Why I’m Staying Another Year in Costa Rica

So I realize I’ve been awful at this whole keeping-a-blog thing. I had a solid run, four to five months of consistent posts. But you know what happened? I dove into my life here. I left the limbo I had been stuck in, where every new adventure here meant a story to tell to someone back home. I no longer feel like a traveler who’s on the road, sending updates back to her “normal life,” as I’ve committed to the life I’m living here. Now that my life here is my new normal, I find it sufficient to keep in touch with loved ones, rather then to write it all down for my whole “other” life to read.

I would say this started in April. The first couple months of school were rough, man. It was my first time teaching my own class, and it was exhausting me. I had to seriously motivate my self to do anything but nap after school every day. Slowly but surely, however, I got better at my job, learned how to conserve and utilize my time and energy, and after a few months I was really longing to branch out more, make solid friends, and create more of a life for myself down here. In March, a new CrossFit came to town and I started doing that. It really helped me get out of the house, and the exercise helped add some energy into my life.

In April we had a long weekend. Some of the teachers at my school who I had become friendly with were trying to talk me into going away with them – they were going to Puntarenas for a music festival and then taking a ferry to Montezuma to camp for the weekend. It sounded so fun, but I was longing for a relaxing weekend with some surf here in Jacó. At the last minute, and after another encouraging conversation with Malinda, I decided that going to see other parts of the country and getting to know these people better would be well worth the lack of rest. Looking back, I believe it was a pivotal moment for me. To put it simply the exhaustion was well worth it. I had a blast, and the people I spent that weekend with are now my best friends here, and week after week they are a part of what make this New England girl feel so at home in a tropical country 4,000 miles away.

So now that I’m here, in this place where I feel at home in Costa Rica, I have decided to stay another year. So, let’s talk about my day-to-day life: the bits and pieces of this world I’ve created that I’m not ready to give up yet.

Diet

While I still find myself consuming cheese, empanadas, rice and beans, and beer on a semi-regular basis, I feel as though I am eating a more nutritious diet than ever before. Each Thursday night there is an organic farmer’s market. I generally spend the equivalent of fifteen dollars, and I leave with about ten coconuts, fresh kale, arugula, cucumber, tomato, onion, sweet potato, the sweetest pineapple you’ll ever find, lychee, Uchua aka gooseberries, fresh ginger and turmeric, passionfruit…. the list goes on, but that is my general shopping list and what I can get for fifteen dollars. The big grocery store in town is actually owned by Walmart, so the vegetables are largely imported and overpriced. Being on a modest teacher’s salary, I so cherish my weekly visits to the market for fresh, colorful, organic, local, and inexpensive produce.

Apart from that, I try to keep my meals based around produce. Because I avoid the main grocery store, I rarely buy meat or chicken. Only once or twice a week will I buy some fish to sautee in coconut oil, but for the most part I get my protein from eggs. Just as of recently, I’ve been buying delicious eggs from my neighbor’s hens. I was so excited when I learned they sell them. The yolks are strong and dark orange. I love eggs so I’m sure not everyone can relate, but they are fantastic. Additionally, I discovered a local farmer who drives through my neighborhood every day selling milk. He comes mid morning while I’m at school, so it’s really just a weekend treat, but nonetheless, I’m happy to support a local farmer and enjoy his rich leche.

Additionally, I’ve been making Kombucha! Growing this delicious, healthy probiotic each week is like a science experiment I get to enjoy and share with friends. There is something to be said about having living things growing in your house. And by house I mean studio apartment.

My diet is colorful and fresh, and I wouldn’t change a thing about it. Even just the coconuts I buy every week would be enough to keep me in Costa Rica. There is nothing like starting your day by pulling a coconut out of the fridge, popping her open, and chugging the cold, refreshing, electrolyte-filled sweet water.

Job

The beginning of the year was tiresome, but now I love my job. I think additionally, it is hard to see progress in five and six year olds during the first few months. Now that we are coming up on the end of the year, all of the things they have been learning since January are coming together and these kids are making me so proud. I love each and every one of them. Each day I go in hoping to do a better job than the day before, and I can’t wait to do it all over again next year. My coworker, Ileana, has become one of my greatest friendships here in Costa Rica, and her partnership makes my days easier and more enjoyable.

A few weeks ago, we played a staff versus high school soccer game. It was during my afternoon recess, so all my kids watched. It was so fun to take off my teacher uniform for an hour and have fun with students and coworkers. Just this last week, we had a Culture Fair at the school. Each class from preschool to high school represented a different country, and we prepared for over a month. My students represented Switzerland: we rehearsed a traditional Swiss folk partner dance, studied cultural aspects of Switzerland, and sold Swiss food including potato pie, cheese, chocolate mousse, hot chocolate, apple juice, apple pie…. delicious and fun. It was so nice to see the entire school coming together in such a fun environment, with families as well.

Karma Tribe

If you haven’t already checked out this fantastic website http://www.karmatribe.com, please do so now. It was founded by my great friend Dave, a tricitizen of the U.S., France, and Canada, now living in Costa Rica. The idea is that we can create an economy based on kindness that does not require money. I help Dave with communications and social media, and whatever else he needs that I can do. I have had nothing but good experiences working with the project. Everyone that learns about the website seems so excited and eager to contribute to the initiative.

