Happy Halloween??

So... we don't celebrate Halloween here in Costa Rica. It's kind of strange not to do anything at school... no costumes and candy.

And it's strange to think that tomorrow is already November.

My brain is exhausted, and that's all I've got. Love!



To view photos from Tuesday afternoon's volleyball game, visit here. :) Many thanks to Principal Tia Reilly.

To view a video of my neighbors (of which I was the camerawoman), please visit here. This video was made to be played this Sunday in their home church. Maybe I should do something like that too?

Another gross story from today: A student spilled her yogurt all over her jacket and cloth pencil case, so in an effort to quarantine the mess, I reached into my desk for my box of Ziplocs and quickly took my hand out again -- completely covered in ants! Apparently, these tiny gross creatures really like the tight spaces between the plastic bags, and they've been building a home in the box!!! I threw the box on the floor, and my students are all gathering around to examine our "ant farm"... Talk about chaos in the middle of a lesson. Later, I took the box out to Donya Marie, our custodian, and she laughed at my reaction. She told me that during the changing seasons, the ants (ormigas, I learned) go inside everyone's houses. So who knew, ants would lead to today's Spanish practice?

Ha, today was definitely an interesting day.


Surprising, but true. My students are loving this book. I was concerned about the boys liking it, but I think the murder and the house fire in the beginning are what have hooked them. They're all begging me to read one more page!!! :)

Gross, True, and Funny Stories... All from Today

Esteban asks me where the boy's bathroom pass is... I tell him I'm not sure, but to go ahead to the restroom. He returns to announce that the pass is floating in the toilet. "What??" I follow Esteban, and sure enough, there in the blue boy's bathroom, floating in a toilet, is the "passport" that I made for emergencies. I thought it over for about 5 seconds, and realizing how sensitive the sewage system was to toilet paper, I knew there was no way it could handle cardstock and contact paper.... so, you guessed it. I stuck my hand in, fished it out, threw it in the garbage can, and immediately washed my hands. Esteban sprints back to the classroom, announcing my arrival with "She stuck her hand in the toilet!!!" Wowee, how disgusting is that. Boys were impressed and girls were grossed out.

Later, we're putting up our chairs at the end of the day, and a girl notices a rock-solid piece of chewed gum on the bottom of her chair. She squeals, I immediately hover and observe that the cause is gray blobby gum. I thought "Well, if I can stick my hand in a toilet, I can surely touch ABC gum"... so you guess it, I pulled the gum right off the chair and threw it in the garbage. Again, impressing the boys and grossing out the girls.

So then students leave, and I work on reorganizing my posters that are creating a mound behind my desk. I made a giant black folder to hold all my posters flat, and I'm pulling posters out from behind my desk to place into the folder. I pull out the last poster, and .... what's that dirt pile there?... Ants are building a castle behind my posters!!! (The first thing you learn living in Costa Rica is that ants are everywhere. You can put out as much pesticide as you want... they'll always overcome it.) Seriously, this palace I found was quite substantial. I swept it into my dustpan and dumped it in the garbage. Sorry, ants, but you're home cannot be near my own dwelling place.


Proud Moments

Three Proud Moments today :)

Number One

We worked on the computers in the library today and my students were so on task that other teachers even commented about how well they were doing! Yay! :) We are researching several of the original colonies for presentations this Friday, and they are very excited about this new twist in learning True Stories!

Number Two

This is totally random, but our PE teacher, Profe, organized a volleyball team of teachers to play against his high school gym class. It was first communicated that we would play in the evenings... however, yesterday afternoon, we were told that we would be playing this afternoon at 1:30 pm. My first thought was "What?!? That's right in the middle of my teaching time!!!" I got over that initial thought and was like, well, here we go. I wrote "Surprise!" on today's schedule and we marched down to the gym for the "surprise". Our teacher's team won against the high schoolers... It was so much fun and such a different way to spend a Tuesday afternoon! I was proud of my students for cheering and being so excited during the whole game.

