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Monday, June 10, 2013

Normal

It's sure been a while.  And let me tell you why.

Everything is normal.  I feel like I've gotten to the point where Costa Rica doesn't feel like Costa Rica.  It just feels like home.  I find there are far more similarities between my life in the USA and my life here than there are differences.  I have a job where I'm comfortable.  I know how to get around.  The language is not difficult for me at all, and I even understand about 95% of the slang thanks to my profanity spewing husband.  Sometimes I talk to myself in Spanish without thinking about it.  It's just there now.

I don't go through every day thinking "I'm in Costa Rica"  I just go through my days.

Sure things remind me that I'm in Costa Rica, but no longer in a "OMG I'M IN A DIFFERENT COUNTRY" way.  It's more in a "yup, that's Costa Rica for ya" type of way.  This is obviously something difficult for me to describe.

For example, the other day I saw an Ox-cart on the highway.  It was funny, and I wish I had taken a picture of it.  But it's not big news.  More important things happened to me that day than seeing an ox-cart on the highway.

I think I wrote about this a year ago or so, but I'm at a whole new level of "normal" now.  I bet in another year I'll feel even more "normal".

So yes, things are happening in my life.  But it no longer has to do with the fact that I'm in Costa Rica.  It's more along the lines of work, relationship, family, friends, parties, etc.  So why blog?  Would you want to hear about how today at work I was sick so I was all grumpy until a kid gave me a piece of cake and then I felt better?  Nah.

Life in Costa Rica, has just become life.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Obama Despiche

It's been too long, I know.  But things have just been so normal there's not been anything to write about recently.  Until now.

On Friday, President Barack Obama will be visiting Costa Rica!  It's very exciting for me.  We live very close to the USA embassy and the school where his helicopter will land.  I sort of automatically assumed we would have the day off since they would be closing down all the streets.  I had it all planned- I would sit outside with my puppy and read a book until I heard the chopper.  Then I would grab my camera and run over to the school and see if I could snap a picture.  (they won't release the actual time he's coming)

But, my school (not where the helicopter is landing) is thinking they're still going to have classes.  Which has caused this huge thing.  See the director thinks it's a good idea to have classes since Santa Ana is outside of the closed districts.  But what she doesn't seem to realize is that all the teachers live outside of Santa Ana.  Meaning they will not be able to get to work on Friday.  Of course commuting doesn't affect her since she lives AT the school.  Seriously, the school is on her property.

Well, we don't know that traffic will be impossibly for sure.  Everything could potentially run very smoothly on Friday and there not be any traffic problems at all.  But I live only a few blocks away from the USA embassy.  You think I'm going to risk that shit?  And get caught in 5 hours of traffic?  Hell. no.

So as a unit of teachers we have all sort of stood up and said "cancel classes"  We still haven't heard what's going to happen yet, but I've already made the decision to not go in on Friday.  If they make me take a day off, that's fine.  I'll leave plans for whoever is going to cover my classes.  But I'm not risking it.  Also, I really want to see my President!  I know the chances are slim to none, but they'd be zero if I was in school that day.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Spring Break!

Or, Semana Santa as we call it down here!

My dad is coming to visit at the end of May and you know what that means- deliveries from the USA!  Okay, it also means I get to see my dad and his wife which is super exciting (especially since his wife has never been to CR!).  But it also means I can special order only-available-in-USA products and have them brought down.  Don't judge me, Sriracha, fish sauce, and lotion tissues are really important!

So I was also looking at getting Perlita a doggy backpack.  My sister mentioned while she was here that I should get her one and fill it up with rocks or something so she gets tired faster on our walks.  It's important now because I think she's picking up fleas from the park, so I want to tire her out without having to let her into the park.  So doggy backpack it was.

I found a few online for about $30 and I thought that was a great deal.  Until yesterday when Oscar said "why don't you make Perlita her backpack?"

Ummm... great idea!  Oscar is working this week, so I'm at home, miserable in the heat without much to do.

I found this great pattern online, well not so much pattern as simple instructions.  I went to a pasamaneria and got fabric and notions.  They didn't have any nice backpack material so I got a less durable material in a prettier pattern.  I mean my dog is fancier than khaki.  Have you seen her fancy collar??