Additionally, my life here follows the same philosophy that Karma Tribe promotes. I can’t tell you how rarely my friends and I pay each other back monetarily. The economy amongst our network of friends is largely an exchange of favors.

Nature

Nature. Rainforest. Rain. Sunshine.

Scarlet Macaws. Monkeys. Sloths. Toucans…. all things I can see every day without trying too hard – right here in Jaco. Greenery surrounds me. Rain comes and cleanses away your sweat, and your stress, and your hurry. It calms and quiets down the town, almost as surely as it will calm and quiet your mind. The rainfall here is the therapy, the stillness I didn’t know I needed. Rarely do I ever resent the rain. Even when my favorite band, Cultura Profética, came to play here in Jacó and it got rained out, I still danced my way home, enjoying every minute.

I have always felt close with nature, and I’ve always found myself escaping to it. It’s just so much more intertwined with my life here. There is a single gecko who has lived above my kitchen sink for about five months. I have seen scorpions and wolf spiders in my classroom. I have seen and learned about animals that I had never even seen on the Animal Planet TV channel. While surfing, I watch schools of fish jump beside me and even little devil rays jump out of the water to soak up some sun. Yes, there are crocodiles in the ocean here during rainy season. But I can even find it in me to appreciate them. Sometimes I think we need to be reminded of our humanity a little.

CrossFit

Anyone who has taken Sociology 101 will tell you that people are least likely to commit suicide if they have more ties to their community. That being said, CrossFit has been yet another addition to the strong sense of community I feel here. Jacó is an interesting town in that almost everyone has an occupation which connects them back to the community. In my home town in the states, most people commute to the city or to another town to work for a company who may not have anything to do with anyone else in their town. Here, everyone I know is working at bars and restaurants, teaching yoga, playing live music, managing hotels, teaching in the schools, etc. We all have more than one reason to know each other, and we interact with one another at our places of work all the time.

CrossFit is another realm of this community for me. My friends at the gym include parents of my students, police officers from town, restaurant/bar owners, my bank teller, my dentist… I mean literally. I could go on. So yes, CrossFit is my place where I get to go release my competitive nature and work on my physical body. But anyone who exercises consciously knows that while we may be working on our bodies, we are really working on our mental health. I feel so good doing CrossFit all the time, it releases endorphins, and it is so good for me to have another network outside of my work and friends.

Other Cool Shit That Happens Here

I am surrounded by positive and progressive people. A couple of  weeks ago I went to an energy healing workshop with some friends and my coworker Ileana. We learned a bit about all of the energy we carry in our spinal chord, and a five minute tapping therapy to heal issues in our lives by activating and releasing that energy. There were about eight of us in the workshop and it was such a nice union of good people. The following day, Dave, Jackie, and myself went to a permaculture event in San José, where we met more awesome people and learned about permaculture and agriculture in general.

There is awesome live music here in Jacó! Every night you can usually have your pick of live music. After participating in an open mic night, there have been a few artists who will ask me to join them in singing a song from time to time…. Which is so fun for me!

Today my friend Sarah initiated a workshop on nonviolent communication, a topic she has been studying. We talked about what compassionate communication is, and tools for how to confront hard to discuss topics from a place of non-judgement and understanding. Once again, everyone there seemed to have a strong light and we all seemed to vibrate on the same frequency. We talked about how we would love to meet up again on a weekly basis and perhaps even begin a creative writing workshop.

Surfing

Aah… Surfing. How had I gone twenty two years without surfing? This sport has been so fun to learn. I’ve had both some of the scariest moments of my life and some of the most rewarding moments of my life while surfing. Whether I am just sitting on my board enjoying the scenery by myself or with friends, or if I am charging wave after wave, it is always worth it to paddle out. The sport has created a new challenge in my life and a new connection with the ocean, the tides, and the rhythm of the waves which I didn’t have before. Eventually, when I do go back to the United States, I will miss hopping on my bike, riding the four hundred meters to the ocean, and catching gorgeous waves without a wetsuit. How sweet is life on surf days.

Friends

Every Thursday night, I go to CrossFit and go straight to the market and then come home to shower and put my groceries away. My friends all have their side jobs and tutoring and yoga going on, and we all meet up at my apartment for an eight o’clock dinner, utilizing our fresh ingredients from the market. Week after week, we find ourselves repeating to each other that it is the best part of our week.

When you live abroad, your friends become your family. They are the people that you can depend on when you can’t make ends meet, when you ran out of coffee and the stores are all closed, when you need to vent about how crazy your kindergarteners are, and when you miss your biological family. Just when you feel like you are so far away from home and the people who really know you, they make you laugh so hard and you remember that there are people here that are just like you too. Who can find humor and amusement in the same things as you. Who know you better than you think they do. Who love you for you.

