Tips for Commuting by Bus

1. Don´t sit in seats with standing room in front of them... unless you want to look at butts.

2. If your plan is to grade papers during the ride, don´t sit in any seats above or behind the back tire as this produces very shaky handwriting and students will be asking you to interpret your chicken-scratch.

3. Always ask the driver if he's passing by your routine stop. You never know when he might change his route.

4. In the event of pouring rain, take a deep breath before entering the bus... and don't exhale until you get off. Unless, of course, you like wet-dog smell.

5. Wash your hands immediately after exiting.

6. Rainboots are suggested for the 1.5 kilometer walk between bus stops on rainy days.

7. Don´t ever take a car ride for granted again.


Reading to 1st Grade

We read with our First Grade Buddies on Friday. Here's a peek at busy readers...

Giving Kids a Camera Can Be Dangerous...

...for your self esteem, for your idea of ''classroom management'', for your timetable of what needs to get done in the 2 minutes before the bell rings... etc. :) Here's what last week´s CameraLady captured of me in action...
 the thinking, slightly confused Miss Siscoe...
 the I'm-just-smiling-to-humor-you Miss Siscoe...
 the caught-in-the-headlights Miss Siscoe...
and the hair-flipping-out-again Miss Siscoe.


Hard Life Lessons

I think that when people living in the U.S. think of what it´s like to live in another country, they think of the exotic beaches, the beautiful handmade goods, beautiful weather and landscapes, the cheaper cost of living... but what they don´t think about is that you´re only real-life access to your family is via Internet, that you have to speak another language to navigate yourself (well, at least here you do), that there´s rainy days here for months at a time, that people try to cheat you out of money because foreigners (North Americans) are assumed to be richer, etc.

Something that´s been on my mind lately is thinking, ''Well, when I move back to the States, this _______________ won´t happen anymore.'' (I put a blank there because I fill that blank with many different things, like ''culture differences,'' ''language barriers,'' ''people charging me more for my groceries because I'm a foreigner,'' ''confrontation in friendships.'') However, I have to keep reminding myself that just because I return to the U.S. will not make those problems go away. In fact, it might make language barriers harder because then I´ll be interacting with the U.S. melting pot version of Spanish where everyone has their own accents and vocabularies according to what countries they are from... It might also make culture differences more difficult as I am the one who has changed a lot culturally in the last couple years and I will have to learn to communicate my differences in my beliefs based on the last two years of living-abroad experiences.

And I have to remind myself big-time that confrontation in friendship will probably never go away, no matter where I live. Sure, there will be moments when I have to speak up about something that's bothering me and moments when everything is fine. And my current living situation doesn't guarantee healthy and committed relationships...

Thank goodness, God's got all the details. He knows where I'll be in a year and how He'll be providing in a year. He also knows that I'm right here on my couch right now and how He'll provide for my needs today and tomorrow and the next day and the next... I'm so thankful that no matter where I live, He's got my back.


¿Cómo se llama?

Yesterday, I asked at the customer service desk at PriceMart (think Sam's Club) if they could call a taxi for me. The lady said sure and asked for my name. I told her ''Kathryn'' because that's just easier to explain in Spanish than ''Kate'' is. She wrote my name and my taxi number on a ticket and handed it to me to go wait outside. She spelled my name C-A-T-E-R-I-N-G... um, that´s a new one!


School from a 5th Grader´s Perspective

We just went through ''job training'' in 5th grade this week, so students are busily and purposefully going about their jobs. One job is new this year -- CameraMan. I am allowing students to use my old camera that I bought in 2004 to document our class memories. (We agreed on the consequences for breaking the camera is Saturday School.) I told them I would use the photos for a slide show of memories. :) What they didn´t know is that I would also be using the photos for newsletters and the blog! :)

Hiding from the camera at the class meeting.

Studying hard.

I often forget that students look ´´up´´ at me, that they don´t see on my eye level.

Reader´s Theater with puppets.

The photographer taking pictures of himself.

They give each other smiles for the camera that they wouldn´t give me :)

We are in process of doing an experiment with calcium... What would happen if we didn´t have any calcium in our bones? (Put an egg in vinegar for 2 or 3 days and the vinegar takes the calcium out of the egg shell... then the egg bounces :))

And the egg fizzing away.


