desks, a teacher's desk and chair, one cabinent, and a chalkboard. One or two rooms had a poster hanging on the walls. There was minimal teacher supplies and I couldn't find any textbooks. My teacher had a country manual from which she copied all activities (that would normally be made into worksheets) on the chalkboard.

Although a lack of supplies may seem to be the biggest problem facing this school, it isn't. A lack of classroom management far exceeds a lack of supplies on the issues scale with this school. Today I have seen students physically beat each other during a lesson, students yell at me/each other/the teacher, students run around the classroom during a lesson, and an entire class not finish what should be a 5 minute activity during the 45 minute class due to disrespect and lack of effort. The amount of patience my cooperating teacher has, and is expected to have, is astounding.

My practicum today has made me seriously rethink my plans to return to Costa Rica for my student teaching...

Thursday, February 19, 2009


I can remember how in the US I used to get so frustrated with people speaking Spanish because I thought they were mumbling. It was much harder to understand their Spanish and it was a lot more frustrating. However, now that I have been speaking with lots of different people here and learning the language in a whole new way I have come to believe otherwise. The Spanish language lends itself to said "mumbling." The words are formed to blend together and roll easily across one's tongue. I love it. I love talking to new people on the bus, a taxi driver, a shop owner, or a person on the street.

It seems as though everyone from America's favorite saying from Costa Rica is "pura vida." It means "great" and Ticans use it in almost every conversation for all sorts of reasons. My favorite saying has become "con gusto." This means "with pleasure" and Ticans say it as a sort of your welcome. I am astounded at the graciousness of the people and that every act is done "con gusto." I am trying to make it sort of my challenge to do all that I do for others with pleasure and feel genuinely so in my heart.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Otra Vez

Last night was by far my favorite night in San Pedro. I have gotten in the routine of leaving school at 5pm to get home with 20 minutes before dinner. I do my Spanish homework and then join the rest of the family for dinner at 6. Last night we had delicious carrot, avacado, and potato soup with crackers. The crackers were the first packaged food I have seen in my house since my mom makes everything from scratch. After dinner, my mom taught me how to cook Picadillos de Papas. It's a very typical dish in Costa Rica and is served with beans, rice, or tortillas. It has about 10 ingredients ranging from meat to cilantro to a chili paste only found here. With so many ingredients to be chopped and prepared it is quite labor intensive, but she told me it was the easiest dish to make. It's the first dish her mom taught her to cook and she was excited to teach me how to cook. It actually turned out to be very tasty and my brother was impressed. After cleaning up a bit, I played with Ana Lucia. We played soccer, hide & seek, basketball, and wtih our teddy bears. It was so much fun and I loved learning new words from her. When she had settled down a bit (she did start Kindergarten this week, so she's been more ready for bed), we put her pajamas on and watched "Quien Quiere Ser Millario" (Who Wants To Be A Millionaire) with the rest of my family. It's brand new to Costa Rica and is the latest craze. It was so much fun to try and interpret and answer the questions. I even got the 1.000.000 colones question right! My family was surprised.
The best part of the whole night was finally feeling like I belong here. I have felt a great sense of belonging at school with all of my classmates, but hadn't quite got there with my family. I am so glad to have been able to connect with my family as much as I have.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Hammock #3

This past weekend in one word was rejuvenating. I have never before felt so alive and calm at the same time... A group of about 15 of us traveled down to Puerto Viejo this weekend. It's a small, hippie, beach town on the Caribbean side. We left our neighborhood at 5:15am to make the 5 hour ride to the beach, some of the group left the night before, but I stayed home to hang out with my family some because I hadn't been home all week hardly. When we arrived we paid $6 to rent bikes for the whole weekend. This was the main transportation there ever though the roads were far less than well maintained and had so many potholes. We unloaded all of our stuff in our lockers at the hostile, threw our bathing suits on, and went straight to the beach. The sun was so much hotter than any beach in America. We stayed at the beach the rest of the day.
I have to desribe the hammock hostel because it is unlike anyplace I have ever been, let alone slept at. There weren't any walls anywhere, the pathways, sides of bathrooms and such were lined with colorful mosaic tile. We slept in a hammock for $5 a night. There were two large areas with about 50 hammocks in each. Everyone who stayed there were all so nice and from all different walks of life. I loved talking to new people and hearing all about where they had been and where they are going.
Saturday morning we got up to go to a surf competition down the road. It was so cool to see people doing what they absolutely love to do. I got a competition t-shirt and felt like I belonged (not really!), kind of. That afternoon it rained so we played cards and took naps. Rocking in a hammock and listening to the rain and waves crash made for the best nap I have ever had in my life. It was Valentine's day so we went to get dinner from a lady who was grilling skewers out of the back of her truck. It's so weird to think that last year I got all dressed up and went to B. Christopher's for dinner and this year I ate off the side of the road and hadn't even showered in two days.
Puerto Viejo was so far from anything I have ever experienced before that it pushed me in a whole other realm of living that is completely unexpected. To meet so many people without a care in the world was inspiring. I am so glad I took a chance, let my guard down, and truly experienced life this weekend.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

