Semanas de Despedidas

Work hard, play hard, right? That’s what we’ve been doing. Trying to get in all the grades for all 400 students whilest attending muchas fiestas. Ay ca-rumba!

I think all the stress is really getting to Ross…

Last night the staff at our school threw an end-of-year party/goodbye party for Ross and I. We all went to Los Laureles, an authentic tico hot springs experience (it’s not as fancy, but you won’t encounter 500 American High Schoolers like you might at Baldi). There were hot pools, cold pools, water slides, picnic tables and grills for cooking.

Don’t even get me started on the food!!! There was a never ending supply of pork, chicken, sausage and tortillas on the grill. For sides there were potato chips, sun chips, plantain chips, chocolate chips… They call chips “papas” and french fries “papas”, which always kind of confuses me. Sometimes french fries are also papas fritas (fried potatoes), but chips are also fried potatoes. Como, como???

And of course cafe y pancito! Coffee, boxes of glazed, frosted donuts, dulce de leche and chocolate covered with sprinkles. For those who prefer savory pancito there was empanadas de pollo y carne. In addition to endless coffee, there was sangria, cervezas, and vodka.

Not. One. Vegetable. Unless you count one of the many ‘papas’ (but seriously, don’t). I’m in need of a ‘detox’, but it’s worth it. How many more opportunities will I have to enjoy this authentic Tico food with authentic Ticos? If I kept this up all year it might be a problem, but I can bounce back from a few despedidas locas, so why not live it up?

We danced cumbia, merengue and salsa, and just hung out in the water under the stars all night. It was an excellent way to end the school year. I haven’t cried (yet) but I got pretty emotional saying goodbye to mis companeros, so we’ll see how it goes with the host family/close friends.

The Gifts: All the other teachers gave us a beautiful Costa Rican coffee maker and a handmade wooden decorative shelf. In addition, Alejandra, (one of our 2nd grade students whose father is an artist here in town and has a shop where he sells his hand-carvings among other souvenirs), gave me a wooden jewelry box filled with beautiful wood earrings, and Ross some really cool, very Costa Rican coasters.

At least we’ll be bringing some beautiful Costa Rican souvenirs home with us and will surely have one of the most Tico-styled apartments in Boston. Who’s coming over for salsa dancing, gallo pinto and Cacique cocktails (vegetables not included)?

“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”
― Dr. Seuss



As promised, here are some pictures of our Costa Rican Turkey Day!

It all started with the trot…

Hayden & Caitlin stretching out

Eric pre-race… not quite sure what he’s doing

Me, waay too excited for 7:00 in the morning. #myfriendshateme

The race was optional for everyone. Ross had the option to run the race, or find himself single on Thanksgiving Day.

Angie, Steff (aka GANADORA) y Caitlin

After the race we took freezing cold showers, had an amazing breakfast and then went into meetings for the rest of the day. I not only got a Turkey Trot medal, but also a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certificate, it was a pretty productive turkey day for someone who usually just watches football and naps between eating 🙂

Fast forward to 7:00PM and it was time for cena:

Look as close as you want, you won’t find one frijole on this plate:

Or here:

I need a nap just looking at all that food! We’re back to rice and beans for a few more weeks, but it’s nice to be home in Fortuna and back to Mango. Our poor little perrito didn’t get any turkey this year, but we did let him get face-deep into some Pops ice cream when we got home last night.

I’m sure he’s thankful for this…

Om, Baby

Happy day after Thanksgiving! Despite the fact that we are in Costa Rica and away from friends and family, Ross and I managed to have a pretty incredible holiday. We have so much to be thankful for, the fact that we got to spend the holiday together, amongst a really great group of people and the amazing, almost miraculous dinner the OTIAC group threw for us last night. I have about 20,000 pictures of the turkey, stuffing, pumpkin pie, etc. but I didn’t bring my camera cord, so you’ll have to trust me for now that they put together a Thanksgiving feast like Latin America has never seen before.

I am also very thankful I got to partake in one of my favorite Thanksgiving traditions… A turkey trot! Ross and I made numbers and medals and several people participated in our race. All we were missing was the football watching, and leftovers. I am craving a turkey sandwich so bad right now…

Kidding. More like this:

Since I don’t have any photos to share from our holiday right now, I will instead include some of my niece Halle. Last year she was smaller than the turkey, and this year she is doing yoga! Check out Halle’s tree pose below:

I am especially thankful that in a few more weeks Ross, Mango and I will be home and get to spend the rest of the holiday season with Halle, and all other friends and family that we are missing so much.

