Today was the first of my interviews with the bilingual schools. The interview went well, but there's a whole story attached. Read on if you please...
I took a bus in San Jose and arrived about 15 minutes early. In an attempt to calm myself down, I went and sat near the National Theater to pass the time. A man then came up and asked me if I wanted to participate in a very quick questionnaire. With time to kill, I agreed. The first question was "Do you speak English?", my answer "Yes". The second questions "Do you want to learn English?", after looking at him sort of crazy like I said "No". He then went on to explain that they could offer scholarships to go to a certain language school to learn English. I told him I wasn't interested. Next he asked if I had any siblings, cousins or other family who wanted to learn English. I told him "no". This whole conversation took place in Spanish and I don't know if he didn't recognize my accent, or was just an idiot. But why in the world would you try to get a gringa to enroll in English classes?
After laughing a bit to myself, I went to find a taxi that could take me to the high school. It's not a super well known location and was a good bit away so I had to ask more than one taxi. Eventually one guy knew and I took a 5000c ($10, geeze!) taxi ride up to the school. And what a school it is. It's freaking beautiful, and giant, and just great looking. I met with the principal and he didn't ask me any interview questions. He basically described the job I would do and then asked if I could do it. I assured him I could. One thing that struck me as weird was he asked to see "my papers". Well in order to get a work permit in Costa Rica, you must first be sponsored by a job. (For anyone interested, just found this sweet website about working in CR.) I explained this to him and he told me every time they've hired foreigners before, they've always already had a visa. Hmm... It makes me nervous to know I had to explain to my employer how one obtains a work visa. But he says he'd be find sponsoring me, so I guess everything's alright?
After the interview, I decided to walk down to the main road to get a taxi into San Jose centro, where I would then get my bus back to Pavas. I was almost at the main road when a random guy hops off a bus and asks me if I'm going to San Jose. I tell him I am, and he tells me to get on the bus. So I do. The traffic was a nightmare and I'm really glad I paid one flat, low rate for the ride instead of going on an expensive taxi meter. The final stop for the bus I was one was about a 1 - 1.5 mile walk from my Pavas stops. With the weather being nice, and the traffic being so horrible, I went ahead and strolled my way to the stop.
Once I got to the stop, a man asked me if I was waiting for the bus to Rohrmoser. I told him I was. He then asked did the bus pass by Oscar Arias' house (former president of CR) and I was happy to be able to tell him yes. This is something I would have never known had Oscar (my Oscar) never pointed it out to me. Though I guess I also wouldn't have known where the bus stop for Pavas was either.
Anyways, in the end the interview went really well. I think I have a good chance of landing a job there. I have two more schools where I will interview, and a second (all Spanish) interview at this first school. Here's to hoping.
Oh and one final thing that I forgot to add to my Nicaragua post! Most of you should know that Latinos love their tchotchke. Street vendors will sell you barking dogs, dancing clowns, and angels of fine tchotchke quality, but you will find a gold mine at border crossing. I have never seen such grade A, quality tchotchke shit before in my life. I couldn't resist to buy one. So here it is, Oscar and I in Nicaraguan Shell Chicken form!
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
Today was the first of my interviews with the bilingual schools. The interview went well, but there's a whole story attached. Read on if you please...
Monday, October 24, 2011
This past weekend I had to hop the border to renew my 90 day tourist visa. Technically you're supposed to be out for 3 days, but I left Friday came back Saturday and the man at the border didn't even look at my passport. So I'm legally able to stay another 90 days in Costa Rica!
For the two days I was gone, I spent my time in Granada, Nicaragua. It's about a 8.5-9 hour bus ride from San Jose, depending on how long the border takes. I believe that ticos are quite a friendly bunch, but I'm also always amazed how much nicer nicas (Nicaraguans) are. I got off the bus and had no idea where I was. After asking around I located the center of town and began walking. I found an internet cafe to use and popped on in. I was supposed to meet up with a couchsurfer when I arrived, but the number he gave me didn't work so I looked up a hostel instead. The man working at the internet cafe (really just a room in his house) was extremely kind. I asked about different hostels and he made phone calls for me to see if there were rooms available and also the exact addresses. He then wrote down for me addresses and descriptions of three hostels that were close by. I was somehow unable to find them and wandered around muggy and hot Granada for the next half hour or so. Not a bad way to pass the time when the streets look like this.
When I was finally too sweaty and tired to continue my search, I hopped in a taxi to take me to a hostel. He couldn't find it right away and asked around for me until we wound up in the right place. I stayed in Hostel Mochilas, which I wasn't too impressed with, but was alright for just the one night I was there. I might have enjoyed it more if I was able to meet people in the hostel. Everyone seemed to already have their own group of friends and was simply not interested in talking to me. The only person to talk to me was the nica guy who worked there.