Costa Rica Video

Perhaps this video is propaganda to get you to visit Costa Rica... I have experienced many things in the video, and yet I am amazed at how much I still want to do (like see hammerhead sharks and whales!!). While I do wonder about the statistics when it claims that CR is one of the cleanest countries in the world (um, what about the garbage in the street outside my apartment? or the polluted air that gives my lungs so many problems??), it is a beautiful country once you get out of the city, as this video shows. Enjoy! :)



Introducing... Michelle!

This is my new roomie, Michelle. She´s Chinese by heritage, Costa Rican by birth, and North American by where she was raised. She speaks English and Chinese fluently and is currently learning Spanish :). She´s also enjoying making me try new foods like pig´s ear, cucumber and clam salad, and pickled ginger.

Here´s us at the parade this morning.
A cool pic of Michelle and our friend Melissa in San Pedro.

And trying to act cool while we were actually really tired sitting on the couch. We both get goofy when we´re tired!


Happy Independence Day, Costa Rica!!

I wish I could take credit for this hilarious photo... but I can´t. I totally found it on Google. Costa Rica's colors are also red, white, and blue, so this dog could be from either country (U.S. or CR)... not really sure which is accurate :).

Tomorrow is ''el quince de setiembre'' (think 4th of July) so we have the day off of school!! Michelle and I attended a traditional parade of lanterns this evening that all schools put on as part of the holiday celebrations. We were walking past Sojourn (the first school I taught at here in CR) and their parade had just begun. We watched the short ensemble go by and I waved at many students and teachers that I still know. I saw one of my past students, now in 5th grade, and she came over to give me a hug. Before I knew what was happening, I was surrounded by 7 or 8 of my old students, all jabbering in Spanglish and telling me how much they missed me and how school was really different without me. One girl had tears in her eyes and my empathetic heart sprung into action and I also started crying! I soon realized the kids had just left the parade line completely and were standing there talking to me instead of continuing with the other students, so I walked the rest of the block with them until we got back to the school gate. A flurry of good-bye hugs later, I was left to give them back to God again, trusting that He is continuing to care for them and love them even without my presence in their daily lives.

All of that to say, Happy Independence Day, Costa Rica!! :)


People in the Park

There´s a park across the street from my apartment with a grass soccer field, a paved basketball court/soccer court (?), picnic tables, a playground, and huge pine trees, and there´s always lots of people there.

Like the man who drives a green station wagon. He parks his car on Saturday mornings and his three dogs jump out the car windows. The man brings his camping chair to sit under the pine trees and read his weekend newspaper as the dogs run circles around him. My theory is that he married a city girl but he can´t deny his inner country boy.

It seems there´s always a basketball or soccer game going on. Sometimes there´s even women's aerobics classes that meet on the basketball court, which is always fun to watch from our upstairs window... I haven´t gone to join because, well, the classes are pretty basic :).

Then there´s the Saturday morning and Sunday morning regulars that show up for their tournaments of whatever sports, complete with loud music blasting from cars and lots of yelling curse words when the game doesn´t go their way. I've learned my Spanish potty-mouth very quickly from watching these events.

Oh, and you can´t forget the moms pushing strollers and carrying babies to enjoy the playground's offer of time out of the house.

And the occasional gringo parade that infiltrates the park. Today there´s a gringo birthday party and I think there might actually be more gringos than ticos over there right now.

The sun goes down about 6pm here year round, but the park is just getting started with soccer practice. Kids run every which way, kicking up mud with their cleats as they try to run as fast as their coach is yelling at them.  I hear a coach´s blowing whistle about every 5 seconds when it's soccer practice time.

Then there's the early morning exercisers. A Chinese woman walks slowly and flaps her arms up and down  or hacking loogies to clear her throat when she has a cold (gross). Another Asian gentleman walks the park saying Buddhist prayers at sunrise. Then there´s the many dog-walkers following their dogs with plastic bags (ew again), one who I have noticed always wears reeeeeeally short orange shorts. And don´t forget the woman who is dressed like it's a snowy winter as she jogs laps around and around the basketball court. Does she think it's really that cold or is she trying to lose water weight?

Guaranteed if you sit at a picnic table long enough, reading a book or writing or whatever, someone will come up to you and practice their English. Like this morning, I met a woman named Carla who wanted to find a book in English so she could read it and she was asking me if I had ever heard of it. Or a few weeks ago, a woman introduced herself as a Christian and it was very clear she was set on converting me to Christianity as well. :)

Don't think the rainy season stops anyone either. I've watched soccer tournaments from my window as it pours rain and the players are all obviously soaked and loving every moment of it.

