And there are many stories to tell!
My mommy and Jeb flew into SJO on Tuesday (Nov 22) after having eloped the day before. We went out to eat dinner at Sash, a Lebanese restaurant that night and drank plenty of Imperial. Wednesday, my mommy, Jeb and I all took the bus to Volcan Poas. By the time we made it half way up the mountain, it was clear that the clouds would not permit us to see the crater. Seeing the top of Poas is sort of a crap shoot (below are my 3 attempts to see the volcano). But we had a good time anyways, my mom especially loved the orchids growing all over the place.
Wednesday, November 30, 2011
And there are many stories to tell!
Saturday, November 19, 2011
I will be working next year. WOO! I got not one, but two job offers this week. But one was in a strange way. I went into what I thought was a second interview, only to find out that they thought I accepted a job in the first interview. The HR lady kept telling me "don't get a contract with anyone else!" and I was sort of confused. I guess I'm used to the words "We would like to offer you a job, would you accept?" routine. Whereas in this case the first (very strange) interview ended in this way-- Director: "Do you love high schoolers?" Signe: "Umm.. yes" Director: "Okay if you really love high schoolers, we can move onto the next step. You need to set up a second interview" Signe: "Alright". I didn't think agreeing to a second interview constituted agreeing to work.
The very same day I got an email from the school where I gave sample lessons informing me they want me to come on Monday to sign a contract. I'm very excited about this school. It's a music/arty school so it's seems really relaxed and laid back. So even though I feel bad about this misunderstanding with the Catholic school, I plan to sign with the music school and then send the Catholic school a very empathetic email. I really do feel bad about it. But after a long talk with my sister and Oscar telling me "this is how business works!" I'm going to do it.
Which leads me to think... I have all of December and most of January to travel. I've been looking up some flights and everything is expensive (duh) but not out of reach. The thing is, if I'm going to spend $1300+ on a plane ticket, I want to stay longer than a few weeks. Plus, most locations I'm looking into (Italy!) are in winter right now and the warmest piece of clothing I have is a fleece jacket. Not coat. Jacket. So I looked into some places in South America (Argentina!) where it will be summer, but flights are just as much as flying to Europe. I'll think about it and see what needs to be done for my work visa. My Italian classes end on December 8 and the thought of sitting almost 2 straight months with nothing to do is quite unappealing to me.
So does anyone in a warm or not snowy area want a visit??
Thursday, November 17, 2011
Today I think I saw for the very first time in Costa Rica, a man dressed as a woman. Or I just saw the ugliest woman on the planet. Either way, I consider it an achievement.
Italian class was great today because that annoying Venezuelan girl wasn't there. Man it's crazy how much of a difference her absence made. Everyone in the class participated more, and I know I learned a lot.
My visa documents have yet to arrive at my mom's house. I called the CR Consulate (I have their number memorized now) and they told me that the documents had been authenticated and sent out. Next I looked up the tracking number of the envelope and I got "no information available". So now I'm sort of freaking out thinking that this stuff has somehow been lost. But... tranquila, Signe... maybe it was just put in the mail and has yet to be scanned...
Yesterday I called my mama tica. I hadn't spoken to her in a while and I wanted to tell her my mom and Jeb were coming and that they wanted to visit. Well she answers the phone in hysterics. Evidently, she's been calling me and calling me and since I haven't been answering, she assumed I had left the country without telling her. I swear she worries about me more than my biological mother! We gossiped for a bit, and I promised I would call her more.
Oscar and I are looking for a new apartment. We'd like to move for a couple reasons, mainly because we don't like our landlord. He's sort of a douche bag, and listens to techno music really loudly. We'd also like to find an unfurnished apartment to start buying our own stuff. And lastly, we'd like a patio for our Perlita. There is one place that looks really nice, but might not be done in time for us to move in. We'll have to see. Then, last night while walking the dog, we saw a "Se Alquila" sign and Oscar called them up. We might be going to see this place tonight. It's only $400/month instead of the $550/month we're paying now.
Finally, I've been compiling pictures of Perlita chewing her bone on top of shoes. I don't know why she does this, but she always takes her bone, puts it on top of a shoe, and then chews it there. Or, if she's not in the bone-chewing mood, she'll just lay on top of some shoes. It makes me laugh. So here's a couple pictures of my funny puppy.
