fostering and touristing

We finally found Flora Segunda Panqueques a home that doesn't involve waking us up four times a night to bark at phantoms outside!!! She's gone to the home of a cousin of our pseudo landlord down in San Luis. He had already met her at soccer that happens on the soccer field in our yard every weekend, so he knew he liked her. We don't know him, but we're pretty sure he's going to be good to her, based on the opinion of the daughter of the pseudo landlord. The relief is sort of overwhelming, although it's accompanied by a realization that Toast will be expecting a lot more from us for a while until she is reaclimated to being an only dog again. And then we're going on vacation on Sunday.

My mom is here and we're planning a trip to Nicaragua. It should pretty much be awesome. Over the past couple of days we've gone to the Orchid Garden, the Renario (frog pond) and learned how to make tamales at a massive tamale making extravaganza today. My mom's favorite frog red eyed tree frog. She liked how colorful it was - it has seven colors - blue, white, red, yellow, green, orange, and black. Here is a picture of one that we did not take. We went as dusk was coming on and got to hear them begin to call to each other. It was not quite cacaphonous. Oh, and there was a fancy dinner and the requisite trip to the farmer's market on Saturday. It's been a little weird to finally be a tourist here when we've been living here for four months. My mom says one of her highlights was that I got to play at the open house that was happening at the yoga studio. It was fun to play with Michael and I got to meet the local Italian who plays lots of different flutes and goes by his sanskrit name. It was a good time and there are potentially options to have a music night at Rio Shanti which would appeal, methinks, to the more laid back musician that is me. Sitting on the floor in a yoga studio is certainly laid back.

The orchid garden was amazing too. We wandered about a little bit before getting a tour and walked past most of the flowers that were pointed out to us on the tour. It always makes me happy to learn new stuff and I know my bio background is weak, but it was fun to expand a little. Here's a picture of my mom with some of the orchids that were growing in the greenhouse part of the orchid garden . Oh, and I forgot to mention that my student's family runs it so my mom got to meet one of my kids. We've been running into students all over the place. Makes me happy.

Sometime in the future I'll put up some pictures and commentary about our coffee tour. My friend Carol saved the day with some batteries when my mom's ran out in her camera.


So, my mom got here and we've been having adventures. First there was the adventure where she went on the wrong bus to the wrong Sardinal and then there was the part where she was waiting and I was waiting and we were less than 100m apart from each other. And then there was the adventure in the taxi on the way down the mountain where somehow the taxi was going around in circles like it was on ice (but mom wasn't in the car yet, which I was glad about).

We played scrabble with the scrabble folks today and I like them and jordan finally came along because mostly she didn't know where the game was before and it involved leaving home which is where the books and the interwebs are... We visited school and tomorrow there are the standard Saturday activities at the market and grocery and a special trip to eat breakfast out. jordan stopped scratching my head so now writing this blog entry is less fun :(.

Anyway, the leadup to xmas involves lots of activities in this community and some art making for both jordan and myself because we found ourselves in the gift exchange involving gifts that have to be handmade. I'm doing some watercolor collage something or other inspired by my friend Allison who taught with me last year. Oh, and tomorrow I'm oddly playing (and it'll probably sound odd too) for the yoga studio's open house. It's been a long time since I played background music. I'm hoping I can figure out some more music so I only have to bring a banjo and no guitar.. Or maybe Tricia will let me play hers. The options apparently abound.

not a list of complaints.

So, we've been in a bit of a funk lately:lots of rain + missing friends + wanting maybe something resembling winter... It's made it hard to write because we don't want to just complain all of the time. I'm going to try my best.
Over the past couple of weeks, there has been a secret friend thing happening at school. Now, I don't generally like secret friend things because I spend a lot of time trying to think of presents, making them and then trying really hard not to give it all away. The person who organized it looked sad when I said I didn't want to participate, and it's true, I didn't. I would much rather wait around to see who's complaining about not getting presents and then get inspired about them and give them things. So that happened and I got to help the volunteer who has been working with my classroom because he was confused about what he had agreed to. It was so much better to help him make bread for the first time (and make a loaf separately for his secret friend) than it ever would have been with my own. I really rather like that.
My mom is coming down next Wednesday and I'm also really excited about that. We're going to hang out here and do the million things that lead up to xmas around here and then do some traveling in Nicaragua and on the Nicoya Peninsula afterwards. I'm still trying to figure out how to organize the whole trip, and since it's superhigh season I really should get on the reservation aspect of it, but I'm still so busy with school...
That said, my reports are nearly complete. I have to put in some numbers on some checklists, add a couple of final sentences and send things to the people that need them. Oh, and I should actually calculate some grades, but that's in the plan for Saturday when I totally clean my area of the classroom. The paper pile is vying with my high school piles in both height and complexity.
All in all, though, things are okay. Nicole and I just designed and did an awesome project with the 7/8 graders where they had to create an ancient civilization/city and map it and estimate water usages, and represent the other parts of a civilization through writing, art, sculpture and performance. The presentations were today and even though they were ridiculously long, it was awesome to see all of the thinking that had gone into their projects. I think two weeks was the perfect amount of time because only one group was self-destructing at the end and it was clearly because of the people involved, not the project itself. So there. Now, if it hadn't been the end of the semester, I might have actually followed in Emily's footsteps and done the project with Nicole myself, but the whole write a million reports thing kind of got in the way.
I am hopeful that soon this will look more like a traveling and living abroad blog instead of a teaching one.
Oh, and I saw a toucanet this morning in our yard. Like a toucan, but littler. It sounded like a toucan too, but like one with a bit of a cold. And there were multiple rainbows to greet the morning. Doesn't suck.


jordan will use her fast connection and write a witty, interesting post about spending time in chicago. the wind finally died down here and i got my keys back so I don't have to climb through the skinny bathroom window anymore. (not that I did after the first time, but if I had locked the other door I would have needed to...) the doggies are feeling rightly neglected and though I'm feeling guilty, that hasn't prompted me to much action. oh well. here is a picture of me being bored.

the blahs and the jordans

So, jordan is leaving tomorrow to go and visit her family. Yay for mama's having their birthdays! And yay for neighbors who grew up close to where jordan grew up but now live in Montague so when major holidays come around, they all decend on the north shore of Chicago for family time. These things are excellent for people like jordan and the lovely people from 59 Taylor Hill Road whom we adore so much. I'm sure you are all figuring out by this point that this is the part where I start whining. I wish I could go along. I wouldn't mind some winter-like weather and seeing friends and family. But alas, I will have to wait until December 17th to see my own momo and longer than that to see friends.

The major stuff in my life right now is trying to get everything done. I'm sure this comes as no surprise to most of you that I'm behind on the paperwork that is associated with teaching here and it's overwhelming me. I'm hopeful that with jordan gone I'll not be distracted by her beauty and may actually get some writing done that is due next Wednesday *no exceptions.*

I am totally enthralled by the weather here lately. The windy misty season is more of both of them than I expected. The wind comes whipping through, sounding like it's going to pick up the whole house some mornings, and it seems like you won't get too wet when you go out, but once the relatively light mist is blown up, down, and sideways into you, it's like you've been through the automatic carwash without the dryer at the end. (That runon was just for Julie Ann Carroll). The bonus is that even though it's strong, it's not nearly as loud as a downpour in my classroom so there haven't been many days lately when I lose my voice from overuse and maximizing my volume.

The contra dance was awesome. I begged out of the band for the second dance before most of the people had shown up. We did a pretty good job playing, considering the caliber of musicians we're working with and the relatively low committment to practicing over all. jordan ended up calling seven dances and there were only a few minor flubs. One comment afterwards was that she's got the schtick down. Another person called and left us a message about how it was the most fun she's had dancing in years. We're hoping to have another dance, probably in February, and hopefully we can make more connections with the Tico folks who come to the square and english dances sometimes. Maybe they were busy. It's kind of interesting because they tend to show up in large groups, often wearing matching t-shirts about various god associated things. The one I remember best says, "Jesus wears jeans." If you can help me understand the message I was supposed to get from that one, I'd be grateful.

Anyway, as a group, they're fun to dance with because they smile a lot and don't have a superhigh expectation of their own dancing (or so it seems) so it's just fun. The gringos have very similar behavior, I just like it when there's actual mixing, even if there's a bunch of progress to be made on the talking to each other during breaks front. Our fiddler even played a hambo and a waltz so I ended a very happy girl. jor got to dance the hambo with a dancer who is excellent, and well matched height and gravity-wise. They were spinning crazily off into the night and she had to hold on to the post at the end to stay vertical.

