From the Plane Window

When I went home for Christmas, I had a window seat. Thanks, Continental Airlines, for giving me such a great view for taking photos of San José and of volcanoes in Nicaragua. Thought I would share the photos!
super faint thanks to aerial perspective. pacific coast, nicaragua.
san josé disappearing


san josé barrios


More About Daily Life

I just got back from a quick trip to the grocery store, and it reminded me of many more things that I may or may not have told you before. So here's blog #2 for the day :)

1. Everything comes in bags at the grocery store. At first you might not think that strange because in the States flour, sugar, cheese, chips, etc., come in bags. While those items do come in bags, so do items like ketchup, mustard, mayonaisse, refried beans, salsa, cleaning solutions such as bleach, laundry detergent, refill handsoap, meat at the meat counter, sour cream, basically anything liquid or semi-liquid. Cons: putting on my painting clothes before cutting open the bag of bleach. Or the juice from the meat seemingly seeping out of the bag. Yuck. Pros: cut down on garbage. You can squeeze your beans right onto your tortilla, lol.

2. Kilos. The metric system is a smart idea, United States and Britain, and I don't know why you invented your own system! I have figured out how to convert kilograms into pounds for when I am at the market and to convert kilometers into miles for distance. The customary system is so well engrained in my thinking that it still is difficult for me to understand weight and distance in kilos.

3. Pay your bills at the grocery store. Yes, you read that right. I receive a piece of paper once a month for water, electricity, and phone, and I have to walk to the grocery store, get in the cashier line, show my bill, and pay in cash only. You can also pay bills at the bank or online, but I have yet to figure out the online system. Maybe someday.

4. No personal space. While standing in line at the grocery store, I could hear and feel the lady behind me breathing! She was standing so close to me that I was coaching myself not to be so ''gringo''. lol. I need space! She was actually a very outspoken tica as she nearly pushed me out of the way after I was done paying for my food, but then I still needed to pay my cell phone bill (Oh yeah, I have a cell phone now thanks to Judit!). I lost my voice this week due to a sore throat, so I rasped that I still needed to pay my bill! The cashier bent toward me and was like ''What??'' (this whole conversation in Spanish of course) and so I breathed deeper and rasped louder that I needed to pay my cell phone bill! He asked me for the phone number and I wrote it down so I wouldn't rasp-shout it at him, lol. The lady behind me was still breathing on my shoulder, and she said ''So you can't speak Spanish, huh?'' I looked at her, probably with a not-nice look on my face, and I didn´t respond. Thank goodness I have arrived at a point in my Spanish that I don´t feel like I have to prove myself every chance I get.

5. City life. Lots of traffic. Dodging cars to cross streets. Taking the bus. Palm trees. Pollution. Long lines at the ATMs. Beggars at our door. Homeless people in the streets. Street-smart dogs that look both ways before they cross the road. Three-legged dogs that have experienced a car incident and are still loving life (or limping through life). Spanish, spanish, spanish. Mountains surround the city.

6. Earthquakes. We had another minor tremor this morning. It's a part of life now to go outside as soon as I feel a tremor, no matter where I am. I was currently at home, falling asleep, and so I dosed shortly after because it wasn't a big one. When a tremor happens, I can hear the windows shake, the ground beneath me isn't stable, I have to lean on something to keep me up. If it is strong enough, things might fall off shelves and you might see the table and chairs ''dancing''. The quake today M4.7 (magnitude on the Richter scale), says the Nación newspaper. Not bad at all.

I'll probably think of more later, so stay tuned :)

Daily Life

At the risk of repeating previous blogs, I am inspired to describe daily life again. I think there are so many daily things I have yet to describe to you that I want to try again.

1. January is HOT. Whenever I see the date written on newspapers or newsletters, I think, ''Really? It's January?'' It's more like an Illinois August, without the thunderstorms and humidity. My classroom is like a sauna, or as one of my tica students read in Esperanza Rising the other day and then said about our classroom ''It is like a brick oven that is cooking us!'' I thought that very appropriate. It is so hot in our classroom that I have usual complaints of headaches and nausea. My answer is always ''Drink more water!'' We have been outside on the balcony in the afternoons for our Independent Reading time. I know the kids enjoy the break from the heat and the fun of looking out over the school campus and city streets.

