Fun in the Sun

It's been a couple days... Sorry to those of you who have been checking everyday and anticipating a new blog!

I came home exhausted on Friday night and slept for a long time. I felt much better on Saturday.

We went to the feria again! I spent about $7 on a zucchini, a cucumber, lettuce, a carrot, cheese, and 2 potted plants. Awesome deals! Here's all of our loot after we washed it...

Kim V. (5th grade teacher) waiting for us again... She's so patient when she is waiting for us to be ready to go ...

Then Tricia, Kim, and I headed into the city with our neighbor Diane, another teacher Kim V., and two new ILE students, Sunshine and Becky. Gringas in San Jose make quite the spectacle. We make a spectable when it's just one of us at a time, let alone 7 of us! We visited Mercado Central, Cafe Latino, Mercado Democracia, American Ropa (ha, a secondhand store from brand name stores in the U.S. -- they don't know that their "charitable donations" to foreign countries are being bought by Americans!), and Museo Nacional. Whew, quite the excursion! All that for a 175 colones bus fare one way... making it about 80 cents both ways. My kind of travel :)

Diane at Cafe Latino.

The gringas making a spectable...
ha, Tricia with a big fat woman statue. I think the story is that she will bring you good luck if you touch her. The statue, that is, not Tricia! :)
A cool window at Cafe Latino. :)

A small victory in speaking Spanish: I struck up a conversation with a vendor at Mercado Democracia, and Sunshine was looking at her purses. I was able to translate for Sunshine about the costs and colors of the purses. The vendor and I talked about how easily we forget words in the other language (she in English and I in Spanish), so we bonded over our forgetful minds.

Then, the supermarket again. I felt so much more comfortable asking questions about where to find items. Yay! Another victory...

Church is extremely humbling. My notes are a jumble of Spanish words that I hear and understand, but I can't make out the message yet. Oh well, that will come. For now I focus on what I do understand, no matter how little it is. I wrote 2 pages front and back of random Spanish words I understood. The pastor said "Perfectamente posible!" a lot, so I wrote that at least five times. ha.

Today after church we journeyed a whole 4 blocks to Kim's house. (It's so confusing with so many Kims. This Kim lives with a tico family and is the 5th grade teacher at Sojourn. She's in some of the photos from the trip to San Jose as well.) Her family was gone for the day and had told Kim to have some friends over. We ate lunch and then took advantage of their back yard and sat out in our swimsuits :). We also painted our toenails and had great conversation. Wonderful relaxation time for hard-working teachers, trust me!
the back view of the house.
Our beautiful toenails!

Oh, and Kim V. has a pet rooster in her back yard that was cockadoodling all afternoon. Strange but true.


check it out!


Check this link for photos from the meetings on Monday and Tuesday. Principal Reilly likes to take pictures of everything!!

First Official Day of Being a Teacher!

The gringas first day officially teaching in Costa Rica!! Kim (1st grade student teacher), Kate (4th grade all the way!!), and Tricia (Special Ed. and Kindergarten and Basketball Coach... that's the latest title anyway)

Alright, so this morning before the students arrived, I seriously was ready to puke. My mind was going a bajillion miles a second and I was absolutely sure that I wasn't ready for this huge responsibility.

Then the students arrived and I was totally in my element. I was directing the students on where to go and what to do and how to do it. I knew all their names within the first 5 minutes (I had a head start of meeting most of them in May!), except the twins, whom I kept mixing up all day. (I didn't know I had twins... Another teacher mentioned she thought they were cousins... Are they just pulling my leg?) We took a "classroom tour" with all the supplies and posters and then did a crazy five minute "student search" to mix up the new students with the old. We filled out this map of the world with where we're all from... I'll have to take a photo of that, because it's amazing. My class is from all over the U.S. and Latin America! I love it!

Then I drew a map on the whiteboard like a football play illustrating our class bathroom procedure. Ha, I should have taken a photo of that, but I already erased the board! The boys were so into that explanation... I find it absolutely necessary to make connections to their world... and football is the way to do it here in Costa Rica.
I came up with my fastest Spanish sentence yet this morning! I was taking all my students to their MEP and Spanish classes, and all of them go to different teachers for this time... It's a leveled curriculum, so each Spanish teacher has a level. Anyway, it was madness in the hall because all the kids are flustered, wondering which class they go into, and one teacher came out into the hallway and asked "Donde esta su estudiante Bayley? Si, ello es su?" and I said "Si, Bayley es en mi clase, pero no aqui hoy." What?? Where did I learn to think and speak so quickly?? I hardly had time to celebrate my victory, though, as 7 more of my students were like, "Miss Siscoe, which room do we go in?"
I'm excited about this school year. Genuinely excited.


early teacher training

I started training for the educational field very early on. "Wow, Dad, this is a pencil holder?"

classroom pics!!