That's the not so brief update from here. I'd love an update from wherever you are if you have time.

turning 30 apparently means...

that I get to have entirely new feelings. Well, feeling. Just one. I´ve not been homesick before that I can recall. I´m having a hard time following the advice that I´ve given as a camp counselor. Or when I follow it - being busy, doing things I enjoy, etc. - I just slide right back into homesick when I´m done. Bother.

ex-pats and televisions

So, the good news is that we got to watch the elections on a real live television. It was mainly a collection of teachers and parents at the two bilingual schools and a few of the other ex-pats in the community. When there was a part in one of the speeches about people abroad listening to the returns on the radio, I was pretty glad not to be one of them. It was amazing to see the crowds in Chicago and the group outside of the White House and I'm glad to have a visual memory of this event to go along with the emotional one. There were many things about this election season that concern me - taking away rights by popular vote without the support of the legislature and against the will of the supreme court of CA is of course the one at the top of the list. I'm left wondering if there were any similar things that happened in the transition period when interracial marriage was becoming legal. I guess I'm still frustrated because ultimately, I don't think that marriage should be something controlled by the government anyway, but rather by the people who want to be in unions with each other. Oh well.

I don't think I ever wrote about our experiences getting finger printed for our visas. When it came time for the are you single or married question I was slightly flustered, in part due to the spanish nature of my interview. In MA, I'm married. According to the US government, I'm single. So I told them I'm married to jordan and then when she was fingerprinted, they asked her if she knows me (but not if we're married, which was weird) and of course she said yes. When the lady who was processing me brought me over to the guy to do the finger printing she felt it was necessary to pull him aside and whisper about (presumably) my confusing status as a girl who is married to another girl (though they didn't ask jordan's gender during my questioning). Anyway, I know it's a Catholic country and all, but I thought they knew that those crazy gringos up in the states occasionally have same-sex partners that they're committed to. And some of them even get government (state government, anyway) approved papers in support of their committment. That's an aside, but ultimately, I guess, I'm pretty happy that I don't have to stay down here for 4 years, and can still come back after 2, though I'm betting I'll still have to figure out that whole war tax resisting thing. Too bad there's not a quaker opting out box on the tax forms...I'll happily pay for schools and health care and roads (though I'd prefer to pay for bike trails and renewable energy investments). Ramblerambleramble.

Why you need to come and visit

Right now there are several reasons why you should be visiting us:
  • Every morning when I take the dogs out to play, there are rainbows. Our yard is strategically placed for optimal 7am rainbow viewage.
  • Our foster dog, Flora Segunda Panqueques, has finally started to learn to not jump, though she still does some, but she's gotten really good at the "abort, abort" motion which looks like she's going to jump on you and then she does a quick 90 degree turn.
  • The mist blows around and sometimes thinks it's rain but mostly just thinks it's mist and that's fun because it's not quite enough to need a raincoat and not enough to get drenched either (most of the time, unless you've forgotten your raincoat and then sometimes, I admit, it does start pouring just to prove me wrong).
  • Toast is the best dog ever and you miss her dreadfully, unless you've never met her and then you still miss her.
  • You want to bring us things like maple syrup.
  • We miss you as much as you miss us, sometimes more because we're in a new place, so you should skype us or call us or email us at least, even if you can't come and visit (or send us packages to jordan's mom's house because she'll be there on the 21st for her mom's birthday!)
  • We see morphos and motmots almost every day
  • We're mastering some new cuisines - eg. beans and fried cheese - and I think, maybe, you don't know what you're missing and that's why you aren't here visiting.
  • The sunsets are to die for, additionally, a community gathering time just down the road, sometimes complete with Spanish tourists (who we had to give directions to twice, separately), but more often just with our neighbors and dogs.
  • We're having a contradance on the 15th. We've got extra instruments for you to play...and we need more dancers who know what they're doing...
  • You haven't yet experienced the yin/yang dogs. Sometimes the black dog and the tan dog sit with each other all curled up and looking like a little yin/yang symbol. Or just opposites. mmm. cuteness reigns.
  • You want to know what it's like to wake up in the middle of the night to an armadillo love fest. (the dogs have been bringing it to our attention regularly)
  • We've heard rumors that the coffee here is tasty, and we know several people who have little coffee farms, and you like coffee... It's local...
  • Bananas and pineapples and oranges and tangerines and melons and lychees and avacadoes... all in season right now. Mangoes and bananas and pineapples and guayaba and guanabana and many other things that are in season now will be in season when you come to visit. It's all local too.
  • The cheese factory makes excellent milkshakes.
  • There's a frisbee game on Saturdays. It can be really really fun, though when played in a downpour sometimes slightly dangerous on the sloping field.
  • We have a soccer field in our front yard and there's a regular pickup game with guys we don't really know, but they seem really nice...
  • There's a bamboo fort area in our yard too
  • And there are trees for climbing all over
  • And we live in the cloud forest - I finally went to the Monteverde Reserve this weekend. Yay for 40 species of orchid on one tree (according to the signage).
Anyway, that's the list for tonight. I have a math test to get ready for, or maybe I'll just go to bed. Yay election eve! We voted a week ago. I hope you get to vote by the end of today. And especially if you're in Montague I hope you enjoy the little dinging box. We made the sound for each other when we were done voting so we wouldn't feel left out.


I made a little video showing the little tortuguitas running like heck for the ocean in Tortuguero.

Aren't they cute? Too bad only 2% of them will survive to return to this exact beach to lay their own eggs.

Facebook brings joy but sucks time

So Annie and I just joined Facebook...finally...after years of resisting...because we realized that many of our good friends check their Facebook more than their email or this blog and we miss them. The unanticipated result is that we are both reconnecting with long ago friends. I'm still looking for Meg Norris if anyone knows how I can find her. With Facebook sucking our time and attention, we haven't written on the blog for a bit. So here is the news:

We had an awesome vacation in Tortuguero, one of the national parks (of which there are many in Costa Rica) and saw so much wildlife. 8 kinds of water bird, 2 kinds of tree frog, a caiman, spiders, birds, a fresh water turtle, and a few dozen baby green sea turtles making a break for the ocean, and probably more that I am not remembering. Check the picasa album for photos.

We travelled in the style of my father: a package tour with transportation, food, fancy lodging, and guided tours all with the same group of people. It isn't how I would have chosen, but I ended up enjoying myself a lot. Because the purpose was to be on vacation as well as see wildlife, it was nice that we didn't have to figure out where to stay and where to eat once we got there. And the rooms were clean and showers were beautiful (you come to appreciate these things in a wet climate where mold grows on everything, including you, and where you get hot just walking around and need more showers). There was a little covered hammock hut where we spent some time relaxing. And a pool. Now, maybe you think "why do you need a pool when your lodge is 100 meters from the ocean?" It's because you shouldn't swim in those waters. The undertow is really strong and sharks frequent the area to eat the cute baby turtles. So we swam in the pool to cool off. Quite a luxury, but we definitely enjoyed it. And the only reason we agreed to do it the package tourist way is because we get a really good deal for being residents of Costa Rica and a friend of ours knows someone who works there and he got us an even better deal. Our tour guide was pretty good, though he didn't always say the same things when he translated for himself, so it's a good thing I understand Spanish and English. I got a better tour because of it. And there were some nice folks from other countries. Actually, no one from the states. Just Iceland, Spain, and Sweeden. So all in all a nice vacation. We even got to spend some time shopping in San José before we headed back up the mountain.

Our second dog, Flora Segunda Panqueques, is better than before, but training is a little difficult because she is a serious jumper. And with all the mud around here it means keeping clothes clean is impossible. Toast loves her though and is much happier with her around, so we keep trying. She has gained enough weight to seem in the range of healthy and she doesn't freak out about food anymore, though she still won't eat her vegetables like Toast does. We sneak them into her food covered in yummy things like yogurt so she'll eat them.

My English classes are going pretty well, though I wish I had more students. It's hard to play games or do pair work with such small groups. I find that I enjoy myself a lot while I'm in class, but that I don't especially love planning. And it's difficult to build on previous knowledge when students are not reliable about coming every week. Oh well. Still fun and they pay me.


We're going to put up a bunch of pictures, actually, they might already be up on jor's picasa thinger, from our recent vacation to Tortuguero. If you click on the slideshow on the right, you can then get to the Tortuguero photos. Or you can go to You should know a few things: I'm procrastinating my planning, I really would rather still be on vacation seeing cool animals and not responsible for decisions educational and I am frustrated by some of the teaching that I'm doing right now, but not so much that it's driving me crazy. This is the little poison dart frog that our guide went and found just for jordan. It was really really cute and made up for his grumpiness with us at the beginning of the trip when we were running late. Oh well. We saw a ton of different birds, spider and howler monkeys, a baby caiman, basalisks and iguanas and other kinds of lizards unidentified, some green frogs with red eyes whose name i have forgotten, only two cockroaches and some really HUGE bats that were pollinating the banana flowers. any idea about their id alex? We also saw lots of baby green sea turtles making a run for the caribbean and lots of mama tracks that looked like mini-atvs coming in and out of the ocean. We went with Nicole who I teach with and it was great to have someone else along because these sorts of adventures are really best shared with many people. We met two couples from Spain, one from Iceland and one from Sweden. The Spainards were shocked and amazed that Nicole and jordan spoke Spanish. Oh it's good to prove that all Americans aren't stupid sometimes.

skype etc.

