Warning: This blog post contains graphic content

If you have issues with eating meat, or if you are from PETA, you will probably not appreciate it. You’ve been warned.

Today we were invited to a neighbor’s house for Chicharones. We knew this had something to do with pig, but little did we know just how much pig this would entail. We got there around 2:30 in the afternoon, and that was when we first encountered said pig. There were actually two pigs, but only the bigger one was being wrestled with and tied up by 3 men. It was squealing and trying to run away, but they got it’s hind legs tied up and hoisted it up in the air upside down. It was squealing more, and trying to wriggle away. This is when I realized they were going to kill the pig, and that this pig would be the Chicherone we were invited over to eat. Really quickly, one of the guys pierced right through the squirming pig with an incredibly sharp knife, causing a TON of blood to come out (Jugular? Heart? Probably both.) There were a few seconds of loud squeals and jerking, but it died really quickly. After letting it bleed out insane amounts of blood, they started washing and shaving it, then skinning and removing the head, and then removing EVERYTHING.

I only saw this in bits and pieces, as I looked away as often as possible without seeming rude/disinterested/completely horrified. Yet I saw a lot, and my impression of the whole events of today post-gore are not horrifying at all. I know, I know, this sounds bad. This is coming from a person who is very against animal cruelty, not big on eating meat in the first place, who has difficulty walking through the raw meat freezer section in grocery stores. Heck I’ve even read Charlotte’s Web. Let me explain…

Right after the pig slaughter, the whole family (consisting of grandparents, their 4 children and spouses and their many children) worked together to prepare the feast (which was a celebration for 3 birthdays this month) Everyone helped cut and clean the meat, start the big wood fire over which the meat was cooked (along with garlic and some other delicious smelling spices). Then they set up the tables and the lawn chairs in the yard, brought out cold beer and sodas, Doritos, salad, tortillas and music and everything about the pig slaughter that had felt so foreign now felt very familiar, it was like any regular BBQ in my parents back yard. So maybe these crazy pig killers weren’t so crazy after all?

We are very removed from the whole animal to food process in the US- we are also very ignorant. There are many documentaries and books with information about the terrible conditions of our CAFOs (Caged Animal Feeding Operations- these have replaced farms) and slaughterhouses run by Corporate America, and some of them aren’t even written by the authors of Skinny Bitch, nor tree-hugging vegans (I highly recommend The Omnivore’s Dilemma). The pig killed today was not stuck in a crate unable to move sitting in it’s own feces for most of it’s life, being injected with millions of antibiotics to keep it alive in the disgustingly unlivable conditions, and injected with other hormones to make it grow 3X faster than it ever would in nature. It wasn’t tortured by having it’s snout and tail cut off or abused by repressed illegal immigrant workers or skinned alive. No, this pig was raised by the family, and spent it’s days grazing in the yard and hanging out with other animals- it had a pretty good life and it’s death was fast at least, if not painless. They say you are what you eat, and in this case I would much rather be the happy pig grazing in the mountains all day than the former, we have enough of our own problems, who needs to ingest more hormones, antibiotics and stress??

They may not have loved it like a pet, but the family respected the pig right up until the very end, and even after by using every single part of it for something, NOTHING went to waste (even the intestines were feasted on by the vultures hanging out nearby). I don’t think that if this was the way things were done in the States people would necessarily stop eating meat, but I think they would stop eating such an over-abundance of it. Not only is it not great for you, or the environment, but it’s also sacrificing a living thing and a sacrifice like that should be reserved for necessity and not gluttony. It was really difficult for me, but I did manage to try a few bites and it was honestly delicious. Ross ate a lot, but he also ate guinea pig in Peru, so it was nothing for him. The rest of the afternoon and evening was filled sitting outside with great food, music, new friends, and some good whiskey (Chivas Regal) By the time Ross and I made the trek back to our casa the only lights out were from the fireflys in the woods and the Super Moon (what is that all about anyway?) .

I don’t think I’ll be killing my own pigs anytime soon, but I’m also not as against the idea of someone killing their own pig as I probably would have been this morning. It is a long standing tradition here and a way for people to enjoy and nourish their families and loved ones, and get to know some new gringo friends if they’re so inclined 🙂

Happy Weekend!

TGIF! It’s true, weekends are awesome no matter where you live. Take last weekend for example, Ross and I had an incredible hike up Cerro Chato here in Fortuna last Sunday. In total, the whole hike took about 8 hours and included a lot of gorgeous scenery of the volcano, the lake on top of the mountain, and lots of fun farm life. It was really neat to get out the main area in Fortuna and see a little bit more of this place we call home:

The other (dangerous) side.

Us at the volcano Observatory. Dear Ross, This time we hiked 10 Km to get here, Next time we are taking showers, a cab and having a drink here. Love, Megan.

Mooooo

Tico lunch on the mountain

Ross celebrated the hike with a "good beer" IE NOT Costa Rican

I celebrated with a fruit smoothie of course. And a sunburn.