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
I'm so excited that my mommy and her boyfriend are coming to visit next week!!! I can hardly believe it's already almost Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is by far my most favorite holiday of all time. It's just a time to hang out with people and eat and drink a whole lot. What's not to enjoy about something like that? We were planning on having a dinner at Oscar's aunt's house, but she is so busy working lately that she just can't do it. I imagine Thanksgiving dinner to probably be rice, beans and pumpkin pie. Which my mom will probably enjoy more than turkey anyways.
When they come to visit we're going to Tortuguero, which is BY FAR my favorite place in Costa Rica. I haven't been everywhere, but I've been to most tourist destinations, and Tortuguero was the greatest. Last time I went was in the dry season, so I hope it's just as lovely now. We've been having such nice days, but now it's rainy again. I looked up the forecast, but let's be honest, this forecast could probably be used for all eternity. It'll be warm and it might rain.
I've made a big list of things I want my mom to bring me from the USA. But the one thing I'm the most excited about is GRIITTTSSS!!!!!!!!!!! I don't think I'm too country of a southern girl, but geeze grits are delicious and should be a staple food in every household. Oscar is just as excited as I am about the grits and has already asked me to ask my mom to whip up her famous cheese, corn, and onion grits. Yummmmmm.....
Last week I finished up giving my "sample classes" at one of the schools in Santa Ana. I was only observed by the principal one time, and the teacher was only there twice. The last day was a substitute who was recently hired to start full-time next year. I hope I hear something from them this week. Maybe I should send over an email. I also just got a call from the Catholic school I applied to. I don't really want to call them back because I don't really want to work there. Not just because of the Catholic part, but the principal was totally weird. I'm really optimistic about my opportunities at the Santa Ana school, so I'd like to hold out for them.
And finally some pictures! It was Oscar's mom's 49th birthday last weekend and we went to celebrate. I made a cake, and we had KFC and red wine. Classy.
Wednesday, November 9, 2011
I plan to be in Costa Rica at least 3 years, if not forever. The public transportation here is really great and cheap. But every once in a while I really wish I had a car.
First of all, I would get to know the area better. Streets here don't have names, so you just have to know where things are. Driving around would obviously help. I also am pretty sure I'll be landing a job soon (WOOO) and although I can take the bus there and back, it'd be much more convenient in a car (of course). Trying to get on the bus between 6:30am and 7:30am is like a freaking jungle. Has anyone ever seen the Outsourced where everyone is trying to get on the train? Well that's what it's like trying to get on the bus. The stop is on the guardrail of the highway and the buses come full. Then the 50 people at the stop all RUN to the bus to try to cram onto it anyway possible. One time I had to straddle the back door hoping I didn't fall to my doom. So driving would nice. Also, because I'm a teacher I sometimes have to get to school early or stay late or whatever.
The cons are obvious: having a car is expensive. And not normal expensive, but really stupid expensive. I have been looking on Craig's List and a 1991 Hyundai costs $5000. In the States I had a '90 Honda which my mom bought in 2003 for $3000, and then I bought from her for $1500 in 2005 which I then gave away before I came here. Gas is also a lot more, like 3 or 4xs what it is in the States. Also, registration for cars is expensive. And of course any repairs that need to be done.
But all the same I've been looking up cars on Craig's List and I found three cheap ones. The cheapest is a (what looks like) early 90's Geo metro for $2200, then there's an '86 Toyota Tercel for $2650, and the one I want most is an '87 Rabbit Convertible for $3650. All I want is some shitty car that will get me from A to B without too much trouble and will also fit into small parking spaces.
Alas, I need to decide if I really need a car, or if I just want a car. I've been driving since I was 16 and I'm used to the convenience. I first of all need to wait to see if I even get a job. And from there I'll have to do some numbers to see if it's worth it (which it won't be, but you do have to add in the usefulness factor). All the same, that cute, blue Rabbit convertible is calling my name...
Monday, November 7, 2011
So I wanted to write about a few things.
