Kindergarten Graduation

Friday was a crazy day for the 5 year olds -- they graduated!!! It's a little confusing, because they still have to come to school for the next three weeks... Trish is telling them now they're doing 1st grade work... ha, kind of. Here's a few photos from the ceremony:
Tricia's words.
How cute!!
A little brother waiting for the graduates.
Elijah, Alberto, Anthony waiting.

The whole class waiting to walk in! They're a little nervous!

Sojourn Adventures

I finally remembered to bring my camera to school again so now I have more photos to show you! Friday was "dress like your favorite book character day" so we were decked out in 4th grade. 
Annabel as Pippi Longstocking. 
Students working on their "Geography Levels". They are learning their U.S. states and capitals... practically by themselves! :) It's great, I love watching them during this time.
Diego... the only boy in the class. Poor guy.
The chaos after chapel time... putting away benches. And there's Miss V. as a character from a book the 5th graders read... I can't remember the name right now!
My students carefully listening in chapel... and poking each other.

A photo like the beginning of the year... now they're growing up! From left to right, our characters are Anne of Green Gables, Lucy from Narnia, Susan from Narnia, Gaby the student, Paula the student, Junie B. Jones, Diego the student, Brooklyn the student, Nicole the student, another Lucy from Narnia, Hannah Montana, and Pippi Longstocking. 
My favorite photos... Jump! 
The twins as Susan and Lucy from Chronicles of Narnia.

Good morning Gaby!!
And teachers at the 6th grade graduation reception. L2R Chrissy King, Kim VanArtsdalen, me!, Karol Massey, Kim Loosa. 


Judit's Coming to Chicago!!!

 "20Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21to him be glory..." Ephesians 3:20-21

My tica sister finally bought her plane ticket to Chicago! WOOHOO!!! She'll be joining me in the States from August 5th to August 12th and we'll stay with friends in the Elgin area as well as hang out with my family in downtown Chicago. I'm super excited!!!

Seriously, God is providing beyond my wildest dreams here in Costa Rica. I mean, a year ago I was panicking about whether or not I would have some kind of phone line to call the States, and now I have a Skype phone number, and English-speaking friends, and Spanish abilities, and art conversations in Spanish, and a job that I love, and even friends who want to come see where I am from!!! 

Wow, God is good. 


Teacher Nightmare

A little shout-out to teachers in enclosed buildings.... Our school is more like a campus than one enclosed building, so when it rains, life suddenly becomes very complicated... especially with 12 students in tow. 

So we are at the bathrooms for our afternoon break. The typical afternoon clouds have moved in and thunder and lightning have been announcing their presence for an hour or so... when all of a sudden, out of nowhere, it starts to pour. And I mean, really pour. Like, buckets. And then it begins to blow. Like, straight sideways, right into the hallway we were in. The kids are standing in line, and the rain is blowing all over them... Of course, they're loving it and dancing and yelling and carrying on... 

So we ran back to the classroom and then we were all soaked. We smelled like wet dogs, too, but we couldn't open the windows because the rain was blowing right into the windows! Oh geez... so we smelled and suffocated for the last hour of school. 

What an adventure. 


Just in Case You Forgot...

...what I look like. :) This is for you Mom! Look how long my hair is!!


I realized today as I was again exploring the downtown area that I am comfortable here. I mean, I no longer only depend on survival questions; I often understand and know what's going on around me. It's something we all take for granted in our home cultures, but here I have had to start from square one and learn everything about this culture. 

As I was thinking about how I've become comfortable, I also realized that I have reached a point where I am not constantly thinking about where I am (am I closer to the park or to the school?), where I need to go (do I turn left or right at this street?), what I need to say ("Donde esta la Plaza?" or "Como se llama usted?")... instead now my mind is freed from these to think more about what I'm enjoying. 

Like the art. The music. The bookstores. The galletas de coco. 

And the people. 

Ticos are so different. I mean, often when I look at a photo of jam-packed China or India, all the people in the photos seem to look similar to me. I can hardly tell them apart. I felt like that for several months here -- all the ticos passing me in the street look the same, and for all I knew, I couldn't understand anything any of them were saying. 

But now I'm beginning to really see them as individuals. As people. There are ticos with emo style, like the fad in the States. There are homeless ticos that haven't bathed in months. There are many short ticos and few tall ticos. There are old ticos and young ticos. 

I've been thinking lately that I need to get up the courage to ask if I can take more photos of people. I mean, I know so many faces and stories now, all Costa Rican, and I want to have photos to remember... but for now words will have to do. 