Fancy collar, a gift from Jay!

Everything was about $5 together.  And it came out GREAT.  Great!  It's a little big, but I think it'll be okay. It took me about 4 hours and half a bottle of wine to make.  

random side story:  I've been drinking tinto veranos.  Well, more like a bastardized version of tinto veranos.  I first had this drink in Spain.  I'm sure there's a fancier way to make it, but it's basically cooled red wine with either seltzer water, orange soda or lemon soda.  My favorite was always with lemon soda.  But lemon soda is damn hard to find.  Even in the USA you have to go to Whole Foods to find a bottle.  But it's totally worth it.  I remember going to the beach with my Nalgene full of tinto verano and ice cubes.  De-LICOUS.  Can't find lemon soda here, so I use Fresca.  Yes, I put Fresca in my red wine.  Why would I ruin perfectly good wine with Fresca? you may ask.  Well my friend, you hold me to too high a standard if you think I'm buying good wine.  We get $5 bottles.  So I think it's perfectly okay to pour Fresca into stuff that normal people wouldn't even use for cooking.  *Warning*- tintos are dangerous things my friend.  They're girly and cool and delicious.  And you can drink a whole bunch before realizing your bottle of wine has been finished off.

Back to the story-

So I totally made a great little backpack for Perlita for FIVE DOLLARS instead of the thirty you have to pay to get one online.  I win.

Here's some pictures!  It's a little big because the pattern was for a bigger puppy.  Perlita LOVES her new backpack! =)






Well I am currently coated in a fine layer of sweat because the heat here is insane.  I can't wait for the rainy season.  Off for a shower and a nap!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Sucky ass teacher


Let me be honest, there's not a lot of things in which I excel.  I'm not a great athlete, not a great artist (okay a BAD artist), not a genius.  I'm just sort of mediocre.  Which I'm cool with, I live a very happy life being mediocre.  Mediocrity is totally underrated.

But there's at least one thing I'm really good at- being a teacher.

I'm only in my 3rd year of teaching so of course I have tons and TONS to learn, but I feel like for a third year teacher, I'm doing a pretty banging job.  I'm great with classroom management (aka- keeping those brats quiet and orderly), I'm great with building relationships with the kids (in my own sarcastic way), I'm totally cool with asking questions when I don't know what to do, and I know and love my content area- biology.

And I'm proud to be a good teacher.  I went into education not because of some inspiring teacher I had who made me want to be better.  No.  I went into education because I remember sitting in classes thinking "I could do better than this"  And so I did.  I wanted to be a teacher so maybe the kids would have one less sucky ass teacher to deal with every day at school.

But now I've become the sucky ass teacher.  In English.

I told my director I didn't want to do it, I didn't feel comfortable, and I had no experience.  It didn't matter.  I've been teaching English for about a month now and I'm just freaking terrible at it.  Part of it is because I have no idea what I'm doing and part of it is because I find it so freaking boring I can barely stand it.  I feel like a failure and I hate that I'm letting myself and the kids down.

In my biology and even dopey little kid science classes I have so much more enthusiasm, so much more energy, so many awesome projects and experiments.  English is like "let's read this boring-ass two page story and try to make it into a full 80 minute class somehow..."

So I've made an executive decision to read a book as a class.  I'm going to pick stories I want to read and we're going to analyze them.  I think this will help because the stories in the textbook are so short and so boring and so awful...  I can easily go over parts of figurative speech, grammar, etc while reading an awesome story.  Instead of a POS about some blind guy in a tower.  I'm going to start with some Kurt Vonnegut for the hell of it, and then go into Edgar Allan Poe because he's a nut job and that's always fun.  The kids seem to think they're up for Shakespeare but I sort of doubt it.  I might give them a list of books and they can pick one next Monday.  Then I'll have about 3 weeks to re-read (or read!) it before we actually start discussing it in the classroom.

I hope I get better.  I hate being the boring class.

Props to Project Gutenberg for providing me with so many free online books and stories to choose from!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Does the rest of the world really hate Americans?

I've been wanting to write a blog like this for a while now, but I really started to think about it the other night after watching "Argo".  I was told the movie was all "hoo-rah!  We're America and we save the day!", which I actually didn't see.  I thought it focused a lot on how the USA got itself into the position by being obtuse and how it was actually Canada who saves the day.


