infrequent at best...

Tomorrow, the good news is, I get to play with firefighters and cars. They cut them open, we pull people out of them with simulated injuries. The unfortunate part: it's going to stop being summer by tomorrow and we will be standing around or strapped to back boards in colder weather.

My question, though undoubtedly no one much reads this, is what's the best way to go about creating and sharing music files? I am going to need to be doing some musical collaboration in the upcoming months and am trying to figure out what options I have, aside from garage band, which I already know about.

Emmy sent this video about quakerism. I kinda think it's pretty cool.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-XlMkK4_kTg

And, to finish, please think happy job thoughts for jordan. Another rejection, check. Boo on them.

Jor has a Job


Well, I have finally found a little bit of library work and I love it so far. A teeny tiny library in Wendell, MA just got a grant to hire a teen services coordinator and buy lots of things to make the library a cooler place for the 10-19 year old crowd. I get to be that person 7 hours a week, though to get it off the ground it's definitely taking up more brain space than 7 hours. I don't mind since I am not otherwise occupied, except with the occasional writing of a cover letter and interview. I am so tired of this process. Anyway, my first meeting with the teens was hillarious and a little bit crazy - give 13 teenagers a few rolls of duct tape and suggest making wallets, etc. but instead they imprison each other in their chairs, tape legs and arms together, tape boys together. Still, they were able to reign it in when it came time for business and we got a lot done. And David Detmold wrote a really nice article about the meeting from observing it and it was on the front page of this week's paper. I definitely need to get a copy. Can't post it here because they don't do an online version. Maybe I'll scan it in. So basically this job means that I am willing to compromise a little more for my other job that I don't have yet because at least I will enjoy myself and be advancing my career some of the time this way.

Annie bought a new bread cookbook today and I'm super excited to try some of the recipes. Mmmm. I LOVE that my house is a giant bread oven on Fridays. It smells so good and people are so thankful for fresh bread. It's a serious part of my happiness. Please don't ever make me cut out gluten!!!!!!!!

Busy is as busy does

I have a million things going on right now. I'm working at Real Pickles M-W which is AWESOME! Then on Monday and Wednesday nights I have EMT class from 6-10 which could be more awesome if the TAs were more on top of their game. I suppose it's a bit much to expect that TAs will have any teaching experience whatsoever and will be older than 20. Some of them are (for the most part, the good ones) but there's one in particular who just drives me crazy with his ineptitude. I stay over in G'fld on Monday nights so I don't have to ride the almost 10 miles early after being up late. That's terrific because I get to see my friend Zoe who is a lovely individual. She's so lovely that she's hired me to do some computery helping on her dissertation and is paying me in actual dollars. And then Fridays I make bread for between 8-12 families who live nearby. I wish we had a working camera (it broke and we gave it away in CR) so I could take pictures of the breads. I am feeling like, for the most part, I'm getting my homework and studying done and having a good time at all of my sundry jobs.

Yesterday I got to pretend to be a caterer for the Real Pickles open house. The place was hopping with every crunchy foodie in the Valley in attendance near as I could figure. I spent all evening walking as briskly as the crowded warehouse would accommodate. It was so fun to weave in and out of the people and answer their questions before they asked them (or after). There was even one person who I didn't know before but who I kept having great interactions with. Plus, there was Red Hen Bakery bread to nosh on. That stuff is like crack. I almost want to move up there just so I can learn how to make bread with them. Damn. They've even found a local way to get organic white flour (even milled locally) recently.

I'm wondering about this apparently manic part of my personality. Just go and go and go and feel pretty good about it all of the time. I haven't crashed yet, but this week wasn't easy on my body. There is a plot to deliver bread and get a hottub out of it.

When I was little and I wanted to take a bath I used to say that I was going to take a tub. I wonder if anyone else says that. Honestly, I still say it. My brief google search says that yes, other people use the phrase. I wonder why my mom always made fun of me when I said it... Not in a mean way, just a goofy making fun of the little girl who says the funny things sort of way.

