I Committed Gecko-slaughter!!!

WARNING: This post is not for the queasy stomach.

A sad discovery I made this week... a squashed gecko on my door frame. I'm pretty sure the death was my fault... but because I didn't know what I had done until I find the corpse until at least a week after the accident, would it be considered gecko-slaughter instead of homicide??
Do you see the little guy on the door frame?

and the gross close up.

Come to think of it, I haven´t seen our ''pet'' gecko around the kitchen... did I kill him??


Adventures while Commuting

The past 3.5 weeks have been eye-opening for me as I join the commutin workforces of the world. I now travel from one side of the city to the other every morning and every afternoon. Thankfully, I don´t have to travel by bus every day because I found some carpooling pals. We have seen and heard some strange things throughout the last few weeks... and the stories are just beginning.

For example, during the first week, there was soap spilled in the street. Add that with the rain pouring down (literally buckets of rain) and that makes for a slippery highway... so slippery that a motorcycle lost control right in from of our car and Caro hit the brakes so fast that all our seatbelts locked and we skidded to a stop 2 feet before hitting the man who had fallen off his moto. YIKES

Or when it starts to rain all of a sudden, and the motorcyclists all stop on the side of the road and are desperately pulling their rain gear over their heads. This is something I want to capture as a photo... but haven´t yet.

Just a couple days ago, I saw another motorcyclist rope himself to the back of a dump truck. TO THE BACK. I was thinking, ''Is he seriously going to ride behind it that way?'' and then the dump truck started going down the street, pulling the moto behind him... UM safety anyone?

But beyond motorcycles, there are also other stories. Like the man pushing his legless friend in a wheelchair across the train tracks... with a train coming full speed!!! I had a heart attack watching them desperately try to get the wheels over the tracks... thank goodness they made it. It stressed them out so much (not to mention the train engineer!) that they had to stop for a cigarette break about 3 feet away from the train still racing by.

Then there´s the man that´s always selling pens for 20 cents each in Hatillo. He´s there every day, rain or shine. I bought 3 pens one day just because he´s so diligent in being ''to work'' on time to meet us every morning and every afternoon. He has a really funny umbrella too... with the Energizer Bunny and rainbows, lol.

hmm... what other stories do we have?

Riding the Bus

Take these factors into account:

rainy cold winter
tropical humidity
dripping umbrellas
body odor
wet dog smell
closed windows... because it´s raining outside
no personal space
the smell of greasy fast food... that someone is eating next to you

and that is what riding the bus is like at rush hour in a tropical climate in the rainy season... enough said.


5th Grade Reviews

It's Friday!!! I´m ready for (what I think is) a well-deserved break this evening after a challenging first week of school. It has been a good first week, normal by many standards, but first weeks are always challenging to establish expectations. So this afternoon I gave my students a ''quiz'' and they had to describe themselves and then describe our class. Here´s some responses I got about their opinions of this week:

I think is splendid.

warm and peaceful


I most times like Ms. Siscoes class

I like the different things you do.

I like you and you class it need to be more clean.

Funny, And happy.

Ms. Siscoe is PURA VIDA

I think is very cool and you are very cool.

be fun we would learn a lot (I initially read this one as ''be fun we will learn a lot'' but then realized maybe the student is trying to say I'm not fun?)

I think it is good and I understand you.

I think is super and verry funny Miss Disco's class


and the only semi-bad review:

It's funny and sometimes boring.

Not too bad after a week of giving 8 detentions, making 6 boys do pushups and jumping jacks at recess (today), pounding on students' desks when they were falling asleep, (yes, I admit it) yelling, catching a student lying and sending him to the principal, investigating whether a student had cheated on their homework, having multiple class meetings on what it means to be respectful vs. disrespectful, checking students for lice, and making students come inside after recess (what!!! what a foreign idea!).

''Warm and peaceful.'' Really?? :)


Class Meetings

In my research about how to start off the school year successfully, I read a book ''Positive Discipline.'' What a teacher I sound like right now! Oh wait, I am, haha. In the book, it describes giving students more ownership of the classroom by including them as equals on the conversation for establishing routines and procedures instead of just mandating all rules and regulations from adult to child. So my experiment begins this week...