But anyways, my general answer to the question: Yes and No.  Maybe after my "rest of the world" friends finish reading this blog it might just be "yes"!

Let me go ahead and clarify the word I use- "Americans".  Here in Central America and South America, lots get testy when people from the USA claim to be "Americans".  This is because technically "America" is- all countries in North America, all countries in Central America and all countries in South America.  But I gotta say, I just feel like this is just another reason to hate American tourists.  I've gotten used to saying I'm from "los estados" down here, but I've even gotten flack for saying that!  I once told a guy from Mexico I'm from "los estados" and he got all pissy saying "los estados de que?" because Mexico is also technically "los estados de Mexico".  When I went to Spain, France and Germany and said I was from "los estados"/"the states" everyone looked at me like I was crazy and I had to clarify "America".

Why does this have to be so difficult?  Do I need to say I'm from "los estados unidos de America"/"the united states of America" every single time?  I just feel like no one in Central or South America would ever claim to be "American", so why make it an issue?  If you're not even going to claim to be "American", why do you have to take it away from the people who do?  In Spanish there happens to be a very convenient word "estadounidense", but not in English.  So I'd like to say this right now to the rest of the world- when we say we're American we're not trying to be offensive.  We're just trying to say where we're from.  Give us a break.  Okay?  I get why people don't like it, but no one is trying to make you angry.  Let it slide, okay?

Anyways, back to my question- does the rest of the world hate [United States of] Americans?

I've had lots of USA friends who like to say they're form Canada so people won't "hate" them.  But I've never done that.  The USA is not the greatest country in the world, but it's also not the worse.  I was given a plethora of opportunities just by being born in middle-class USA.  I was able to achieve so much by being raised in a wealthy country.  (of course this is also attributed to being born into a middle class family, who cared about me, encouraged me, fed me, etc.)  And for that, I'm eternally grateful for being American.  I'm not claiming that these opportunities don't occur in other countries, of course they do.  But I am saying that these privileges (free education, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, public libraries, paved roads, etc) do not present themselves in every place in the world.

Some of my friends like to make jabs at the USA or Americans.  And I'm cool with it.  I can take a joke, and I agree with a lot of things being said.  But there comes a time when it's time to lay off my country.  It's sort of like jokes about women- I find most of them funny, but if that's the only joke you have it gets old and it gets offensive.

I find the "rest of the world" seems to think it's okay to constantly critique the USA, its people and its politics.  And again, a lot of the times they have a point that I can certainly agree with.  But no one comes from a perfect country free of corruption and greed.  You'd never see me constantly picking apart someone else's homeland, it's not my place.  I have my opinions about Costa Rica, sure.  But I don't spend my days researching ways its government has failed and offended me and the rest of the world.  I try to make the best of any situation, or find ways to improve what I don't like or find unfair.

I've never met anyone who wouldn't talk to me because I'm American.  (side story- my mom lived in Spain right when Franco died and told me she had friends who thought she was French.  As soon as they found out she was American they left and never spoke to her again.)  I've never even met someone who judged me for being American.  Although, maybe I was judged for saying I'm "American".  I have felt zero prejudice for being American, anywhere.  I haven't traveled the entire world, haven't even been to all the continents, but I can safely say I've never felt unwanted because of my nationality.

My opinion is the rest of the world doesn't hate individual Americans.  They hate the idea of the rude, ignorant, fat, selfish, imperialistic, rich, gun-totting, toothless, bigot asshole that is "America".  

I hate that "person", too.  And I try very hard to defend my people's integrity by educating myself and showing the world that Americans can be okay.  You should see the shock on people's faces when they realize I actually speak Spanish.  I often get comments about how "gringos usually don't speak Spanish".  The USA is a huge country full of lots of oblivious, uncultured jerks.  But that's not the only type of people that live there, and the USA is not the only place in the world they live.  For the most part, I think the "rest of the world" knows that.  And for that, I'm also thankful.

I hope I didn't come off as a "wise I've-been-to-Europe-so-now-I-know-everything young person" in this blog.  Just wanted to write out my thoughts.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Second week of second year

I'm into the second week of my second year teaching in Costa Rica.  Last week was rough- I was feeling unappreciated and beaten down.  But this week is already looking up.  Two of my problems have been mas o menos solved, and the third one I'll be dealing with tomorrow.