Minnie. 95 years old. Her husband died young and she raised her children with hard work and  jokes and sleepovers. I met her a week ago and she was still telling jokes to her children and now her great-grand children and great-great-grandchildren. Blanca remembers her Aunt Minnie having all the nieces and nephews over for sleepovers and pillow fights and tortillas. A woman who has worked hard and is still loved by her family. 

Lauren. 30 years old. Interior designer. Drives an SUV and has a 2 year old. I met her last night at a crazy party I tagged along to. She loves thumping rap music and shallow conversation. I could tell within the first 5 minutes of talking with her that we won't be likely to become good friends.

Abraham. 40 years old. Night guard for the Institute. Has 3 sons and is always showing me photos of them. Just bought a camera from the States and is always super excited to discuss his new photography ideas with me. 

Manuel Enrique. 55 years old. Engineer for ICE. Husband to Blanca, Dad to Rebecca and Judit. Tells stories slowly so I can understand everything. Listens well. Patient. Loves to wash his car, even at 5am on Sunday morning. Helps me recite the books of the Bible in Spanish every Sunday on our way to church. 

And that's only 4 of the faces I know now.

An Art Idea

Someone sent me an email with this idea, and I have been putting it into action the last couple months. The idea is to look for someone in need of encouragement and ultimately, the truth of Scripture. Then create a mini-notebook of verses and drawings or art or whatever. Here's one I just finished... You're more than welcome to borrow the idea as well if you're feeling inspired :)

From My Window

the mandarin tree
the mango tree
and the mountains and the rain.

it's a good napping day.


Favorite Foods

Alright, so I realized the other day as Mom and I were talking that my favorite foods have changed quite a bit. I was describing to Mom that I love toast with ham and avocado for breakfast now.... I guess a bit weird now that I think about it, ha. 

Other favorites include gallo pinto (a rice and beans dish), ginger ale, pineapple, "recreo" cookies (translation = recess cookies. It's a brand name here), spinach lasagna, brasilian pizza, and shrimp. Oh, and the drink "horchata." It's like rice milk... yum. 

Monday night, we ate potatoes... nothing unusual, right? We had butter and sour cream to put on them... and then I got out the parmesan cheese that the Blucker's gave me for my birthday (yup, still going strong! :)) and ... WOW... I forgot how good baked potatoes are! I also found some bacon bits in the cupboard left by the last gringa that lived with the family... wow, words can't describe. 

Ha, so while my favorites have changed, I think the old favorites are classics... the old favorites just aren't as readily available here. 


My Neighborhood

Today as I was walking home from school, I was thinking about how incredibly different the neighborhood environment is here in San Francisco de Dos Rios... I mean, different than what I have experienced before. I mean, if you're currently living in the States, you might have giant oak trees lining the street or freshly paved roads and sidewalks or nice fences around your yard. You might have a dog that barks at everyone who walks by and you might have your car parked in the street. Maybe you even feel secure enough in your neighborhood to leave the keys in the car (I'm not sure many of us anywhere feel that secure anymore... but I hear it used to be like that). 

Hmm... The only thing on the previous list that is the same is probably the dogs barking relentlessly as you walk by. There's plenty of dogs -- both house dogs and street dogs -- that love barking here in CR. 

So what's so different? Well, all houses are behind a combination of steel bars and barbed wire. As I walk home, I have to consistently watch my step as there are holes and cracks everywhere in the sidewalk. A Nicaraguan guard welcomes me to the Sauces neighborhood (that's pronounced "Saw-oo-seis", not like your spaghetti sauce) with his toothless smile while the other guard sits in the guard shack reading his paper and chain smoking. The street I live on is relatively quiet... except for the hourly bus that roars down the road. Any of you who have talked on Skype with me know how loud that bus is! The bus shakes the whole house whenever it drives by... usually it just feels like another minor earthquake. 

As I walk home, I notice a tiny dog sticking his head under the garage door, waiting to nab the passer-by ankles. All cars in the neighborhood are parked inside the steel and barbed wire garage. It is rare to see the cars outside. Garages have mega-volt sound system alarms that can be heard for miles... these alarms are rigged to set off is anything in the garage is fishy, and I mean anything. Like I stand in the garage for too long, for example, and RRRRR-rRRRRR-rRRRRR. Oh geez. I enter my house through 3 locked doors. THREE. And the family house dogs welcome me home with their shrill barking. Welp, glad they're excited to see me. 