National Museum

Today has been so nice. We only had Spanish class today, where we played a trivia game and listened to Shakira (all in Spanish, of course), and then for our global studies class we went to the National Museum in San Jose. I was astounded by the museum, it was full of so much history I knew hardly anything about. I just wanted to read every placard and examine every artifact. I am for sure going back later, and probably by myself, so I can spend however much time I want walking though. It was interesting to see the paralells to some of the history museums I went to last winter term on history study tour. For a while, it felt like I was walking through Ellis Island again - especially in the prison area. There were sad pictures on the wall and all of this graffiti that was so detailed.
I was most surprised to find that all of the tags on the walls speaking of historical events were in both Spanish and English. I felt like a guest in their (Tican) museum and should be expected to read in Spanish. Mostly because that is our philosophy in America - if you come to our country, you should speak our language. I ask Stephani,who is our middle-man type of person between our school here and Costa Rica, about how Ticans felt having English becoming a more promenant language in their country. She said it was fine because that way more people could understand what occurred here in Costa Rica. It interests me to find the parallels in what America is going through with immigrants and how Costa Rica is dealing with the same issues. I am pretty sure I am doing my final global studies project on immigration.
We are headed off to Puerto Vieja this weekend and I am so excited! It's a beach on the Carribean side of the country and is supposed to be beautiful. I am sleeping in a hammock hostel, which I am kind of nervous about, but we are all doing it together, which means it'll be fun. :)

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Watch with glittering eyes...

Friday morning we made the 4 1/2 hour bus ride, for only 100 kilometers, to Manuel Antonio. It's a very tourist-y beach on the Pacific side of the country. We stayed in a beach front resort and it was beyond amazing - the scenary all around us was breathtaking from the moment we stepped outside of our rooms and we were all very excited to take warm showers. As soon as we got there all of us threw on our swimsuits and ran to the beach. After watching the sunset, we went out to dinner at a little diner, and then went dancing.
Saturday was one of the longest and full days. Everyone in Costa Rica gets up early and all of our bodeis are simply used to waking up at 6 am to start our days; being on vacation didn't even impact this. We woke up at our normal time and headed out to get breakfast. Then came a guided 3 hour hike through the rainforest of the Antonio Manuel National Park. It was so neat to see all of those animals (sloth, monkeys, crabs, etc.) and plants that I have seen in textbooks all my life in person. We stopped our hike at the beach and played for the next few hours. Meg, Ellen, Caroline, and I left the rest of the group and hiked a little farther only to discover a sort of "secret" beach. It was only about 25 meters long in total and had the most amazing rocks to climb and get different views of the ocean and jungle. We skipped lunch and went straight to horseback riding on the beach! It was amazing and our tourguide, Roberto told us all about life in Costa Rica. Despite crazy scheduling issues, it was perfect timing as we got to watch the sunset as we rode. That night we went to El Avion, a resturaunt that was built from an old CIA plane that crashed. The food was very American and filling and I didn't feel good after I had eaten because it wasn't as fresh as the food from my house in San Pedro. That night we went out into the city and went dancing which was so much fun. It was such a good day to bond with our whole group.
Sunday was simply us tying up loose ends at the beach and driving home. The roads here in Costa Rica are very narrow and curvy. I got terribly car sick and was miserable the whole way home. Which coming back home, to not my house in Raleigh, really was an eye opener that I am going to be here a long time. It was the first time I didn't feel like I was on a vacation.
I am going to post pictures on here later, but my internet is being weird. So, check back!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Today has been really hard. I have been concentrating so hard on what everyone says around me in Spanish that my mind is on overload. I haven't been able to speak in Spanish or English very well which is frustating. Tomorrow we are leaving for Antonio Manuel which is a super nice beach. I hope that a weekend "away" will help.