-->Oscar and I went and paid for our Tortuguero Tour!!! My mommy and her boyfriend are coming in just 2 weeks! How exciting! (and a funny story attached) While driving back to the apartment, we passed through San Jose's red light district. Oscar was telling me that evidently there are barber shops where you can get a haircut, and then have sexual relations. He tells me he's not sure of the quality of either of the services, but I suppose if only one is satisfying, then it's worth it.
-->Today was my first time giving a "sample class" to one of the schools in Santa Ana. I really enjoyed it, though I prepared a lot more than I needed. I'm not used to working with babies (5th graders) and things took a lot longer than I expected. But I think they enjoyed the lesson and learned, so we'll see. Tomorrow I have to teach plant reproduction to 4th graders! Eek!
-->I had what I think is my final interview today in another school that is around Santa Ana. Oscar dropped me off at a bus stop on the highway, where I then took a bus to about half way, and next I started walking and looking for a taxi. It was damn near impossible to get a taxi and I ended up getting to my interview a couple minutes late. But the director didn't mind, and started asking me questions. He was quite impressed that I worked at a Title One school in the USA, and mentioned a few times that I must be a really great teacher just because of this. He asked 3 more questions then just straight up told me that he wanted to hire me. He says "I could waste your time and keep you here for another hour, but you've answered all the questions exactly the way I wanted you to and I want to hire you." I was very impressed with myself. WAY TO GO GRINGA! He says he's not sure whether he'll have an opening until the beginning of December, but he says if he calls it will be to go to Human Resources and to start my visa process. Woo go me!
-->After the interview, I asked the guard where I could catch a bus to San Jose. I walked to the stop and was waiting for the buses. I didn't know where I was, I just planned on getting on a bus with "SAN JOSE" written on it. All of a sudden, four buses in a row come by my stop. I was trying to read them all frantically to see which one I needed to wave down, and finally spotted the San Jose bus. The bus goes some route I have never seen before, but eventually winds up near a place I recognize. I got excited because I got off at the exact right stop! All I had to do was walk around the corner to my Pavas bus stops which takes me directly home. I felt like such a bad mother WATCH YOUR MOUTH when I got home using $1.20 instead of the $25 it would have surely cost me to get home in a taxi. In fact, I'm more proud of my navigation of the bus system than I am of my performance at the interview.
That's all for now. I'm exhausted and need to get my Italian homework done.
Saturday, November 5, 2011
Just a quick story I'd like to share.
Every morning I walk my puppy to a gated park at the top of a big park so I can let her off the leash to run. The puppy LOVES running and since I can't run because of my feet (not that I would want to anyways, running sucks!) I let her loose in a fenced area.
Normally lots of people are passing by, and at least a few doggies. But on Saturday and Sunday it's quite vacant. I guess people like to sleep past 7am on the weekend, the lazy bums... Well I get to the park, and I walk in the gate. As soon as I close the gate a see a woman across the street inside the gate of a house. She's waving at me and pointing. I turn around and look behind me, nothing. She keeps waving and pointing. I wave back. This lady continues to wave and point, not saying anything. Then she makes a finger across the throat movement, yeah the kill gesture.
Immediately I think there's a thief in the park. There's not a lot of places to hide in the park, and I always check it over before I go in to look for a) other people, b) other doggies, or c) potential creepy guys. I knew I hadn't seen anyone, but left the park with the puppy and went over to the lady. The lady is now telling me that there is a crazy man around. I ask her where. She says there's a crazy man who is going to kill her. I again ask her where is this crazy man. She tells me he's in the house with her. Her son (or her daughter, couldn't quite understand) was going to kill her for some reason.
Well honestly, now I've gone from "OH MY GOSH A MURDERING MANIAC IS AROUND! RUN! RUN!" to "This isn't really my problem." Now I'm not a cold, heartless monster, but I feel like normal, basic biological instinct makes us care more about our lives, than a stranger's. But I digress.
I tell the woman that she should leave the house. She says she can't because she doesn't have any keys. (In order for that part to make sense, you have to realize that each house in San Jose area is surrounded by high walls or fences, usually topped with razor wire or electrified cables. You can't go in or out without keys, unless you're really agile and determined.) I tell her that I'm sorry, but I don't know what to do. And I didn't. I didn't have my phone, and even if I did I wouldn't know what number to dial.