On the bright side of things, instead of oak trees like in the States, palm trees and hibiscus flowers line the sidewalks. Parrots and doves are seen daily ... although parrots are quite beautiful, they sure do squawk. Doves on the other hand have much prettier songs. There's also a park right down the block that I've spent time at in the afternoon studying my Spanish verbs. There's also a neighborhood council that has various fundraisers for members and organizations in need. I answered the door this past weekend to be greeted by some women handing out the Sauces newsletter... I'm not sure I've ever received a neighborhood newsletter before! It informed us of, well... gossip perhaps? Ha, I was reading it and thinking, woah! didn't know that about all these people! Ha, whoops. I think the gossip section was just a small one. The rest of the newsletter was about how the council is using the donations and raised funds (paying the guards and donating to funerals...). 

Someone once asked me, "Why are gringos so... well, mean-looking?" and I asked, "Well, when do you usually see gringos look mean?" She told me she sees them walking in the street looking mean. I responded, "Well no wonder! I mean, all this barbed wire makes us wonder how safe we really are!" 

Welcome to my neighborhood. It's, well, different than neighborhoods I've been part of before. 



I recently made Sunday lunch for the family... Here's my "gourmet" stromboli (a traditional Siscoe dinner), sauce, and salad. Judit helped out with the brownie dessert. We claimed we were celebrating "International Mother's Day" even though it was only Mother's Day in the States as ticos celebrate it August 15th. The whole family gobbled up the stromboli!!! :)


Scrambled Brains

So my brain is consistently mixing up the two languages these days. Like I speak Spanish to my students and I speak English to my tica mom... without thinking! Oops, I need to keep my mind straight. 

I made a pact with Judit that during lunchtime with my students I would only speak Spanish as I was complaining to her that I don't have many opportunities at school to speak Spanish. We brainstormed ways that I could incorporate more Spanish into my day, and this was the conclusion. So I've been speaking Spanish with my students at lunchtime (it is allowed for me to do this at lunch but not for the rest of the day) but then Friday I spoke in Spanish during our Writing lesson as well! Whoops, the students were quick to let me know that I was breaking the rules! 

Then Judit and I have been doing language experiments... She speaks only Spanish and I speak only English. We both gain confidence in our abilities to understand the other language without the extra burden of formulating our own words in that language. So tonight we were in the grocery store and attempting our language experiment, but I kept switching back to Spanish! It was like I couldn't think in the two languages right then! So finally I became accustomed to listening to her in Spanish and responding in English (you should have seen the look on the cashier's face as we were talking in line! haha, we were laughing on our way out of the store!), then we arrived home and Blanca spoke to me in Spanish of course and I responded in English! She speaks phrases but not much English, so I quickly switched and translated. AAAAHHH! My brain is so confused! 

Spring Break Destination #2

During Spring Break, I was also able to visit my family's house (more like a tiny cabin) in San Mateo. It was an intense 2 days of Spanish but well worth it as I am progressing steadily. Here's a bee's nest that enters their bathroom. Kind of strange, I know, but they are the tiniest bees I've ever seen and they don't sting. 
I was playing with my camera on a super-slow shutter speed and the bright moon. Here I was trying to write my tica sister's name.. but it didn't work out so well :).

Here's the tiny cabin. It's literally 3 rooms... camper size. Mom and Dad, like your camper, but a house. 
And my house set up behind the family's house :)
A hummingbird's nest we found! 
During my visit to San Mateo, the neighbors came over to welcome ManRi and Blanca back to the area, and they brought delicious tortillas and picadillo. Turns out that the couple lived in Florida for several years and knew some English, and the husband had grown up half time in New York and the other half in Puerto Rico. Quite the mix. So he wanted to practice English with me, and we're all sitting around in our camping chairs and talking in Spanish and then all of a sudden he switches to English and starts telling me about how he lived in New York and basically his whole life story. I felt really awkward about this language switch because even though I understood perfectly, I knew my tico parents weren't understanding much and I wasn't sure about this man's wife... so I switched the conversation back to Spanish. Later, when Blanca asked me about why I hadn't wanted to speak English with him, I explained that I felt rude speaking in a language that not everyone could understand. I thought that if it was just a one-on-one conversation, the language switch would have been just fine, but I didn't want to make a show out of it to people that couldn't also participate in the conversation. I was thankful when she understood. 

Judit also came out and joined us at "the house". She brought her favorite food... raw salmon with biscotti. Quite the sophisticated food... but I still can't swallow it. I tried to... but it just wasn't happening. Judit and I shared the tent :) and that was quite the adventure. She made fun of me talking in my sleep in English as she believes that when I am fully fluent I will talk in my sleep in Spanish. Maybe it's true... but those were the only nights that we shared a "room", so I may not ever know when I am truly fluent, according to Judit. 

We went to the beach and then to an amazing restaurant called "La Leda" that had a great rice and shrimp dish. Little did I realize that when I asked what they recommended at La Leda is that we would all get the same thing... we all ordered plates piled high with fried rice and shrimp. YUM :). 