Just in case you're one of those who knows that we're often on skype on Sunday afternoons, today is a different situation. We're going to someone's house to have a bluegrass jam because I fixed my banjo and it's good to play music with friends. I have to say I'm often intimidated by others and their musical abilities, but since moving down here, it's much less of an issue. Maybe it's partly because I'm carrying one of the few banjos around or maybe it's because I've finally got enough time to practice so I'm feeling good about the songs that I do know, or maybe it's because I'm okay with being a beginner at this because I can balance that out with being really good at other things, like singing. I went to the choir practice this weekend and it was good to be able to mostly sightread the music that they're doing. Not sure how much of it I'll actually like singing in the long run, but it's good to get some exercise and to be working towards something.
Ultimate yesterday: I finally got to play because we've finished all of our house visits and then had conferences. It was muddy and slippery and we had at least 21 people out there so we rotated teams in and out as three points were scored by one team or another. The rain on the glasses doesn't really help, though, so I admit I was a bit of a wuss and stopped playing during the downpour after I couldn't really see anymore and was worried about torking my knee. There were a bunch of CEC teachers there, the other bilingual school around here, and it's fun to have some more men to hang out with. We've only got two at our school and I only get to hang out with one regularly. I know teaching is a predominantly female profession, but damn, only two? Even though they're both good guys, I'm still missing PaulTonyTomKenScottChrisColinPaulandTim and the guys who show up to play frisbee and football and the teachers from the Center School. The funny thing is, it's not even because we're hanging out with a bunch of queer girls. Aside from the director, I only know of a couple of other "lesbians" probably, and we're not friends with them at the moment for whatever reason. Most of my friends at school either don't have boys or didn't bring them along. And those that do, many of them speak Spanish so I'm not able to carry on long conversations. Fortunately, boys do like to play frisbee and that means I'm getting more boy time now that I've got time to play.

That's about it for now. Yay for playing frisbees and banjos. I'm feeling quite homesick lately, so anything like home is good...


my banjo done broke again. and we´ve got practice on wednesday so i´ve got to get some superglue somehow magically between now and tomorrow so it´ll have time to set.

Busy Busy Busy

So, my life got busy pretty quickly here. I just had my first day of teaching English classes and I think I was maybe a little too hard for the lower intermediate class, but just right for the higher intermediate class (which came second of course...I always do things better the second time around). But I'm pretty excited about teaching, which makes me feel good. I had a bit of a crash for a few weeks where I felt like there was nothing valuable I could offer in Monteverde. I've also got a million people begging me to give their children music lessons, even though I keep telling them I don't know what I'm doing. I mean, I can teach guitar fine, as long as no one wants to learn fancy fingerpicking or theory. But Suzuki violin? I've never done it. I did Suzuki cello from age 5 to 18, but only one person wants cello here and she'll only be here for a few months. And I don't have a cello. Or music. Nor do I want to lug a cello around on these horrible rocky roads. But violin, maybe. I found a person today who is willing to lend me a bunch of violin teaching resources, so maybe I'll do it. But not the three year old. Just the six and olders. I'm also starting a contradance band, which I think I mentioned before. Pictured are some of the key players, though I'll be calling, not playing. I'm not good enough to do them simultaneously. I'm no Bill Olsen. We played for an open mic coffeehouse pizza night fundraiser for the school. It was super fun. Annie's 7-8 science class played this whole routine on the instruments they made, some of which were amazing.

The other reason I've gotten so busy, or at least preoccupied, is that we've taken in a street dog, photo included. Please notice how thin she is. The vet in town only spays/neuters animals every so often, doing them all on one day, so a local group of residents (including myself) organized to collect all the street dogs they could to get them fixed. But then we needed people to care for the animals post-surgery. We volunteered to take one they've been calling Flor. She's very malnourished (see photos of how skinny she is) and wouldn't eat for three days after the surgery. We tried everything we could think of in the house. Finally, I gave her a frozen marrow bone, which I get from the butcher who recognizes me and remembers that I want huesos (bones) for my dog. He's cute. She devoured it so the next day I got some pork sausage from the fábrica (cheese factory that also makes pork products with all the pigs that eat the whey) and then all of a sudden she's eating 4 times a day. We had been force feeding her up to this point, and not very successfully I might add. Pureéd chicken soup, soaked dry dogfood, pancakes (she did briefly show an interest in these). But now relief. She's eating. She won't die in my care. I was really worried about her on top of starting a new job, being pressured to teach music lessons, and trying to fix the school's technology problems (I don't know as much as people think I know. I just like to teach web 2.0 stuff). But now I can breathe a little easier. We even went on a short walk this evening and she was almost sprightly. She and Toast have played "bite my face" a few times today, which I love. Puppy TV is one of the things that can pull me out of any funk. Kind of like a really good LOLcat photo. Please see if you don't know what I'm talking about. We call our new dog Flora Segunda Pancakes (last word pronounced in Spanish pahn-CAY-kees). Flora Segunda is the name of a book we liked, and since they were already calling her Flor, it fit. She is the color of pancakes, ate pancakes as her first solid food, and I had decided weeks before getting her that I wanted to name a dog pancakes (to go with Toast and the non-existent Burger). So far we like her pretty well, though she did eat a book today. Hmmm. What does that say? Good taste? Or she knows what we value and wants to destroy it? Hmmm. She sticks very close to us and seems to be adapting to having people quite well, though we know she was decently cared for at the hostel where she was kind of living before. So. There's my life this week.


I dearly love agoutis. They run around and are total cuties running away with their little wide rumps. Additionally, I love young cows who have escaped from their pastures, when I'm not in charge of getting them back into it. This morning there were two of them, one of the darker ones that almost matches the boycow across the street so I was confused at first, and one of the lighter tan ones. The darker one was up on the little hillish thing that is on the side of the road on the right nearer the pasture, so when I walked by it just jumped in the air, looked at me like I was going to chase it, and went the other way. The lighter one was across the road from their current pasture, though, so when I kept walking (cuz I needed to go to school, not herd up little cows who have gone looking for sweeter grass to eat) it walked, jumped, ran, and gamboled its way down the road for quite a while. I feigned interest in the side of the road for a time hoping to convince it that I wasn't a threat, but eventually, the same person who drives by on her 4x4 every morning while holding a helmet (and wearing her own) herded the poor cow back towards her pasture. Honestly, though, I'm not sure that the cow didn't just run past me and then keep running past her pasture with the big scary atv chasing her. I like to imagine that all of the mooing of the other cows was enough encouragement to help her back to the land of friends.
The other thing that was lovely this morning was the man and his daughter and their associated horses bringing milk up from San Luis (from the farm of one of my students). Dad was in front, and his horse also had two milk containers - metal, and he had the lead line of the horse that was carrying 4 milk containers and then came his highschool-aged daughter. Both dad and daughter were wearing rain cape looking things with two layers in bright plasticy blue. The best image part of it, though, was that dad was wearing a kind of wide brimmed hat and daughter was riding along holding an umbrella. From a distance it looked like a parasol, despite the black coloring and her posture was impeccable. It looked a little like this, but with the man in front of the milk containers and they rest a little lower on the rig they have on their horses.