“Me llamo es Eddie Vedder”

Pearl Jam did not disappoint last night, and neither did the new Costa Rican Stadium. Okay, so Eddie Vedder’s Spanish is not what you might call good, but I give him a lot of credit for trying to speak to the crowd in Spanish (or Spanglish) all night. From my experience talking into a microphone, like talking into a telephone, makes speaking a foreign language even more difficult than it normally is. Granted Eddie Vedder probably has a little more practice with using a microphone than I do. Just a little.

We had floor seats to the show, which was quite an experience. I think a once-in-a-lifetime experience (ie maybe not one I’d like to live again. Do you realize you pay a lot more money to NOT have a seat? And to be stepped on and pushed by lots of giant bald men screaming Pearl Jam lyrics with heavy Spanish accents “Don’t call me daughter, not fair to me, the PEEEEKSURE kept will remind me…”) If I do do it again, I’ll wear something sturdier than flip flops. Like steel-toed boots. And a helmet. And earplugs. Oh my god, I just realized I’m old.

*Quick shout out to We had booked a room on their website for after the concert, but when we showed up the hostel was shut down! It was a minor inconvenience to have to walk/taxi around San Jose in the rain to find a new place, but we managed and not only fully reimbursed us, but also gave us a $50 credit for future reservations. That’s more than I make in a month.*

In addition to a great show, we had awesome company, a fun Japanese dinner AND we got $4 Pearl Jam T-shirts. What more could you ask for?

Seeing as it’s 7pm and I’ve been on buses all day (and I’m old) I’m gong to sleep now. Keep on rockin’ in the free world!

For what it’s worth, it was worth all the while….

The adventure isn’t over yet, but things are certainly starting to move more quickly. I’ve officially taught my last class, and though I still have some final exams and we have some wrapping up to do at school, our normal (for lack of a better word) Costa Rican routine is coming to an end. I want to take a few moments now and jot down some thoughts on this before I get caught up in yet another major life transformation.

Tomorrow morning Ross and I leave for San Jose for the 5 billionth time this year. We are going to see Pearl Jam in concert at the new Costa Rican National Stadium, how cool is that?!?! Seeing Pearl Jam in concert would probably have one of the last things I thought I would have done in Costa Rica, but that’s pretty much the theme of my year.

I tried to come into this experience with no set expectations, which is the best way, and maybe the only way to successfully enter into something like this. It has been so much more challenging and rewarding then I ever could have dreamed, in ways I couldn’t have even imagined before. In many ways it’s very refreshing, to give up over-analyzing and over-thinking life and to just LIVE it.

Here are some of the more unexpected life events off the top of my head. They are not all the worst or best things necessarily, they are just the things I would have said ‘no way, not gonna happen’ to this time last year:

Spending a week in a Costa Rican hospital and living to tell about it

Getting a surprise puppy in a basket

Sharing my Mom’s SOLO out of country experience (and poisonous snake encounter)

Getting my tattoo in San Jose

Making 20+ new best friends

Standing up on a surf board

Falling completely in love with 400 students:

As I said before it’s not over yet, but it will be before I know it. I’m going to go enjoy every second of it.

“Another turning point, a fork stuck in the road
Time grabs you by the wrist, directs you where to go
So make the best of this test, and don’t ask why
It’s not a question, but a lesson learned in time

It’s something unpredictable, but in the end it’s right.
I hope you had the time of your life.

So take the photographs, and still frames in your mind
Hang it on a shelf in good health and good time
Tattoos of memories and dead skin on trial
For what it’s worth it was worth all the while

It’s something unpredictable, but in the end it’s right.
I hope you had the time of your life.”

-Green Day

Special Edition: Q & A

An American Tourist in Paradise: Earlier this month, my amazing, incredible, talented friend ASHLEY came to visit us. Below is a Q&A all about her experience with us in Pura Vida land.

Megan: What was your favorite place in Costa Rica and why?

Ashley: This is so difficult! I really liked the Baldi Springs, and I really liked the beach. I liked standing underneath a waterfall because I so seldom do that here.