Luckily right at this moment an older man was walking by, so I called him over to help. He also didn't have a phone. Then a group of smoking teens passed, and they called the cops for her.
The smoking teens went on their way. The man told the woman he would stay for a bit. I went across the street to the fenced in park and let the puppy run. A little while later I noticed that the man had left. The old woman was still standing at the fence. Next thing I see, a young guy, probably the son, comes out and starts talking to her. They stand outside for a bit, then he helps her walk back into the house.
By now I've come to the conclusion that the woman is probably ill. This will also sound cruel, but Oscar tells me Pavas is known for crazy people. The largest mental institution is in Pavas, and just to cement the crazy people fact- there's two houses for mentally ill people not even a block from where we live. But, I still feel like I owed it to the lady to hang around for the cops to come. Plus, the puppy was having a blast running around.
I'd say about 20 or 30 minutes later, I see a truck labeled POLICIA drive by. Not stop. Not look around. Just drive by. Not even slowly. I don't know if these were the cops that were called, but if they were shame, shame on them! They didn't even bother to check out the problem.
I finally decided that my commitment to this situation had ended. I had done everything but jump in front of that police truck and tell them what to do. I got my happy, exhausted puppy and left.
All I can do now is hope everything turned out for the best.
Thursday, November 3, 2011
That's the way a visa is born.
I've found out a few more steps I've missed thanks to a fellow work visa applicant. So here's what I know so far (please correct me if I'm wrong Jimena! jaja). I told my mom and she said "that's the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard", I told her to wait, because I wasn't done telling her ridiculous things yet...
1. Get a NEW birth certificate. It needs to be printed within 6 months of applying for the visa. Does that make sense? No way. (big fee)
2. Get police report, must also be within 6 months, but this makes a little more sense. (fee)
3. Both must be notarized. Well the birth certificate comes notarized. But now I'm not so sure about the police report of good conduct. If the police report is NOT notarized, it must be notarized by taking it to the police station and having a notary notarize that the policeman signs the report. (fee)
4. Then both documents must be sent to the Secretary of State, who will put a stamp on it for a fee, and a larger fee if you need it quicker. Now it is even "more official".
5. Next, both documents go to the Costa Rican Consulate in your area where another stamp gets put on for a fee, of course a larger fee if you need it quicker. (let's not forget paying for over night shipping)
6. Once in Costa Rica, you take these documents to get them translated. (fee)
7. Finally you take them to get stamped by the Casa Amarilla. (fee)
8. Now you should be able to APPLY for a work visa.
Clock's ticking for me because I want my mommy to bring down these fully notarized and stamped documents on the 22 when they come to visit. Will have plenty of time to make phone calls tomorrow to get exact directions and to figure out where everything is. Will also bite the bullet and pay the $71 *clenches teeth* for an expedited birth certificate. I could pay $24 and wait twelve weeks for it, but I need it like... last week. All I know is if all this gets done before my mom leaves on November 22, she'll get free Imperials the whole time she's down here!
Here we go...
Wednesday, November 2, 2011
I thought I had prepared so well before I came down here. But I guess there's always something you'll miss.
For a work visa in Costa Rica you need a couple documents: a background check, a birth certificate, and a few other things. All documents need to be within a 6 month time period, so if I have a background check dated from November 2010, it won't work. It needs to be within 6 months time. Does this makes sense? I feel like I'm explaining things poorly. Anyways. So the background check was something that was worrisome to me. What if I get my background check and then can't get a job for 6 months? Well then I'd need another one. So what I did before I left was get fingerprinted and leave all the forms with instructions for my mom to mail in when the time was right. I recently had her send them in, and she will bring it down with her when she visits. Totally prepared, right?
Well now I find out about the part I missed: you have to get these documents stamped by the Costa Rican consulate in your home state. Luckily, there is a Costa Rican consulate in NC, and it's right in my hometown, but I don't know if my mom can go and get it stamped for me. I forgot to give her power of attorney before I left, which could be really useful right now. I also have to order a new birth certificate because my old ones are outdated. Well the lovely state of North Carolina says it usually takes TWELVE WEEKS to process the request. Of course if I pay $54 I can get it the next day. *sigh*
Tomorrow I'm going to be making a lot of phone calls. For some reason there is no number listed for the NC Costa Rican consulate, so I really hope it still exists.