That's really all I have to say right now. jor's been having interviews and is hopeful about an option that's hopefully coming her way on Saturday, but I'm not supposed to jinx it.

Filling in the Summer



Hey dudes who are still reading this. We intended to continue writing just because it's kinda fun and we'd like to know this kind of stuff about our friends who live far away, even if it is in the same country.



Quick rundown of the summer:
  • Arrived home after significant travel stress
  • Friends and neighbors were awesome at helping us get settled again
  • Continued looking for jobs
  • Went on an eight stop, six state/province road trip in the new car to see ten sets of family and friends. Toast swam in three great lakes and is no longer afraid of waves.
  • Got our cat Truck back from the shelter where he was living for the last 8 months (long story...we didn't put him there but we got him back and he's happier than ever)
  • Annie started her EMT basic program class and work at a pickle packing plant. Jordan is still looking for work.
It's really good to be home, even though we miss our friends and lifestyle in Costa Rica so much. And even thought it's hard to find work now, I'm so glad we went.

And since so many of our friends in Montague had babies while we were gone or right before, I now have a bunch of people wanting my flexible babysitting schedule. And I can bike there and bring my dog. So nice. Today was a dreamy kid named Uli. I hope I get to see her more. 18 months old and very communicative and easily distracted from sadness. Today we worked on not being afraid of the dog with much success! We also played peek-a-boo with her inside the tunnel on the playground and me peeking through the holes in the side. Did I mention how dreamy she is? She already uses English and Estonian at home and moms are psyched for me to do Spanish too. Today she said milk in three languages. This will be fun.

And this weekend, Costa Rica is coming to visit! Two of our friends who are still working at the school in Monteverde are going to be in NYC visiting another friend from the school who is back in the states and we will all reunite and eat lots of yummy city food that we cannot get in our respective rural homes. I got a million advance reader copies of juvenile and teen books from a local bookstore to send to Monteverde and I tried to read them all beforehand so I could make video booktalks for the students, but five boxes of books is a little much to ask in 45 days. I did make a significant dent and prioritized books they'll love or ones that need a little selling. I even read depressing books for these kids because I know how much impact my booktalks (and acquiring good books) had on them and it makes me feel good to spread the love of reading. So I work on the videos this week.

BREAD!

Here is a quick update:
I'm working at Real Pickles (realpickles.com) and quite enjoying myself. The only, and I mean only, downside is that I don't work on Thursdays or Fridays which is meaning not enough income to make the ends meet. Taking the lemons, making the lemonade, I've started baking bread to sell and barter with my friends and neighbors. This Friday was my first day and I made about 9 loaves of bread all told: challah, white/wheat mixed up and cinnamon raisin bread. They were all supertasty and my customers all seemed quite pleased. This is beyond useful as they are also my friends. We shall see where this ends up going (applying for a permit with the health board might be a good first step), but for now, it was an enjoyable day and I'm going to try doing it twice a week: Friday and Sunday. Should be good, even if it ends up being short lived (or long lived).

Nicaragua Trip

My favorite thing about Nicaragua: random parades at every turn with mini monks and nuns.
My least favorite: the guy with the fireworks who thought that every day was a holiday (even right outside the church during the service, and they didn't make him stop completely, just sometimes when the priest was saying something important).

Our trip to Nicaragua with Nicole was perhaps the best traveling we’ve had yet. To begin with, Nicole is a lovely travel companion, who balances out my inability to ask questions even in my native language in exchange for unlimited back, shoulder and foot rubs. She also likes hanging out immersed in water just as much as I do and it’s nice to have a friend in the pool to practice your flip turns with. As I’ve undoubtedly mentioned before, her Spanish is also excellent which helps jor out too. Mine is getting a lot better, but Nicole and jor haven’t stopped making fun of me for all of my ums yet. (Though on the way onto this plane I did explain where banjos come from without many of them.)