Living Alone

A good friend of mine here, Jackie, has a great philosophy on living alone. When you live alone, you need to be in a relationship with yourself. Just like any relationship, you need to work on it. Setting time aside for dinner and a movie at home by yourself is not being a lazy introvert, it is an important part of your routine that you can’t afford to deny yourself of. After all, you’re the one that you need to live with. You need to learn to love yourself. Being comfortable with your self solitarily in your home can be one of the most quietly beautiful things. While I could go on and on about all of these outside forces that make my life so great here, at the end of the day, this journey is about myself. It’s about putting myself into different situations, different elements, and seeing how I react. It’s about learning as much as I possible can while I am here – in Costa Rica, or in life. Each new day, with each new experience, I am learning more and more about myself. I’m going to quote Jackie here on her theories of life experiences and interpreting it all and say, I’m still collecting data. It’s not time to interpret the data, because I’m nowhere near done yet. As for now, I’ll continue collecting data in Costa Rica.  There will come a time when I will come back to the motherland to research it all again. But for now, there are still so many friends to be made, so many waves to be caught, so many students to teach, so many lessons to be learned. There is honey to be suckled, coconuts to be drunk, there are men to kiss, and there is so much more data to gather before I’m done in the land of Pura Vida. There is pure, pure life to be lived, and I intend on doing so.

Thanks for reading.

With love that grows and grows,

Molly

Yikes!

Faithful readers,

I’m so sorry! It’s been almost two months since I’ve written. I’m the worst!

I don’t know what to say. I love my life here. I love it so much. The more I invest in my life here, the easier it is for me to envision a longer future for myself here. Yet the more I invest in my life here, the less frequently I am calling home or keeping in touch with friends and family. You just can’t win when you have more than one place to call home. For the most part, I think I will come back in December. But some days I’m not so sure.

Apart from that, it’s hard to catch you up on what I’ve done in the past two months. Instead, I will provide a snippet of my week last week. No one week is ever the same as the one before, but maybe this will give you an idea.

Here is what a week in my shoes might look like:

MONDAY

6:15: Get on public bus to go to school.

6:40: Arrive at school… Do some lesson planning.

7:20 Students begin to arrive, unload them from cars and sit them quietly together

7:50: Gather students and head for class.

7:50-2:20: Circle time, conversation time, English lessons, supervise swim class, lunch, recess, play, snack, book. Organized chaos sums it up pretty well.

2:45: Get on public bus to go home.

3:05: Arrive home. Rip off pants. Lay down on bed. Blast fan in face.

3:10-3:45: Have snack, drink coffee, fight the urge to nap.

4-5: Tutoring at student’s home, 5 minute bike ride down the street.

5:15: Call a cab to take to Crossfit.

5:30-6:30: Crossfit! Ride home with whoever is nice enough to offer on the given day.

6:45: Shower and rush to get clothes on.

7:00: Meet Leo, Jackie, and Dave for Tacos at Gustaco. Waiter probably thinks I am testing exactly how fast he can pour water as I attempt to make up for the day’s lack of hydration. Eat delicious tacos, enjoy wonderful company.

TUESDAY:

Same routine, instead of CrossFit catch a quick sunset surf session chasing as many waves as possible in the hour of daylight I had left. Go home, shower, hit the grocery store, and come back to make chicken, broccoli, and mashed yucca with Leo. Early to bed.

WEDNESDAY:

Same routine, come back and instead of fighting the urge to nap after school, give in to the nap. No tutoring, wake up around 4:30 for my night class teaching English to Adults 6-9.

THURSDAY:

Same routine during the day, though this time no naps, no tutoring, and no night classes. Get a ride to CrossFit from my student’s mom who also goes there with me. Come back and hit the organic market with her (every Thursday night in Jaco one block from my house). Buy carrot, uchua (called gooseberry in English though you can’t find them in the States…. delicious yellow-orange berry that grows inside of a flower), strawberries, kale, spinach, onion, pineapple, tomato, plums, cucumber, pepper, all for $10. Head to Leo’s and make a salad with kale, tomato, cucumber, carrot, roasted garlic and peanuts, grilled chicken, and lime and pineapple juice to dress it. DELICIOUS!

FRIDAY:

Normal morning routine

Find scorpion in the blocks box in my classroom.

Normally we get out at 12:20 on Fridays, but this week we got out even EARLIER, at 11:40, which meant I was able to make the 12:15 CrossFit class and get my workout out of the way for they day. At night I went to my friend Holly’s house. Holly lives with a woman named Marti…. Marti used to work at Las Nubes and now she runs her own language school in town, though she had been back in the states since December while her parents were sick. Coincidentally, Marti got me the job at Las Nubes, in a way. She took her TEFL certification at the same place that I did, and through the grapevine she told me to send my resume along because they were looking for teachers. So me and my good friends Jackie, Malinda, and Vanessa, enjoyed drinks with Holly and Marti, and it was nice for them to catch up, and for me to finally meet Marti, who I had previously only talked with on the phone!

We went out to a bar called The Hangout later, where our friend Celine was DJing. It was fun.

SATURDAY:

6:30am wake up. eat coffee, pineapples, and plums.

7:30: Go surfing!

10:00: Come back, enjoy a fresh coconut and a turkey, avocado, cheese, and tomato sandwich.

12-2 Nap!!!

4-6: Play catch (american football) on the beach with Leo and watch the sunset. Make another salad with grilled chicken.

SUNDAY:

7:00: wake up… coffee, banana, plums, strawberries.

8-10:30: SURF! Awesome sesh with Leo, our other friend Leo, and his little 11 year old brother who is learning to surf. Leo #2 works at the surf school tent near where I always surf. His brother Jose is so cute. Nothing better than a care-free surf session with friends. Encouraging one another as they paddle for a wave, high-fiving after someone catches a good one. And Jose is a beginner, and you could tell he was pumped to be out with his big brother and his friends. Leo #1 let him use his GoPro for a few rides so that he could watch himself on tape later. It was awesome

I think the rest of the day was filled with laundry, a nap, and a stroll into town for dinner.