Number Three

I'm reading the book "Esperanza Rising" during the Read Aloud time, and I have 4 extra copies for students to read on their own. I had to really talk it up to the boys, because when the main character is a girl, the boy students usually have a harder time relating. I felt a slight victory this afternoon when I noticed one of my tougher boys sneaking it into his backpack to take home for the evening. :) Yay! They're reading different books than they usually would!

That's all for today! Much love!


More Apartment Photos

Here's our apartment looking nice and clean. :)
And a "minor" Jell-O spill... Long story short, the chicken was frozen to the freezer wall, so Kim and I were pouring warm water over it and catching the water with a bowl of Jell-O (don't ask why...). And then, well, you fill in the blank. The Jello-O ended up all over the floor. Ha. We discussed how we didn't anticipate domestication being so messy.
Kim has been working hard on our garden. Here's a couple plants this evening!
And our newly rearranged living room, complete with Trish's happy birthday flowers and poster. I bought her a Guatamalen purse... I think she likes it a lot :).

Today was report card day. I'm so glad to have those done, and I haven't heard any parent comments yet!
And a prayer request. My roommates are much farther along in Spanish than I and I am so easily discouraged. Please pray for opportunities to practice Spanish at my level, and also pray that I will STOP the comparing myself to the other girls. Thanks :)


Fun Times

I'm back at the apartment after two nights away, and it's good to be back. We explored our part of the city a bit more today, and (gasp!) went to a different grocery store for the first time. Yay for full cupboards and full stomachs.

While out on our excursions, we went to our favorite store - Pequeno Mundo. Ha, we bought some decorative things to give our apartment more color because it needs it desperately! When we came back, we were in a cleaning/baking/rearranging frenzy. Que divertido! The living room and bedroom now have new looks, complete with lamps and colorful wall hangings.

Trish's birthday was yesterday, so our kitchen and living room are covered with flowers and cards, and our fridge is filled with cake and Jell-O (random, I know :)). Even though it wasn't my birthday, it is good to know how much Trish (and Kim and I) are appreciated. Kim L. and I went together for a cake mix and icing ($6 for Pillsbury imported brand... the only kind here) and we guessed Trish's favorite right! Trish apparently loves Funfetti cake, and we didn't know that until we surprised her with it last night.

We also went out for pizza last night -- it was like a family reunion or something! 5 teachers, the Diem couple with their 2 boys, and the Mitten family with their 4 girls. Wowee! It was such a good time.

Our tico neighbors, Carlos and Clara, are so sweet and kind to us. For Trish's birthday, they gave her a flower painting... and then Carlos showed up later with flower paintings for Kim and me too!!! Check out Kim's blog for a photo of her painting :).

Oh, and Mom, I finally had to buy some clothes. You're laughing right now because you know how much clothes are a fix for me. I only spent $14 for 5 shirts ... and one of those shirts is a gift for someone else. :)

New baking endeavor: sun dried tomatoes. Any tips?

And, funny Spanish/English story... not sure why this happened, but I was reading my grocery receipt from today, and I didn't recognize the word "caracolito"... so I typed it into Google Translator, and it came up as "snails." Ummm... I don't think I bought any snails. Hmmm...

Pictures of the apartment's new look tomorrow :)


Un Paseo a San Jose

I went downtown today with a girl from the Institute -- Laura. We had so much fun practicing our Spanish and exploring bookstores and the market. Yay for a break from my usual school routines!

I'm staying at a neighbor's house for a couple nights this week. Our apartment has become too small for the three of us, so we're taking our space this week. Nothing bad is going on -- don't worry! We're just suffering from culture shock and the need for some alone time... After 2 months with no alone time, it is vital to our survival.

Have a good evening!


Thoughts of the Day

Grades are due this week. It feels almost like a finals week in college... except a lot of people are depending on me to hand in my work. A college professor called finals week "a harmonious flourish of furious academic activity." I'm not sure how I feel about this. Overwhelmed, definitely. Excited, not so much.