A while later I headed to a restaurant down the street called Nuestro Mundo. I had a rice dish and while eating had to tell the little boy trying to sell me a hammock "no, gracias" for about 10 minutes. Because I was unable to contact my bank before heading to Nicaragua, I was unable to take out cordoba (Nicaraguan currency) from the ATMs. Luckily in almost all of Central America, USD are used just as commonly as local currency, so this is what I used to pay for dinner. After handing over my $20, the owner came back and told me I couldn't use that specific bill because of a marking on it. Nicaragua is very picky about how dollar bills look. They shouldn't have marks, rips, bends, or anything. I apologized and told the owner all I had was that $20 and about 5 cordoba (equal to 25 cents). He told me that it wasn't a problem, I could just come pay him later. I could barely believe it. Since my hostel was so close, I went to grab another $20 bill and brought it right back to him.
The following day was gorgeous. The sun was shining and it was blazing hot. My bus left around 1pm, so I asked the lady working at the hostel if it was okay if I hung out for a few hours extra. She told me it was no problem. I eventually made it over to the TicaBus station. While inside, a gringa lady was trying unsuccessfully to speak to a nica woman who was at the station. The gringa was asking to buy tickets, and the nica lady (who didn't work there) was telling her the TicaBus guy would be right back. It looked like quite the language barrier to me, so I finally said in English "She says the guy will be right back". The gringa then glared at me and says in a terrible accent "entiendo espanol, gracias!" And then "I live here". Well shit, your Spanish should be better than! I was only trying to be helpful to this women who seemed quite confused and lost. Oh well.
I made it back home to SJ and Oscar cooked up a yummy meal.
Tomorrow is my first of three total interviews for teaching positions in the bilingual schools. I really want to land something because I feel so useless not having a job. The closest school that will probably pay the best is also a Catholic school. I'm an atheist and I'm so nervous about applying to a Catholic school. I don't want to lie about my beliefs, but Oscar thinks I should. I don't know anything about Catholic schools, will I have to go pray every morning? Will there be mandatory mass for teachers as well as students? Will I teach creationism instead of evolution? Out of everything, that's one thing I'm not okay with. Creationism is not true and I refuse to pretend it is and tell impressionable students that creationism is how we were all brought here. It actually infuriates me that people think creationism is true. But annnyyyywwwwaaayyyssss...
I've got Italian homework to do and schools to research. Sorry for the lack of pictures on this long winded post! I'll make sure the next post is chock full =)
Thursday, October 20, 2011
Just a few random things going on right now.
Monday, October 17, 2011
As most of you probably know, down here in the tropics we have two seasons- rainy and less rainy (aka: dry). I knew seasons were something I was going to miss, because it was something I missed when I was here 3 years ago. North Carolina has four pretty distinct seasons, even though "winter" only lasts about 2 months and summer takes up most of the year. My favorite season has always been fall. I love so many things about fall. I love wearing "warm" colors and scarves. I love the changing colors of the leaves and the comfort of a hot meal. I love carving pumpkins in October and eating pumpkins in pie form in November. I also love the NC State Fair. And this is what I was missing most yesterday.
The NC State Fair is the epitome of everything good, great, tacky and country of North Carolina. There's fluffy bunnies with floppy ears. We have 800 pound pumpkins alongside "unusual vegetables" in one tent. There's pig races and masonry contests. Sand sculptures and angels made out of mops. There's fudge and free hushpuppies. And of course, anything you want fried. Fried cheeseburgers, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, twinkies, oreos, candy bars, coca-cola, butter, cheesecake, pickles, donuts, hell I believe if you handed them your youngest child they would put him in a deep fryer and serve him up with mayonnaise. The one thing I was truly aching for yesterday, were apple fritters. So instead of wallowing in my own sorrow for not having access to all things autumn, I decided to be proactive!
Apple fritters are basically apple slices deep fried. Well I figured I could make those! So I looked up a recipe, and found a golden one. It's posted by PioneerWoman, and if you know anything, you know that whatever PioneerWoman posts turns to gold. I followed the recipe pretty exact, except I also added in nutmeg, clove and about tripled the amount of cinnamon. I love spices!
This was my first time ever frying anything (bad! bad! southern girl!) and I think it turned out quite lovely.
Friday, October 14, 2011
It's no secret that I love my puppy. But the rest of this post is-- so SHHHHH!! Don't tell Oscar!=)
It has been rainy and cold for the past week here in Costa Rica. The coastline is flooding badly and lots of people are getting displaced because of it. I'm fortunate in that I'm only having a "wet dog" problem. I can take my Perlita on a walk in the morning with no rain, but around 11am it starts raining and doesn't stop. This causes a couple problems. 1- Perlita gets wet when we go out in the afternoon/evening. And Oscar hates "dog water". 2- All the poisonous toads come out. One bite could be the end of Perlita and she just wants nothing more than a mouthful of toad. So we have to avoid the park. 3- Even though it doesn't rain in the morning, the lack of any sun means the ground stays muddy. So when Perlita has her romp through the park, she in turn becomes quite muddy. 4- Perlita gets cold. She's adorable when she curls up all tiny, but her ears get cold and I feel bad for her. It's not like I can turn on the heat.