Not a bad week.

Other common activities include:

  • Biweekly beach clean-up! Have I told you about Karma Tribe? Probably not. It is a website that my friend Dave started. In simplistic terms, it is sort of like a Craigslist but everything is free. You can offer and request favors in the forms of goods or services and there is no money involved nor allowed. The idea is to promote a gifting economy. Dave has asked me to join his team in promoting the website and writing the weekly newsletter. We also started doing beach clean-ups here in Jaco… Every other week we get a group together to walk the beach at sunset with a plastic bag and pick up as much trash as possible. It’s one of my favorite things to do because 1.) It’s a great excuse to walk the beach at sunset! 2.) There are always new people that join us and you get to walk and talk and get to know other mindful people in the community 3.) It feels so good to do something good for our beach and for the Earth.
  • Sunset yoga class with Jackie. I think I mentioned this before. Taught on the rooftop of a hostel as the sun sets infront of you over the ocean and the moon creeps up behind you overhead from the mountains. Blissful.
  • Hiking the local mountain. A few weeks ago I went with Leo and we saw 4-5 families of white faced capuchin monkeys, a family of spider monkeys, countless toucans, and lots of other neat birds and trees. At the top you can see all of Playa Hermosa nand Jaco.You  quite frequently. Yes, it’s true, I’ve been dating someone. But he is leaving to move back to the states this coming Friday! So needless to say my spirits may falter and my schedule may change a bit.

    Thank you for reading after so long. I’ll try to post more from now on.

    Pura Vida

  • Molly

Been A While

To those of you still following along – I’m sorry. I haven’t written much at all. For that, I have two reasons:

1.) I’m extremely busy.

2.) The more that I divulge into my life here, the less I feel the need to update those from my life back home. I know that sounds a bit sad, but it’s true. I am more rooted in my day to day life in Costa Rica at this point, and I no longer feel the need to constantly update my friends and family from the States. Although, I do miss you all, and I wish I had more time to update you.

I will write more when I have the time. Right now I am snacking and taking in my dosage of caffeine before I teach my night class.

Warm wishes,

Molly

It’s March Already?

Yo yo yoooooo!

I find it hard to believe we’re already into the second week of March! This means that I am on my 7th week of school. They days are going by more smoothly and the weeks are going by more quickly. Oddly enough, I haven’t had a Monday-Friday routine since high school. Even by senior year, classes were less intense and I worked on the weekends, so it didn’t quite feel like a 5 day week. In college I always created my schedule so that I would have all my classes during 2 or 3 days of the week, and I always worked weekends. So it’s been strange getting into a routine where Friday comes with much anticipation.

Last weekend I certainly enjoyed my weekend to the fullest. On Friday, I went to a dinner party in Playa Hermosa at a beach bungalow. My coworker, Jackie, who I ride the bus with most mornings and afternoons, had some friends who were moving back to the states on Monday and decided to rent a house on the beach for their last weekend. They fried a bunch of Red Snapper fish, someone brought homemade tortillas, I made a salsa, someone else made a rice and bean dish, there was a shrimp pasta salad…. and about 15 of us had a casual dinner and drinks which ended with a bonfire on the beach. It was a lovely night and I met a lot of new people! Though I still find it ridiculous to light a fire when the temperature hasn’t dropped below 82.

On Saturday I was feeling the drinks and decided not to go surfing. High tide was right at noon, and on the weekends the water can get so crowded, I decided it wasn’t worth it. I went out with some new friends on Saturday and we ended the night on one of their balconies and I brought my guitar. I haven’t played for anyone since being here so it was nice.

On Sunday me and two friends went to Carara National Park. It is a very small park, but it’s the closest one to us. It’s not like Manuel Antonio National Park where there is an abundance of crazy animals, but it had some lovely trails and we saw some beautiful birds, gigantic and unique trees, and lots of green life. We did a 3 mile loop and it was great to spend some time in the woods.

On the way back we caught a ride with some strangers in a suburban. I haven’t hitch hiked since being here, but almost everyone I know does it all the time. Especially in Jaco, where 2 miles south there is Playa Hermosa, and 3 miles north is Herradura Bay, people are always hitch hiking in between the surrounding areas. Actually, if I’m standing on a major road or walking in a certain direction, I have often been asked if I want a ride to the next beach. My friends and I looked at each other and decided there was 3 of us so why not hop in. It all went well, they were really nice. We got home, got some food, then decided to lounge by the pool at this hostel near me called Room2Board. This is where I take yoga classes with Jackie – they have a rooftop studio and she teaches at sunset a few nights a week. The owner bought my friends and I a couple of piña coladas and we cooled off in the pool. I know it’s strange, but I haven’t been in a pool since I’ve been in Costa Rica! Then we watched the sun set on the beach. So, we went from the rainforest, to the pool, to the beach, all in one day. It was a wonderful Sunday.

Just a week and a half until my family gets here. I can hardly wait!

Molly

I’ll start this blog post by saying I have nothing in particular to write about.