Today's discussion was a hot topic for 5th graders: Can we go to the bathroom during class time? I shared my concern as a teacher that we waste valuable classroom minutes in the bathroom, and of course their concerns were along the lines of wetting their pants. Here were some of the suggested solutions:

''We could have a pack of diapers for students who have to go really bad.'' (bursts of giggles from everyone in the class... myself included!)

''We could get detention for having to go to the bathroom!''

''What if we have diahrrea?'' (pronounced ''Whhhhhhot eeeeeef weeeee hofffff diarrrrrea?'' good old Spanish accent in English :))

and then I come home and my roommate suggests I make them carry a toilet seat as the bathroom pass. LOL. I thought it would be great to write ''Miss Siscoe loves her 5th graders'' on the toilet seat... I'm sure they would love to ponder that while sitting on the pot. haha.



I've been able to reconnect with lots of friends and acquaintances since being back in San José.
Women studying at ILE did a typical Costa Rican dance presentation in Parque Sauces. I loved their skirts, and they said the skirts were really heavy!

A focused photo :)
And I went with past Sojourn co-workers to Karol´s 40th birthday celebration. L2R Carolina, Mimi, Karol, Chrissy, Elsa, me.
Caro and Mimi laughing at dinner :)

And today I met up with Calla, one of my first 4th graders!!! She's now living in New Jersey and in 6th grade. She and her family have spent the majority of the summer here in San José, and it was great to see her for just a bit!


Almost Ready!!

This week has been one of hectic preparation for students this next Monday. I have been cleaning, organizing, planning, and stressing every moment Monday through Friday. I am still stressing a bit, only because I am nervous and want to do well at my new job (I definitely have a hint of perfectionism from Dad :)). Alright, so here's a tour of my classroom-after-organization!
The ''Book Gallery''

My desk, bookshelf, and COMPUTER :)

The student's cubbies

A view of the front

And a side view toward the outside windows!

Now I just need to mentally prepare for 20 5th graders walking in the door on Monday!



While in Costa Rica, I have attended several different churches. The first was a tiny house church about 2 blocks from my first apartment, and there were several ticos and many gringos that attended, so it was a good first fit. Keep in mind I didn't understand much Spanish at the time, so my church notes consisted of whatever Spanish words I did know, so notes looked something like this: agua pura vida, entonces, Juan, entonces, entonces, entonces. That pastor said entonces a lot, which means ''so'' or ''then'' in English. However, the Sunday he preached about men should only have short hair and it was obvious there were some men in the congregation with shaggy or shoulder-length hair that he was addressing, I decided it was better not to get involved with the disputes of the tiny house church.

Next I attended a Columbian church called ''La Amistad'' (The Friendship). The worship was good and I was impressed with the pastor, but as time went on I realized the pastor wasn´t actually at church very often, that there were many guest speakers and that the services were just downright loooooong, at least long on my then-gringa-standards.

When I moved in with my tico family, I attended the Nazarene Church with them. The large red, yellow, and orange stained glass sun-rays-patterned window on the front of the building made me hope there might be some artistic, youthful style to this church. Well, while there were youth, they were all about 15 and under, so there weren´t many my age to connect with. Keep in mind I was still learning the language and so I depended largely on my tico family to help my comprehension level as we discussed the message during Sunday lunch.

I finally felt confident enough with my level of Spanish to embark on my own to find my own church. Haha, I embarked far enough to visit the church Trish was then attending with her tico family. I started attending there a year ago, and while I have had several reservations along the way, I am still going strong at Dimensión Cristiana. Let me attempt to describe why:

1) Involvement in the community. From prison ministry to feeding the poor to connections to many international missionaries, the church is always looking for more ways to serve.

2) Biblical sermons. We do this ''chant'' about what our Bible means to us at the beginning of each message. We hold up our Bibles and say ''This is my Bible, the infallible Word of God. She is my guide to life and conduct. I believe I am who my Bible says I am, that I can do what my Bible says I can do, and that I have what my Bible says I have. This I declare in the name of Jesus, Amen.'' (something like that :)) Then the pastor dives into some text and he's all over the place in the Word, making connections and challenging us to apply the Word in our lives.