Thursday, October 13, 2011
Did I just tear up a beautiful language? Probably. Today was (finally!!!) my first day of Italian classes, and I had a BLAST. I forgot what it's like to start at the beginning learning a language having absolutely no prior knowledge at all. When I was in Costa Rica 3 years ago and began learning Spanish, I at least had a basis of the language already. I hadn't taken classes, but there's lots of Spanish in the USA and my mom is fluent and would occasionally yell things at us growing up like "SERVILLETA!", which meant to put your napkin on your lap. The last time I started truly from the beginning was when I was learning German in middle school. That was about... 11 or 12 years ago. (geeze!) Starting from the beginning is hard.
Why did I pick Italian? Well for a couple reasons. First would be because my ultimate master plan for my life is to snag a Spanish speaking man (check), move to Itlay, raise tri-lingual children, and eat tomatoes and drink wine every day. *sigh* One can dream, right? The second reason is because Italian is really similar to Spanish. Most native Spanish speakers I've met assure me that Portuguese is way more similar to Spanish than Italian, but when I hear Portuguese, I might as well be listening to Serbian-- nothing makes it through. With Italian, and even French, I can understand a lot more. So, good next step, right?
My class is nice and small, 6 people in total. Our teacher is enthusiastic (have you ever met an Italian who wasn't?), yet a bit scattered. I had a hard time taking notes that will be useful to me because she just sort of wrote stuff all over the board. But the class was fantastic. I absolutely loved learning new things. Plus I was the only one who knew how to spell gnocchi correctly (you can thank frequent visits to Italian restaurants with my sister for that piece of knowledge!).
As I walked to the bus stop after class, and the rest of the students hoped into their BMWs and Mercedes, I realized that learning languages is a true passion. Now to only find a way to make it lucrative! Ciao bella!
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
I have always been a big baker. I even considered going to culinary school for a brief, confused teenage moment. Obviously I didn't, and the only things I know about baking is what I've done on my own and what Alton Brown has taught me on the Food Network. With that slight knowledge, I think I have made some pretty tasty creations. I'm big into cookies, cakes, pies and vegan baking. I have been adding to my baking arsenal since I was in high school. My first big purchase came as a sophomore in college, my fabulous kitchen aid stand mixer! I continued adding in spring form pans, mini cupcake pans, doughnut pans, pastry gun, cookie spritzer gun, flan molds, you name it, I probably had it. Alas, it was all left in the states when I moved to Costa Rica.
One of the most frustrating things living here is having to start all over again. In the states I already had furniture and sheets. I had my baking utilities. I had great pans and sharp knives. I had wine glasses and a can opener. I had a KitchenAid brand stand mixer AND blender. Overall, I had a very nicely stocked kitchen. Some things I managed to bring down (silverware, garlic press, my good Wusthof knife) but my main treasures were just too big and heavy to make it down (blender, stand mixer). We are slowly starting to build our collection here, but Oscar sometimes doesn't understand why I need (want) certain things. We went to buy groceries yesterday and I had a huge list of baking items I needed (flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, vanilla, spices, etc) and he just didn't get why I needed so much. "Because we don't have any of this yet! I can't bake without flour!"
I really wanted to make some pumpkin cookies, but we were unable to find pumpkin in the two stores we went to. So today I settled with baking "spicy" chocolate chip cookies. I found the recipe online, hoping for something miraculous. But really it's just a chocolate chip cookie recipe with some spices in it. The end result is yummy but not as "autumn-y" as I really wanted. I nearly tripled the spices they wanted, and the flavor is still quite muted in the cookie. But this post is not so much about my so-so cookies, but more about the process of making them.
We have no large mixing bowls. The largest bowl we have, we use to store onions. So I dumped out the onions and used that bowl to mix. We do have a whisk, which happens to be extremely flimsy, and I brought a rubber spatula from the states with me. We have one measuring cup, but we use it to hold the bag of natilla in the fridge. No measuring spoons.
