¡Arroz y frijoles todos el tiempo! ¡Yum!
Trip Start Mar 20, 2009
12Trip End Jun 03, 2009
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The last 8 days have had many ups and downs, some tears, lots of confusion but also lots of fun. I'm not even sure where to begin!
Our group is getting along really well (Annie, Curtis, Matt, Britt, Ashley K, and Lindsey E, plus me). When we get together and have outings we are pretty much guaranteed to have a good time and a lot of laughs. The school is very interesting. A wonderful concept but does need a bit of work. My cooperating teacher is amazing and so sweet and nice but also so busy! I am one of about 7 interns/student teachers with her so it is very different from what I am used to (more about that later).
My family is really wonderful. I officially met them last Sunday. I knew I lived far when we arrived in Monteverde by van and I was the only one picked up by my family because it was so far (the others were dropped off along the way). We only live about 7 km from Santa Elena, 10 from Monteverde but with all of the large hills to go up and down, it takes me about 1 hr and 10 min. to get to Santa Elena to meet the others. My family consists of Judith and Randall (the parents), Fabricio (10, speaks English), Sofia (7), Franklin (Randall's father), Fabio (I think, Randall's brother), and Helen (Judith's sister who is in grade 9 at the school but doesn't live with us at the moment but likely will soon, she also speaks English). Another girl, Jane, also lived with us up until yesterday. She lived with the family for 3 months and speaks fluent Spanish. She is very nice and helpful and the family was very sad to see her go. There are also many animals on the farm-cows (it's a dairy farm, who placed me here?), a goat, a horse, a rabbit, chickens, a cat, Chester (a young dog), and Jacky (a brand new, very tiny puppy that they just got last Tuesday).
When I first arrived we headed straight to the farm, with Fabricio pointing out different sites along the way. The community is actually multiple communities, mostly along one main road. It goes Monteverde, Cerro Platano, Santa Elena, and then smaller communities around that. I live in La Cruz which is even farther. Monteverde was started by Quakers who didn't want to be in the war; Santa Elena is the Tico town that has many of the tourist accommodations, restaurants, etc.
When we arrived I got a quick tour of the house and then it was time for lunch (most of the meals seem to have a form of rice and beans and plantains, so delicious, plus meat, avocado, or egg, and a fresh fruit. I then had an extreme adventure tour of the farm. Fabricio and Sofia took me through their pastures, showed me different foods that they farm, we ate sugar cane and they made movies with my camera (they often take my camera and iPod which can get annoying but they are getting better!). They then led us to a small, steep stream that we started to explore. At first if was pretty easy but then they realized that Chester would not be able to get through it so I started to carry him. He was so scared, and I was trying not to fall while going from rock to rock. It kept getting more and more difficult and then we had to scale up the side to get out. Very exciting! The adventure led to my first clothing repairs.
We then played Monopoly and checkers around supper and packing. It's pretty difficult still to communicate with the family but Fabricio helps (and so did Jane while she was here). I'm getting better but I think I look startled most of the time. Judith always checks to make sure I'm happy and full as I think she is worried that I'm struggling too much. I'm not though, just partially confused. I'm getting better though, and my Spanish is improving every day.
The next day (Monday) was my first day of school. We get up at 6 to get ready, eat breakfast and drive to the bus stop. It is often a battle between the kids and Judith to get to school on time but we've made it so far! We are the first bus stop so they don't leave until we get there I think. It was fun to meet up with my U of W group at school and hear about everyone's new families. We got a tour of the property and met our teachers. Dolly, my teacher, is so great. I met the other interns working with her and began discussing plans of what I will be doing. I don't really work with kids much unfortunately but I am doing some interesting work. My days at school usually consist of spending some time working with the grade 5 or 6 class, recently helping grade 8s with their recycled glass art (that they will be selling in town, the man in charge of the project has started similar ones around the world it sounds like, it's neat to be a part of it). The rest of the time I am researching and writing curriculum. The school has an environmental focus but does not yet have a curriculum to follow. Dolly is trying to create the curriculum for each grade (a very large task for someone to take on). I am writing a renewable energy unit for the grade 5 and 6s. It's coming along very nicely. Although this isn't exactly what I thought I'd be doing, I'm glad I'm helping and it will look pretty amazing on a resume to say that I've developed curriculum. The only drawbacks are that I don't really see kids much and I'm inside the computer lab most of the day (if only I had known and I could've brought my laptop, oh well). The school has the most beautiful property and view, and the weather has been gorgeous so it is almost painful to be stuck inside all day.