Friendly 8s, dog training and I don't know what else

So this weekend on Friday we did the Quaker version of Small Group Ministry. It was pretty similar to what I did out in Olympia, with the addition of dinner beforehand. Now, I love a good dinner, potluck and all, but when you add up dinner plus an hour and a half of talking, it can be pretty long. We did end earlier than we thought we would and then because of the group we had at the house, we pulled out all of the instruments and had a little folky jam. It was good to be playing with people who play well and excellent to have a chance to sing with them finally. Hard to believe it took almost two months to have our first real session and it was only an afterthought. (Well, it was a pre-thought for me, which is why Heather brought her fiddle, but an afterthought for everyone else). The queeries we were adressing were all about forgiveness and I found myself thinking a lot about my mom's group more to life and their clearing process. It was interesting to be involved in the conversation, but I definitely found myself distracted by the dogs (the neighbor's was over) and not really wanting to engage. A little weird for me because when I did SGM in Oly, I was in a very different place and the very calm dog at that house only centered me while I engaged on at least three different levels with the questions we were addressing. Even though I was only part of that group for a few months (4-5) I felt very connected with each of the people and felt like I knew them better than I knew some of my other relatively new friends even though I only saw them once a month. Then again, at this point I've forgotten all of their names and wouldn't have a clue about where they are now.
We've been helping to take care of a neighbor's dog while she's in the states. Her 7th grade son is still here, but he's not staying at the house. He's supposedly coming by the house to hang out with Crystal and feed her dinner. She's got some issues with her training, so jor's been on re-teaching her how to sit and behave properly. We've made some good progress, but more and more it seems like she really needs owners who assert themselves as the pack leaders which is hard with a german shepherd big enough to pull both of the people to the ground. Also, she doesn't quite know how to play with Toast yet, so there's been a lot of socializing.
I guess the only other thing I have to add at this point is that the other teacher who teaches 5-8th english and social studies and I have undertaken a massive task. We are visiting all of the homes of our 28 5-8th graders. The only bonus is that we have one pair of twins and one pair of cousins who live in the same house which brings our total down to 26 visits. This weekend we were supposed to do 4 in one part of the area called Cerro Plano, but there was a death of a grandfather that reduced our number by 2 and then one person who couldn't see us until quite late in the afternoon when we had hoped to only go to that part of town once in one day. That meant we only went to one house. While this was good for having the rest of the day to do things, it also meant that we couldn't easily leave when things were getting uncomfortable with the dad being a skeezeball in front of his wife. No one will be surprised to hear that he wasn't hitting on me, I'm sure, but I was pretty uncomfortable none the less with all of his comments aimed at my friend. No, we're not going to eat turtle eggs when we go to Tortuguero this October (though he didn't specifically say they were thought to be an aphrodisiac, he just kept saying we should try them) and no we won't be calling you anytime because your kid's causing trouble because frankly she's much better behaved than you are and no we won't be taking you up on the offer to give us rides all around Costa Rica while your wife stays home to work really hard and care for your children, one of whom has Down Syndrome. Nonononono. At least we've got that one over with. Most of the Tico men here have been very much not involved in the conversations that we've been having at their homes so it was very weird to be trying to translate all that he was saying and insinuating. Oh well. One incidence of overt racism and one of skeezy behavior out of 13 visits isn't that bad, right?
I was involved in this conversation with a couple of other US citizens from school about racism here and whether or not the cultural acceptability of making fun and being derragatory towards Nicaraguans can be related to the racism that happens with white folks in other places. It's something I'm thinking a lot about, especially since we just went and saw an excellent performance called El Nica by Nicaraguan born and Costa Rican raised César Meléndez. We got to take the 7-12th graders to a free performance. I was blown away by César Meléndez's physical acting, perhaps because when I don't totally understand the context, a monologue is difficult for me to understand. He clearly painted so many different pictures throughout the performance of immigrating to CR in order to find work, loosing his child as he was crossing a river, being beaten and finally wrapping the Nicaraguan and Costa Rican flags together around his neck in a clear image of forging ahead despite all of the difficulties he was facing. He's been working on this play for the past 11 years, performing it for the past 8 all over the world and I was thoroughly blown away by everything that he did. I can only imagine the impact if I had understood more of his words. But I was thinking a bunch about the different ways you can approach such a performance as a teenager. The kids from the Santa Elena public school were not overtly laughing at the difficulties El Nica was facing, but there were times when the character was clearly experiencing badness, and there were smiles on some of the boys' faces that seemed like held in laughter. I was unable to watch the faces of the kids from our school, or from the other private school due to my location at the back of the theater, but I can only hope that it wasn't as prevalent throughout the audience as it was in the group of 5-6 boys that I could see. I just don't know. I guess this is just a ramble and I'll be done for tonight.
We've been getting mail lately and I swear we're going to figure out how to send some back soon. The post office isn't exactly in a convenient location and most folks send their stuff with other folks going to the states.
Lastly, if you're around on Sundays, we're generally (though not today) on Skype around 2pm est (until y'all start saving daylight at which point it changes, but I don't recall which direction).

Jordan's New Job

The title of this post sounds like the the title of a children's book. Anyway, I have a job now and am currently sitting in my oficina, which I share with the other person who does my job. I'd take a picture but it's kind of dark and not very organized or pretty yet. I now teach two English classes to local residents and co-coordinate this program. I don't know yet which levels I'll teach, but it will probably be advanced and maybe beginner. I haven't met the other teacher/ coordinator yet. I'm a little nervous because English is a pretty hard language to learn with so many millions of exceptions to every strange rule. But there are good resources here for teaching and the Spanish teacher is awesome and helpful. In fact, I am in one of her classes (level 3 of 4) and she's a good teacher. She's so open and fun that people just want to talk. I hope I can be like that with my students. At least I'll be able to speak English to them. But I'm really glad that I work in a place where I have to speak Spanish with most of my coworkers. It will help me immensely. Already I know that my Spanish skills have improved leaps and bounds just from practice. I took Spanish in school from 7th grade to my first year in college, but it was all very bookish and regimented, plus I was really shy and never spoke in any of my classes, so I didn't get much practice speaking. Now I am much less shy and understand the need for spoken practice so I talk more in class. I like being corrected now, whereas when I was young I hated it. I wouldn't give an answer unless I was sure of it because I didn't want to look stupid. Maybe because all my teachers used to tell me how smart I was and if only I would put in some effort I could get all A's. Anyway, I've gotten over mysef. I don't mind being wrong now...or at least less than right. I'm still a librarian, which means I know everything, but I've lost a lot of my camp counselor self so I don't have to be super confident about everything. Anyway, learning Spanish is fun. I've always loved languages. They're like codes to be figured out.

We got our first care package yesterday from the one and only, the super amazing, our very own professional puppeteer, Emmy Bean. Thanks Emmy for sending us all those things that we neglected to bring because we just didn't know any better. For example, I was unable to bring a fiddle with me so I didn't bring any fiddle music. How was I to know that someone would very generously lend me a fiddle within my first week of being here? So Emmy send me a popular book of fiddle tunes so that I can get a contradance band going so that we can have live music for contradances. It just isn't as fun without live music. So, all you fiddler or dancer friends of mine, can you please tell me which are your favorite dance tunes, especially if they are in The Portland Collection volume 1? I do know of a great web site that posts a lot of tunes so you should tell me even if they aren't in the book. There are people in the area who want to get together with Annie and me to play bluegrass also. Gosh I need to practice more. I even have potential students if I want them.

Back to packages, if anyone else wants to send us a care package there are always things we need that are difficult or impossible to obtain here. Let me know and I will send you a list. Things like tumeric, though Emmy did just send us a bunch, and my favorite soap. We're going to experiement with making our own laundry detergent out of Borax, washing soda, and a bar of soap. It's really really cheap and easy to make. I'll let you know how it goes and if it goes well, maybe all you back to the earthers will want to do it too. Emmy's package only took 12 days to get here. And some folks here told me that even though it's a box, the prepaid all you can eat box (I forget what it's really called, but you stuff whatever you want in it up to 20 lbs and it costs the same) will get here without going through customs. So, all you people who are collecting books or want to send me enchilada sauce because we haven't figured out how to make it yet, let's give the postal service three cheers! Well maybe only two because it still costs around $30 for postage.

I'd like to reinforce that we have a spare bed in our house and plenty of floor space and a big soccer field in which to camp if that is your preference. There is even a small bamboo grove that has a little clearing inside of it that I think we might treat as our home away from home during the dry season. Magical. There is a language school here that does intensive courses if you are so inclined. There is the cloud forest. Beaches and volcanos are near enough and accessible by bus. We'd love to have visitors.

And if anyone has taught English to non-native speakers please send me advice. My classes start on the 29th.


