Thursday, October 8, 2009

Class Field Trip to the Butterfly Farm (Mariposario)!

Ms. Marquard's 3rd Grade Class
The joy of holding a butterfly
Petting a caterpillar
The owl butterfly
A tour...

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Surfer Chick..... or not so much

Surfing attempt number one consisted mostly of me either trying to make sure my swimsuit was intact when I emerged from the water (which most of the time it wasn't) or trying not to drown. I must say that I wasn't super successful. In my defense though I did not have any lessons and the water was very rough and the waves high for learning. I managed to get up a couple of times... but saying that I surfed is a little bit of a stretch.

Despite my failed attempts at surfing, the surf weekend was amazing! A Tica co-worker invited me to the beach with her and her friends. Her friends are complete surfer dudes by weekend, professionals by weekday. If you've seen the movie Blue Crush, in many ways it reminded me of that. We piled into a SUV with a bunch of surfboards strapped to the top. We cruised to the sounds of Latin jams for a couple hours and then piled out. They told me a couple tips, gave me a board, and then cut me loose as they went to catch some waves. After a full day of surfing (or in my case trying not to get tied up with my board cord), we stayed at her friend's house on the beach. It was simple and marvelous. Fede played the acoustic guitar and we sang Jack Johnson, etc. We smoked hookah, bathed in the pool, drank, played games, then danced all night on the deck to reggaetone while watching the sunrise over the ocean. The next day we hit the beach all day again. Sometimes I feel like I'm on a tropical paradise vacation. Then I remember: no, it's just the weekend and I live here! Pura Vida.

It was the first weekend getaway I had gone with all Ticos, hence the first weekend I spoke all Spanish. In all honesty, I don't use as much Spanish as you'd think! I teach in English and I get trapped in the English bubble because I hang out with many Americans and other Internationals. On Monday the janitor even noted that all the sudden I seemed to be speaking better and faster. More all Tico weekends are definitely in order.

This weekend is three days because of Columbus Day (how ironic that it's celebrated). So you guessed it, I'm heading to the beach again with the Tico surfer gang. This time to a beautiful beach in Guanacaste about six hours away. Can't wait! Hopefully surf weekend attempt number two is a little more graceful....

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Pictures From Manuel Antonio

It looks like a post card...

Trying to get a photo with a monkey with out ticking him off

A beautiful beach area we found while on a hike

Some of the thieving culprits

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Mischievous Monkeys

A couple weekends ago I took a weekend trip to beautiful Manuel Antonio. Manuel Antonio is really the best of both worlds with amazing rain forests, hiking, and a great national park PLUS gorgeous scenic beaches. I was sad to spend my birthday away from loved ones. But if it had to be that way at least it could be in a tropical paradise.

I had MANY encounters with wild animals there. Mostly monkeys, but you can also throw in a good number of reptiles, crustaceans, and insects. I wouldn't have guessed, but the monkeys are the ones that gave us the most problems. While swimming in the oceans, a swarm of monkeys came. We all started taking pictures of them. While distracted, more monkeys came from the other side of the beach and started taking things from our backpacks! I swear they were pulling a Yogi Bear and Boo Boo scam on us. Seriously, they had definitely done that before. I caught a little bit of it on video. After they drank all the eye drops and chewed through all the sunscreen they took, they then just started showing off for us.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

World Cup Qualifier Game: COSTA RICA v. MEXICO

Tonight I went to my first national level soccer game. It was a pretty epic experience. Not just because it was to qualify for the World Cup, but because there is a distinct rival between Costa Ricans and Mexicans. Basically, Ticos think Mexicans are really presumidos, or full of themselves, and Mexicans think the same of Ticos. As I realized there was this rival, I thought that going to the game would be an excellent initiation into Costa Rican culture. Only one small problem: the tickets were sold out weeks ago a couple hours after they went on sale. I don't have many connections here yet, but I made it my personal mission to get into to that game.

Two weeks ago I began asking around and hunting for a way to get tickets. A pirata (pirated taxi driver, not an official one) that often gives me rides told me that his uncle was a bookie and that he would check into getting tickets. He texted me the next day and said that he could get them, but it would be extremely pricey. Not only that, it was all over the news that there were 3,000 fake tickets out and that they were almost indistinguishable from the legitimate one. So I did what any rational person would do....I bought the tickets, no questions asked.