Do you have any adventures planned for this weekend?

Let’s go!

Teaching Science in English has been quite a challenge thus far, but just when I think things are impossible and that no one is absorbing anything I say at all, one student will shout out a word like “Photosynthesis” and make everything right again.Even better than the photosynthesis from my 5th grader, was the random “Let’s go!” from a 1st grader the other day. First grade is so tough, they are basically still babies learning to speak Spanish, so for the most part I have no idea what they are saying and they have NO CLUE what I am saying in English. They can repeat things, but this causes a problem when I try to have a conversation, for instance

Me: How are you?
Students: How are you?
Me: No, you respond I’m fine thank you
Students: No, you respond I’m fine thank you
Me: Ok, How are you?
Students: Ok, How are you?
Me: ARRGGGHHH
Etc, Etc.

Needless to say this is exhausting, and causes me give in and revert to speaking Spanish to them way too often. Well yesterday I was taking them to lunch and I said:

Me: Listos, Vamos todos por almuerzo
Student: Let’s go!

So, she had picked up on me previously saying “Let’s go”, and also the context with which it was used. I will gladly take this as a small success. While my official goal (set by the MEP) for Unit 1 in 1st grade science might be to have all the students memorize and locate most parts of the body, know their own identifying features and proper hygiene I’m honestly going to be happy with the small independent statements like this. Oh and it would also be great if they realized that the “eyesandearsandmouthandnose” part of the Head and Shoulders song was really referencing parts of their face and not just one silly long word thrown in there between the chorus. That would be awesome.

Back Swinging!

Back in the swing of things..

I'm back, and yes, my lucky bamboo plant came back to Fortuna with me!

I’m back to teaching! It seems even more exhausting than before, after spending a week on bed rest, but it is good to be here. The students and other teachers have all been wonderful and seem really happy to have me and Ross back (although we’ll see how the students REALLY feel once we start prepping for the first exams at the end of this month!) I feel really behind with the curriculum, but I’m hoping to be productive the next few weeks. If I can just breeze through a couple of body systems in my 5th Grade Science classes, I think we’ll be okay.

Speaking of exhausted I am constantly lately! This week has been really challenging just to wake up at 6AM, never mind waking up and dealing with 30+ first graders (who want to hug you and kiss you and play with your hair and give you stickers, etc. etc.). By the time we are out of school at 2:30pm I am ready for bed. This is why I do not recommend staying in a bed for a week straight unless you are forced to. It sounds great right, a week of rest? Don’t be fooled, it really was anything but restful. Although I was in bed for what may have been the most consecutive time spent in bed in my life, I probably slept the least I’ve ever slept in a week.

And all that running I wanted to do? That was a little overambitious. I think I’m going to have to start building up to that and start out with some slow, short ones and lots of yoga and stretching. It’s really hard to get back into an exercise routine (I feel soo weak!), which is why CONSISTENCY is so important in any exercise regime. The more you work out, the more you WANT to work out. True story.

One more day of school for us this week, and it will probably be a short one due to a big teacher strike throughout the country:

http://www.ticotimes.net/News/News-Briefs/Teachers-to-protest-in-downtown-San-Jose-on-Thursday-morning_Wednesday-March-09-2011

I’m not sure if this was intentional or not:

Maybe the word "Diesel" got lost in translation?

Too much Express?

Survivor: Costa Rica

The past 10 days have definitely been a challenge for me here.

1. I started feeling pretty sick and was in a good amount of pain 2. This resulted in me spending a week in the hospital in San Jose and 3. My grandmother passed away yesterday.

I know it’s supposed to be hard spending a year away volunteering in a foreign country, but this hard? Really? Wow.

Yes, I guess it is supposed to be this hard. The important thing to do is to keep things in perspective (which, being the drama queen that I am, really isn’t easy for me to do all of the time). The truth is, LIFE is hard sometimes, and this is the case whether you live in Boston or Costa Rica or Azerbaijan. Here is my perspective:

1. I could have gotten sick at home too.

2.I could have had to go to the hospital at home, and while they probably wouldn’t have kept me in for a whole week, I might not have gotten as good of care as I did here. I don’t want to get into the whole comparing health care systems, but my Dr. did tell me a story about another patient from the U.S. who is a volunteer with another group, the same age as me and in the hospital at the same time. She had had 3 fainting spells in the U.S and was feeling pretty dizzy all the time. Her US doctors didn’t do many tests, saying she was young and probably just had a slight arrhythmia. Turns out, she came to Costa Rica and had another spell. She came to the hospital here, where they did more thorough tests and discovered she had a kind of serious heart problem (that I don’t remember the name of), that very possibly could have killed her. They wound up doing an emergency surgery and putting in a pacemaker, which will drastically increase her quality of life.