It’s Sunday morning and I’m enjoying a coffee. My body is so stiff and sore from surfing and exercising. Yesterday I surfed for 3 hours, and the day before that two hours. Yesterday was an awesome day for surfing. I caught so many awesome waves and I feel like I’m getting a lot better. I think I’m ready to buy a surf board – at this point I’ve almost paid for a board in rentals, and I’ve been riding the same size board for a little while now, one that I can enjoy for a long time. Also, my vacation week alone will be worth it to have one, since I’ll be off for a week chilling on the beach with my family, plus Jackie will be able to borrow it.

On Tuesday I had a scary moment in the water. I had just paddled out and there was a calm in between sets, so I didn’t have a good idea for how big the waves were just then. Usually after I paddle out I like to chill out for a minute and check out how the waves are breaking. A wave was coming and it seemed like the ideal size, so I began to paddle for it. It built up and grew very quickly right at the end, and I probably should have bailed on it, but I went with it. I caught the wave right at the top of it, too high up on it, and dropped straight down as the wave crashed. I got tossed around like dirty laundry in a washing machine for long while. Instinctually, with such powerful water crashing all around you, you blow fiercely out of your nose to keep the water out. Unfortunately this means emptying your lungs, and since I was underwater for much longer than was comfortable, I was trying to fight back the panic as I searched for which way was up. Finally my feet found the bottom, and I kicked up as hard as I could, but I still had to swim on further to the top, with barely any air in my lungs. It was high tide so I was out pretty deep. I finally found the top, gasping for breath, and it felt like each breath in was not enough to replenish my lungs and get oxygen to my brain. I was working hard to catch my breath when another monstrous wave came and I had to duck under it. This process continued for an entire set (the wave I originally crashed on was the first in a set of 7). Finally, they passed, and I rested on my board for a few minutes catching by breath. A fellow surfer swam up and asked if I was okay. While panting, I joked, “yeah, I just need a good beating so that I can sleep well at night.”

Though I was grateful that there was a stranger who had his eye on me and was looking out for those around him, it was certainly a lesson. This is the second seriously scary moment I’ve had while surfing. I haven’t really told my parents this, but there are usually a few drownings at Jacó beach every year. In the future, if I go surfing alone, I vow to take it easy and get a good feel for the swell before going for waves. Also, saying hi to the surfers that are beside you is a good way to make yourself known in the water.

Other than that, not too much to write home about. Still finding joy in the littlest things about by life here. Had a pretty quiet weekend, all I did was organize, exercise, and surf. There was a giant music/arts/yoga festival down in Uvita (a few hours south of here) this weekend that a lot of my friends went to. Starting to miss my family. Good timing, they’re coming to visit in less than 3 weeks! Also seems right about when I’ll need a break from teaching 😉

 

Muchacha!

It’s Thursday. I just go back from work, threw some shorts on, and biked down to the laundromat to pick up some laundry. On my way down my little street, a couple kids called to me after I passed them: Muchacha!  (“girl!”) I circled back to them and they handed me a couple of mangoes they had shaken down with a stick from the tree we were standing under. The mangoes were no where near ripe. “We have a gift for you – mangoes we got from this tree!” Wow, thanks! Hold them for me for when I come back!

Daniela, the woman who works at the laundromat, greeted me kindly and by name like she always does. It’s a wash-dry-fold service which I love. She handed me my clean laundry and instead of putting it in a trash bag like normal, she intentionally plastic wrapped it compactly so that it would fit in the basket on my bike!!

Two small acts of kindness within 10 minutes on a random errand.

Feeling the goodness.

Off to a sunset yoga class that my coworker Jackie teaches on the rooftop of a hostel near my house.

Pura vida.

On the go

I write this from the bus from San Jose to Jacó. It’s Monday afternoon and I didn’t work today (a sub filled in). Why, you might ask?

Until my work permit arrives, I have to leave the country every 90 days (for a minimum of 72 hours) in order to renew my tourist visa. I found a super cheap flight to Fort Lauderdale and decided to take advantage. Although in the future I plan to travel to Nicaragua or Panama, it was actually easier to go to the states, for 3 reasons. 1.) I didn’t have anyone to travel with and would prefer a buddy when I’m bussing across international borders of which neither are mine. 2.) I had friends to stay with in Florida (aka no hostel/hotel fees). 3.) I could more efficiently stay out of the country for 72 hours without taking more than 2 days of work off. Going to Nicaragua or Panama means traveling 2 hours to San Jose and then taking the next bus to Nicaragua or Panama – there are only a few every day, so odds are I would have to stay overnight in San Jose and get a bus the next morning. Flights, however, I could pick more specifically to my needs.

So I got into Fort Lauderdale Friday morning and a friend named Caddy (friend through Jackie & CrossFit Framingham) picked me up, and we headed to West Palm Beach where he lives. We got breakfast at this amazing French bistro, then did a little shopping (he needed sunglasses, I needed deodorant). We checked out a produce and juice bar that his friends own and I got a delicious beet juice. Then we biked the “bike path” of west palm/palm beach. We probably went a couple miles, not exactly sure. The path went along the canal and beside a row of mansions which were fun to look at. We biked to the beach and soaked it in for a little while, then had lunch and went back to his house where my friend Lexi picked me up.