The atmosphere at the game was phenomenal. Nina and I got to the stadium almost four hours before the game and it was already pretty much full of excited fans cheering, singing, and dancing. I was almost worn out even before the game started. I noticed a marked difference between the Costa Rica game and the games I went to in South America. In Chile and Argentina it was extraordinarily intense, passionate, edgy, and possibly even a little dangerous. Here it was more like a party and celebration -- so fun! And dare I even say a little friendlier to its rivals. For example, at the end of the game (which Costa Rica lost 0-3) I witnessed something very touching that I think is a somewhat accurate portrayal. In many countries angry fans would belligerently yell and even throw things at the winning team's fans. As we exited the stadium we walked past a section of celebrating Mexican fans. The Tico next to me shouted to one of the Mexicans, "Oye, te la cambio." ("Hey, I'll trade you flags.") Then he threw the Costa Rican flag up and the other man threw the Mexico flag down. They shook hands and walked off wearing the other country's flag around their shoulders. It seriously made me feel warm inside and I felt very fortunate to witness that really cool exchange.

But let's be clear, though in general I thought the Ticos were a little more tranquil and friendly, it's not all warm fuzzies. I definitely learned at least three cheers about.... shall we say the promiscuity of the opponent's mothers.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

First week of school and first EARTHQUAKE!

School is off to an excellent start, though I forgot how exhausting it is. I’m really enjoying being self-contained as opposed to team teaching as I have for the last two years. It takes more planning, but it is much more conducive to creating a strong classroom culture and getting to know the kids and their families well.

My favorite part though has to be the diversity. I have students from across the globe including all over Central and South America, Europe, the USA, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. This presents some challenges, like language barriers, cultural misunderstandings, and even some stereotyping, but it also makes for a very dynamic learning environment. We were talking about role-models and doing a KWL chart before I read aloud a book about Cesar Chavez. A boy from Venezuela said that he was pretty sure that Chavez was the president of his country and that the US didn’t like him. Then a girl from Iran shared her connection that she was pretty sure the US didn’t like Iran’s government either. Then a boy from South Korea added a little bit about the difference between his country and North Korea. It is definitely going to help me to grow in culturally sensitivity and brushed up on world happenings!

On another note, I experienced my first earthquake. Ok, so it was more like a tremor, but it freaked me out nonetheless! It was about 5:30 in the morning and I was only half asleep because I had already hit the snooze button a couple times. Then it felt like something jumped on my bed and that one corner of the bed was wobbling and vibrating from it. So my initial thought was, “Eeek, there’s an animal in my room!!” By the time I realized what was going on and could even think about getting to the doorway the tremor had already stopped. Later a student asked, “If there’s an earthquake on Mars would they call it a marsquake?” Lol, makes sense to me!

We didn’t have power on Tuesday and there was talk of calling off school because of hygiene concerns. There is a little bit of a hypersensitivity about swine flu here because Costa Rica’s President came down with it. So, in many ways I have had to learn how to take things as they come so far.Rainy season
My classroom

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Where The Streets Have No Name.... literally!

For being in CR for less than a week, things are going quite well. I'm getting excited about starting school (next Monday). What a change it's going to be! For example, my principal Mr. Large was telling us that he wants each class to take AT LEAST four field trips and have one service outreach project that we can integrate with our social studies and science thematic units. Science field trips in Costa Rica, is this for real!?

One thing that has been a huge adjustment and source of frustration is that there are no street names or numbers. Seriously. So instead, people use landmarks and meters in cardinal directions. My official house address is "600 meters east of Mundo del Pan, the house in front of Condominio Baru." The official address to the school is "200 meters west and 200 meters south of the National Bank in Escazu." I'm not great at directions in the first place. Add to that my trouble with cardinal direction, lack of knowledge of the local landmarks, and unfamiliarity with meters and you are beginning to see the magnitude of my problem.

It's about a 20 minute walk from my school to my house, so on Thursday I thought I would try to make it back on my own after school in-service. I had vaguely used my own landmarks to help (cross three streams, turn right at the beer sign, etc). The abridged version is that after walking a long time, asking for directions many times, two taxi rides, some tears and three hours later I never did make it home. I ended up back at school where right beside it the School Director was hosting a dinner for the new hires that night anyway. So she comforted me with a glass of wine. In Escazu centro I now know my cardinal direction and many of the local landmarks so hopefully that does not happen again!

My roommate, Nina, has already lived here for a year and has been a HUGE help. Even a life safer. Without her showing me it would probably take me several days to figure out basic things like how to heat up the water for the shower, how to open the bazillion locks on our gate and door, etc. And one thing that cannot be overemphasized is that she saved me a cell phone from someone she knew that moved back to the states. Seems like a simple thing. Not in CR. Apparently it's the only country in the world you cannot just go out and get one. You have to be a resident, then you have to pay around $500 to buy into the co-op, then you have to get on a waiting list to get a number. So, I have one now and it's ready to go so I'll be awaiting your calls! :)
Mi casita
Living room
Dining room