Costa Rica is full of surprises for me lately...

...like the new 20,000 colones bill. I just saw one today for the first time!

...like the cold blustery wind that makes me wish for a coat and boots!

...like the sophisticated art show I attended over the weekend.

...like the rum cake my tica mom makes. :) If only my students knew what I'm eating on break, lol.

...like how the grocery store no longer intimidates me and my level of Spanish :)

...like how 5th graders are good Christmas gift shoppers (or maybe it's their mothers? :))


Festival de las Luces

Think Macy´s Day Parade... but Christmas-Costa Rican style. That´s what Melissa, Michelle, and I saw last night in downtown San José! This parade happens every year and there are TONS of people downtown to see it. If you´re not downtown, you´re probably watching it on television.
Vendors are selling bags of confetti (aka hole-punched notebook paper) that is apparently Costa Rican´s version of snow for Christmas. By the end of the evening, the confetti covered the sidewalk!

Being gringoes and all, we were popular targets for ticos throwing confetti.

And the parade begins! A man on stilts.

There were very elaborate costumes, such as this golden woman on stilts.

more stilts

and a float! The floats were bigger-than-life and covered in glitter. Oh, and you can see the girl in front of us that was on her boyfriend´s shoulders...

Another elaborate costume... this time out of feathers!

Another float

A golden child

The CocaCola float shot confetti out on the crowd

And the culprit ticos standing above the pedestrians, covering them in confetti!

City Christmas Lights

I went light-looking with the tico family on Tuesday evening around the city. The great part was that we were in a car the whole time... no buses or cold wind for us! :)
The tree in front of the Children's Hospital

The Children's Museum/old prison

The CocaCola tree

And the central park.


San Antonio de Escazú Landslides

A house right by the rock river

The ''rock river'' where rocks fell down the mountain. You can see a house with a bridge across the stream that was spared from the rock shower.

A view of San José from the mountain.

More of the rocks that came down the mountain!

Parque La Sabana

I went on a Sunday outing today with the new tico family to Parque La Sabana to the west of San José downtown. I had ridden around the park in the bus many times and had gone to an evening concert, but I had never walked around! It´s a ginormous park and has everything from 3 football fields, a running track, a roller skating rink, a lake, a forest, a new stadium, and kite vendors!
 Photos of the new stadium that China is building for Costa Rica... it's a gift!! The interesting part is that gifts always come at a price when it's political, right? hmm.... I've heard rumors that the stadium opens in February and other rumors that it opens ''soon''...? I'd like to go :)
 A banana tree with its fruit. The bottom purple part is the seed.
 A graffittied cross in the park

 And Barney made a surprise appearance!! LOL
 Santiago, my new roommate. I feel like I´m the ''fun aunt'' :)
 Ice cream from the ice cream man, anyone?
 Santiago thinking...
 Santiago playing futbol with his mom Natalia chasing behind.
 Santiago and Natalia
Santiago in the orange, Annabel and Natalia on the log, and Marilyn (Santiago's grandma) standing

I have learned to be extremely flexible when I tell ticos I will hang out with them for the day. For example, they said we would leave at 9am... we didn't leave until 12! Then afterwards we were driving home and impulsively stopped by pizza hut for lunch/dinner. THEN we drove up the mountain to where the landslides happened a few weeks ago to see the damage. THEN just when I thought we were about to have another adventure, we arrived home. Thank goodness I learned to be flexible! :)



Christmas decorations here aren't quite like decorations at home... probably because Christmas for me seems strange without a blanket of snow on the ground. No snow here!

Think fuchsia, turquoise, silver, gold... all metallic. And that summarizes the decorations here... Of course, they have pine trees (real and fake), Santa Clauses (San Nicolas), candy canes, and Christmas lights, but it's just not the same when you're thinking of what to wear to stay cool for the day while also looking outside to see a blow-up snowman in your neighbor's yard... haha. Ironic, yes!

So I'm dreaming of a white Christmas, where I'm surrounded by Siscoes and maybe a few Crumrines :) and snow and sledding and a fireplace (Thanks Dad for lighting the fire!), and maybe a few warm layers of clothes and a big warm blanket and ...

In other words, I'm coming home in 3 weeks! :) and looking forward to being part of the Siscoes and (hopefully) a snowy Christmas for a month of vacation. Although, I might have to hit the tanning bed a couple times for a dose of heat and concentrated Vitamin D. Ironic, yes! :)

Bus Justice

The public bus system here in Costa Rica varies from good service to bad service. A bus company Lisa and I travelled with this past weekend is on the bad end... for two reasons.

1. Although it's illegal to make passengers stand for more than 40 minutes on a long-distance bus, the driver crammed 20 more people than there were seats... So guess what? People stood. Now at first you might not think that's so bad... until I tell you that travelling the entire distance from Montezuma to San José... is a total of 6 hours. Now there is a ferry ride in the middle, so ''standers'' hope to get a seat on the ferry; however, the ride seems even longer while having to travel standing. Not to mention it's illegal...

2. No one has a ticket with a seat number. Everyone pays the driver as they get on the bus and they receive a copy of the pay stub... but without a seat number, arguments over whose seat is whose quickly escalate because no one has proof that any seat is theirs.

Lisa and I had a seat, we promise we did. Some gringos didn't believe us that we had seats after the ferry ride and insisted that the bus driver make everyone sit in their original seats (''We can't change seats,'' the gringo kept repeating... um, since when do we have a seating arrangement without seat numbers on our tickets?). Well, someone had taken our seats, so we took someone elses, etc. The bus driver barked at us to get out of someone else's seat, and when I said that someone else was in our seats, he asked me where. I pointed at the pregnant woman and her mother that were in our seats... and he told me to tell them to get out of our seats. I said I would rather stand than make a pregnant woman stand, and he said, ''Bueno, como quiera,'' which is like saying ''Whatever!'' with attitude.

So we stood. For 4 hours.

I was honestly so upset for those first 30 minutes or so. I put in my iPod and didn't even look at Lisa because I felt like I had let her down by not getting our seats, plus the gringo behind us was saying that ''those girls'' (us) were lying all along and that it was right for us to have to stand. Bah! I had to physically bite my tongue several times to not let him know what I thought about the whole unfair situation.

I think we had different versions of bus justice... He was trying to catch the culprit... while I was letting a pregnant woman sit in my seat. He thought I was the culprit, so he thought justice had been served... I disagreed (obviously :))

When we arrived in San José, the bus driver commented to the assistant that it was a good thing that cops aren't around on Sundays... because it's illegal to have people standing on a bus for more than 40 minutes! Um, excuse me sir, have you ever had to stand on a bus for 4 hours straight?