I'm all excited because I'm finally teaching the same things for the second time (well besides English which I have no idea what to do).  Although this is my third year teaching, this is the first year I'll have the same subjects.  My first year in the USA I taught high school biology the first semester and earth & environmental science the second semester.  Then my second year (first year in CR) I taught 3rd-6th science, 7th & 8th biology and physics.  And finally this year I'm teaching the same things as last year, just minus the physic and plus English.  It's so much easier for me to plan to do stuff because I'VE ALREADY DONE IT BEFORE.  It's awesome!

On the residency front- I've lost hope.  I no longer plan to pursue finishing my residency process.  I have put at least $500 of my own money into the process and countless hours of my time.  And so I've given up.  I considered re-applying via my tico husband, but forget that.  In order to do that I'd have to get new fingerprints, new birth certificate, new police report, everything translated again, plus our marriage certificate.  Forget that noise.  If the lawyer or the school magically decide to start working on this stuff then I'll be interested again.  But unless that happens I'm not going to track them down anymore.

Well that was a boring blog.  I felt like I needed to update even though it wasn't anything super interesting and awesome.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

I'm creative!!!!!!!!!!!!!

We all have our strengths and weaknesses and today I've been thinking of my own.  Today is the last day of work days before the kids come in.  Classes don't start until Monday, but we have our "clase guia" (homeroom) for the next three days from 7:30-12:00 pm and we're supposed to be doing group bonding stuff with them.

So this made me think of my weaknesses-
I'm lazy
I'm unorganized
I can't pay attention
etc, etc

But I have one strength that is always on my side- I am really freaking creative!  Like really super creative.  All the other teachers are bitching and whining about what the hell are they going to do for these three days, while I have not only come up with plenty of stuff for my kids, but have also given out extra ideas to the other teachers.  I'm sure I'll need to come up with some more stuff because activities never take as long as you think they will, but I'm confident in my ability to come up with awesome games/activities/random shit on the spot.

In about three weeks we'll have our annual Noche Bohemia again.  Last time we totally killed the competition winning first place!  Hellllz yeah.  I plan to keep up the streak.  Because I'm really good at coming up with cool shit for the kids to do.

I may not be the smartest, most organized, most prepared, most "rule obeying" teacher in the world, but I am really creative.  And I think that's pretty awesome.

My example mobile we will be making during the next three days.

A piece of styrofoam that I painted and then had kids mod podge that I will use as my bulletin board for the year since I don't have one.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Feeling Hopeful

About a week ago I looked up the class schedules online for the upcoming year.  I noticed that it had my name listed as the 9th grade English teacher.  I figured it must be a mistake since I don't teach English!

Well of course it wasn't a mistake.  So I began to get all sorts of stressed out.  I explained to my director that I do NOT feel comfortable teaching English and that it would be bad for the kids if I did.  Didn't matter, it was my position.  Of course combining this news with the news that my residency file may have been tossed out by migracion and I may have to start all over again (another story for another day)- I was seeing red.

But after a few days I calmed down a bit and started to look up resources for teaching English.  I made a list of things I could start with, found a few books online the class could read, and joined an English teacher forum to ask for help.

Today was the first day back for the teachers and I met a lady who is supposedly the "English director".  Meaning she deals with all classes taught in English.  She was asking someone next to me who the English teachers were and I said "me, unfortunately" and explained why I didn't want to teach it.  She was very understanding and said she would sit down with me and figure things out.

After a long meeting that didn't accomplish anything (as usual) I went to talk to this lady again.  You see, I noticed on the list of teachers that one teacher was only teaching 1st and 2nd grade science.  And that was it.  So I proposed to the new English director that why not let this other teacher take 3rd grade off my plate (currently my load is 3rd-6th science, 7th-9th biology, and 9th English.  A LOT), and therefore I can have a little more time to prepare for English classes.  We talked for a bit and she seemed to think it was a good idea.