2. January is DRY. It's not quite as dry as an Illinois winter, because I don't have to put lotion on everyday here like I did when I was stateside for Christmas. The grass and trees turns brown. I drink tons of water, and I make my students drink tons as well. (which in turn students have more bathroom emergencies!)

3. Tico summer vacation. Right now is the Costa Rican public schools' vacation, so if you want to go to the pool or the theatre, the lines are long and the facilities are full of super-tanned kids. My own Costa Rican students are a little restless as their neighborhood or church friends are out of school and they still have to go.

4. Sunrise 5:59am, Sunset 5:37pm (today). The sun stays out for a more consistent time period here year-round because we are close to the equator. It is nice not to have super short days like in the winter in Illinois.

5. Mosquitoes. I have a broken window pane, and somehow, mosquitoes can smell my skin from miles away. I have had many battles at night with multiple mosquitoes in the past week, and one got the best of my face again. Thankfully, this time was only both my cheeks and my forehead, not my eye! Whenever I hear that zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz sound in my room at night, I wake up super fast, turn on the light, and swing my Spanish/English dictionary in every which direction until all bugs are dead. I'm not messing around anymore thinking the zzzzzzzzzzzzz is just in my dreams.

6. Spanish everywhere. No matter where I go here, I am practicing Spanish. It has become so much easier, and not as much of an internal panic attack as it has been in the past. I have begun tutoring sessions again on Thursday afternoons to tackle the dreaded subjunctive verb tense, but I am excited to finally understand and apply it. I have begun speaking more Spanish with my students too, as now I am very comfortable with it and we easily slip in and out of Spanish and English.

The Not-So-Daily
1. A student broke his right wrist this week in gym class, and since he is right-handed, I have been making many accomodations for him (It's not as hard as it might seem. I have magnetic letters that he manipulates for practicing spelling words, he tells me what to write for answers on quizzes and homework, and we do a lot of partner work where the other student can write for him too). Poor kid, he can't play his beloved soccer at recess, so I got out a Sudoku game that none of the kids had seen and he was excited about that... at least for a day :). Costa Rican doctors don't mess around either! His cast is seriously like a cement block on his arm. LOL it's not literally cement, but a really hard plaster smoothed over the gauze. Yesterday on his way out the door, he thanked me for my help. I think he was nervous about coming to school because he already is discouraged about writing in general... and then to imagine having to write with only his left hand! It will be an interesting next 6 weeks of accomodations, but we will make it through. Another student commented that he gets all my attention now, and I told the whole class that if they felt like I was giving more attention to this boy, then they could go break their wrist too! They all laughed and joked that they wanted a cast too. (It reminded me of my favorite childhood book Madeline!) So after student comments, I have made an effort to give attention to all while also assisting Mr. Cast.

2. A swollen tongue. Not sure how this one happened, but it started out as a sore throat last Sunday and increasingly got worse with drainage and loss of my voice. Today I finally went through the long doctor lines at Ebais to receive a confirmation that yes, my tongue is swollen, no they don't know why, and here's your treatment of two shots to the tush. lol, like I have said before the injections for treatments are a common practice here. ''Oh, and by the way,'' the doctor says as I leave the room, ''the shots will make you very sleepy.'' Thanks for the heads up. I came home and slept 3 hours straight. Now it's naptime again.


Art Birthday Party :)

Many thanks to Trish and Eddie especially for pulling off a great night of pasta, art, and fun! Trish planned and Eddie added his creative ideas to top off the evening. We dressed in primary colors, ate pasta with three kinds of sauce (marinara, alfredo, pesto.. all homemade!), finger painted, played ''The Best Game Ever'' (I'll have to teach you sometime!), and ate a fantastic FunFetti cake in the shape of a painting palette.
Erin took photos of the whole evening!
Painting in action

Andrew, Peggy, Albin, Eddie, Yoji, Trish, Courtney, Erin, Medrano, me!

And the silly faces!
It was a success. Thanks so much Trish for all the thought and time put into it! Sadly, I did not get a photo of the cake on my camera... but believe me, it was beautiful! Thanks guys for helping #24 be a great birthday!