Most days I take the bus home (because the walk is so long). School ends at 2:45 which is really nice. When I get home I do some reading and work while Sofia and Fabricio play around me. We often play soccer and board games or make movies with my camera. Then we have dinner at about 7 or 8. Then Judith watches Spanish soap operas and I attempt to understand them. I head to bed between 9 and 10.
Now I'll just try to sum up the other days, this is getting long and there's still so much to say!
Tuesday: The computer lab was being used all day so I was feeling pretty useless. This was probably my least favourite day yet. I was very frustrated with not having anything to do and I was still unclear on what I was trying to accomplish. Then when I took the bus home somehow the buses changed or something even though it was the same bus I have taken every single time before and after, and I had to get off at one point and walk. I didn't really know how to get home at the time and since it had been such a crappy day I let a couple tears slide. Luckily, Judith, Franklin and Fabio were in town and happened to drive by and pick me up. That was the day that we got the new puppy! He was in the car and made the rest of the evening very fun and exciting!
Wednesday: Not much to say about Wednesday. I had computer time so I began my research. After school I met Helen and Jane was home (since it was here last week she hadn't been around much as she was spending time with friends). I tried sugar can candy but was told beforehand that it was actually calf vomit but since they eat lots of sugar cane and have 4 stomachs it doesn't break down as much and is tasty. I tried it thinking this and they all had a good laugh. I figure I should try everything even if it sounds gross! Luckily it was just candy so I feel much better.
Thursday: I had a meeting with Dolly in the morning which cleared up a lot of my questions and concerns and was able to finally get some research and work done. I also started working with the grade 8s on their project so I really started to feel involved with the school. I had planned to sleep at my friend Annie's house so I could stay out tonight. The others from U of W hang out every evening but I can't as I have to get home before it gets dark and have so far to walk (taxi's are expensive). I think I will try to sleep somewhere every Thursday since it works so well. We met with Bethany (the program coordinator) at the Cheese Factory in Monteverde (they even had some dairy-free options). It was nice to spend time with everyone. When I was in line I was having some trouble understanding what the guy at the counter was saying so an elderly man next to me helped me out. We started talking and it turns out that the man was actually one of the Quaker founders of Monteverde, Marvin Rockwell. It was very exciting! We then visited the Monteverde Institute and went to town for dinner. Thursday evenings are Latin night at Moon Shiva, a local bar. We met up with some other interns and teachers from the school and had a great time. Sort of weird partying with your cooperating teachers but very fun! Even Dolly was there! The Latin dancing was pretty intense but eventually we joined in in our own way. Britt, Lindsey, and Ashley were tired and left early but Matt, Curtis, Annie and I stayed fairly late. Annie doesn't live far from everything so it was a quick walk back to her place for bed.
Friday: Fridays at the school are only half days. I spent the morning on the computer and in the afternoon our little group hiked through the school's property to the kiosko on the hill. Beautiful views! My goal will be to sleep up there some night. We then went to Sta. Elena to buy bus tickets and then split up to head home. Matt and Curtis bought beers at the grocery store (you can drink in the streets here) and then Curtis walked with me part way home. Matt lives in the opposite direction from me, Annie close to the school, Ashley a little further, and then Lindsey, Britt, and Curtis live along my route home. Curtis is the closest to me, about a 40 min. walk so we often walk together. I then started to walk home for the first time. Somewhere along the way I took a wrong turn and walked completely in the wrong direction! Whoops! It started to get dark and I didn't recognize anything. I eventually ran into a couple and told them I was lost (with the help of my phrasebook). They took me to their home and I called my house. Turns out the couple are friends with my family. I again let a few tears out, not because I was scared or sad, but because I was so frustrated with myself (I knew exactly where I had gone wrong). The couple showed me pictures of their family until Randall, Sofia and Fabricio came to pick me up.