All the teachers went to lunch and afterwards the new English director lady tells me that she spoke to the school director and she thought it was a good idea to let this other teacher take 3rd grade as well.  She also said she would "take care" of the English part.  Which I don't know that that means that they'll find someone else to teach it, but she at least seems very ready to help me.

So, I'm feeling hopeful.  If nothing else I truly hope they take 3rd grade away from me.  It's just... too much.

My clase guia (homeroom) is my same kids from last year, so that makes me happy.  They're in 6th grade this year so I'll have to do the whole graduation thing for them.  It'll be nice, I'm glad I got to stay with them.

Also, I spoke with the guy who is now teaching physics and chemistry (quite psyched I don't have those classes as well!) who says the school will be buying lab equipment this year!  Which is great!  He told me to make a list of stuff and they'll get it.  I'm thinking-- hot plates, glass slides, slide covers, glass beakers, solutions, test tube holders, test tube brushes, a balance, dissection kits... so much!  He even says they'll buy a microscope! Hooray!

Yeah, this year is feeling good.  I really hope things work out for me class wise and then I can rock it out during the year.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Got married!

Hooray!  See I told you guys I was busy with *something*.


Oscar and I got married in a very small ceremony in Colorado.  I called it a "fake elopement" because although our immediate families knew, not the whole world did.  It was short and beautiful and great.  We also went skiing and Oscar did pretty well!  Had him bolting down blue squares by the end of day two.  I was highly impressed.

Now we're back in Costa Rica and I've been asked a few times- what is my new last name?  The answer is "the same one".  I'm not changing my last name.  Here's the reasons why:

1.  I think it's sexist and stupid.  Back in the day the woman changed her name to "belong" to her husband.  Total BS if you ask me.

2.  In the Hispanic tradition, no one changes their last name.  Then if there are children, they get both lasts names.  That's why many Hispanics have so many last names.  This was an awesome part since Oscar never expected me to change my name so name change was a complete non-issue.

3.  I am so sick of freaking bureaucratic paperwork I would rather drink 100 gallons of spoiled milk than willingly plunge myself into more paperwork.  Plus all my residency paperwork is under my current last name, if I changed my last name I would have to start all over again.  Not. happening.

So that's my quick update!  We're happy and married now!  Not that this was the reason for the nuptials  but I am hoping this will hurry along my residency a bit.  We'll see.


Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Oh how I have neglected you!

Apologies!

I promise it's because I'm somewhat busy doing other things.

But here we go-  Christmas was great.  We went to Oscar's aunt's house and had a lovely dinner.  I was feeling sick so I didn't get my full party on, but I had a good time anyways.  We watched some toros (as a reminder, here's my post on the toros from 2011.  The bulls are not slaughtered or killed) and enjoyed Oscar's little time off from work.

New Years came and we again went over to Oscar's aunt's house.  I started drinking way too much, way too early, which is the way NYE should be, right?  At midnight we all had to eat 12 grapes.  Where I'm from in the USA we always ate black eyed peas.  When I tried to explain black eyed peas to Oscar's family, no one had any idea what I was talking about.  So we ended up looking up a picture, and they still had no idea what they were.  Funny, I thought this was the land of beans!

Hanging out NYE

Anyways, so we ate our grapes and a few glasses of wine later I basically passed out on the couch.  Sometime later, Oscar scooped me up and we headed home.

A few days later Oscar's sister and her fiance invited us on a boat to Isla Tortuga!  So we went and had a great time.  We bought oysters from some oyster guy in a canoe.  He opened the oyster right there with his machete, chopped it up, added limon and onion, and served it up in the shell.  We got two different types from two different guys and I really liked the first guy's better.  He took out all the slimy parts and chopped it up real nice.  The second guy left it whole and when I tried to eat one I had to spit it out.  Too slimy!

Oscar underwater

Oyster guy!

The freshest ceviche ever!

And that about brings us up to date.  This Thursday Oscar and I will be heading to Colorado for a week of skiing and shenanigans.  It will be the first time Oscar ever sees snow!  So that will be exciting.  

For those of you who are interested, there's a direct flight from SJO to DEN!  It was a total score to find because all other flights had extremely long layovers (I'm talking like 18-24 hour layovers!).  In Denver we'll meet with my dad and his wife and they'll drive us to our final destination in Colorado.

I'm so excited I can barely stand it!!!