Here's me taking up space at a picnic table :). Courtesy of friend and photographer Melissa :)

Did I mention the 2 back walls of the park are covered in all kinds of graffitti? It's quite the mix of art and people... I'll take it.


Someone´s Been Listening...

This student has been listening to my stories, even if she has some of the details mixed up :)... Here´s the narrative she wrote last week:

Kathryn had just finished high school, and was going into college. She had been thinking for a while now what she wanted to be when she grew up, and she was growing up. Kathryn was thinking about being an artist but her mom said that she should be a teacher but she always disagreed with that. She had started school by now.

Kathryn was in her room with her roommate. She was saying, ''You're so good with kids Kathryn, I really think you should become a teacher.'' ''But I want to be an artist.''

The next day she was sitting on a rock and some people came over and said ''Kathryn, you should be a teacher, you're so good with kids.'' ''Will you please stop saying that'' said Kathryn. On the outside she was being nice but on the inside she started to feel angry when people brought up that thoughts.

By now she had her art degree. It was a weekend and she didn´t have to go to school, and she decided that for the day she was going to be a teacher´s helper.

When she went back to her mom´s house she realized that she really liked teaching. So then, she got her teachers degree and is now a teacher.

In the year 2010 Kathryn Siscoe comes to a christian school called Lighthouse International School in Costa Rica teaching 5th grade.

Now known as, my teacher, Ms. Siscoe.

By the way she does have to remind herself sometimes why she is a teacher.

(Ms. Siscoe speaking, ''why am I a teacher again, oh yeah because I like it!'')

Smiles from Today

A student walked into class this morning to show me a flower he had found with ants all over it. He showed me... and then he said, "Do you want it?" :) I love receiving flowers with ants crawling in panic that their home is being destroyed. In fact, the flower is still sitting here on my desk :).

The science lesson today was about our body's systems, specifically our bones, muscles and nerves. When talking about the muscles, I had students flex their biceps and then their triceps to show how muscles only pull on bones, that they never push. They all gasped in astonishment that I too had a muscle, LOL. Seriously, they were shocked. I told them that sometime I'll have them do pilates with me.

Another student is walking down the hallway very... strangely... like a monkey we'll say. I say "Waaaalk" in my teacher voice and he turns to me with a goofy grin and says "Miss Siscoe, I'm walking like a primate." LOL. Where do they get these words from???

5th graders are proving themselves to be like kids still... but they want to be treated like "big kids." :) I still enjoy the moments when their inner child pops out of the tough exterior.


Introducing... 5th Graders!!!

For privacy purposes, I'm leaving out names, but I can introduce you to faces :)...

They're keeping me veeeerrrry busy!!



I'm learning to love weekends again. I say again because for a while weekends were awkward as I didn´t know what to do without Trish. But God is good and continues to provide new friends and old friends and lots of Skype calls :).

Last weekend I spent Saturday with a new Peruvian friend talking Spanglish for several hours. :) I rock Spanglish nowadays. Sunday we went to lunch with a Costa Rican missionary that has lived in West Africa for 16 years and has adopted 6 kids there! We met her 13 year old son, and he was growing fast and ate a lot for lunch :). It was fun to hear an African boy speaking Spanish like a tico. He also speaks Portuguese and a tribal language. Impressive.

This weekend it's time for sleeeeeeep. :) Then tomorrow I have a full day of friends and fun. And Sunday, church. I'm learning to love church again too without Trish. Sad but true.


Military Style Miss Siscoe

A student today says, ''Miss Siscoe, why do you talk like you're in the army?''
Me: ''Because I am.''
Another student: ''I thought you were in the FBI.''
Me: ''Oh yes, I forgot, thank you.''

I told my 5th graders on the first day that I am in the FBI and have never wanted to be a teacher but that my current assignment is to be an undercover teacher at Lighthouse International School. They all stared at me in disbelief, and now it's becoming a running joke (Well, joke to me :) Who knows if they believe me!), even to the point that a parent told me last night at the Back-to-School parent meeting that her son mentioned that I'm in the FBI. lol. Someday I'll tell them the truth.

Several boy students challenged me to an arm wrestling tournament yesterday. I came out the champion.

Yesterday and today combined I gave out 22 detentions to 12 of my 20 students... and yet I received more hugs this afternoon as they were leaving at 2:30... One girl patted me on the arm and said, ''You're just doing your job.'' lol. I hope they're understanding I love them but am also firm with my boundaries.

It's only week 3, so I can´t show any weakness. . . probably not until Thanksgiving. Not even in arm wrestling.