Alright, so I am posting photos of the classroom even though it's not complete at all. This way you can see what my students are seeing when they come in tomorrow! :)

Here's the hallway entrance to my classroom.

The hallway has a garden! I would never have that in the States! My classroom door is open.

Through the gated doorway... I really want to use this door for students entering the room, but we can't find the key for the gate!

My messy desk :)
I took this photo around 4pm but I made changes already... but it gives you a good idea!

I had a whole conversation in Spanish today... or rather, I understood most of what Mrs. Lucy was saying to me... and I attempted Spanish :). I'm so excited that I am hearing and understanding words and phrases now! The custodian, Marie, will also talk to me... and she says "poco a poco!" to me a lot :). "Little by little," that's for sure.
Shout out to Aaron and Maria Wood... Thanks for these great organizer baskets from your leftover wedding favors :) They hold my paper clips and thumbtacks!
Another shout out to Melissa Smith for her amazing Faith and Life speech when she let us keep chunks of her painting! The piece that I claimed labels my clock well!
Another BIG thanks to Erin Blucker! Woohoo!! First piece of snail mail from the U.S.! :) It made it here in 8 days... My boss says it takes anywhere from 1 to 3 weeks, so we got lucky this time!
Introducing a student of mine, Carissa. She's lived most her life in Costa Rica, and it's amazing to hear her speak Spanish! She helped me paint curtains today and literally told me her life story, ha. She told me matter-of-factly that she likes jazz and salsa music.

Here's the curtains we painted... I'm not sure how well they work next to the painted windows... so I'll brainstorm what to do next.

a moment for thanks

Thank you all for your messages, your emails, your encouragement! It's so fun to come home in the evenings and find all these messages from back home! (You know who you are! :))


would anyone like to proofread this for me? :)

so... I just typed my for 4th grade "syllabus" (I'm not sure what else to call it! "Syllabus" sounds too grown up)... It's 6 pages long, if you can believe that. New students come to Sojourn all the time (I have 5 new students in my class tomorrow!!) and so it will be nice to be able to have my guidelines typed and ready for parents and students.

I did consider copying and pasting the whole document on my blog, but I wouldn't want to bore any of you. Let me know if you're interested, however. ha!

So I found out today that I won't be paid for these teaching endeavors for quite some time... but when I do receive my first paycheck, it will be wonderful. I want to thank those of you who have been so generous to support me and make this whole thing possible! God is providing and will continue to do so!

Sorry, I still haven't taken photos of the classroom. It's not how I want it yet... so I don't really want to take photos. But it would also be nice for you to be able to picture where I've already spent 23 hours this week, right?

Tomorrow I will only be testing my 5 new students. Thursday's the BIG DAY of KATE'S FIRST DAY OF CORRALING 15 STUDENTS...

I did have 27 4th graders in student teaching, so what's a mere 15?? (That's what I keep telling myself :))

Oh, and some photos from today. Here's the outside of our apartment... outside the gates and everything. Bright orange!! :) That will be a great story for someday. Our apartment door is right behind the tree in our front yard.

And here's our apartment again through the back gate of the school. Vivo muy cerca a mi trabajo! (I live very close to my job! :))
And here's the school in the morning. Beautiful warm sun and the mountains beyond the city limits. The clouds are already forming and promise rain from about 1pm for the rest of the day. If you want to exercise outside or run errands, morning is the best time!

Oh, and the language mix-up of the day. I was trying to write directions to our apartment in Spanish, and I wrote "gato enfrente" to describe the front gate. ha. I had a tico teacher proofread for me, and she said... "Um, Kate, 'gato' es 'cat' en ingles." Whoops. I'm definitely learning from my mistakes. Now I know that "gate" in Spanish is "proton" with an accent above the second 'o'. (I don't know how to make accents on this keyboard, can anyone help me with that?)

Wow, this is all incredibly humbling.


primera dia...

Today was the first day of Teacher Institute meetings at Sojourn.