Spring Break Destination #1

Woohoo!!! 5 days and $80 later, my computer is almost as good as new! It had a virus since December apparently, but I kept plugging away, thinking everything was alright... vamos a ver que pasa ahorita (We'll see what happens now!). 

Here's some photos from the first destination during Spring Break. I went with the Diem family (my good friend Becky, her husband Steve, and their boys Josiah and Elliott) to help with some construction in San Vito, deep in the south of Costa Rica. In fact, San Vito is only about 20km from Panama. So we went and we helped... and well, it was quite the experience to say the least. Ha, maybe this is a story for in person someday. :) Anyway, here's some photos from the week.

One of the houses we were working on... in really poor shape, obviously. Benjamin helped us out for a few days and he thought I needed the most help, ha, so here he is sawing a frame for me. 
Tons of Trackers here in Costa Rica! I actually drove this one... another interesting story.
Yup, that's right, she's buying chicken in a plastic bag... um, sanitation anyone?
Pineapples grow on bushes? Who knew?
My favorite of the week.
A sheep baaa-ing at me.
Drive-by photo shoot
The most ginormous tree I've ever seen.
And Jimena. I seriously almost adopted this precious little girl... that's another interesting story. 


Saturday Morning

I love Saturday mornings. There's so much potential for a great weekend!

Judit and I took my computer to a DELL shop on Thursday... we have to return to pick it up on Tuesday. Until then... I'm using the family computer from 2000... amazing how quickly computers change.

It was a good week, although very tiring. Like I mentioned before, I had 2 new students, and I don't know if it was that or just school in general, but I was so tired by 6 o'clock every day. Like, falling-asleep-at-dinner tired. I mean, even all the Spanish last week didn't have me that tired.

I taught the Bible lessons this week for the whole elementary, and I tied in art history with a reading strategy of using our 5 senses. We would read the story (Luke 24:13-32) of the two disciples walking to Emmaus and Jesus joins them. We were thinking about our five senses and what we heard (voices talking), saw (Jesus but we didn't know it was Jesus!), tasted (dust from the road), smelled (sweat from walking so much), and touched (the dirt road, Jesus). Then I showed this painting from Caravaggio... I loved learning about him in Art History. The disciples are seeing Jesus. Caravaggio captures the moment when they realized that Jesus was right there with them, and I love the expressiveness of their postures. One guy is pushing himself up out of his chair, and the other is so lost in excitement that his arms are thrown up like they might on a rollercoaster. The guy standing is still absorbing the thought that it is Jesus... maybe he's skeptical still.

I was acting out the men's reactions and then I snapped my fingers, paused... and said --and then Jesus disappeared!!!-- I loved the looks on the kid's faces, imagining what they would have felt with their 5 senses. The first grader's looks were the best... like it was Christmas morning or something.

Thanks to Professor Miller in Art History for introducing me to Caravaggio!

I also taught about how Paul's conversion wasn't quite as exciting as the disciples' encounter with Jesus. I linked the story in Acts 9 with Caravaggio's interpretation. Again, the kids were mesmerized.

Changing subjects dramatically, Mom, did you get your Mother's Day present in the mail yet? I'm super excited for you to get it!

I hung out with the girls last night... we just ate pizza and played Taboo. Ha, what living in a foreign country does to you, I guess... gives you cravings for English and pizza.

Today, I'm going downtown to scope out some thrift shops. Tomorrow, church with the tico family. Have a good weekend!


I'm Alive!!

Just a quick post to let everyone know I'm still alive! My computer is giving me serious problems again and I'm really concerned because I just started all over with the software and everything in January. I spent 4 hours last night on the phone with Dell agents and we resolved that it is not my hardware or software... so maybe it's a virus? My tica sister and I are going to take it to a local computer store on Thursday, so for now that's the plan. Until then... I'm computerless in the evenings.

We had a week off for Spring Break, so I travelled with my tico family and friends from the Institute. It was an intense week of Spanish and now starting school again (and teaching all in English) is somewhat bittersweet. My worst fear with learning so much Spanish is losing the ability... and teaching in English isn't helping my Spanish. Ha, not that I am capable of teaching in Spanish at this point (who knows if I'll ever really be ready for that??), but I would love to speak it with the students a little bit...

It's the start of a new trimester for new families moving here to begin language school, so I have 2 new students. Both girls!! Now we're at 11 girls and 1 boy. Poor boy. Oh well, he's a tough cookie; I think he'll be fine!

Alright, I'm on my teacher break right now and I have to go! Thanks for keeping track of me :) I promise photos from Spring Break when my computer is recovered... For now, pray for peace as communication with family and friends in the States is a bit more difficult without the resource of a personal computer.