Saturday: The next morning Jane walked with me to town to show me the way. We picked up Curtis and met the others at the bakery (Jane met up with her friends). We then went to the farmer's market where most of the staff at the school happened to be. We planned what to do for the day and headed off to the Bat Jungle. So fun! We learned a ton about bats and got to go into a room where we saw all types. Costa Rica actually has vampire bats so that freaked me out a bit! From there we went to a few shops and stopped for lunch. In the afternoon we headed to the Monteverde Butterfly Garden where we saw so many amazing butterflies! We spend like 2 hours there taking pictures. Matt held a scorpion and a tarantula. I held this soft rhino bug that was huge! Britt, Ashley and Lindsey left a bit early and the rest of us stayed. We got to release some butterflies into the gardens that had come out of their cocoons in the morning. Very neat! Annie then went home while Matt, Curtis and I went to Los Amigos bar for a couple drinks and to join the many others watching the Costa Rica vs. Mexico football game (Costa Rica lost). I didn't stay long since I had to get home before dark. I decided to take a cab as it was pretty late but all the drivers were watching the game. I stopped a man at a store to ask and he stopped a jeep driving by and asked him if I could get a ride with him. I hopped in (don't worry mom it was all very safe). The woman in the vehicle with him spoke fluent English and they knew my family. I also got a much better rate and the woman told me about how on Sundays and Thursdays they have sports for women at the rec center and told me I should join sometime!
That evening, my Tica mom taught me, Fabricio, and Sofia about pastel art (Judith is an amazing artist!) She let us use her special pastels and gave us tips. My butterfly for Jane's going away gift turned out really well and I'm super proud of it! I definitely hope to do more soon.
Sunday: I got up at 4:45 to walk to Curtis´ by 5:45 to meet the others at the bakery at 7. We then took a cab down to the Monteverde Reserve. We got in free because we work at the school then we got a tour guide to take us around. The tour guide was definitely worth it! He was the father of one of Curtis´ students and he was amazingly knowledgeable. He taught us about many birds, plants, mammals, and insects. He also taught us about the history of the private reserve. We saw birds, mammals, hummingbird nests, so many plants and trees, a millipede, a tarantula, a sloth (very far and not too clear), we hear howler monkeys (they sound like barking dogs or seals). He then took us to the continental divide and we looked at mountain ranges that flow to the Pacific and the Atlantic. Gorgeous views! Afterwards he took us to a suspension bridge in the canopy over a stream.
For lunch we went to a small café by the hummingbird garden. In the garden we ate mango and watched the birds. So neat! I ran to catch the bus back to town while the group continued on to hike to a waterfall. I had to get home for Jane's going away dinner. From town I walked home (the right way). Jane's father and sister came over and Judith made a delicious meal. It was sad to see Jane go, especially for the family. There were many tears. Since Jane is so fluent they all became really close. I don't really see myself becoming that close unfortunately, not long enough and I don't know enough Spanish to have very meaningful conversations. Oh well.
Now I'm back at school, I should begin work on my curriculum again. This week is Chartlas (Parent/teacher interviews) so the students are only here for today, tomorrow and Wednesday morning. My group is planning on fixing up the recycling bins while they have Chartlas and then on Friday we begin to head to Puerto Viejo for Semana Santa (a week off for Easter). We're excited for some serious relaxation!
Just a note for all those on Facebook: we don't get it at the school (it's blocked for students) so I won't be checking it much since there's no point in paying for internet when I get it free at school! I also don't usually check my email on the weekend.
Hopefully I'll start blogging more regularly so I don't leave you all with a novel!