Megan: What was your favorite food? Least favorite?

Ashley: Favorite food: Another hard one! If you ask Megan and Ross’s students what my favorite food is, they might tell you it is “knives,” because I kept accidentally telling them I enjoyed “cuchillos de cerdo” (pig knives) instead of pig ribs. Ah, Americans are funny that way.

I liked most everything! Megan and Ross turned me onto the wonders of buffet dinners, lunches, and breakfasts. I can’t argue with the logic of finishing every meal with chocolate cake.

Least favorite: Hongos. I don’t care what country it is and what they call them there. If I find out it means “mushrooms,” I will be very unhappy and may leave the country prematurely.

Second least favorite: A bowl of spaghetti with cream and ham. Or whatever that was we had for lunch at school. Generally unimpressive.

Megan: Approximately how many rice and beans pounds (yes, they are different than other kinds of pounds) did you gain in your week here?  (Convert that into Grams, multiply by roughly 51 and that will be my answer.)

Ashley: At eight days in the country with a rate of three base meals per day, of which at least two containing rice and beans, with the exception of maybe two meals in touristy locations, when I probably ordered rice and beans anyway ….

8 x (3-1) – 2 = 14 meals of beans and rice, or the equivalent of 28 beans and rice pounds.

Megan: Nice.

Megan: You brought some donations (ie gifts) for poor people here (ie us) when you visited. Are you planning on writing these off your 2011 taxes?

Ashely: I would consider this, but then I’d have had to notify the Costa Rican government that I was bringing them in before I entered, which means of course that I’d have to let the U.S. government know that I was planning to do this in the first place. Then I’d have to find where to fill out this information on my tax forms, and since I don’t know how to change colones into dollars very well I’d probably end up writing something like $600,000,000, which they would never believe anyway.

Megan: It’s worth a try…

Megan: What was the biggest challenge you faced while traveling in a Spanish speaking country? (and yes, your hair iron is a perfectly acceptable answer to this)

Ashley: Although I did speak a bit of Spanish before I arrived, and remembered a lot more upon attempting to communicate with residents, communication did pose a bit of a problem. I wandered into a breads shop one afternoon, pointed at a loaf trying to indicate that I wanted to buy it. I knew the word for bread, I knew how to specify that I wanted it, and I had adequate money. Somehow I walked away from this situation without any bread at all. Sometimes when I got nervous in a conversation and couldn’t think of the appropriate response in time, I simply blurted out “Nice to meet you” (Mucho gusto).

In reference to the hair iron comment, it is a challenge for those with unruly hair, like myself, to look respectable in humid environments. You may notice in the photos from my trip to Singapore, I am not in any of them. This is not just because I am an insecure person, it is because people intentionally cut me out of photos.

Megan: Sorry about that…

Megan: Who do you like more, Costa Rican or American children (and no, ‘monkeys’ are not an acceptable answer here)

Ashley: This is a tricky question because I can’t understand most of what Costa Rican children are saying. On the other hand, it is very often preferential not to understand what children are saying (this is why people like babies so much), so that does not necessarily count against them. More than any other aspect of comparison between the countries, kids are kids. They are excited, look up to you, and are often a lot more fun and open-minded than adults. Until they get to fifth grade or so when they just become a nuisance.

Megan: Speaking of Monkeys, why do you like them so much?

Ashley: Please. Name one other animal that swooped down from a coconut tree, sat down next to your head, stole your belongings right before your resting eyes, and sprang back up to its branch to delightedly go through your things. They are very intelligent, yet cuter and fuzzier than humans.

Megan: I don’t know, I know some pretty cute and fuzzy humans…

Megan: What did you learn during your school visit?

Ashley: School was great! I learned that there are a lot of things I don’t know how to say. I also learned that stickers are the currency of the future.

Megan: Sum up the host family experience in 5 words.

Ashley: Perrito embarazar hormigas Kool-Aid tortillas

Megan: Couldn’t have said it better myself.

Megan: Is San Jose really as bad as its reputation? Worse than any other big cities in the States?