Trish and I have discussed in recent days how we're basically married. I mean, we sleep in the same bed (there's only 2 beds in our apartment - a twin and a double, and Kim gets the twin), we budget together, we vacation together, we grocery shop together, we even work together. Her mom commented that we'll be really good at being married someday because we'll be used to constant compromise. Bah.

One of my students has become suddenly apathetic. He's always making excuses for why he can't do his work... "Miss Siscoe, my throat hurts." "Miss Siscoe, I'm coughing" (followed by a fake cough). "Miss Siscoe, I need a drink." I'm to the point of no patience and no compassion. Pray for those interactions.

Another student has become disrespectful. I'm not sure what's going on at home, but it seems to be affecting his ability to respond appropriately in the classroom. Pray for that one as well.

And then there's me, swarming in "final exams" of teaching (with grades being due) as well as my 16 4th graders 7 hours every day. Yup, pray for me too.

Much love!


Puerto Viejo de Talamanca

Being sick last week certainly did not stop me from enjoying life this weekend :). We have today (Monday) off and so we went to Puerto Viejo de Talamanca on the Carribbean coast. Words can not describe the beauty of the beaches and rainforest here in Costa Rica. Photos also don't quite capture the intertwined blues and greens of nature.

I had read somewhere that it was very dangerous to take cameras to Puerto Viejo because lots of muggings happen there... the other girls took their cameras, and I didn't. I will admit I was a little depressed about that all weekend, so I tried to be more observant with my own eye rather than letting my camera capture it for me. So I'll try to describe a couple scenes in my mind from this weekend.

We rented bikes both days and rode down to Punta Uva (a wealthier neighborhood) and Playa Chiquita (with coral for snorkling :))... The road was so bumpy and trucks and cars and bicycles were all competing for space. Even though the bumps were painful at times, I am thankful we had the bikes because we wouldn't have been able to walk as quickly. The sun sets fairly early, so Trish, Kim L., and I start the ride back to Puerto Viejo about 4pm... We're riding into the sun, and I am following the other two. Trees reach to the sky on either side of the road as vines hang down, almost touching the tops of our heads. Hibiscus bushes offer cheerful red flowers to cheer us over the potholes, and the sun peeks through the branches to illuminate my fellow travelers. Beautiful.

Another picture. I sit on top of a cliff, overlooking the ocean, 20kilometers north of Panama's border. Straight down in front of me, waves crash onto the layers of limestone, and I am in terror and awe at the same time. Hermit crabs scurry past me, and the endless trail of leaf cutter ants are persevering in their endeavors. I turn back around to the rainforest to climb down the dirt path offering tree roots and vines to keep me from slipping. Tiny yellow crabs peek out at me from their comfortable crevices, but none have the courage to approach me. I reach the rainforest floor, thankful to be on solid, flat ground again.

Alright, so I also have photos from the other girls, so I'll show you some visuals :). We teachers have to offer both auditory and visual options. :)

Trish and me with our rented bikes. This was a trail through the forest that led to a beach.
Kim L. and I looking ridiculous with snorkel gear. We saw different kinds of fish swimming in schools and sea urchins! The coral looked like twisted rope coiled into rocks.
Trish and I going out to sea, ha, again with sweet headgear for breathing.
The view from the end of the cliff I described earlier.
My spot on the cliff. I like this photo a lot :).
Beautiful clouds on Playa Cocles
More beautifulness.
The sunrise this morning. We got up at 5 for special viewing from the dock!
We stayed at Cabinas Jacaranda, and there were mosaics all over. Here's only one of many.
Puerto Viejo is a colorful town, that's for sure!


Nausea + Teaching = No Can Do 3 Days In A Row

I'm home sick for the first time ever during a teaching job. I didn't take any sick days during student teaching (I understood that it wasn't an option) and this school year, this is my first day stuck at home. It's pouring rain and I'm toasting flour tortillas in the oven... I'm going to try eating. You know when you have the flu and you're not sure if it's safe to eat yet? That's my dilemma.

