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 http://www.doktorwise.com/jorannfarewell/Site/JorAnnFarewell.html

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...

We're Here!!!!

Queridos Amigos… Estamos en paraíso, verdaderamente.
So much to say to you all.... Firstly, thank you thank you thank you on top of thank you to the people who helped with the frantic packing and cleaning: Kieran, Graham, Eli, Jane, Susan, Emma, Kai and Lucy and to the true saviors who helped above and beyond, we couldn’t have finished without: Kirsten, Hannah and Rachel. People cooked for us, washed a grimy closet, cleaned toilets, threw away an embarrassing amount of trash, took away things that are still usable but we no longer need, all with amazing good cheer that kept our spirits high. Thank you again and again. You know we’ll do the same for you when we return.

Now, onto the stuff you want to know…
Costa Rica is amazing. Travel here was miraculously quite smooth, with the exception being that we couldn’t bring Toast. Most airlines won’t fly animals if it’s predicted to be over 85 degrees Fahrenheit in any of the places the plane is on the ground at the time it will be there. We might have to wait a long time until it is under 85 at noon in Miami. I miss her already, though I know she’s in good hands with Rye until then. There is another airline that shuttles animals around in climate controlled vans and therefore has no temperature limit, but they charge a million dollars for that service and don’t have a very direct route from Hartford to San Jose. We don’t have a million dollars. We sat in exit row seats on the first flight (always appreciated by my extra long legs) and on the second flight chatted with a super nice guy named Leo who is from Costa Rica but currently lives in Miami. He gave us all sorts of info that it is sometimes hard to ask people. Thanks Leo. We found Risë, the school’s assistant director and our ride to Monteverde, easily. The taxi that carried us up the mountain was a big van with a super nice driver named Walner. He spoke slowly so I could understand and drove very, very carefully, which is somewhat unusual around here. Roads are scary and taxi drivers are scarier. I felt very safe in his taxi. He’s also good at navigating the potholes and bumps on the dirt roads closer to our destination. Wow it’s bumpy. It was dark by 6:45 and as we drove higher there was more fog, but then we came out above it. Reinforcement that we are really in the cloud forest. He drove us right to the door of Emily House, the name of our home. I want to say this very loudly… It’s so beautiful!!!!!! One of the original settlement houses, it’s made entirely of wood with metal roofing and it’s huge for two people. There is even a single guest bed, so all you big talkers who say you’re going to visit better get your butts here. Some other day where there is less to say we’ll describe the house in detail with lots of photos. Summary, it feels like we’re living in a cabin in northern Wisconsin (we’re both from the Midwest, so that is our association) and it’s dreamy. Someone left us roast chicken with veggies and breakfast fixings so we’d have something to eat right away. This school where Annie is working is really going all out to make sure we feel welcome and have what we need to adjust to living abroad. We spent some time unpacking and then slept for many, many hours. It’s been a long time since I’ve slept well and the night before traveling we slept only one or two hours. I feel so much better today.

And today was also awesome. We’re almost done unpacking and finding places for everything. Then we called Risë again and she walked us around, showing us places, introducing us to people, taking us grocery shopping. Then she passed us off to Heather who has been here for two years and she took us to the fábrica (cheese factory), which is awesome. We bought a lot of cheese. Next, we went to look at the Escuela de los Amigos, where Annie will be teaching and Heather showed us around. It’s so beautiful. We checked out some books from the library, since we brought nothing to read. Then we walked home. It’s about a 20-25 minute walk to the school, mostly uphill, but not too steep. It feels a lot like living in rural Vermont, but people walk everywhere instead of drive and everyone is so friendly (except the tourists). I am going to have to be really friendly and chatty to make sure people here don’t think I’m a tourist. Already my Spanish is getting better and I can understand people when they speak at a slowish pace. Heather was talking to a teen who takes violin lessons from her and I understood everything. Heather also thinks I might be able to teach some lessons, since she does it reluctantly and there is high demand for violin here. I’ll probably be able to borrow a fiddle here, but I didn’t bring any of my music books, so I might be asking folks to send me stuff. When I teach music I like to require performance/service elements, which could be playing for contra/square/English country dancing, which all happens here, often accompanied by records! We’re planning to attend the square dance tonight, though we are mostly “contra snobs.” But we need to meet the dance community to stir up some interest in contra. I brought my tiny collection of dance calls in case I was ever “called” on to lead dances, but if anyone has any favorite dances, they should email them to me. (That is specifically a request for Alex and Rachel Nevitt by the way, though anyone is welcome to send me dances).

Okay, I think I might be caught up, obviously omitting some things because this is already so long and Annie hasn’t even had her say yet. Photos to come. Accidentally left the camera in the taxi and don’t have it back yet.

And we don’t have internet at home yet, so we have to walk to the Instituto, about 25 minutes, to blog or email. We’ll let you know when we get set up at home and if it is dial-up or high-speed. We do have a phone if anyone wants to bear the long distance charges for a quick call: 011-506-2645-5001.