On September 15th in whatever year it was much of Central America became free from Spain. This is exciting and interesting for many reasons. One is that there is a torch that is run from Guatemala all over Central America announcing the auspicious occasion. As it gets to each new place, they light their own torches and spread the light. I must say that I quite like the concept of spreading the light among the people. In order for the torch to make it up here, several high schoolers and one very dedicated teacher took a bus down the mountain at 11pm on Saturday night. They met the torch down there and then ran and bussed (I'm not exactly sure how this part works) all the way up the mountain where they were met with more folks from each school in the community (on a Sunday no less) who each lit their own school torches and ran them off to their schools. The torch arrived at our school shortly before meeting so we were able to participate without running (always a good thing for my knees on these roads) in some singing and celebrating and silence having. Just knowing that the light from the torch at our school traveled all of the way from Guatemala boggles the mind.
Then on Monday I was in a parade. It has been many many years since I have been in a parade and I found myself recounting to many the wonders of Hoghead, my grandpa Byron - Miss Hoghead many years runnng, my mom's stint as Santa in August and various and other sundry memories of Proctor's celebration and my family's participation through our yearly float. It's not everyone who can say that their very own grandpa started a yearly celebration that involves various presumably straight older men dressing up in fancy dresses and perching on old cars in parades. This was my first parade as an adult and it also had some other firsts. I performed in Costa Rica for the first time for an audience with an electric guitar from the back of a truck (some Costa Rican tunes and some contra/square tunes) while kids were dancing in the parade. I also went to my first speeches in a building where you can't hear anything because the acoustics are so terrible. And then we performed two of the dances again there. When I say we performed, it should be clear, I played guitar and a bunch of kids did the dancing. They were excellent, we were okay, but it was at least an hour after we got to the building from the parade before the end of the parade arrived and we were allowed to perform. And then there were speeches before we could perform. And then there were other dancers and a tenor singing songs that he hadn't memorized the words of. Silly tenors. I hadn't memorized the words of the songs we were performing, but Spanish is not my native language and I did learn the chorus... Plus, there was no mic for me to sing into anyway and our singers did a great job.
Sept. 15th is also my mom's birthday so even though I spent the entire day being swamped and tired - it was hot and sunny in the truck and playing for an hour straight is hard on the body - I wished she could be here. It was a great parade and I'm sure she would have enjoyed it. Additionally, I've started making more musical connections - someone who plays mando/guitar/something who wants to play bluegrass, and there's a coffeehouse on the 27th that we're going to try and work up some tunes for to excite some people about the concept of live bands and contra dancing. We need to have a couple of rehearsals.
Anyway, I didn't get any pictures because jordan's neck was out. Maybe I'll figure out if anyone else got some shots in and I could link to them. It was the first time in years that the quaker school had anything to do with the parade on Independence Day, and the first time there was square dancing in the parade alongside more traditional Tico dancing. We're pretty proud of what we pulled together in just three weeks of school. It was a lot of really hard work on the part of a few people and I had only a very little part in it. But it does mean that I've now played a gig with two of my students (more if you count the singers) and had a chance to connect a bit more with one of the 12th graders who my mom's partner Greg is related to through marriage. Everyone's a cousin around here, even the gringos...

Toasty's Adjustment Period

Well, Toast has been here for a week now. The adjustment is going slowly and is different than I expected. Now she'll explore the field by the house, but won't go beyond that without Annie or me along. That is to be expected. What wasn't expected is that she is afraid of everything. Our normally lovable, loving, affectionate, friendly dog who must personally greet and be greeted by every human and dog she comes across now barks and growls and puts her tail between her legs. Even when birds in the trees make noise. Not sure what to do about this except go up to whatever is freaking her out and show her it's okay. The cow in the photo is one that scared her for a while, but she's figured out the fence thing. She knows she isn't supposed to go in and they aren't supposed to go out, so she's safe. She did eventually make one friend and acquire one admirer. The friend is Crystal, the german shephard, who belongs to some neighbors and thinks this is her house because she used to live here a few years ago. They frolic and run around and Toast is teaching her the "bite my face" game and wrestling. But Crystal is a bad influence because she is a big intimidating barker who jumps all over people. The admirer followed us home from the market one day. He's the little white guy and his name is Leche (which means milk). Toast and milk, black and white. Cute. Toast tried to wrestle with him but he was too submissive. I'm guessing she misses Banjo and Fidjo a lot. I'm thinking of getting her a playmate because she's pretty needy and annoying right now. I don't really like to play outside in the rain and I save my walking energy for when I have to go into town. Sad Toasty. But I still love having her here. I'm home alone most days and it's nice to have some furry loving. Right now she's sitting on the front stoop growling at who knows what. Certainly nothing I can detect.

Speaking of rain, I'm finding it very difficult to go out in the rain these days. We had a few glorious days in a row, which Annie and I spent reading outside and playing with the dogs. But I just can't bring myself to go out in the rain. It has a lot to do with the fact that my raincoat doesn't actually stop any rain from coming in. It's all wet on the inside when I take it off. And I can't find an umbrella to purchase. They're all sold out. Poor me. So I just stay home and read or mope or play games on the computer. I should do more cooking and cleaning since Annie is now working all day and then making home visits to her students' families. It's going to be a long few weeks, but I'm really impressed by how well she's doing so far. It seems this school is a good fit. I like it a lot too, when I get there. I'm teaching a once a week class on using Garage Band, audio recording and editing software on macs. It's fun so far. I think this week's class will be a bit of a challenge because they should start recording. But there are three teachers for four groups so there is a lot of support.


Today two of my co-teachers and I took a ridiculously long hike down the San Luis valley and then back up the goat trail/horse trail. Lets just say it was a steep down and a steep up. The down was dry and sunny and we were doing it so we could go and visit the families of our students. I can't even begin to describe how beautiful it was and how great it was to be able to go to homes with teachers who are fluent (or mostly fluent). Now I'm thoroughly exhausted and we're making pizza and watching planet earth. I'm happy to be here..

guess what!?!

She's here she's here she's here!

The work of Rye and Emmy and the folks at 59 and Hannah and everyone else who helped us in our mad craziness when we found out Toast couldn't come along because our plane stopped in Miami has finally paid off. Yesterday jor took a taxi down the mountain to San Jose and picked up our lovely puppydog from the airport. The best news was that even though we had to pay a lot of people a lot of money to get her here, it all went off without any visible hitches. Granted, we can't ask Toast about her flying experience, but she seems just fine about being a jungle dog. The cows and the oxen and the horses totally freak her out, but with a little encouragement and discouragement, she now can walk right past them. Especially the little boycow down the street gets to her the most, but I think it's because he thinks he's a dog in a cow suit, complete with running to the gate when you walk past and random frolicking and jumping as he's going to his big water trough. It's good she didn't pick up Banjo's habit of not enjoying the rain, and she also likes sitting on our little back porch that is covered to watch the world go by. Her feet do get a bit muddy though, and we need to score a rug because even though we towel the feet, it'd be nice to have some more places to pick up the mud and the wet besides our whole floor.

jor said she'll write tomorrow about the going to SJ adventure, so I guess that means I'm done for now. I'm just so relieved to finally have her here, even if we are struggling with the what to feed her when all the commercial food here is either crap or prohibitively expensive. At the moment, she's spoiled with appropriate amounts of fiber, protein, grains, veggies, etc, but I'm not sure how long we can keep that up.

More Rain

Rain, rain and more rain. We are entering the two rainiest months of the year. Usually, it's gorgeous in the mornings until 3:00 or 4:00 and then it rains some. We are in the cloud forest after all. But during September and October, supposedly it rains a lot more. Some days it's all day. We get rain from hurricaines hanging out in the Caribbean. And when I say rain, I mean heavy rain. The ditches on the sides of the roads here see a lot of water. Saturday night I had to walk up a very steep pasture to reach the home where we were to have dinner (and a very fun, yummy dinner it was). It was dark and had been raining all day, so we were basically walking up a river of mud and running water. Slippery. Today seems to be a lovely break in the routine with a bit of sun this morning. The picture is our shoes in the sun drying out. I'm sure there will be weeks when they never dry. Now I understand why everyone around here wears rubber boots. Time to get ourselves some.
I've been taking a Spanish class with one of the teachers at Annie's school and it's going well so far. Today I have to make a short presentation (in Spanish of course) about how scholarships (becas) work in private high schools in Costa Rica. That means I have to actually find out before 3:00 today. But I like learning Spanish. I'm better already, able to understand most of what is said, even when people speak very quickly, and I'm better at getting the words out of my mouth too, which is sometimes even a problem in English. Learning a language makes me think about how I know my first language and how instinctive it is. That's amazing to me. How my brain works always amazes me. Don't like to think about it too much, because it kind of blows my mind how much I don't understand.
Toast (our dog) arrives tomorrow. I am crazy with anticipation. I miss her so so much. We finally gave in and are paying a little more to get her here sooner because it's so hard without her. Friends have been taking really good care of her and she seems happy (she's always happy) but I like to think she misses us too. We'll find out tomorrow I guess. I can't wait for her little squeals of joy and the turning of circles and the face licks and the lap sitting and more circles and squeals. Ah, more on dog culture in Costa Rica some other time. I want to eat breakfast and enjoy the sun while it lasts.


So, yes, I´m living in the cloud forest, and yes I expected rain. I´m even doing pretty well with it all things considered. When it rains all night on our metal roof + bad dreams and not sleeping well + a slight lack of planning (though everything worked out just fine) all conspire together, it makes a slightly grumpy and definitely sleepy morning. And as of right now, it means I really desperately want to go home early and fall into bed. But, I´ve put the 5th tuning peg back into my banjo so I have been playing again which makes me happy. And the students are all still relatively happy. And I´ve input all of the grades I needed to put in for the first week and the beginning of this week. Well, maybe not quite all, but I have made significant progress and I´ll do some more after I´ve written this entry.