I'm going to eat my tortillas and go to bed. Quite the plan at 9am.

Alright, that's plenty of rambling in my current state of mind. Pray for my students that they will survive today with the sub... Or maybe you should just pray for the sub that she will survive the day with my students. Ha.


Nausea + Teaching = Probably Not Very Healthy

I had a good day, believe it or not. Despite waves of nausea, my students were relatively well-behaved and I remembered everything I needed to do... I think. Here's some events out of the strange day...

My student Diego is quite the character. This morning in Chapel, Miss Loosa asked the question, "What man were we talking about on Monday that had a baby?" (She meant to say "What man had a son"... but it came out weird. The answer she was looking for was Abraham had a son named Isaac... Ha, I've said things the wrong way before too.) Diego fixated on the fact that she said a man could have a baby and asked me about it for five minutes straight. His mind just wouldn't go anywhere else!!

Then later, Diego is laying on his back on the cement floor. I had told him repeatedly to sit up, and finally, I decided I really meant it. I started counting down for him to sit up and he stuck his arms and legs in the air and begins to sway his body back and forth... "Look, Miss Siscoe! I'm a turtle and I can't get off my shell!!" Great, Diego, please sit up.

Then there's Gabriela. She reminds me of myself so much because she is always drawing or thinking outside the box. Her answers to oral questions are usually right on target, but she says it in such a different way. Today, during the read aloud (We are reading the book "Chocolate Fever" about a boy who has chicken pox of sorts but oozes chocolate...) , she was doodling and drew a great picture of the main character with chocolate spots all over him... oozing chocolate into the shapes of candy bars. Perhaps she thought this boy could start a business with the candy bars? Who knows!
Esteban was on a roll today. He had his hand raised for every question and was in the zone with his English. Way to go!
Yena has been part of our class now for 3 weeks. Today, I asked her to erase the board, and she was so determined to erase the WHOLE board that she jumped and bounced and flailed until she had the out-of-reach areas erased. Ha, I was cracking up just watching her have so much energy for such a simple task. Yena has a smirk that she gets on her face when she's thinking something funny, and I almost always have to call on her when I see the smirk. Last week, we were creating a plan for writing a story, and the title was "Volcano in My Backyard!" The class decided that the main character was home alone and was going to the fridge to eat a snack. Through the kitchen window, he catches a glance of red lava shooting up into the sky. I ask, "What is the first thing our main character should do in response to the volcano?" Yena had the smirk, and I called on her. She says, "He should roast marshmellows until his parents come home!" Ha, the whole class was cracking up.
And that's only 1/4 of my students.


The Funniest Day Ever

Oh man, good thing I'm still laughing.

Synopsis: Wake up this morning to our random Italian radio station. Bed breaks as usual (one of the legs repeatedly falls off). Shower, half awake. Stumble to the fridge to find breakfast. . . the freezer door falls off. Realize we have to defrost the freezer at 6am. Begin boiling water to put in freezer. Eat an orange while staring at the pot of water, still in a tired daze. Water boils, place pot in freezer. River begins flooding kitchen floor from defrosting ice... Call my mom so she can witness the chaos... She laughs. I tell her I am domestically unsatisfied; She has no pity.
Go to school at 7:10... students arrive at 7:15... the craziness begins.
Kind of a crazy morning, I won't go into the details... Then after lunch, I begin to feel the stomach flu coming on, if you know what I mean. And that is my current status. Blah and laughing gently.


Mas Fotos de Dia de Cultura

The Chinese 4th graders visited Hungary and had our photo taken :).

Entering Madagascar. . . 6th grade had decorated the room like a rainforest. It was beautiful.
Visiting Mrs. Sanders in "Russia." She told each student what his/her name would be if they lived in Russia.