Granada is a lovely city for tourists, though like all cities it has more than its fair share of poverty, garbage and troubles on the street at night. I know that there are tours and connection possibilities with people who actually live in Granada on the poorer end of the spectrum, but this trip was purely for the pleasure of experiencing the many environmental wonders around the town, so we didn’t partake in any of them. At some point I would definitely like to get back to Granada for some intensive Spanish and getting to know the community better.

We stayed at Hotel Oasis because of the pool and possible A/C and comparatively cheap prices. Granada is way too hot for a bunch of gringas from up the mountain in Costa Rica so it was more than worth it to have the option of cooling off at night. When we showed up the pool was being fixed, but fortunately for us, it was only a day and a half before it was filled and functional again. I freely admit to my spoiled United States-ian nature when it comes to being really hot in a city where there is no clean river to go dip my toes into. Plus, I’d been looking forward to the pool for weeks, ever since we changed our trip from the Osa Peninsula to Nicaragua. Getting to Granada was easy because we used TransNica and just took the bus straight from La Irma up to Granada. The border was ridiculously simple since we didn’t have to do any of it ourselves.
Once we got to Granada there was a lot of lying around and playing on our computers. Again, though we were in a lovely foreign city it was just so nice to have a connection faster than 9 Kbps that isn’t connecting through a telephone line. We got a lot of our businessy things done. I even planned a summer project for a student and went through a bunch of negotiations about due dates. I am not going to be sad to be done with that part of the job, but I think I did a pretty good job considering the rushed nature of the thing. If the student had 4 more percentage points for the second semester the grade would have passed. Perhaps unsurprisingly, considering how many struggles this particular student has had with projects and working up to par, there is still more work to be done to pass my class. Oh well. We’ll work together and get it figured out.

Our first full day in Granada was spent at Laguna de Apoyo. It’s a crater lake near Masaya – about 20 minutes north of the city. The whole area is relatively undeveloped. You could look across the lake and see all of the logging that hasn’t happened recently (if ever?) and hardly see any lodges or roads or buildings of any kind. The place where we went allows day use and there was a swimming raft, kayaks we didn’t use, inner tubes we did use and hammocks galore. Nicole and I spent a lot of time floating around on inner tubes and then later I spent the majority of my time flinging myself off of the raft. When Jordan first met me in 2000 I had a hard time with diving. I can’t really explain why, but it was the swimming skill that has always been the roughest for me. Maybe it’s because of the on-off transition that causes me so much trouble with roofs. Anyway, she and Katy Weseman coached me through a bunch of summers at camp and I’ve got a decent dive now. I started the day at the lake with a bunch of diving and got tired due to the whole end of school year + traveling + moving out of our home concept. So then throughout the day jor and Nicole were coaching me through learning how to do forward flips off of the raft. It’s about the same height as rafts at camp – 3 inches above the surface maybe – and it’s pretty hard to get your body flipped around fast enough. I never really got it, but I did get a bunch better. Then I was working on diving with jumping up, curling a bit and then kicking out to be going straight up and down. The best time I did it involved me jumping up (not very far because I can’t jump good like Samuari Jack) and then kicking up and then curling. I know I’m not a kinesthetic learner, but honestly sometimes the connection between my brain and my body seems non-existent. Thanks to our time on the water I have now perfected my reggaeton backbeats and can sing along with any and every reggaeton song ever written, much to jordan’s chagrin.

Highlights of the Granada food scene: Garden Café is still lovely and wonderful. They no longer offer their pirate map scavenger hunt, though so you’ll have to create your own like we did (minus the map). If you ever end up there, try the lime, coconut, pineapple smoothie. And then have another one for me since they’re closed on Sunday and we had to leave at 5:30 on Monday morning. The ambiance is gardeny and the food is tasty while not being pretentious. The people who run the place are nice and were around when we were there with my mom too, so I think they’re the hands on kind of restaurateurs. There’s a Mexican place on the main tourist/bar street called Taqueria Vallarta. Oh tasty goodness. Though I also really like the tortilla soup in Alajuela at Jalapeños, it was nothing to scoff at. Jor said I should talk about the Taqueria, but at this moment I’m feeling rather at a loss. It was tasty, we had leftovers for lunch. Yum. The last place we went in Granada was a new restaurant called Voodoo. They had some troubles with the kitchen being out of things, and they may have dropped our shrimp on the floor, but damn it was tasty. There are definitely still some kinks to work out, and someone’s chair broke under him while we were there too, but overall, they did an excellent job with the mixups and I’m not complaining about the free drinks and carrot cake that tasted just like my mom’s.