Today I was hanging out in a different classroom and watched the monkeys go swinging through the trees while she taught about text-self-world connections. Made me happy to know that there are other teachers who are thinking about these things and teaching them as well. Then it made me even happier to know that I was working on a team with just such a person. I´ve got a bunch of planning to do, and geologic time is blowing up the brains of my poor 5-6th graders. Thursday we´re going to start trying to put it on an actual timeline, instead of just talking about relative dates. They do pretty well with relative dates, which is reassuring. And they´re willing to make guesses which is great. We´ve been playing with slinkies and jumpropes in 7-8 science because waves are more fun when you can see them. And who doesn´t love playing with a slinky?

peanut, peanut butter (and jelly)

This morning I went to a neighbor's house, one of the original founders of Monteverde, and bought some peanuts, peanut butter, and dried bananas (no jelly). There are a lot of ways to get food very close to its source here. She grinds the peanut butter herself, though the peanuts come from a grower in Nicaragua. There is a cheese factory in town that buys milk from a lot of the local ranchers. And there is this guy who is a 2nd generation Monteverde founder who has a cow and goat farm and sells milk, cheese, butter, yogurt, and kefir. Cheaper than the cheese factory (which is kind of touristy) and supporting a local local business. I also heard about a guy who grows and sells greens in the center of town. Gotta go try him out too. There is a guy who comes to the school on Mondays selling chickens and chicken parts and a guy who comes less frequently who sells fresh fish. I can't bring myself to eat the pig parts from the cheese factory because I walk by them every day and they make this horrible squealing noise because they are never allowed out of their pens. Pigs are really smart and I can only eat meat if I think it's had a decent life, which these pigs certainly don't. Anyway, yeah for local food and farmers. And yeah for my neighbor who made me get out of bed early to get those peanuts.

There are cows in the field about 30 feet from my door. They are not the cute Jersey cows I love, but they aren't the really freaky looking ones with humps and horns that are so bony and give you this look like, "I know I look ridiculous. I'd rather you not mention it." And yesterday I saw Capuchin monkeys in the trees next to the house. It was a whole band moving through and it's fascinating to watch them jump confidently from branch to branch, tree to tree. A morpho butterfly just flew by. They are the really vibrant blue ones that are so pretty.


jordan is officially my favorite boyfriend for today. she got me a massage scheduled for today, deep tissue, hour and a half, and now I will be detoxing for a little while and hopefully remembering to slow down for at least a day. that's the hope anyway. i also love the local yoga studio where i got my massage because they offer teachers special prices. what's not to love about a yoga studio that knows how to spread the love around?
additionally, my 7/8 class is officially amazing. they're cute and sweet and funny and willing to play any game i've thrown at them so far. i know it probably won't last forever, but right now, they're my heart's delight. plus, the rules they have for our class include "chew slowly" which i'm letting them have as a fourth rule when i normally try to keep it to three. the framing question was: what do you need to learn well? they decided that not only did they need their senses, they also needed creativity, freedom/free-time, food, you get the picture. so chew slowly came from the connection between food, senses and freeness. it was really just so good i had to keep it. that's all for tonight.

first day of school!

The good news is that on the first day of school I made both of my classes laugh within the first five minutes of being in the room. While that's good for breaking the ice, I am rather aware that with the 7/8 group it set a rather goofy precedent and they're already a goofy group. The good news is that we're going to get along fabulously. The 5/6 class has 5 new kids out of 13, so they're going to have some identity/group stuff happening for a while and I hope that the girls aren't as cliquish as they appeared on the first day. I'm playing lots of games with them, and so is one of the other 5/6 teachers, so that'll help the situation too.
Everything I planned for the first day lasted the right amount of time. I'm wondering about tomorrow and I only made up one science lesson on the spot. I had other plans in my book, but then I changed my mind and made them prove gravity was constant instead. It was a good intro to scientific method and since that's a good place to start for science class, we'll keep going with that. Plus, I got to drop an algebra text book at least ten times (it was the heavy teacher's edition of one we don't even use) and the noise drew the attention of one of the other teachers, but not to tell us to be quiet. Everyone sing with me now, I think I'm gonna like it here. (bonus if you can sing along with jordan in the background - she's doing the instrumental parts so you'll fit right in).
I got to leave before 4pm and I even took a big nap when I got home. Teaching barefoot isn't going to be the right choice, so I'll have to score some new slip on shoes for my classroom since outdoor shoes aren't allowed. Now, the rain in Costa Rica falls mainly on my domain, so I suppose I should stop being attached to the internet through the phone line since the thunder is audible..

who knew?

So, two of the teachers at MFS like to do English Country Dancing. Now, I fully admit that my main exposure to English has been watching Jane Austin movies and wondering why I would ever want to twirl around in a circle by myself and pretend to be graceful. These things being true, the two teachers at MFS also have created a dance on the third Saturday that, though performed to canned music, is perhaps one of the more joyful experiences that I've had dancing. Now, granted, that was in part due to the fact that we were laughing so much when we got things a little bit (or a lot bit) wrong, but it was an absolute joy to pretend to be graceful for a couple of hours. And when we were waltzing at the end, there was a bit of a stair to play with and somehow there was goofy dancing happening. I don't know why... I still do prefer the contra to the country, but I guess while I wait for myself and jor to get our acts together and organize a contra, I'll just have to wait. And honestly, once we do get a dance organized, I'll probably have to wait some more because I refuse to dance to canned music and therefore will probably have to be in the band. Good thing I've been practicing..
The fifth string peg on my banjo fell out, but I've got some advice in order to get my banjo back into working condition and will soon attempt surgery. I guess this means I've been doing my practicing like a good girl so it wanted a break. That means I've actually been spending time with the guitar for the past two nights and I'm always amazed at what my muscle memory holds that my verbal memory has long since mislaid the words for.
The biggest animal sighting of the last couple of days was our very own scorpion in our very own place where we keep the sheets and blankets. We needed to get a sheet out to pin to the ceiling so the little animals (antish? termitish? who knows...) that were pooping on us all night long would instead be pooping in a diaper and we could rest easy. jor opened the cupboard (the door swings down and it's at about 5') and there was a little friend. She may have yelled, or squeaked, or just demanded my immediate attention. I can't recall. But then there was a search for an appropriate capturing device and glasses with which to see said scorpion. Needless to say, I was too slow and it snuck away while I was trying to get all of the things. We pulled out some of the sheets with the trusty, ever handy, broom, but to no avail. Oh well. I've started being more cautious with my clothes and sheets, but I still forget to check my shoes every single morning.

Fridge Magnets

I told Hannah I would post the link to the site that has all of the photos she took during the talent show and which now live as magnetic poetry on our refrigerator. Some of the other new teachers were over here for dinner a few days ago and were very impressed. They can tell how much y'all love us. Thanks. We keep you in our sight at all times. Anyone who isn't on the fridge can feel free to send us prints to put in our rotating frames of friends. 4x6 please. Address below:
Escuela de los Amigos
300 metros al sur de la fabrica de queso
5655 Monteverde, Puntarenas
Costa Rica
So, the link to photos is

Living in a Cloud

I didn't realize how cool it would be to live in a cloud forest and that sometimes I would actually be inside of clouds. It's different than in New England, where fog smells different than non-foggy air. It doesn't smell like it's going to rain. In fact, it doesn't actually smell different at all. Nor does it feel wet, even though I know it's moisture. But it sure is pretty. It moves very fast and I can see curves and thin parts and dense parts. I guess it's most like the steam that comes from a hot shower, but it isn't warm. It swirls and rises and falls and comes and goes. Sometimes, when we are at an overlook, we can see that we're actually above some clouds. It isn't fog. It's clouds. That's so cool. I think I remember being told that we are at around 1500 meters, which is supposedly the height at which some people begin to feel the effects of altitude. I have some pretty icky childhood memories of the first days of ski trips in Colorado and Montana and being nauseous and throwing up while everyone else is having a good time. But after a few days I always felt better. So my first days here had a little nausea and fatigue, which was maybe a combo of missing you all, realizing that we actually left, and altitude. We miss you, but now you have the opportunity to learn what it's like in a cloud forest, and we'll eventually come home.