I began by "creaming" the butter and sugar. I had to first soften (half melt) the butter in the toaster oven to get it to a texture where I could whisk it properly. I then added the sugar (I didn't have brown sugar, but that's another story) and vanilla and managed to whip it up alright. For measuring I used a glass that looks like about a cup, and the smallest spoon I could find which might equal to about one teaspoon. I found out that the eggs should be washed before cracking because some of them still have feathers, dirt or chicken poop on them, and none of those things are called for in my recipe. Then came mixing the dry ingredients into the wet ones. The large onion bowl was already in use by the wet ingredients, so what I had to do was use two small glass bowls to mix the dry ingredients. I split the ingredients about in half for each bowl and mixed them up. Finally, the whisk just sucked too bad mixing the dry and wet ingredients together, so I used my smack-ula (rubber spatula) instead.
In baking the cookies, I opted for the toaster oven instead of regular oven. My regular oven has 4 degree settings, two of which are the same degree so there's really only three. They are 284°, 410°, and 572°(all Fahrenheit). These cookies called to be cooked at 375° degrees and I didn't think 284° or 410° were quite close enough to cut it. The toaster oven actually has more degree settings than the oven. The downside to the toaster oven is it's SMALL. I have two glass pans that can fit inside, one is an 8x8 and the other an 8in round. This means I can cook 4 cookies at a time. With a cook time around 15 minutes, it took me over 2 hours to just cook the damn things! Was it worth it? I guess so. I have nothing else to do during the day. And the cookies turned out alright. And Oscar will really like them. So I guess it was vale la pena.
10. Warm water from the tap
9. A gas stove
8. No ants
7. Good cookie sheets
6. More kitchen gadgets
5. Bigger freezer
4. More cabinets
3. A kitchen aid
2. A working oven with a wide range of degree settings
and the number one thing I wish my tiny tico kitchen had.....
1. MORE SPACE!!
Monday, October 10, 2011
Last Friday Oscar was able to get off of work so we capitalized on the situation by taking a 3 day weekend trip to one of the closest beaches to San Jose, Manuel Antonio. Manuel Antonio is about 2.5 hours away from San Jose by car, 3 hours by bus. This was my third time to MA and let me tell you, it never disappoints.
Like everywhere in Costa Rica, the drive to MA is breathtaking. A new "highway" (more like paved road) was just put in so travel is more simple to the coast. You swerve through beautiful mountains that have more than a small chance of creating a landslide right over your car. The signs on the road warn of falling rocks, iguanas, alligators and.. lightning? I didn't get a shot of the "alligator crossing" sign, and now feel like I have to go back to MA for this reason alone.
On the way to MA, we passed through a town where Oscar's mom grew up. It's called Palo Seco, or "dry stick". As you can imagine, a place with a name like Paco Seco is no tourist destination. Instead there are tons and tons of palm trees that are used to gather oil. Oscar tells me they get the oil from the oily (Schweddy?) balls that the trees produce. There is also a factory where the oil is processed. Other than that there are a few houses (shacks) and a road, and that's about it to Palo Seco.
Back to more beautiful places, once in Manuel Antonio we stayed in a hostel that I had visited before, Backpackers Manuel Antonio. It's not actually in MA, but right in between Quepos (the town) and MA (the beach and national park). For those who don't have a car, the bus stop is literally right across the street and costs about 200c for a short 5 min ride down the hill. The folks who work at the hostel are very nice and so is the 3-legged puppy, Luna, who loves to hang out in the common area. You also get free make-your-own pancakes for breakfast. YUM! Evidently this is a problem during the high season, with there only being 2 griddles and a small amount of batter. But the only people at the hostel were Oscar and I, and an Australian bloke who couldn't really get his life together. So, we had a bountiful amount of pancakes.
Oscar and I spent sunny Friday and Saturday at the beach. On Saturday we paid the $3.00 national fee and $10.00 gringo fee to get into the National Park where you can see lots of fun animals and beautiful plants. We saw some monkeys, lizards and crabs, but the true highlight for me was the sloth. I wish I could claim that I spotted the brown, mossy, slow moving mammal, but we just so happened to be passing a guide who yelled "SLOTH". Then the picture taking began. I was really excited because I have never seen a sloth move before. Usually they are a small brown lump on a small brown tree and you have to use your imagination to picture an animal. But this guy was cruising around. I didn't get any great pictures because he was far away and really back-lit, but neat anyways.
We arrived at the beach area of the National Park and almost got kicked out within 10 minutes of settling down because you're not allowed to drink. Oops. Luckily, the guard guy just gave us a "stern talking to" and took Oscar's beer that was almost empty anyways. After spending an hour or so in the waves, we set off walking down the empty beach. It was absolutely stunning and I took tons of pictures.
Sunday morning we wanted to squeeze in as much beach time as possible so we scarfed our pancakes, slathered on sunscreen and drove down to the beach. Before we even put our towels on the beach, a rain storm erupted from the daunting black clouds. So we packed up and headed home to get our puppy! Turns out she had eaten her collar and her leash. The leash was salvageable and just happens to be really short now, but she's going to need a new collar. Silly pup!