Many of our adventures in Granada included Nicole’s friend Casey. They met in the DR last summer on a teaching program. He’s a teacher from California who is witty, interesting and likes to hike up volcanoes so he was a really good traveling companion for us. We went out to Volcán Mombacho (which towers over the city) on our third day in Granada. We missed the earlier Rivas bus so we had time to have breakfast (and another quick chat with the Fransiscan monk from California) and catch the next one. Since we didn’t know where the actual bus stop was (further down the block) we asked 10 people and went with the most popular answer to figure out when the next bus would be leaving. The options ranged from 8:30 – 11 so we had a pretty big window of time. When we went back we figured out where the bus was leaving from and asked the guys who had our bus’s hood open and were clearly working on it when they would be leaving. With such solid information, we felt fine going on a market adventure while we waited for the ½ hour + to pass. The market in Granada is definitely NOT just for tourists. I would love to have something like it where we live, though the unrefrigerated fish and meat definitely smell the place up a bit. This picture isn't from quite inside the main market area. Jor scored a handkerchief, though we wouldn’t know how much of a score it was until a little later in the day when we were hiking and hiking and hiking and sweating. We got off at the right spot, walked the 2 km to the park entry (where I'm pointing in the picture, the highest point closest to you is where the trails start at the top) and missed the 10 am shuttle up the mountain by five minutes. The lady at the little building said it was a hour and a half walk and about 5 km up to the trails on top. The road was paved with paving stones (not cobbles, but concrete patio block type stones). We went past some houses before the first entry point and there was one tree with fruits that are totally globular and almost the size of my head. There was a brief moment when we thought maybe a van was going to pass us and could give us a lift, but sadly that didn’t happen. Nicole and Casey quickly outhiked Jordan and myself and we were left trudging up the mountain. Jor hadn’t felt well in the morning, and starting the day with a strenuous hike up a relatively steep road isn’t ideal for her even when she is feeling well. About the time she was starting to feel reallyreally nauseated, a truck came by with some seismologists and they picked us up. I tried to be friendly and engage in the geospeak, but my Spanish is definitely not good enough regardless of all of the nice crossover words and it didn’t work well. We then kept going up the mountain and passed our lovely friends sitting at the half way point, (the guys wouldn’t stop for them) right before it got steeper than any road I’ve been on for the past 20 years. The only one I’ve been on that was steeper isn’t quite a road and involved a glacier (Athabasca) in Canada on a bus with tires bigger than any adult on it. They claimed it was the steepest road in North America, if I’m remembering my 10 year old brain well enough. Nicole and Casey got to walk up with a bunch of university students from Managua and got there after jordan and I had a good long time to rest up. They were completely soaked from the sweating 2 hours after we set out. I have rarely seen shirts that wet that weren’t also involved in some sort of falling water or getting dunked in a lake while canoeing. After they had some downtime, we confirmed for the third time when the bus would be going down the mountain before we set out with our guide. For the most part, I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves, but this “tunnel” was made by lava making its way out of here rapidamente. The vents didn’t smell too much like sulfur, and I’m sad we don’t have a picture of us sticking our hands into a smaller vent that was near the trail. If we had been on our own I definitely wouldn’t have stuck my hand in it, but it was cool, so cool, to put my hand into the earth and have it be warmer and the air was moving out as well. That was cool. Have I mentioned how cool it was? We were thinking it might be nice and cozy for a nighttime animal shelter but our guide says no. The only animal evidence in it was a dead cricket. We saw some Howlers and a chameleon and our guide showed us a plant that pulls its leaves in when you touch it (or when it’s raining). We got some video on Nicole’s camera. Maybe I can figure out how to link to it once we get settled back in. The views were pretty great, even though there was a bit of haze happening over the city. It may be smog, but it also may have been that we were a bit higher than some of the clouds. We were able to see the isletas where we kayaked the next day and learned a bit about how they were formed (ash from one of the more ancient eruptions?). Our guide José was friendly, but I’m sure there is a part of the job that can get boring. Twice a day wandering around with tourists doesn’t exactly appeal to me, though. Climbing up to the communication towers they have on the highest point of the volcán was bit of a trip. On the side you climb up on, it’s all steep stairs made out of lava rocks. Then you get to the high point and there’s your standard wooden platform. Then you go down the backside and there are little buildings for electronics and about 10 towers, complete with guys working on them if it’s not a windy day. It can get pretty fierce up there. On our way down and out, there may have been a swarm of wasps to run through. Casey and José were stung, and there was one I couldn’t get out of jordan’s hair for the longest time, but all in all, a lovely adventure with minimal injury. Turns out it was good that we had asked so often when the bus was leaving because it ended up going a half hour before they said and we were on it. Despite the apparent reversal of jor’s transportation karma (see the blog post from coming back from Nicaragua the first time) it’s not all that awesome that she has to get to the point of actual physical breakdown before the positive karma kicks in. See the post about getting Toast home for further proof of this reversal.