Ashley: Difficult to say. I did not get mugged, beaten, or kidnapped in San Jose, nor did I see anyone get mugged, beaten, or kidnapped. Or if I did, I just assumed it was “a kind of Costa Rican playing.” My hosts did a good job of sheltering me from any of the dangers of San Jose (I seem to remember Ross saying, “That’s not a rifle, it’s a cane! He’s simply trying to return the cane to the forgetful old man by batting him about the head with it!”). If I had been left to wander San Jose in the dark by myself, I may have had a different opinion.

Megan: Have you already attempted to make fresh Papaya juice in Boston since your return?

Ashley: Sigh, no. I’m afraid my attempt would be a flop and I’d destroy the perfect, delicious taste in my head (not taste of my head). I have talked about it a whole lot though.

Megan: Did you really just say “taste of my head”?

Megan: Has your hair recovered from the rainforest climate?

Ashley: I think rainforest climate is most likely good for your hair, with the extra moisture and all (I have not researched this in any way). It’s the battling with the rainforest climate that destroys it. Of this I am guilty.

Megan: In your own words, define the meaning of ‘PURA VIDA’

Ashley: “Pura Vida” means I agree with what you’re saying on the basis that I don’t understand what it translates to in English. Pura Vida means I’d love to tip you, but I can’t because I didn’t bring enough colones out. Pura vida means I live in Costa Rica so I can throw garbage wherever I like. Pura vida also means you are an absolutely bird-brained cab driver, and if I had a choice I’d charge YOU for driving me around in circles, but I sense that I am losing this argument and my girlfriend is giving me the look of death so I am just going to throw in the towel now.

Truthfully I did not get a grasp on what Pura Vida means. I think I know what it’s supposed to mean, but do not understand this in the context of situations when it was actually used.

Megan: What were your thoughts on the public transportation system in Costa Rica?

Ashley: The buses were great! They were manufactured by Mercedes-Benz in 1980 and all the seat cushions have multi-colored 80s fabric patterns that you’ve missed so much. Halfway through the trip, they drop you off at a mecca of bathrooms as far as the eye can see and entice you to buy everything that Costa Rica has to offer in under fifteen minutes. They don’t let you back on the bus if you haven’t bought some fresh mango. It is probably best that you travel with as many people as possible, because I think the lower the number of travelers, the less total human worth you represent to the driver, and the more likely it will be that the driver will drive recklessly with his eyes closed.

Megan: Biggest accomplishment? (probably throwing down “no me digas’ within your first 5 minutes of meeting our host mom)

Ashley: A few accomplishments to list. One was telling a joke in Costa Rica (okay so telling the host mom about the time I lost my clarinet in grade school isn’t actually very funny, but she laughed and I was just impressed that I could tell a really stupid story in another language). As Megan suggests, I was also very happy that I got to say “No me digas!” so soon, in a totally relevant context and not at all contrived. If I could have taped the exchange and sent it to my brother as proof, I would have done so.*

*For unknown reasons “No me digas!” is one of my brother’s favorite expressions. It is pretty fun to say, however, so I don’t think it requires further explanation.

Megan: First impression of Mango?

Ashley: Mango is a delight. He likes to lay on his back with his legs in the air and bite people’s hands. Very fond of licking. Not a fan of cold showers. Also enjoys bar-hopping.

Megan: Oh I was asking your impression about about Mango, not Ross…

Megan: Who was the best host(ESS) and why?

Ashley: I don’t understand the question.

Ashley: Oh, right! Megan was an incredible hostess who made sure I got to do everything I came for, including visiting a shirtless local veterinarian, participate in a school assembly, and eat beans and rice. It’s almost as if she’d had a copy of my bucket list beforehand!!

In all seriousness, Megan was a terrific host as expected and that’s why she was preemptively rewarded with Reese’s peanut butter cups and beauty magazines.

Megan: Did you feel ripped off when you exchanged 10 million colones for 2 dollars and 50 cents?

Ashley: For better or worse, I didn’t know what was happening the entire time I was in Costa Rica. I pretended the money was play money someone had given to me to practice using my Spanish in “real-life” situations. I did have to be defibrillated at the Miami airport when I’d realized how much I’d spent, but treatment is going smoothly since my return.

Megan: That defibrillater better still be available next month.

Megan: Would you ever come back to visit Costa Rica in the future?

Ashley: Of course! But I’d want to go back with the same people, partly because I liked relying on them to translate things into Spanish for me. Also we’d rent a big cool automobile so Mango could come with us.