Lexi (is short for Alexander, thus he is a male) lives in Boca Raton, and I hadn’t seen him since Megan’s funeral over two years ago. Lexi, Megan, and I used to spend a lot of time together. I don’t really think about Lexi without thinking about Megan, and a ton of my memories with Megan involve Lexi. It was so nice to spend the weekend with him, talk about memories, and make some new ones… We were laughing the whole time.

Most of the weekend revolved around our meals which I was 100% okay with. We went to a Vietnamese grill for Pho (a Vietnam broth with noodles, basil, meat, etc.), had an amazing pizza, got egg filled crepes, and an absolutely amazing Thai meal with Lexi’s mom, who has also moved to West Palm Beach.

It was a really strange feeling being in Florida for the weekend. I’ve really settled into my life here in Costa Rica, so to randomly spend 3 days in Florida felt odd. The large pizza we ordered cost $37… I was perplexed! I saw more fake boobs then I’ve ever seen all together in my life, and a handful of dogs being pushed in strollers. Not only was I experiencing the culture shock of coming from Costa Rica to the US, but to south Florida, which is its own universe in and of itself.

I’m getting beyond excited for my family to come visit (March 19). Time is moving quickly! This will be my 5th week teaching kindergarten.

Pineapples and Parent Teacher Meetings

I had a funny week this week, where every day got better and better as it went.

Monday night I had our parent teacher meeting, or “back to school night” as you would call it in the U.S. I know in a previous post I stated that becoming a kindergarten teacher is the bravest thing I’ve ever done, but I now retract that statement. Being the teacher at a parent teacher night in a foreign language was the bravest thing I’ve ever done. For the most part, the parents were pumped and actually really excited that they’re kids will have me as their teacher. Usually the kindergarten teacher is Tica, so the kids don’t get thrown into English until first grade. They liked what I had to say about teaching children English, ie: only teaching them things they would naturally encounter/use/do/say in their real lives, using body language and kinesthetic tools to teach vocabulary and phrases. For example, singing “head, shoulders, knees, and toes” and “the hokey pokey” to learn body parts. Though there are times I have to use Spanish to explain things to them, I try to use instructional phrases always in English: “Open your book” mimes opening a book, “Sit in your chairs” points to chair. But there were a few interrogative parents that got me flustered and spitting out answers that I wasn’t able to prepare for. All in all, it went well.

I had my adult class on Wednesday night again. 6-9:30pm after getting up at 5am and teaching kindergartners all day. I have to say though, I really don’t mind it. Although I’m a little tired, it’s a really nice break getting to go teach adults for a few hours. I honestly have fun. It’s a really nice environment, because I’m not smarter or better than them by any means – I just happen to know English and how to teach it. They always come to class with questions they’ve had about English. For example, one of my students works at a rental car shop. He was dying to know the difference in pronunciation between keys and kiss. Apparently customers are always laughing at him: “Don’t forget your kiss.” It’s awesome when they have things that they want to learn about, because next class I can make an activity about minimal pairs. Minimal pairs are two words in a language that are identical besides one sound. Other examples: Bear and beer, ship and chip, tree and three.

On Thursday I had one of the best days I’ve had in a while. I have one kindergartener with awful behavior. He cannot sit in his chair for one minute, even when I’m looking him in the face and saying his name right in front of him he will continue to misbehave. I’ve done time outs, taken away recess time, written home to his parents, and it didn’t seem to matter to him. I decided to write home to his parents again and asked them to have a serious talk with him because we cannot continue the year like this. On Thursday he was so much better right off the bat, so at recess I called him over. I told him I was so happy that he was behaving so well and that it made class so much better. I gave him a high five and told him I hope it will continue. After recess, we switched groups. Not sure if I’ve mentioned this, but there are two groups of kindergarteners, I have the mostly Spanish speaking group, and the Tica teacher has the mostly English speaking group. Every day we have each group for half the day. He ran up to me at the next recess and gave me a big hug. So I can tell that positive reinforcement really works for him. At the end of the day I told him I was really happy with his behavior, but to remember that it’s not just a one day thing, and that we can keep having good days if we work together.

After school I got home and was not tired for the first time since school has started. I was dying to go surfing, but it was dead low tide, and you can’t surf then because the waves are small and break right on the beach. So I rode my bike down to the beach to catch the sunset anyway. It was one of the best ones I’ve seen yet. The sun was absolutely huge. I was enjoying the colorful sky and a little me time when a little boy came over to me and handed me an ice cold can of beer. “Mi papa dice que tu eres muy bonita,” My dad says you’re really pretty. I had a laugh and said thank you. I looked and saw a man looking at me. He was definitely too old for me (please note, I don’t say that often), and looked like he didn’t take good care of his body. Also he was wearing a cowboy hat. But that’s kind of common here. The boy comes back over and asks me for my telephone number. I laugh again, but tell the boy no, I’m sorry, and look back at the guy, shaking my finger at him. The boy comes back again and asks if I have facebook. I decline again. The boy gets all puppy dog eyed and says okay, I wont bother you anymore. Now I’m feeling bad for the kid, and I realize that’s the whole point. I think what bothered me most was that the guy was making so much effort via training his son on what to say, when he could have just gotten his ass off his chair and approached me. Until he got up and I realized he only had one leg….. It was a funny encounter, and not too overbearing that I didn’t get to enjoy the sunset. Also, I appreciated the beer. I haven’t been buying alcohol to keep in my apartment or drinking much, so it was a refreshing almost-the-end-of-the-week treat.