3) Bible study. There are Tuesday night Bible studies that are absolutely 100% Bible. I have observed that sometimes in churches or in small groups the conversations become off-topic and aren´t really very Bible-focused, but this church has some pretty serious teachers that are wise in the Word and in life experience. I did a Bible study from February to May, and I am hoping to join another in September.

4) Amazing music. There are a group of about 20 people that rotate into the Sunday morning band, and they are all very talented. The music style is similar to Hillsong in English, passionate lyrics combined with musical variations.

5) Enthusiastic worship. To describe the worship, I would say it is pentecostal, slightly charismatic, as people jump and clap and raise their hands and some ladies wave shiny fabric and one guy speaks in tongues in his opera voice and people cry and the ushers go around handing out kleenex and stories about cancer being miraculously healed are shared.

Definitely different from my experiences at First Baptist Church of Kewanee or at Harvest Bible Church in Elgin. But for now, that's where you can find me on Sunday mornings from 10:30am to 1pm, just in case you'd like to join me :). (and yes, you read that right! The services last 2.5 hours!!! It doesn´t seem as long to me as it once did!)


My New Job

Here's a sneak peek into my new job... Hopefully you feel just as overwhelmed as I do with the amount of needed organization this photo contains...
And again, please share with me in the overwhelming feeling of blank walls!
Good news: I have MY OWN COMPUTER!!! Well, it's the school´s, but I actually have technology in my classroom!!! I'll post more photos when the classroom is looking prettier...

Wes's Costa Rican Birthday Lunch

Elsa came over for an afternoon to help me make a birthday lunch for Wes. Elsa is one of the secretaries at my last school, Sojourn, and she's an amazing cook. I have a lot to learn from her.
We snacked while we were cooking, of course. Poor Wes was starving by the time lunch was ready.

And the final product! Salad, rice, and patacones (fried smashed plaintains :))

And the giant Siscoes with tiny Elsa :)

Mosquitoes and Messy Bedrooms

a huge mosquito on my bathroom wall...
and you would think after a week of time off my room would be more organized.... sorry to disappoint you, but here's the truth!



Alright, so I've been in Costa Rica now a week (time flies!), and I've seen some pretty funny things that I want to share:

1. I was crossing the street at the bottom of a hill, and I glanced up the hill to see a teenage boy racing down on his skateboard. He lost balance and began to swerve just as cars came over the top of the hill. He fell off the board and rolled down the hill, head over heels, with cars slamming on their brakes and dodging around him. Thankfully I made it across the street before any of the panic affected me. I hate to admit that my inner instinct was to laugh instead of asking the guy if he needed help (which probably isn't a good idea anyway)...

2. A tico with a r.e.a.l. blonde mullet. haha.

3. Today as I was working on this next year's curriculum, I read in my history teacher's guide that I should need ''gold spray pain'' for one of the projects... um, gold spray paint, maybe? :)

4. And best for last: You're not going to believe this one! So I'm at a Chinese restaurant with some friends downtown, and we had just discussed that some people don't like Chinese babies. I was impartial to the conversation and so excused myself to go to the restroom. While in a bathroom stall, a mother and daughter came into the restroom as well. I saw a small shadow pass by the stall door and thought they had just passed to go to another stall. Then this tiny head pops under my door and then hands and body and legs, and this Chinese toddler stands up in my stall and is standing there looking at me and I said loudly, ''Qué está haciendo?'' (''What are you doing!?''), and the baby cocked her head to the side ... I don't think she spoke Spanish yet. And the mother did nothing to get this kid out of my stall, so I was in half-shock, half-terror on what to do (''If I push her back under the door, is that child-abuse?'' I thought bc there's strict abuse laws in CR)... After what seemed like forever (in reality it was 4 or 5 seconds), the baby crawls back under the door. I sat there in utter disbelief and when I finally collected myself enough to exit the stall and ''meet the mom'', the mom just gave me this look like it was my fault that her child was crawling around on the dirty floor... Oh geez. I headed back out to the group to inform them that I now was also not fond of Chinese babies...