The staff is mixed gringo and tico... so everything said in Spanish and English was translated into the other language...

I'm not sure if my brain hurt more from listening to lots of Spanish or from everything I have to get done in the next few days...

New students come on Wednesday for preassessment in Math, Reading, Writing... then all the students will be here on Thursday.

I've been organizing the classroom (books, files, and my binders)... I really want to make other decorations, but I figure organization is more important at this point and the ideas I have for learning posters can be made within the next month :). Grace is good.

Pictures of the classroom to come...



Here's a link to my roommate's blog. We tend to tell different stories about our adventures, so check it out!

Domestication: to accustom to household life

Tricia and I have been practicing our homemaker skills today... See Mom? You have got to be so proud! We mopped our floor -- Tricia mopped and I dried (that's what the towel is for!).
and then.. drumroll please... we practiced our chef skills with gallo pinto con huevos y tortillas, a traditional dish here in Costa Rica. Yum!


la pintura, la feria de frutas, el seguridad, y aprendiendo espanol

Translation of the title: Paint, Fruit Market, Safety, and Learning Spanish.

The new teachers at Sojourn have been busy setting up their classrooms this week, and these two lovely ladies, Kia and Aylish, came to help me paint my classroom windows. Kia is going into 8th and Aylish into 7th grade, and they just moved to Costa Rica from Georgia. They said they were bored at home so they were glad to come help! I need all the help I can get to be ready for students on Thursday! More photos to come of the classroom....

Trish and I woke early this morning to join our neighbor, Steve, in his weekly trip to the "feria" (fruit market). Farmers travel into the city early Saturday morning (arriving as early as 4am!) and set up a market with their fresh fruits and vegetables. Yum! We bought garlic, cilantro, potatoes, mangoes, green beans, apples -- all fresh!! Well, the apples are actually rare here in Costa Rica and these were imported from Chile... but they were definitely cheaper than the imported apples from the grocery store. Here's our beautiful sinkful of fresh goodness :). We had previously purchased tomatoes, peppers, oranges and strawberries at the supermercado, but we realized we needed to wash them all before indulging!

So... you probably think I live in the beautiful rainforest of Costa Rica..... Good guess, since that is 80% of this country, but I actually live in the city. Think of where I was living before -- Elgin -- and then travel about 35 miles east into Chicago... and that's the kind of neighborhood I am living in. Busy people, beeping horns, rushing traffic, iron gates and barbed wire. In Chicago, we have tall cement buildings that are entirely enclosed to protect us from the cold of winter, but since snow and freezing rain are not factors here, the iron gates and barbed wire are sufficient. Then, as if the culture shock of moving from an open neighborhood to a barred neighborhood isn't enough, imagine you can no longer ask simple things such as where the store is or how to purchase a bus ticket... Yup, welcome to my world. Thankfully, I do know how to ask where the store is and how to purchase tickets, but there is so much more to learn.

My neighbors Steve and Diane have been a huge help in all this transition -- I think I have already mentioned them a couple times. Steve made a video of how many locks we have to get through just in order to leave the house -- check it out here. Yes, Mom, I am safely locked away from the city at night!! But please don't worry -- we are taking precautions and being aware of our surroundings at all times in public. God is providing protection through our neighbor's knowledge and through the buddy system at all times (Tricia and I are going to spend an awful lot of time together -- also pray we won't be sick of each other!).

And learning Spanish. That's another prayer request. We rode a bus into downtown this afternoon and practiced our growing Spanish vocabulary in the markets. I learned to say "No gracias. Estoy mirando (No thanks, I'm just looking)" when vendors approach to sell me their goods. Tricia and I are making a Post-It collage of words that we've learned. Someday soon I'll have to take a photo of that...

Alright, I think that's enough stories for one day! I would love to hear how you are doing too! kathrynsiscoe@gmail.com


when is the best time to buy an umbrella?

Alright, so Tricia and I ventured out today... feeling not so brave but needing to buy food and house items. We have quite a few stories from the day, but here's one of the best:

We were in an office supply store as it started pouring (predictably) and I was the only one who had remembered my umbrella. So while we waited for the rain to slow, Tricia asks the guard "Como se dice umbrella in espanol?" (How do you say umbrella in Spanish?) The guard told us and then Tricia wanted to ask where to buy an umbrella but she asked when to buy an umbrella... and the guard said "It is best to buy an umbrella when it is raining like this!!" He was laughing at us as we walked away and Tricia and I realized that she had said "Cuando" instead of "Donde". Whoops.