On my way back I stopped at the Ceviche joint down the street and grabbed some to go to make fish tacos. Ughh…. It’s so good and refreshing. It was the perfect day.

One of my favorite parts of every day is spending my second recess with teacher Iliana. It’s the long recess, 45 minutes after lunch. We sit together and watch our two groups of kindergarteners, and we never run out of things to talk about. We talk about the behavior of all of our students, brainstorm lesson plans and solutions to problems. We talk about our family dynamics, our romantic history, our favorite places to eat. Iliana is married with two kids who also go to Las Nubes, and her husband owns a surf shop here in Jaco.

Also, we write in our message journals. Every student has a journal that they bring back and forth to school every day. They’re not for the student use, but they’re for us to communicate with the parents. If the parents need to tell us their child will be going home with a friend, they write it in the journal. If we need to give the parents a reminder about an upcoming date, or write home about behavior issues, we write it in the journal. We don’t give out our phone numbers or email addresses, so this is how we communicate for everything. Since my students’ parents all speak Spanish, and her students parents all speak English, we help each other. Iliana speaks English very well, better than I do Spanish, but it’s so nice to help each other choose the best words to write home to the parents. When communicating with parents, you need to be kind yet firm. Word choice is so important as to not sound too laid back or brash and offensive. As a learner and teacher of language, I couldn’t possibly think of a better language learning exercise. We explain to each other how it really sounds when you say a certain word or phrase, and why a certain one might be better to use in this instance. It’s helping my Spanish tremendously.

Now it’s Saturday morning and I’m waiting for the tide to come up a little more so I can go surfing. I can’t sleep in here. I woke up at 6:45 this morning and it felt late. I made a pineapple/banana/coconut smoothie, and then made gallo pinto with eggs. Gallo pinto is the typical rice and bean medley with garlic, pepper, onions, cilantro, typically served for breakfast with eggs and tortillas. It’s an amazing and hearty breakfast, perfect to load up on before spending a few hours surfing. While the rice was cooking and the coffee was dripping through the filter, I walked down to the pulpería (corner store) for some milk and eggs. It’s literally a minute walk from my apartment. While running this small errand, sun already beaming down, birds going crazy, neighbors in the street talking and getting their Saturday errands done, I just felt so lucky and in love with my life and my new routine. I honestly feel that way every morning when I have my coffee on the balcony.

I can’t believe this is my life.

Today, I am expecting visitors!! My friends Meli and Gustavo (friends from Heredia who I spent New Years with) are coming to visit for today and tomorrow. Not sure what we’ll do yet, maybe head to Playa Hermosa to the Backyard Bar for the surf competitions they have every Saturday at sunset. Maybe eat some sushi after (they love sushi). Meli has a car, so maybe we can check out some local waterfalls. It’s nice to feel like I have friends in different parts of this country that can come visit me and spend a weekend at the beach together.

Sigh. Life is good.

More Musings

Since I’ve mostly been posting updates in my last posts, I wanted to take a few minutes to write about some more day to day things about my life here.

I’ll start with my landlords. I live in an apartment building that has 8 units, all of them single person studios. We are gated in on the property where my landlord’s family also lives. They have a lovely home with an almond tree out front and a garden that always smells rich with Cilantro whenever it’s humid or breezy. My landlords (Doña Juanita and Don Emilio) are true old timers. They’re probably around 70, and they live so peacefully and quietly. They go to the Catholic Church at the end of our street at least once a week, and they spend most of their days sitting under the shade of the almond tree. They’re kind of like my parents in a sense that I say hello and goodbye to them every time I come and go, and we update each other on our days. It’s really nice, but there are some moments where I’d like some privacy. I’ve done the math, and off of the apartments they only make about 20% more than I do from my teaching job, and to the best of my knowledge they don’t have other jobs. Don Emilio spends most of his days working on a mosaic mural. It takes up one entire wall of the property, and he says he’s been working on it for about a year. It’s beautiful. It says “Pura Vida” and the family name, and now he’s working on an image that looks like their house. I love it.

At my apartment, I see so many birds. The Scarlet Macaws like I mentioned, but also green parrots, some type of Oriole, birds that are bright yellow, bright green, black with flashes of red. And did you know that woodpeckers do indeed like to pick on palm trees? There are so many birds that I don’t have time to look up what they are. And lizards. And butterflies. I feel so lucky. Every morning I wake up (around 5am since I have to catch the 6am bus to work…) and open my door to stand and have a coffee on my balcony and look at the mountains. It’s the best time of day…. the sun comes up from behind the mountains, so before you see the sun and it’s just getting bright out, it’s still a bit cool, and the mountains look blue by the effect of the lighting. The birds get going and they don’t stop all day. Luckily I don’t have any roosters that live right here, but occasionally a neighbors will wander over and start hollering.

