Familia Rodriguez Villafuerte

Well, the big interview happened! Three days with my boyfriend Marlon's family (while Marlon is in the U.S.) I think qualifies as the ultimate interview. For both myself and for the rest of the family. All in all, it was a great experience, so I think we all passed the interview.
 Santiago celebrated his 7th birthday on Saturday. We played Monopoly and did an exercise routine that Tío Marlon had given me to try.
 L to R: Marlon's mom, myself, Marlon's aunt
 This is a great summary of the three days. Lots of conversation, lots of laughter, and lots of people!
And a posed photo. It only took us about 20 tries, lol.


Top Ten Flashbacks

So I'm on the airplane from Panama City, Panama, to San José, Costa Rica, and I've worked myself almost into a panic about my current level of United States Spanglish... ''What if I forgot tico Spanish?'' ''What if I forget to kiss the air and touch cheeks instead of shaking hands when I meet someone?'' ''What if I say the wrong thing?''... etc. etc. etc.

Then I get off the plane in San José, and the flashbacks have been constant. I mean, I lived here for three years afterall, so there are bound to be flashbacks. And even more than flashbacks, Costa Rica now feels like a second home. I have comfort foods here, people I love here, and a sense of direction here (despite no street signs, haha!)

So here's a peek at the flashbacks (Top Ten style, in no particular order): 

 10. Studying geography from the plane window.

 9. Studying cloud formations from the plane window.
 8. Delicious mango right off the tree.
 7. My favorite ice cream brand!!! (Top comfort food, no matter what country I'm in, lol)
6. Cheap manicures. Marlon's sister, Daniela, has a mini-manicure business. I wanted something with the Costa Rican flag (red, white, and blue), and she did a great job! 
5. Heavy coins that aren't worth very much.

 4. Oh yes. I ate a whole container of Chocobon ice cream in 3 days. Amazing.
 3. The irony of the shower head being called the ''widow maker.'' I mean, the electric tape says it all.
2. Gallo pinto for breakfast! I can't get enough! (Hello again, rice belly. Lol.)

1. Speaking the good ol' tico Spanish. ¡Vieras como el español me fluye! 


Ready or Not... Here I Go Again!!!

It  it truly amazing to think that two years have flown by since I was last in Costa Rica! So much has happened too -- surviving two Chicago winters; teaching two years in public schools; graduating with my masters degree in bilingual education; moving not once, not twice, not even three times... moving FOUR times (lol... that's a long story); paying off all undergrad and graduate loans; and now (finally!) a reunion trip to Costa Rica.


This time will be a little different though. Five years ago (seriously, time has sped by), I left for Costa Rica without knowing a single soul (besides my wonderful new boss, Tia Reilly), but this time, I will be visiting the many friends and families that have become part of my international support system.

Just to walk you through a few familiar faces:

Trish!! Can't forget her :). I think half of my blog is about Trish and my adventures. She is now married to a tico (as Costa Ricans proudly call themselves), Albin.

Familia Cabezas Ramos -- Such a wonderful family that adopted me for about 11 months during my first year of teaching.

Sojourn ladies -- Mimi, Elsa, Mau, Karol, and Maria Marta are amazing teachers at Sojourn. Seriously, these ladies have worked so hard and have faced so much change as new North American teachers come and go every year. I am excited to saw hello!

Melissa -- Okay, so this is embarassing, but I'm realizing that I don't have a blog post about Melissa! We became good friends during my last six months in Costa Rica, and she continues to live in San José and works as a missionary with EFCA ReachGlobal. We're planning a beach trip during my stay :)

Aydee -- I will never forget Aydee's generosity and her patience with my Spanish as she taught me Peruvian words and phrases. I nearly bought out her artesan's stand twice and I plan to buy it out again :).

Familia Marin Garcia -- Santiago holds a special place in my heart. He had just turned two when I moved back to the States... Now he'll be four! We'll see if he remembers me.

Familia Mejia Simpson -- Another family that I do not have a blog post about, but there are plenty of photos on Facebook! I had their daughter Ruth in my 5th grade class at Lighthouse and their daughter Dani also works at Lighthouse as a teacher's assistant. I am excited to catch up with this generous family!

Familia Rodriguez Villafuerte -- This is the only family I will be meeting for the first time on this trip. Why would I want to meet them, you ask? Well... :) For those that do not know (or haven't figured out from my Facebook), I am dating a tico, Marlon, and we figured it was time for me to meet his family. Wish me luck!

This trip gets even better!! After two weeks in Costa Rica, I will head further south to Argentina, where I will stay with the Diem family for 10 days.

In other words, this is going to be an awesome summer vacation :). Stay tuned for updates throughout my new Costa Rica (and Argentina) adventures!


New Blog, New Beginnings

Hello all. I finally decided to continue blogging! Check out the new blog at www.kateinelgin.wordpress.com. Blessings!