The guide book said that you can’t really do Volcán Masaya and the town of Masaya in one day while using public transportation. Frankly, they’re full of it. There are busses up to Managua every 20 minutes and the transportation up the side of the volcano is on demand (though it costs a little more than a dollar a person). Plus, the park entrance is right on the highway so there’s no 2 km hike to get to it. We couldn’t find Casey once we knew what our plans were so it was just the three of us. Many tourists just go up to the active crater viewing area and then leave. They’re silly. We totally gawked at the steam and particulate coming out of the volcano for a while and then went on a hike around one of the dormant craters (it also goes by two other dormant craters). Though the area near the active crater was windy and reasonable temperature-wise, the hiking was oddly lacking in wind despite the lack of trees to block it. It got hot and sunny. As we were leaving the parking lot they gave us directions and asked us our residence so they could radio ahead that 3 United Statesian girls were on their way around the crater. It would have been fun to go on the cave/bat tour too, but we can’t always do everything and we had plans for the afternoon. There were a couple of spots on the hike that were pretty lacking in trail, and I fell down once, but without any scrapes or bruises. The tree in the foreground of this picture is the national flower of Nicaragua. Funny to a northern girl like me for the tree to be the national flower. I’m used to national trees and national flowers that grow on the ground, but national tree/flowers? I guess. They might have a national tree in addition to this one, and I didn’t catch the name anyway... While we were hiking I made a bird friend that I talked to for a couple of minutes. It might have been a flycatcher of some kind, but I didn’t have my book with me, nor did I check right after we returned from our adventure so by now my visual memory is too far gone.

On the way back from shopping in the Masaya tourist market we stopped at the old hospital and climbed the bell tower at the Iglesia de Merced. It’s super close to our hostel and the same place Jordan and I spent New Year’s Eve watching people get their haircut from (there’s a barber’s kitty corner to the church). The views were great and I’m sure it’s worth the very small 20 cordoba entrance. Way cheaper than the cathedral tower I climbed in Germany years ago, but that one also had more than 71 stairs. The roof picture at the beginning of this post is from that tower, and the volcano glowering in the background is Mombacho.

I’m going to let jordan talk about our trip kayaking on Lake Colcibolca (Lake Nicaragua). If she ever gets over this cold. And I’m not sure which of us is going to eventually write about the harrowing and stressful trip home, but it’ll come, I’m sure.

Impatience!