And thus begins the magical journey that is TRYING TO GET A VISA.
PS- Please comment, if you can. I have been hearing it didn't work, and I think I fixed it? Just try and see. You shouldn't need to sign up for anything to do it.
Tuesday, November 1, 2011
One of my friends told me this and it has since been my mantra when I'm feeling stressed, sick or down. But I was not easy on myself yesterday. It was quite the opposite.
Yesterday I had two interviews, the first one was in the morning at a German/English school. The second was in the afternoon at the school where I already had an interview. I woke up and felt a cold coming on. I didn't know how much I wanted to go to these interviews, but in the end I decided it was crucial to get to both of them. I mean I really need a job.
The first interview was pretty far away and cost me a whopping 9000c to get there in a taxi! That's one of the most expensive taxi rides I've ever taken, but the driver was very nice and helpful in getting me to the right place. The principal interviewed me in Spanish which made me nervous. I'm okay speaking in Spanish, but my vocabulary is so much better in English and it makes me feel stupid to use the word "bueno" over and over again. I suppose the principal liked me, as she introduced me to the current science teacher and told me to come in next week to give sample classes, which I will be paid to do. I have to teach systems to 5th graders, heredity to 4th graders and life cycles to 3rd graders. I've taught all those things, just not to babies. We'll see what I can come up with. I really liked the school and would love to land a job there.
Because the taxi ride was about double what I was expecting, I didn't have enough money to take a taxi home. I asked the guard where I could get a bus and he pointed me in the right direction. I found the bus stop and tons of buses were going by. I kept walking up and asking if they were going to San Jose. Finally, another man at the stop told me he was also going to San Jose and would tell me when the bus was coming. I got on the bus and got off when I saw the WalMart which isn't too far from where we live. Got a taxi home and took a one hour nap.
When I woke up from my nap I felt even worse than I did that morning. But by then I figured it was too late to call and reschedule the interview, so I got on the bus to San Jose and went off. On the taxi ride from SJ to the school, I started feeling worse and worse. I felt hot and sticky and could tell I had a fever. My nose was running and I had a headache. I made it to the school and when the psychologist lady handed me a 201 question test and a 20 question fill in the blank sheet (all in Spanish), I knew I had made a mistake by coming in. Some of the T/F statements were really strange like "I regret my first sexual experience", "I enjoy watching pornography", "I feel alone even with other people", "I wash my hands compulsively even though I know they're clean". And then the fill in the blanks were "When I drink in excess I...", "My biggest failure is...", "My biggest personality flaw is...". I mean what the hell? There were also lots of statements, words or phrases I didn't understand so I just left them blank.
I finished those two tests, and was then handed another test that was 170 questions long (again in Spanish). All these questions were geared towards business people and it was hard to answer things like "I want to learn about financial workings in the world", or "I enjoy meeting with clients and discussing portfolios". When I finally finished all the tests, I was taken into another room where I was interviewed orally (in Spanish). I don't know how much I impressed them, by then I was so out of it I probably wouldn't have been able to interview in English.
Two and a half hours later, I left the school. I walked about a kilometer down to the main street where I caught a random bus into San Jose. I then had to walk about 2 kilometers to my Pavas bus stop, in the rain. Right as I come up to the bus stop, the bus pulls up so I had to run to get on the bus. The bus was crowded, hot, and muggy. Snot was flowing from my nose like a river, and by then my tissues were so saturated I just started wiping on my sleeve. When I finally made it home around 6pm (about a 2 hour full commute from the school), Oscar met me outside the bus with an umbrella. I made it into the apartment and started crying because I was sick as a dog and tired as a... dog. Oscar rushed off to get me some greasy, delicious chicken soup while I washed the bus grime off myself in a shower. I fell asleep at 8:15pm.
This morning I am still feeling horrible. I decided to skip my Italian classes, and will probably cancel my interview I have tomorrow. Because, sometimes it's OKAY to be easy on yourself!!!!!!!!