Sabbatical at Age 25

I would like to continue blogging BUT right now does not seem to be my prime time for blogging. Let me explain why...

1. My car keeps breaking down so (for example) I am stuck on Interstate 290 calling my dad praying that it's just steam coming out from under the hood and not smoke like my deepest fears are chanting at me.

2. My new job is quite overwhelming. Not in a bad awful horrible way, it's just a lot to learn all at once. Like think about being introduced to 20 different computer programs (not kidding) and with those 20 programs comes 20 different usernames and passwords... not to mention the 13 students sitting in front of me waiting for me to tell them each their individual password to the program I currently want them working on in the computer lab. This is only 5 seconds of a 7 hour day I spend with these 13 students... not to mention the hours of planning, the hours of grading, and the hours of trying to figure out what on earth the state of Illinois expects me to teach these children.

3. I am not the most positive person to talk to these days when it comes to American culture. In fact, I'm kind of a downer... so it's best I don't share any thoughts regarding that on my blog because now I am living among my fellow Americans and I myself am adjusting back to the culture... so maybe someday I can be optimistic about my country again. I don't want to dump all that on you via a blog.

So that's a summary of why I am on sabbatical at age 25. Don't worry, I'm not that old yet and I will be a blogger again in the future... I'm just not sure when that will be. Thanks for understanding. :)


Reverse Culture Shock

Transitioning from a foreign country back to your home country has its pros and cons... At any given moment, you might realize you are experiencing one of the pros (usually accompanied by an emotional high) or one of the cons (accompanied by an emotional low).

I had experienced this reverse culture shock every time I had come home during Christmas and summer vacation, but this time, it has set in more deeply. Why? Well... because I'm not going back to CR at the end of the month. I read several online articles before returning to the U.S. this time, just to get an idea of what I was going to experience. The pros/highs of the articles listed such things as your mom's cooking, re-connecting with family and friends, using the dryer for your jeans, convenience of shopping at WalMarts, and going back to ''normal'' life. The cons/lows listed were (discouragingly) similar: missing foreign foods, re-connecting with family and friends, missing the crisp feeling of your air-dried jeans, missing the convenience of the neighborhood grocery stores, and missing the ''not-normal'' life.

In other words, the pros and cons are just different aspects of the exact same normal life experiences.

The pros have been great: all the hellos to family and friends, buying a car (and feeling like I just bought my independence back!), eating lots of cheese and strawberries :), travelling to several states to spend time with family and friends (Minnesota, Michigan, Mississippi, Ohio), and going to WalMart to buy new makeup!
While riding this rollercoaster, I have found that there are several triggers that bring the lows. Various triggers for these high and lows include:

...receiving advertisement e-mails from target.com, youswoop.com, etc., and realizing that I can actually have purchased items shipped to my doorstep. On one hand, I love the convenience, and on the other hand, I realize I can't let the convenience trick me in to buying my every whim.

...noticing that not everyone wants the in-depth version of my last three years. Most just want a 5 second version, and all I can say in 5 seconds is, ''It was exciting and challenging. I learned a lot.'' I have been very encouraged by those who have asked for more details :). Thanks for asking!

...eating too much gourmet cheese one afternoon and thinking I was going to literally die that night as I waited through the stomach pains... ouch. We´ll call this the physical reverse culture shock :).

...eavesdropping on Spanish conversations and praying about how I can continue learning culture and language while being surrounded by English.

...realizing that life has gone on here without me. Not that change isn't good, it just reminds me that life doesn't revolve around me (a good lesson when I think about it).

...While standing in the cheese aisle at WalMart, I am overwhelmed by how many options there are. Or at an international foods store in downtown Detroit, I was overwhelmed by all the available juices. Or at the music festival in Minnesota, I was overwhelmed by the number of concerts I could choose from. Trigger: TOO MANY OPTIONS.

From what I've read and heard, reverse culture shock takes a while to go through. So far, I'm four weeks into the process, and it could be a while until I'm not so overwhelmed at WalMart :).


Next Steps

For what seems like forever now, I have been praying about this ''next step,'' asking for guidance in what God would have me do post-Costa-Rica. God had already answered prayers (multiple interviews, finishing the school year strong, saying good-byes) before I arrived in the States on June 28th, and I continued to be blown away by how God does answer prayer!!

Some seemingly forever prayer requests had included a job, a place to live (preferably in Elgin), and a car.
On my first full day back in the States, God answered all three!

First, I went to visit my new school. I am excited to start school August 15th!

Next, my parents helped me move furniture into my new living space. I will be living with friends Chris and Christina Watson.. If you're looking for a room to rent, we still have a room available! :)

Third, my parents offered for me to buy one of their cars (Anyone who knows our family knows we have a very full driveway!). I accepted their offer.
So there you have it. God answered three of my seemingly forever prayer requests all in one day. Job, check. House, check. Car, check. Confirmation that I'm heading in the right direction!!