I consider myself to be a very patient person. As a teacher, I am patient with my students. As a community member, I am patient with other people's ways of doing things. But when I've applied for a job I really want, I am NOT patient. I submitted my application online last night for a middle school librarian job and I'm expecting a response today. Totally unreasonable, yet I still want it. Partly, I want some job security going home, but partly it's just because I haven't gotten to do this work for a while and I'm itching to get back to it. I have loved my time in Costa Rica and have some great memories, but I want to go home. For a few weeks in May, I was feeling like maybe we shouldn't be leaving now. But now that rainy season has started again and I'm getting Massachusetts summer urges, I'm really happy about it. I was dreading our trip to Osa Peninsula also, mostly because we can't really afford it and because I didn't want to do a lot of sitting around when I'm so anxious to get home. So instead, we're going back to Granada, which I LOVED the first time. We'll have more time to do some day trips to volcanoes and kayak through the hundreds of little islands on the lake. And we'll get some last minute gifts for folks too. I occasionally need city time with ethnic food and shopping to offset the rest of my time which I spend rurally. So the city will be fun and we'll take a million pictures this time because we'll have Nicole's camera. Our last big hurrah with Nicole, who we will miss dreadfully.

I finished up my English classes last week. This is a photo of three of my five students and me in my office. I really enjoyed hanging out with them and talking. I got so much better at casual conversations because that was always the first hour of class. I finished with some of my music students when they performed for the open mic coffeehouse or the cabaret. Our cabaret performance pretty much sucked because we didn't practice. Oh well. The kids were awesome. But I still have a few lessons with kids who want to milk every last minute out of me. They are the more dedicated students who are fun anyway. If my work schedule isn't too grueling, I might try to squeeze in some music lessons in Montague because I've enjoyed it a lot. We also had our last contradance on Saturday, which went really well. There were a million kids there in the beginning, so we started with Zodiac. All you Farm & Wilderness folks know what I'm talking about. It was fun and intergenerational. I'm getting Toasty all ready to go home: health certificates, travel documents, ride to the airport, etc. Her plane ticket costs more than mine, but I know she'll be treated well.

I want to make it home before the rain starts, so I'm off. Rain starts early these days.

something perhaps a bit more serious.

So for the year we've been down here I have been regularly:
1. walking to and from school every day at a relatively quick pace.
2. going to yoga between 2 and 3 times a week with an occasional 4 thrown in
3. going for a run on the days I don't do yoga and sometimes even when I do
4. playing ultimate infrequently lately, but I did play more earlier in the year
5. walking to and from every friend's house, gathering, party, etc.
6. walking the dog on top of all of that if she didn't go on a run with me

This has understandably had a profound effect on my body. I am the smallest I have been since high school. In the last week or two, no fewer than 4 people have commented about how skinny I've gotten. I have dropped between 30 and 40 pounds. I had it to lose. I was close to 200lbs and had sworn to myself that I wasn't going to let it get to be more than that because this frame is not built to carry quite that much. People telling me they're noticing how much weight I have lost has had a profound effect on my emotions.

I like this body that I have. I like it when it's heavier, I like it when it's lighter. I can do more when it's like this, but I am not incapable when it's heavier. I can ride my bicycle fast, hike long distances, carry heavy things, and build to my heart's content no matter what my body has looked like so far. Now there are a few changes. For the first time in my life I enjoy running. I like the challenge of the hills (same as riding my bike) and trying to slow down my breathing when I'm going as hard as I can. And someone recently said that I'm doing excellent high altitude training for when I want to be a firefighter. Too bad the effects will be long since worn off by the time I'm ready for those tests. Maybe I'll come down for a month before them...

So I'm stuck feeling conflicted. I know that I feel better; my cardio-vascular health is much more awesome than it was; I can twist my body into positions I could only dream about a year ago; the endorphins keep me feeling positive and wonderful even when I'm stressed; I have other options besides riding my bike when I need to get out and let my brain work its way through complicated things... These are all good.

But I have also spent a significant portion of my life working on feeling positive about my body. I do not like the BMI crap or the weight watchers crap or the other dieting crap. I do not like that so much of our culture is built around being as skinny as you can be healthily (I'll assume for the sake of argument that we're not all built like supermodels and that many of us actually do understand that). I have a deep and abiding love for all of my fat friends and the culture that has grown up around being fat and proud. I also have a deep love for food of all kinds and make fine choices about my food, even if sometimes I eat more butter or bread than one of those silly diets would call for.