Megan: Anything else you would like to add??!!??

Ashley: No me digas! (taken out of context)

Actually, that dress does make you look fat and ugly…

Imagine saying this to someone else. Horrifying, mean, awful? Now imagine saying this to yourself. Imagine? I’ve already said it 5 times today!

You’ve probably heard that you should treat others as as you would like to be treated, but how WOULD you like to be treated? If how we treat ourselves is any indication of how we’d like to be treated, then probably not that good.

This past weekend was just what I needed. I didn’t get all my work done, didn’t get my entire life in order, or solve world peace, but that’s OKAY. I wouldn’t expect this of others, so why do I put all that pressure on myself, all the time?

I did catch up on some work, slept in, went to the gym, went on a date with Ross, played with Mango, ate ice cream, read, watched the final Harry Potter on iTunes and went to a sports bar to watch the Patriots blow the Jets away.

Ross and I have been going to the gym about 5 days a week following a pretty intense strength-training routine. I’ve been loving this for the past 2 months or so, but lately the work outs have been leaving me feeling exhausted, and not in a good way. If someone else had told me this about them I would have congratulated them on all their good work and told them to slow down and take a well deserved rest. Since it’s me though, I told myself I should be able to do more.

But I came to my senses (this happens once in awhile). It’s always good to change things up every couple of weeks/months, so I’m cutting down the lifting sessions to only 3 days a week and adding more cardio back into my routine. Long, slow runs might not be the best thing for rapid weight loss, but they are my mental sanity. I do some of my best, most clear thinking during these runs. Oh, and I already carb-load every. single. day. Thank you rice and beans for joining me at every meal!

Now if only I had some good friends to run and share these thoughts with! Seriously, if you haven’t yet, schedule a long run with a friend and just talk. It will probably be the best conversation of your life. My friend Jen and I held an interesting conversation for all 26.2 miles and 4+ hours of the Boston Marathon (at least we did until Boylston street where she blew me away at the finish :))

If you find yourself thinking negatively, try to imagine saying those thoughts out loud to someone else, would it be rude? Inappropriate? Considered by some as mental or emotional abuse even? Would it get you fired if you said it to your boss? Dumped if you said it to your significant other? Bitten if you said it to your dog?

Today try treating yourself as you often (hopefully) treat others; with respect, positivity, kindness, understanding and patience. And that dress doesn’t make you look fat or ugly, I was only making a point.

I Don’t Do This Enough…

I’m taking a little time this Friday afternoon to sit in a coffee shop downtown Fortuna by myself. No boyfriend, puppy (sorry guys!) students, coworkers or family, just me and my giant watermelon and papaya smoothie.

Oh, and my computer of course.

As I sit here taking a moment to breath and reflect, I realize I’ve mentally been all over the place this past week. I’ve been stressing over getting everything in before the last day of school, trying to figure out my life situation when I get back to ‘reality’ next month, playing catch-up with the workout routine and feeling pressure to make the best out of our last few weeks here.

Yikes. That’s way too much at once, I know better than this! It’s fine to juggle multiple things, but it’s also important to keep everything in balance and not lose sight of your priorities.

While my intentions are to be super productive, the end result of overdoing it usually has the opposite outcome. I’ve noticed that the days have been escaping me lately, and that is because I am not using time to my advantage. Though not intentionally, I’m wasting it.

Case in point: I will sign onto Facebook to send a quick birthday note to a friend (good!), and somehow end up looking at said friend’s second cousin’s (once-removed) photo album 45 minutes later (bad!). What am I doing? Stalkerish, yes, but certainly not productive. I’ll log on to the New York Times online to keep up with what’s going on in the world (good!), and find myself reading for 1 and a 1/2 about Kim Kardashians divorce and Penn State Football. I can’t get that time back (bad!). See what I mean about good intentions?

I’ve decided to take this weekend to just slow down and take a break from the internet. I LOVE writing this blog, keeping in touch with everyone and having a public outlet in which to make fun of Ross, but I have some important things to do. I’m sure I’ll tell you all about them, when the time is right.

First up: Pizza date tonight. Good pizza is ALWAYS a priority.

“If time be of all things the most precious, wasting time must be the greatest prodigality.” -Benjamin Franklin

Word of the day: Prodigality. Use it at your next party.