So goes a day in the life of an English-speaker living in a Spanish-speaking world.


Now my apartment will much easier to visualize!

The view right when you enter the front door.
A beautiful clean kitchen! Through the white door is our laundry room with our own washer and dryer! (hopefully they work... we'll try that soon...)
See, we have toilets in Costa Rica!! And hot showers!
Our living room area... we'll need to do something the white walls...
Doors into the 2 bedrooms. You can't see it very well, but the top of the wall and the ceiling is wood paneling.
Here's a better idea of the ceiling.
My current bed. This could change when my other roomies arrive.

My beautiful closet with lots of room... quickly filled with my clothes :).
Our garden and backyard!
And this is the ceiling to the garden... Plastic. A great skylight.
The second bedroom... I think we will put all the beds in this room.
The window into the garden from the second bedroom. Isn't it nice??

bienvenido a mi casa!

Alright now, a quick visualization exercise. In your mind, put together clean tile floors, freshly painted white walls next to one red brick wall, dark-stained wood ceilings, plastic skylights (it's true! I guess they don't have to worry about the weight of snow here!), open windows everywhere, a round wooden dining table covered in (of course!) a lace tablecloth, new dining chairs... that's where I'm sitting right now. Oh, and I can't fail to mention the noise of the traffic. Yup, I'm in the city, that's for certain.

Ha, that was just a teaser before I post photos later today :).


2,477 miles later...

I made it! Monday at 3a.m., I was still in Elgin, and after a quick car ride to O'Hare with my friends Christina and Sean, boarding a flight to Houston and changing planes to San Jose, I am here!

I had so many moments where I knew I wasn't alone. I mean, even though I was travelling alone, I knew God was watching out for me with every step. I checked in with overweight luggage, and the flight attendant waved me through with a smile. I sat by a woman from Mexico on the flight to Houston and practiced my Spanish. I worked out in Houston while carrying probably (at least!) 60 pounds of "carry-on" baggage from Gate C20 to Gate E9. When I arrived in San Jose and waited in line for customs, I met a couple who helped me find my luggage. Then my principal, Tia Reilly, picked me up at the airport, and I realized that not many people can say their boss helped them move into their apartment. My neighbors are great -- Steve and Diane from Maine, and they are here learning Spanish at the Institute. They took me to the store this morning and I was surrounded by Spanish, so I had opportunities to practice.

Um, yeah, we'll keep practicing the Spanish. My brain already kind of hurts.

So now I'm setting up my apartment this afternoon (and resting in my English language world :)), and I'll go work on the classroom tomorrow morning.

Sorry there's no photos yet. I didn't get my camera out during the trip over because I had so much other luggage to keep track of... but there will be some soon, I promise!


Only 100 pounds????

Packing to move overseas is a great test in priorities... I'm discovering (more than ever before!) my love of creative clothing and jewelry and neck scarves and shoes... uh-oh.

I'm also discovering my love of books... and I have too many that I want to take with me. Another uh-oh.
Somehow, I've managed to also fit in handmade posters for my classroom, a deck of cards, paper flowers for my desk, dry erase markers, Sharpies, nametags, multi-colored folders... My classroom will be a great example of minimal art.
And you can't forget the SkipBo... :) (upside down!)

What would you take if you could only pack 100 pounds? I learned that a brand new bottle of TreSemme shampoo (my first choice) weighs 2 pounds. While I know it will definitely last me until Christmas when I return home to stock up again, it seems ridiculous that my shampoo is 1/50 of the limit weight...


introducing.... my family!!!

ha, These are the funniest people ever. They make me smile. Here's a family photo shoot from this past week. I set the camera up on Dad's tripod and ran to the camera and my place in the picture between each photo. I had 8 seconds to get in the pickup with everyone else! We took 5 takes of that one and Mom was laughing, saying I looked hilarious running back and forth. Dad's favorite is the one with the pick up, for obvious reasons!



it's surreal. i have to say goodbye now?

i keep telling myself that teaching in another country is a great idea, but my emotions are beginning to overrule this logic. what am i, nuts? seriously, kate, where did you get this idea from?

but here i am, 12 days until the big moving day... and i've already said goodbye to quite a few people.

here's my cousins zack and chloe. we went to the park while all the siscoe's were at our house. fun kids.