3. My grandmother would have passed away even if I was home. She has been sick for awhile, and I am very glad to know that she is not in any more pain, and not stuck in a hospital, and I know she is in a much better place and reunited with my Papa and their Jack Russel Terrier Maggie 🙂 Also, I was lucky enough to see her right before I left and tell her all about this Costa Rica craziness and she was very happy for me and Ross (she was a little worried about the bugs, but otherwise happy!) One of our last phone conversations was in the Miami airport right before I took off for San Jose, and before getting off the phone she said to me “I might not be around when you get back, but I’ll always be in your heart”. At the time this kind of upset me, but now I’m finding it comforting.

I would obviously love to be able to be with my family during this time, especially my Mom. Thanks to the wonderful world of Social Media I can be there, in a way. It’s not the same as actually being there, but it works.

So, this is my perspective! I have to run to catch a bus back to La Fortuna and get back to my Costa Rican reality, here goes nothing…

Oh, The Places You’ll Go!

Happy 107th Birthday to Dr. Seuss! I know I’ve discussed how much I enjoy reading on this blog before, and one of my favorite books of all time is his childhood classic “Oh, The Places You’ll Go”. I think EVERY child and adult needs to read this book (or have it read to them), I bought this book for my niece for Christmas, and I’m sure she reads it when she’s not busy with her job as bathing suit model:

" Baby, oh, baby, the places you'll go! The worlds you will visit! The friends you will know! ."

It’s enlightening, inspiring, motivational and instead of being overly idealistic like most children’s books, he throws in a bit of realism that most adults will appreciate as well:

“I’m afraid sometimes you’ll play lonely games too,
games you can’t win because you’ll play against you.”

In honor of Dr. Suess, I’ll leave you with some more of his quotes:

Today you are You, that is truer than true.
There is no one alive who is Youer than You.

Be who you are and say what you feel
because those who mind don’t matter
and those who matter don’t mind.

Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.

Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.

I have heard there are troubles of more than one kind.
Some come from ahead and some come from behind.
But I’ve bought a big bat. I’m all ready you see.
Now my troubles are going to have troubles with me!

I meant what I said and I said what I meant.

The more that you read, the more things you will know.
The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.

Today was good. Today was fun.
Tomorrow is another one.

You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself in any direction you choose.
You’re on your own. And you know what you know.
You are the guy who’ll decide where to go.

Think left and think right and think low and think high.
Oh, the things you can think up if only you try!

Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting.
So… get on your way.

If you never did you should.
These things are fun and fun is good.

I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells.
Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living,
It’s a way of looking at life through the wrong end of a telescope.
Which is what I do,
And that enables you to laugh at life’s realities.

And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow,
stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so?
It came without ribbons. It came without tags.
It came without packages, boxes or bags.
And he puzzled and puzzled ‘till his puzzler was sore.
Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before.
What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store.
What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.

From there to here, and here to there,
funny things are everywhere.

I meant what I said, and I said what I meant.
An elephant’s faithful, one hundred percent.

It’s high time you were shown,
that you really don’t know all there is to be known.

You’re on your own, and you know what you know.
And you will be the guy who’ll decide where you’ll go.
Oh the places you you’ll go.

Hospital Humor

This morning, as my doctor was walking out of my room after a quick check up he mentioned that he wouldn’t be back in to see me until tomorrow, because he had to attend a funeral this afternoon. A funeral for one of his patients. OMG, TMI! I’m very, very sorry about his loss, but that does not instill a lot of confidence. I mean he could of just mentioned he had to go to a funeral, I wouldn’t have pried.

So now I’m still sitting here convinced I’m going to die feeling much better! Day number 5 in the hospital and I’ve gotten nothing accomplished except for watching insane amounts of television (I’ve definitely made up for the last two months and more), stalking people on facebook and driving my nurses crazy with my strange American tendencies and my refusal to speak Spanish. I brought work with me: lesson planning, TEFL assignments, Spanish workbooks and I’ve managed to do nada. I’ve kind of made up a rule for myself that as long as I have a needle in my arm, I am not responsible for any sort of productivity. My rule doesn’t make any sense, I know, but I’m sticking to it (get it needle, stick…. hospital humor. This is what happens when you are stuck in one for too many days).

I do have some good news to share! Our school was kind enough to let Ross off the rest of the week to come be with me here. The director of our school even called my room this morning. I don’t know if you have every attempted to speak with someone on the phone in a foreign language, but if you have, you will know that it’s not possible. For the first few minutes I thought he was someone from the billing department in the hospital. After I realized who it was I got nervous and just thanked him a lot and got off the phone ASAP. I hope he was saying nice things and not firing me for missing my entire 3rd week of classes.

Ross is on a bus on his way here right now, and I am SO EXCITED! I feel bad subjecting him to hospital life, but I know if the situation were reversed I would want to be here with him too. I have my fingers crossed to bust out tomorrow, definitely by Thursday (I think… we’re on Tico time here people, tranquillo!)

Mabye I'm glad I don't know what they're saying afterall...