"If that's what it means to be crazy - to live life everyday as if it matters - then I don't mind if we are insane." Revolutionary Road

We went to see that movie at the mall last night. It was so good and cheap! A ticket was only 1000 colones which is less than $2. There were a lot of Americans aswell, which is alwasy excited to meet someone new. It's weird how being American instantly makes you friends here. It's mostly because we are obviously not from here given our skin tone and language.

Wisdom sits in places.

That was the topic of discussion in our GST class today. We discussed how each place has a history all of its own and that we must make conscious effort to uncover even the simplest hidden stories...

I am not going to upload a lot of pictures on here because it takes a really long time with our internet. But, here are some and a few links to see more pictures of my where-abouts.
This is one of the views outside of my Spanish class; since it has been raining each morning there have been lots of rainbows!
This is a commonly seen skyline as we walk home from school. Gorgeous!
-> Photos from my first two days: airport, my house, and school.
-> Photos from Cartago, Volcan Irazu, and Orosi.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Just yesterday I was boasting about the fact I had spent five days in Costa Rica without eating one, single bean. Which is impressive since all of my classmates had eaten them constantly. I suppose God was listening, as last night for dinner I ate bean soup and this morning I was served the tradition pinto gallo (rice & beans) for breakfast. Both weren't as bad as I was expecting, but will take time to enjoy. The food is completely different in taste and texture than similar foods in the US. I was trying to explain to my Tican mom the differences, but it's difficult; something just must be observed or tried for oneself.
It been a bit tough adjusting to having classes as well as being in a foreign country where everyone is so relaxed. We just want to hang out and walk around town, but eventually we force ourselves to do our homework. I love having Spanish class first thing in the morning. We have it Monday - Thursday for a little over an hour each day. Our professor is amazing and it is only myself and Caroline in the class, so it is basically private tutoring. I get so excited when I go home each night and can use new words with my family and make less gramatical errors. I am also taking an Environmental Science class. The professor is so passionate about her field area and it certainly translates into her lectures. She also used to be an Elementary school teacher and says that some of her class can be translated to use in our future classrooms. Aside from Education class that I start next week, I am taking an upper level Global Studies class. In this class we are examing the Tican culture and state of the country. Our assignments inculde journals, observations, and research; all of which are going to be appreciated when I return to the US and want to remember all that I encountered.
Today was kind of a gross day; it's very windy, about 75 degrees, andit rained this morning. For the first time we took the bus instead of making the 30 minute walk to school. This turned out to be wonderful as we made a new friend! I walk everyday to school with Mark, who lives five houses down from me, and we were chatting on the bus about our classes. Well, this girl tapped him on the shoulder and asked us where we were from - in English! It turns out there is a group from University of California school system taking classes at the University of Costa Rica. We exchanged names and told each other where we live and are planning on hanging out. It's not that easy to make new friends when you don't have a cell phone number to give them for them to call. I am sure we will see her again soon, as she lives near our neighborhood.
I wake up each day (at 5:45am on my own, without an alarm, and not really tired) so excited for all of the things I will experience in the day. I feel as though my outlook on life and daily happenings is so positive and all of the glory goes to God.

Monday, February 2, 2009

It is truly a humbling experience to be in a foreign country unknowing of the culture, language, and customs. I have to listen intently to even the simplest of conversations and I copy what I see local Ticans do all of the time. I am completely at the will of others most of the time. Although, this is frightening it has truly given me a new insight on the world around me. It's crazy to think on day four I have already gathered a new understanding of everything. I have been removed from my nice, comfortable life in America where I attend a private university, have a loving family and friends constantly around me, drive my own car, own my own laptop,bathe in warm water and talk nonstop. Here my family does not own a car, all 6 of us living in the house share one bathroom (located in the middle of the kitchen, in the center of the house), there isn't internet nor hot water, and the electricity isn't the best. Even with all of that, they are the most welcoming people I am sure to ever meet. They offer the best of what they have to me and are constantly patient in my speaking Spanish while taking genuine inerest in my life back home in North Carolina and here in San Pedro. I have tears in my eyes just thinking about all that we, myslef included, take for granted in America. I can only pray that upon my return to the United States, I carry with me the gratitude and sincerity of the people I have come in contact with here.
With this sudden drop in a completely different culture, I also have seen such a greater need for me to teach, English as a Second Language, in America. I can't imagine how a young child feels having to go to a new school, with different people, and constantly being looked down upon having currenly experienced a similar situation. I know these children have such potential; they just need a little patience and exra care.