Armadillo Love Shack

More adventures in wildlife last night. We’ve had our share of oversize creepy crawlies but as of yet, no interesting mammals or rodents...until last night. At 4 am I woke up and heard lots of banging around, like something was in the house knocking into chairs and stuff. After listening for a few minutes to determine whether it was in the house or on the roof I woke Annie up and said, “I think there’s something in the house.” She listened and said, “What do you want me to do about it?” So I put on my slippers (no one wants to step on anything gross or get bitten on the toes at night, right?), turned on the light, and grabbed the broom. I cautiously entered the non-bedroom room and flipped on the lights. These are the times you appreciate electricity, let me tell you. A flame’s light only goes so far. I scanned the room and saw nothing, plus the noise had stopped. I entered the bathroom, broom first, and found nothing in there so I went back to bed. Convinced that the animal was not in the bedroom and wanting to keep it that way, I shut the bedroom door. I couldn’t figure out how it would have gotten in and was wondering if there were any holes in the floor or in cupboards that we didn’t know about. (Once when we lived in Hinesburg, VT there was a big hole behind the cabinet under the sink and there was a day when a very large rodent paid a visit, scrambling around in there). It got quiet enough for me to go back to sleep until 5:15 when I woke up convinced that Annie was digging around in the suitcases under my side of the bed. I said very emphatically, “What are you doing?!” and she says from in the bed on her side, “Huh?” It was then that I realized it was the animal again, except this time in the bedroom, right under the bed, pushing around the suitcases. We both stood up on the bed and pulled the blankets up so we could see if it came out. I turned on the light again, standing on the nightstand to get to the switch. I went into the other room to get the broom and a flashlight to shine under the bed. I saw nothing, so Annie pulled the suitcases out with the broom handle. Nothing. There was nothing under the bed, but it was still making the crashing noises. What a relief to realize it was under the house, not in the house, whatever it was. We made a lot of noise to see if it would go away and were about to go back to sleep when I looked out the window and saw an armadillo running in the grass. It ran back under the house and then ran back out with another armadillo. It turns out we’re hosting an armadillo love shack!

Taratulas and Giant Cockroaches!

Well, things are exciting in Emily House (that’s the name of where we live). A few days ago there was a giant bug in the house that I first thought to be a grasshopper. Upon closer inspection, Annie convinced me it was a giant cockroach. Today, Annie was outside reading in the grass and found a furry spider on her pants leg (good reason to always wear pants) and we suspect it was a tarantula. Imagine her saying “get it off, get it off,” making me do it, then telling me, “Now it’s on you.” She was less than descriptive about where, so I was looking all over, finally finding it on my right shoulder, five inches from my neck. Eek! There is also a giant wasp buzzing in a window trying to get out. Everything is bigger here. After consulting with some neighbors who’ve been here forever, the roach really was a three inch long grasshopper chilling on a kitchen chair. The tarantula, we aren’t so sure about. It wasn’t big like the ones we’ve seen in cages and movies, but it sure was furry and brown. Baby tarantula? Our inherent fear or discomfort around insects and things with many legs is strange and strong. We saw two green parrots at the house yesterday. Did you know they mate for life? There was also a glimpse of a blackish squirrel type animal jumping from tree to tree. No monkeys yet. We’ll keep you posted.

Yesterday, at the crack of dawn...well, not really...dawn is at 5:30 and we didn’t go until 6:30...we went to the farmers’ market. Oh joy of joys! We spent $10 and came home with two bags full of fruits and veggies, all grown right here. Well, some of them are from down the mountain a little, but that’s still pretty close. One grower even uses organic practices, so we bought whatever we could from him. Some of the more exotic purchases include whole pineapples and star fruit. You can even get lychees here. They grow in this really pretty red prickly outer skin. The mangoes weren’t ripe so we didn’t buy any.
Last night we had some of the other new teachers over for dinner. Annie made really yummy sweet pepper soup, which costs a bazillion dollars to make in the US, but only pittance here. And she made yummy bread. The others brought empanadas, which we learned to make at our Costa Rican cooking class, and banana bread cake. Then we learned to play Euchre, a game a bit like bridge and spades played a lot in the Midwest. The people who work at this school really are pretty awesome.

So, we had a cooking lesson that was really helpful, especially in terms of using what’s available and without some of the conveniences we know at home. I can now make really good beans, handmade tortillas, empanadas, picadillo (which is mostly this really yummy vegetable called chayote), and plantains. I already knew how to fry cheese, but our teachers told us to use higher heat than I did before. I could totally get used to eating rice and beans every day.

We’ve been meeting a lot of people, some of them the original settlers, some of their descendants, some long-time residents who came and stayed, some tourists, some native Costaricenses (that’s how you say Costa Ricans in Spanish. A person from the US is estadounidence. And around here it is very bad form to use the word America to mean the US. To Ticos, America means both the North and South American continents. And Central America isn’t really its own continent; it just describes a geographical or political region. Here’s another interesting tidbit: geographically, Panama is part of Central America, but politically, it is part of South America.

I started work in the Monteverde Institute library yesterday. I talked a lot with the library coordinator who’s been there since the beginning, about the vision and goals of the place, then we got down to priority number one: weeding. When a library consists entirely of donations, you’re bound to get some stuff you don’t want. And we want to get the collection cataloged and into a searchable catalog so people know what is there. But it’s a big waste of time to catalog things you plan to get rid of, so first comes the weeding. We also are thinking about rearranging the materials in such a way that they are easy to find by students in particular courses. The Institute runs courses on a few environmental biology topics, eco-tourism, gender studies, and public health. Their second priority is to serve local researchers conducting studies in the area. And lastly, they want to serve the local community. The Quaker school has a pleasure reading library open to the public so we feel confident maintaining the Institute as a strictly research library. But I really need to help them get some funds. That place is very pretty, but the resources are very old and very patchy. Maybe I’ll even find an organization that wants to pay me to work in the library, since the Institute can’t. Anyone with ideas should leave me comments. This job will be a lot more fun with some money to spend on resources, so think about those funding sources too.

Not much...

Full days lately. The biggest event of yesterday, visiting the clinic for my ear infection, was oddly reassuring. There are two things I learned: I can understand medicalese in two different languages about equally and the emergency room in Costa Rica (at least yesterday) is about the same speed as the ones I've been to in the states, with less waiting time in the examining room. I have been very nervous about speaking Spanish and have been taking the easy way out as much as possible. Today we spent the entire day with the whole staff doing group building stuff and having a shorter meeting for worship. It was meeting for business day, so we just left before they got started. It is good to have meeting once again so prevalent in my life. Also, one of the elders in the community spoke about her experience going to Hiroshima 23 years after we dropped the A-bomb. I had been contemplating a song that Reeve taught at camp (Friends, only love can bring peace, so let us love with all our hearts and all our minds til peace is won, and peace is won) for most of meeting up until that point and hadn't yet gotten around to figuring out what day it is today. It was good to be reminded by someone with experience. Then the Fred Small song about Cranes over Hiroshima was trying to go through my head, but I've only got the chorus left at this point. I don't have anything enlightening to say on the subject, just that it throws me for a loop every August 6th. It's good to be thrown. What am I doing to make sure it doesn't happen again, though? That's still up in the air. I guess the more people who know how to actually resolve their conflicts there are in the world, the less likely it is to happen again, but I can teach and teach and it doesn't change the rampant wars.The computer just crashed so I lost a bunch about what I've been up to at school - cleaning the science closet and workshopping about getting to know and trust each other and arting about it as well. I think I wrote some more about how school starts on the 19th, but I have time this Sunday, maybe Friday afternoon, and all day Thursday and Friday of next week plus the weekend so even though we've got a lot of workshop stuff happening, I should be okay. I want more team time, and we've only got time with our subject area groups, but I guess I'll just have to find a way to fit that in with the folks on my team. It's also a little tricky because three of us are 5-8 and one is 7-12 (the only one who overlaps) and she and I have to find significant time to talk about how we're going to do math because we're co-teaching the 7/8 class. It'll be good, but it's really hard to find that time. You'll be glad to know my ears seem to be clearing up (somewhat on their own before I went to the clinic, at least pressure wise) and even though antibiotics might be evil, it's still nice to think they can fix my problem (so long as I'm only thinking short term, I guess). Yup. It'll be good to be able to hear again, and talk without significant reverb. That's one reason I really haven't been talking, aside from the fact that most everything at school is in Spanish because there are fewer people (me) who don't know Spanish than there are non-native English speakers. They seem to know more than they let on, but they don't speak in English any more than I speak in Spanish. I'm getting more comfortable, but I have no doubt it's going to take a lot of time.