Kim V.'s class were dressed as Muslims from Iraq.
Homemade fortune cookies in China. Yum! :) I have a good recipe if anyone wants to know how! :)
We had an assembly at the end of the day to celebrate the nations of the world. Here's some performances:
The 6th graders performed an interpretive dance to the song "Go Light Your World." I had goosebumps the whole time as they each had their faces painted with a nation's flag... this picture doesn't capture the beauty of their faces.
My Korean student, Yena, performed with her brother YeJae and friend Miel and Elim. They sang a song in Korean... Yena is the one with the long red skirt.
My students performing our memorization of "The American's Creed." I'm kneeling on the floor :).
The art teacher, Miss Mau, worked so hard on this! I thought it was an amazing backdrop to our stage!

Culture Day!

Yesterday was a day of excitement for the students and craziness for the teachers. :) If you've ever chaperoned a field trip or "fun day" at school, you know what I mean. My students worked so hard, and many parents and teachers commented to me how great our room looked. We had truly tranformed our room into a Chinese experience :). I was so proud of them! Here's some photos from the fun!
Welcome to our China Exhibit!
Perfect decorations for the door from a student.
My roomie busting out the Bible costumes with her kindergartners.
My student Gaby in her Chinese garb. She's beautiful!
First graders visiting China. :)


Convenient Misspellings and Combinations Make For Good Laughs

My student wrote "workshit" in her assignment notebook again today. . . So I told her that the "i" is actually a "double e". Thank goodness she is not up on English cuss words, so she has no clue what I laugh about when I read her assignments.

Cuss words seem to be a theme this week in 4th grade... I need to give you some background information before I tell you what else was said today:

Two girls were working on their Chinese Writing exhibit, and one wrote "Sing Your Name"... switching the "g" and "n" around. I went over to their table and sang "Miss Siscoe!" They looked at me funny, and I pointed to their sign. One girl turns to the other and says "I told you so!" So the girl who spelled it wrong begins to sing her name in different styles... First, she says "Miss Siscoe, this is opera style!" "Miss Siscoe, this is rock and roll style!" Then a boy joins in the conversation and demonstrates his style before telling us what the style is. He made farting noises for each letter of his name... what else do boys do afterall? Then he declares (for the whole class and hallway to hear) "It's faulk style!" (It's hard to spell what he said... It reminds me of the pronunciation of "Meet the Faulkers".... you know what word it plays on.) I looked at him, eyebrows raised. His eyebrows raised pretty fast also when he realized what he had said... And then he says "Uh... Faulk is a combination of Fart and Rock!" Greeeeeat....

Oh, and our school is being painted this week -- WHILE SCHOOL IS IN SESSION. As soon as the students leave at 2:30, so do the painters. I have already built a rather frustrating relationship with these men trying to explain why my door needs to stay locked when I am not there... and these conversations have often ended in tears for me and exasperated looks from them. (Ha, they probably think I'm crazy.) SO, today at 2:15, one painter decides it would be a great time to paint both doors and surrounding woodwork... Now, picture 15 minutes later, students leaving, backpacks and projects in tow, and me trying to babysit these wet doors. I had paint on my clothes, my elbows, and a few students had paint on their backpacks. As a tico student left, he tells the painter (now down the hallway, missing all the wet paint action) that I have paint all over me. This poor painter comes running down the hall, turpentine rag in hand, and he hands the rag to me to clean off my elbows. He was very concerned about my clothes, but I just said "Esta bien! No preocupados!" I didn't know what else to say because our communication is already so ... frustrating. Whatever, it's just a dress and a funny frustration story.


Spanish Bloopers

Alright, two funny stories for today.

Sooo... In the morning, I greet all the other staff at Sojourn with "Buenas dias! Como esta usted?" The other person usually responds, "Buen, gracias a Dios." ("Good, thanks to God.") I THOUGHT they were saying "Buen, gracias, adios." ("Good, thanks, goodbye.") I just found out last night while reading Trish's blog that they are saying "Thanks to God" instead of trying to shoo me away.