Haiti Earthquake

Photography thanks to the blog mentioned below :)

Since hearing about the earthquake in Haiti three days ago, I have been following this blog of Haiti missionaries working in a medical clinic. The stories and photos are so vivid to me after seeing the earthquake destruction here in Costa Rica only a year ago... thank goodness last year's quake didn't hit San José like it hit Port-Au-Prince.

There was also an earthquake in Venezuela this afternoon. On this map, you can see how close Venezuela, Haiti, and Costa Rica truly are. I am continually fascinated to live here and experience Central American and Caribbean history ...
Pray for Haiti. For uncontaminated water, for survivors, for food, for medical help.


Happy Birthday!!

For my birthday, we got the Internet!!!! Seriously, this is ground-breaking here in our apartment because usually around this time of evening I am getting bored... No more boredom here because I have the endless World Wide Web to answer my every question and whim! lol
I did have to pay for this birthday present, lol. I guess that's what happens as an adult ... you have to pay bills even on your birthday.
Here´s a few photos from the school day:

My class is down to 10 students right now as we said goodbye to 4 North Americans moving on to Honduras and Peru. One student pointed out the other day that I am now the only gringa as there are 3 gringos (boy North Americans) and 7 ticos (Costa Rican boys and girls). That's when I joked that I dyed my hair last weekend just so I would look more tica :).

And the silly faces!!

I received great student gifts. Goldfish beanie baby, bookmarks, an ''S'' necklace, a coffee bean bracelet, a Snickers and box of chocolates (my students have noticed my love for chocolate!), and a candle. Oh, and you can´t forget the glass fish. This photo doesn't show them very well, but it's between the goldfish and the candle.

And we wrote thank you notes to other Sojourn staff members for my birthday :) Why not spread the joy?

I think Trish has something up her sleeve for tomorrow... we went out to dinner this evening to A La Leña and it was great to eat a huge chicken ceasar salad. I'll keep you posted as to what happens this weekend in the name of ''birthday celebrations''!!


The New Life... Well, The New Apartment

After a whirlwind 4am resorting the luggage to make it all fit, long security lines (thank goodness I didn-t have to do a body scan after all the Detroit flight scares over Christmas), and a 6am flight Wednesday morning, Tricia and I arrived in Costa Rica around 1pm. Only one problem... I didn't get my giant red suitcase, which means I don't have 50 pounds of my selected luxury items from the States. You know, pesto, parmesan, ranch dressing. lol. Oh well. Until it arrives, I am realizing other missing items as well... like my favorite black cardigan and all my socks. I am being challenged to realize that stuff is stuff and not essential to what is really important in life.

We worked hard Thursday and Friday and now are enjoying the weekend. Yesterday we went to the feria (fruit and veggie market) and then to the POOL :) I am a little crispy today, but I had to kickstart getting rid of the whiteness (again!). After a 2.5 hour church service this morning (it's great to be back :)), I am currently at a neighbor's house using the Internet for a couple minutes.

I figured you might like a tour of where I live now ;) so here goes!

The kitchen

The laundry room

The dining room... Anyone have a table to lend? :)

The living room.

Our book shelf :)
The living room view from the front window.

The bars on the front... and there's a park across the street!

The garage. Usually there is a red car parked in here because we rent out the garage, and when they start the car, our apartment smells like exhaust! Probably not very healthy...

Trish walking through the photo shoot.

The stairwell. I love how bright it is!

Up the stairs. My room is to the right, then you can see the bathroom and studio doors. Tricia's room is way to the left.

Trish's bed and front view window.

Trish's room and bathroom

Do you notice anything different about my hair? :) Yes... it's a different color.

My art studio!!! Sorry I didn't tidy it before the photo.

The current project... a study on a painting I bought in Nicaragua. The location is Lake Nicaragua, the twin volcanoes in the center. The painting has lots of dashes and dots, so it's fun to play with.

My bathroom
My sink

My bedroom

The view out my window... a red wall. It's a bit anti-climatic, but I am thankful that it is a bright color!

My beautiful closet doors. I love the wood. You can see the hallway and staircase back to the left.