Jobs, Clinics, Urban Jungles

Queridos Amigos,
Thanks to those people who sent us nice emails. Feel free to comment on the blog itself also if you have questions others might like to know. And read the comments to see more from us, though we won’t have much access until Friday, when we get our home account set up. Mmm, dial up. It’s been a long time since I’ve known that friend.
Well, we’ve had more adventures since last writing. We went to a square dance danced to records (you know those big round things with visible grooves that spin around with a needle?). Not really my style and I didn’t know anyone so it wasn’t that fun for me, but the enthusiasm for community dancing here is terrific. There is already an English Country Dance that happens monthly, but again, it isn’t my preferred style. I’m hoping we can stir up some interest in contradancing and put together a live band, which would of course make it appealing.
The next day we went to Quaker meeting. We were a little late because Annie was bringing bread for the post-meeting potluck and it was taking a while. However, in Costa Rica, it isn’t such a big deal to be late, even to meeting. There were a bunch of students from the Bank Street School of Education (in NY) visiting and another student group from CT, so it was packed with young people. Probably won’t be like that all the time. But we were very welcomed as new teachers at the school and a lot of people went out of their way to come talk to us. We’ve already met many of the community founders and elders and most of the teachers at the school. The food was delicious and conversation plentiful. Then we went to the Monteverde Institute to try to use their wireless internet, but were stymied by a locked network. But things have a way of working out somehow in ways you didn’t expect. We started talking to a woman who had seen us at meeting and it somehow came up that I am a librarian and she took this big breath and said, “Oh we need you so much right now!” The person who’s been doing this big digitization project from UVM just finished her sabbatical and went back to VT and the two volunteers who have been long-term helpful are leaving at the end of this week. We talked a little more and then I asked what her role is at the Institute and she said, “I’m the director.” Wow, did I luck out. I’m supposed to call to make an appointment to meet with her and the librarian this week. Then there was this big hullaballoo because a quetzal had landed in a tree nearby, much closer than you usually get to see quetzals, if you even get to see them at all. I’ll admit to not being a huge bird person, but it is an attractive and special bird because it is so uncommon to see them. They played a big part in Maya or Aztec (I don’t remember which) culture and art. So we didn’t get internet, but we might have found me some work (probably unpaid, but fun and a resume builder while I’m here).
I get a little lonely at night here. Maybe because it gets dark so early (6ish) and maybe just because it’s a new place. And maybe because we’re so far (30 min walk) from most of the other teachers and people we know. Tonight we’re having dinner at the home of some neighbors who have children at the school. Should be fun.
Yesterday was a big urban adventure. We went back down to San José to pick up the other new teachers and complete some bureaucracy for our work visas. The three of them were staying in three totally far apart areas of San José. The first one was not at the place she said she’d be because it was closed. After half an hour talking to people and standing around, we figured out she was across the street at a different hotel. The second one was hard to find too and when we arrived the front desk person said there was no one there by her name. We didn’t know what to do so we stood around a bit by the van. But then Annie suggested emailing her, just in case she was near her email. Turns out she was and she came running outside to find us just about to leave. Her reservation had been under another name. Oy, so difficult. The third new teacher was easy to find and all went smoothly, but she had her cat with her, so it had to stay in the car while we went to give away our fingerprints. We had to go to the downtown police station and fill out some papers and then have private interviews with a clerk who asked us things like are you married (that was fun) and what color are your eyes and do you have any scars and what is your profession and why are you here and on and on. I managed to do the whole thing in Spanish, though I did ask for a repeat once or twice. After an early surly attitude, like many clerks, she warmed up. Costa Ricans are pretty nice in general. They are known for it. We stopped at a roadside restaurant for lunch because we were seriously hungry by then and most of us had the casado, which is the typical Costa Rican meal. It means married and includes any variety of rice and beans, plantains, cheese, eggs, avocado, meat, fruit, etc. Yummy. We also tried a bunch of appetizers that were yummy. I can’t wait to learn to cook beans the way they do here. The ride up was beautiful. You can see the Nicoya Peninsula a lot of the way. We all chatted a lot. Everyone is so interesting and nice and going to be great to work with. Annie is especially excited about the teacher who will be doing the English/History component for her grades. They have aspirations of collaborating a lot. Our driver, José, was also very nice. He chatted with me a lot and went slowly enough for me to understand. It has been my experience so far that most taxi drivers are chatty and personable people and like to joke around. It makes the ride quite pleasant. It was a long long day, leaving the house at 5:30am and getting back at 7:00pm.
Today was also a long day, though not quite as long. We got the official tour of Santa Elena (the biggest and most urban neighborhood in the Monteverde zone) from the assistant director, who has lived here for 5 years. We went to the bank, the bookstore, the pharmacy, and the grocery, coming home with bags of staples. There is a small grocery near home, but it doesn’t have everything you need to set up house. We bought a gallon of olive oil, some baking necessities, and things like soy sauce. We’re going to have trouble getting unscented and unchemically cleaning products here. We’re counting on visitors to bring us things like laundry detergent, dish soap, shampoo, etc. Let us know when you’re coming and we’ll have lots of requests.  After we sent the other teachers home, Risë took Annie and me to the medical clinic to get her ear checked out. There are lots of jokes about how Costa Rican doctors like to give antibiotics via injection. You go to the doctor and get a shot. But Annie got no shot. Just some pills and drops. Let’s hope they work. We didn’t have to wait too long and the doctor (nurse) we finally saw was great and nice and efficient and friendly. Risë translated for us, but I understood most of it. Even Annie understood a lot because medical terms are so similar in English and Spanish and she’s learning vocabulary about time and stuff. She did great. Now hopefully she’ll stop being sick and can get back to her usual high-energy self. The school paid for the visit because her insurance hasn’t started yet, but she’ll be on national health plan, which gets you all that medical care, including prescriptions, free. Rock on Costa Rica with no military.
We got our camera back so now we’ll start posting photos too.

More from Annie

I would tell you about the paring knife I accidentally put in a carry on bag really late the night before we left for reasons I still cannot understand. Maybe it’s because it was late and the knife was lost when I was packing the other ones and I was confused about which bags we were checking and which we were carrying, or maybe it was just because I was tired. It’s always fun to talk to the head TSA guy and the cop who’s on duty. “Do you always carry a knife with you?” “What’s your phone number? How can that be your number if as you said you’re moving?” Right. Well, I don’t have a cell, I couldn’t remember the work number here and so I just lied, gave them my home number and said that I left it on to retrieve messages, despite the fact that I knew full well they turned it off early. Even with the “restrictions” that the airlines have about numbers of bags, they let us on with a banjo, a guitar, a backpack, a small personal bag and a rolling suitcase. I love the little first class closet. They, for the most part, are happy to let you put your guitar in there (but not your banjo because it’ll fit above). ps. The heaviest bag was 49.4 pounds. Using the scale from the neighbors it had come in at 48 so I was pretty sure we were safe, but when that number popped up, I was psyched and proud simultaneously. Not much for humble around the insane packing job that I did.

I have to second what Jordan said about Leo. Even with one of my ears mostly non-functional his stories and chatting kept us in good spirits and energized about what we’re undertaking. He visits his parents a bunch down here so I’ll be excited if we can find a way to meet up.

Speaking of non-functional ears, my right ear canal has now swollen mostly closed. I thought it was a wax thing earlier, so I was using some drops we have from CVS. After talking with Susan, I wonder if maybe I was using with the wrong meds because they’re peroxide based and perhaps that just irritated the ear tissues. I’d love to talk to any of you with medical experience about what I should do besides arnica around the outside and advil pretty regularly. The swelling has gotten worse over the past two days and now I have to pull on my ear significantly to get the canal to open at all, which then causes it to hurt in a different way: most of the time the pain comes in waves, more waves after I’ve been moving around for at least a half hour building with intensity to a sharp constant pain, not really throbbing, not shooting. It made a lot of noise on the plane, and some while we were coming up the mountain. I expected that and it’s only the really loud pops that hurt, but they’re a surprise every time, which is a little hard to deal with. I can sleep when it’s hurting if I’ve taken advil, but walking around for long periods of time hurts, as does opening my mouth widely and smiling too much. There’s the problem because when you’re trying to show yourself as a friendly person, the smile is a widely used tool. Fortunately, I’ve got some time today and tomorrow to take extra naps and walk slowly.

Starting on Monday I’m on pretty much full time with a trip to San Jose to get papers sorted out and meet the rest of the new teachers. I’m pretty psyched about both of those things. As we were standing in the immigration line, I heard someone speak disparagingly about San Jose and I have to say I’ve only had good experiences there so far. Maybe I’ve just been lucky. We didn’t spend that much time there last time, and none so far, so I’m looking forward to understanding the capital a little better and maybe learning my way around a bit better.

Sunset’s happening. Pretty. It sure is nice to be living up high and have a consistent view of both the sunrise and the sunset for a change. Not quite as much sunrise as sunset, but I’m not arguing. And yes, for reference, I was up for the sunrise.

We have a request. We brought with us one picture showing device that has room for three
horizontal pictures. At the moment, the only one of you represented is Hilary. We would love it if you could send us a picture of you, oriented horizontally, and yes, it will need to be on paper instead of electronic because we don’t yet know if we have access to appropriate printers. I’d like to rotate our friends and family through the picture frames so we can always have you near. We do have some excellent fridge magnets with many of the local to Montague folks, but...