And, the "ee" sound in English is the same as the "i" sound in Spanish... Today, one of my tico students wrote in her assignment notebook "workshit" instead of "worksheet." As I checked her work over, I started busting out laughing because apparently I assign "shit" for homework. In her quiet voice, she says, "Miss Siscoe, what's so funny?" I tried to stop laughing (but it didn't work) and said, "Oh nothing!" I wrote in "ee" over her "i". Hopefully her parents don't notice.


Serious Faces, Grocery Shopping, and Read to Self

We took a few moments for a photo shoot before Music Class today. Here's the results.
The "serious" faces.

and of course, the "goofy" faces.

We will be applying our addition and subtraction knowledge with a budget simulation project. The lesson plans call for grocery ads with dollar amounts on them.... however, those are a rarity here. SO, I invented my own "grocery ad" of sorts. Would you like to shop in my grocery store? :)

Here's a couple photos during Read to Self today. They're working so hard!!!

Mwa Ha Ha Ha

Tricia was away this past weekend as she was in a wedding in the States.... little did she know what she was in for when she returned.

This was waiting in the shower for her at her 5am shower time yesterday morning. :)

I stayed with Kim Maple and her son when Jaclyn and I came to visit CR in May... Kim had us over for dinner this past weekend while Trish was away, and I am borrowing David Beckham's cutout for something at school... sooooo Trish saw him for the first time in the shower.

In English we spell laughing hahahahaha, but in Spanish we spell it jajajajaja. I think jajajajaja makes me laugh more!


Mas Fotos de Parque de La Paz

Here are the promised photos! :)

A dirt bike path. Lots of bikers hanging out and showing off tricks.
The view of the mountain from the mountain, ha. Aren't the clouds gorgeous?
Whimsical, eh? There were so many children and adults flying kites from the mountain. Some of their line was so thick that we could see it all the way to the kite! Some kites were so high or far away that they were tiny ants floating in the sky. No offense to any one who really likes ducks, but the ducks here are really ugly. Perhaps a cross between a turkey and goose? Strange...

Lots of greenery surrounding us everywhere! It is the rainy season after all...

Una Nota de Mi Estudiante Llame Yena

An assignment in Writing Workshop was to write a letter to me to let me know what the students were currently thinking and feeling about being in 4th grade. I just thought I would share one letter from Yena, my new student. She is a very intelligent young lady and skipped 3rd grade. Here it is:

Dear Miss.Siscoe
I've passed to fourth grade!
I've made friends very fast.
I don't know why almost all the children in here are so kind to me.
Being the youngest girl in the classroom is kind of scary to me. You're a great teacher!
I think you will be a great astronaut.
I hope I'll grew more.
Sincerly, Yena

P.S. I told the students I want to be an astronaut someday. :)


Parque de La Paz

Trish went to a wedding in the States this weekend, so it was just me and Kim L. We went to Parque de la Paz and enjoyed the kites and view of the city. Here's sampler photos :). More tomorrow.


Thanks for the Mail :)

Shout out to Jaclyn Miller for a letter a couple weeks ago! So great to hear from her!! Jaclyn came to Costa Rica in May so I love knowing she can picture exactly where I am at.

And another shout out to Todd Bryant for an artistic postcard! Thanks, you made my day!

Oh, and Kim Maple invited me, Kim L., and Kim V. over for dinner tonight... Yes, 3 Kims in one room was quite interesting. We watched the political debate and ate fried chicken and brownies. Yum!


Look Mom! I'm a Chef! :)

Check out my latest cooking endeavors :). Steamed peppers, onions, green beans, carrots, potatoes, lime, cilantro, and garlic salt. Yummy.
And a shout out to Amy Kovanda for teaching me how to make "Grown Up Grilled Cheese". Toasted bread, topped with a tomato slice, a basil leaf, and melted cheese. Definitely a keeper for my recipe book. The original recipe calls for provolone cheese; however, that's a delicacy here and quite expensive, so I used gouda instead.
Costa Rican style cooking = lots of fresh fruits and veggies. I'm loving this.