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 http://icanhascheezburger.com 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.