The dining options in Jacó are seemingly endless right now. You’ve got options that are cheaper than if you cooked at home, to adventurous tapas restaurants, to real-deal Italian restaurants, to fine Sushi, to burger joints… everything! Just about every street corner has a Casado joint. Casado is the typical Costa Rican home cooked plate, and it usually costs between $4-6. Every restaurant has a different version, but it’s usually some type of meat or fish with rice, beans, salad, plantains, roasted vegetables, and stewed potatoes or maybe a little pasta dish. It’s home cooked food and it comes quick, and cheap, and it’s delicious. No matter where you eat the food is always fresh. And the seafood is soo good! Ceviche is a staple here. I consider Ceviche to be like fish salsa. It’s fish (any kind – white fish, shrimp, calamari..) that is not cooked but rather sits in lime juice and becomes cooked that way by the acids in the lime. It also has raw diced onions, peppers, and cilantro. It’s extremely refreshing, and you eat it with tortilla chips or crackers. I found a place nearby me who makes it for you on the spot. The fish, of course, is already sitting in the lime juice, and then they mix it up with the other fixings for you right then and there, so you can request extra cilantro, or no peppers, or however you like it. The other day I picked some up to go and came home and warmed up some tortillas and made a couple fish tacos with it. It was delicious.

I also got paid from Las Nubes for the first time and found out I’ll be making more than I was originally offered. Between that and my side gig teaching to adults, I think I’ll be getting by quite alright. I’ll be able to live comfortably, have one nice meal out a week, save up for when I have visitors and want to live like I’m on vacation, or buy my own surf board eventually. I’ve been surfing after school on days where the tide is good at that time. I’ve just been renting and trying to use a smaller board every time, until I’m at a level where I’ll want to ride the same type for a while, at which point I’ll buy one.

I’ve been really busy and I’ve barely picked up my guitar, or had time to make my plan for the trimester at school. Hoping to settle down into a routine in the next week or two. It’s hard living in vacation land!

Pura Vida.

Back to Work

Well hello there!

I feel as though I’ve lived three lifetimes since last writing. I have officially completed one full week as a Kindergarten teacher….  How crazy! I also started my night class teaching to adults.

I’m trying to stay ambitious and positive, but right now I have 35 students (kindergarteners and adults combined) who expect me to teach them a whole lot of English during this year. It’s extremely overwhelming. While both my Kindergarteners and my adults have textbooks that help to frame my lesson planning, most of the learning happens outside of the pages, and I’m feeling very sink or swim. I have confidence that it will go well, but neither my kindergarteners nor my adults know a lick of English, so we have a long journey ahead.

Ali (roommate and bestie from UNH for those unaware) came to visit last Wednesday-Wednesday! What a treat. Although I only had Saturday and Sunday off, we managed to do a lot. She took surfing lessons every day while I was at work, and at night we hit up as many restaurants as possible. On Sunday the pats were playing, and a friend recommended a bar that would for sure be playing NFL games on their TVs… Unfortunately he forgot to mention that the bar was owned by a guy from Colorado. Ali and I had fun being the only New England fans in the place. We made some friends who took us to a rodeo. It was a fun and spontaneous day. On Saturday we went to Manuel Antonio National Park, and then did an ATV tour. On Saturday alone we saw Sloths, Howler Monkeys, Squirrel Monkeys, Toucans, Green and Black Poison Dart FrogsBlue Morpho butterflies, deer, iguanas and many other lizards and birds. I feel like she got a lot packed in for a 7 day trip, and I think she had a great time.

Ali loves driving fast so the ATV tour was perfect for her. It went through fields, a Palm Tree plantation, through towns, the jungle, over rivers, and up a mountain a little bit to a waterfall. It was a short hike to the waterfall, crossing a suspended bridge that looked like it could use some maintenance. While we were walking along the river towards the waterfall, 4-5 Blue Morpho butterflies crossed our paths. I’ve never experienced a moment so magical in my life. I’ve seen pictures of these butterflies, and heard lots of fuss about them, but you truly can’t understand until you witness them. The sounds of the river and waterfall and the chorus of insects and animals in the jungle, and then these majestically blue, huge butterflies just float across the air in front of you. When they land on a leaf of branch, they immediately close their wings and the underside of their wings is a dull brown that camouflages instantly. They flutter in front of you in slow motion and then vanish before you know it. My jaw was on the floor. It reminded me of that old cartoon (Disney?) movie about the rain forest, Fern Gully.

One disappointing aspect to our ATV tour was that our tour guide got drunk during it. It was just Ali and I on the tour, and he gave us water bottles when we got off the ATVs at the waterfall. After handing me mine and going to open his, he said: “wait a minute, that ones mine…” I looked at mine and it was opened and had definitely been reused a few times. I didn’t think anything of it and just switched with him. Then when we were at the waterfall he took a few pictures of us and handed me back our phones and Ali whispered “so boozey…” And I smelled it too. The rest of the tour he was repeating himself and asking the same questions two or three times. The water bottle was full of clear liquor and it was gone by the time we got on the ATVs again. It was just disappointing that a young guy who has a dream job has to get loaded by himself on the job.

Right before Ali got here I got super sick with swollen glands and a fever. I didn’t feel 100% while she was here, and now I’m sick again. I’ve been so unbelievably busy and I haven’t gotten a chance to rest until this weekend, which I’m taking full advantage of.

In terms of my kindergarteners, I keep having these great big rushes of opposing feelings. one moment it’s: “Holy shit, what have I gotten myself into…” the next it’s: “I got this. I got this.” A lot of people told me I was brave to pack up and move to a new country. However, I think taking on the role of a Kindergarten teacher is the bravest thing I’ve ever done.