Have a great weekend 🙂

I’m lucky that I’m a runner

At least I’m lucky to be a person that has an affinity for running road races. Thanks to all my 5Ks, 10Ks and marathons (roughly 1 million Ks) I can figure out just how far it is I am running no matter where I am in the world.

Other thank that, I’m totally in the dark with that thing they use here in Costa Rica, you know that universally known unit of measurement that almost everyone else in the world uses? Oh yes, the METRIC SYSTEM.

I don’t understand the temperature outside (30 degrees and I’m sweltering, I must have Dengue) , I have no clue how tall I am or how much I really weigh (ignorance is bliss, right?) and I look like a complete idiot when giving or receiving directions.

I try multiplying by 2.2, dividing by 10 and adding 6. I’m even dating a math major- but it’s like teaching an old dog new tricks, not really happening. Luckily Mango’s been using the Metric System since he was a little puppy.

Feet, Yards, Miles, I’m sure these made sense to someone at some point. From the brief research I’ve conducted on this matter (on Wikipedia) I’ve found:

The customary system was championed by the United States-based International Institute for Preserving and Perfect­ing Weights and Measures in the late 19th century. Advocates of the customary system saw the French Revolutionary, or metric, system as atheistic. An auxiliary of the Institute in Ohio published a poem reading:

Then down with every “metric” scheme
Taught by the foreign school,
We’ll worship still our Father’s God!
And keep our Father’s “rule”!
A perfect inch, a perfect pint,
The Anglo’s honest pound,
Shall hold their place upon the earth,
Till time’s last trump shall sound!

I’m actually quite partial of the “perfect pint” but something tells me they weren’t referring to Guinness here.

“Kilometers are shorter than miles. Save gas, take your next trip in kilometers.” -George Carlin

Yet another great reason to run: It’s more fun than sitting in math class discussing conversions!

“A wise traveler never despises his own country.” Carlo Goldoni

The countdown is on with only a little more than a month left before Ross, Mango and I are back Stateside and I’m already having mixed emotions. We were warned that this would happen, but it seems like just when you start to get acclimated, to make friends and feel a sense of contentment, it’s time to pack up and do it all over again.

I do however feel like this year has made me appreciate a lot of things (and people!) from home that I didn’t fully before. I miss Boston and New England like CRAZY, and really can’t imagine why anyone would ever want to live anywhere else. I guess I’m only remembering the good stuff though, because there must of been I reason I willingly left last January. Regardless, I’ve realized that there is a lot of good stuff to be missed.

So, a great thing about living in another country is that it allows you to fully appreciate what you have at home. Another good thing (I’m sure I’ve mentioned this a billion times already-but it seems to be the theme of my year) is that it allows you to really get to know the people and look past the stereotypes. I don’t think that in the United States there is a stereotype or stigma of Costa Rican people in particular, but there certainly is one of developing countries in general.

It also allows the people in the country to see Americans in a different light, and not just on reality TV (thanks Kardashians) or even worse, as tourists.

Some stereotypes of the American Tourist:
-We wear loud Hawaiian shirts, baggy unflattering shorts and fanny packs
-We take too many pictures of random things, all the time
-We go to ‘typical’ authentic restaurants and get angry when there isn’t a hamburger on the menu
-We don’t learn other languages. We just speak English more loudly and sloowly, as if the person we were talking to were slightly deaf and dumb, instead of a native Spanish speaker in a Spanish speaking country.
-We are drunk all the time. I get it, we work way too much and way too hard, so when we go on vacation in tropical paradise we HAVE to be completely obliterated the entire time. we EARNED this!

We have learned so much from the people here already, and I hope that we taught them that not all these stereotypes are true. For instance, Ross limits his Hawaiian shirt, baggy shorts and fanny pack ensemble to only a few times a week, and I try to be sober on Mondays.

Since I couldn’t pick just one travel quote today here are a few more I like:

“People don’t take trips – trips take people.”

John Steinbeck

“When you travel, remember that a foreign country is not designed to make you comfortable. It is designed to make its own people comfortable.”

Clifton Fadiman

And this one really hit home for me:

“I should like to spend the whole of my life in traveling abroad, if I could anywhere borrow another life to spend afterwards at home.”
William Hazlitt