I have also struggled with people telling me that I needed to lose weight to be healthy, including all of my parents at various times. This is perhaps the hardest piece. I know that they will be "proud" of me for losing weight. I hope that they can realize that I'd much rather them be proud of me for being active, finding things to do that make me happy, and for finding a way to balance all of the parts of my life that are important. In that way, I could care less if I lost weight. I almost wish I hadn't so I could prove that my body was lovely the way that it was (and might be again).

I am worried that when I get back to the states I will not have as easy a time keeping this whole exercise for the fun of it going. I will lose my deep teacher discount at the neighborhood yoga studio. I will be going back during the hottest season and can't stand heat. I'm actually pretty conviced I'll be good through the summer, though, because on August 2nd I'm planning on doing the Greenfield Triathlon with Tamara, my neighbor (and anyone else who wants to play swim/bike/ride). It's a sprint distance tri, so it's a .3 mi swim, 15 mi bike and 3 mile run. jor's going to do our swimming training at the Mill River Pool this summer. We've already been planning everything and I am quite excited. My new running shoes are even already at Emmy's house just waiting for me to get home. It's the winter, though, when it's hard to get on my bike, and I REALLY don't want to go to a gym, that worries me. I like my running on trails in the woods, not even on the roads outside, much less on a treadmill or a fancy machine that'd be nicer on my knees. I don't want to lose all of the progress that I've made this year on my journey towards firefighter status.

I don't really have any good closure to this post. I guess it's clear that I'm feeling conflicted. I just wanted you to understand that, especially if you're one of the people to whom I'm coming home. Instead of telling me how much weight I've lost, feel free to invite me for a run/ride/walk/hike/swim/etc. Thank you.

Anyway, those are the meandering thoughts of a winkler late at night. I've been trying to write this post for a while. It's good to finally get it out.

Beaches and Farms

A lovely time at the beach, Playa Sámara on the Nicoya Peninsula. It was Toast's first time at the ocean and she seemed to tolerate it. It was really hot compared to Monteverde and the water wasn't any cooler than the air for the most part, even in the tiny swimming pool at our hotel. But Tosti Pantalones (her name in Spanish) fetched sticks and balls tossed into the waves and was so cute when she jumped like a dolphin. To the right you can see the stick in the air and Toast going after it. She also served as cultural ambassador once again. There were some nice Tico families at our tiny hotel and the little kids loved Toast. So I taught them how to play with her and they played for hours. Toast was so good and patient and tolerant as long as I was around. Then the family invited us to their campfire on the beach and fed us roasted marshmallows. The next day they gave us their leftover gallo pinto and eggs for breakfast. Mmmm. And we got to eat yummy Mexican food at a restaurant. It was all super relaxing and fun. We traveled with some teachers from the other private school in Monteverde, one of whom went to my high school (weird...there are actually three of us in town currently). And we appreciated that it wasn't sunny because we didn't get sunburned so fast. Annie and I finally got the hang of boogie boarding, which was awesome. The waves were just right. We'd catch a good wave and ride all the way into the shore where Toast would come and meet us. It was nice to get to bring her along, though she may have appreciated staying home.

I wanted to post some photos of the organic farm tour we went on with Rhi while she was here. To the right is the farmer, Hernán Brenes, head of the Brenes clan around here. There are many. He's been here since he was 15 and is now something like 75, still farming. He grows veggies and runs a dairy and has chickens. He's the only organic grower in the area. He showed us how he makes his own pesticide by stewing a combo of 7 local plants. He walked us through his fields, which look pretty similar to a field in western MA, minus the amazing trees around the edges and bushes lining the paths. He gave us all a strawberry (wow...yum) and a carrot pulled right from the ground. Super yummy, a little spicy. I can't wait to dig into my garden even though I won't get to grow everything I like. Starting too late. After the fields, Señor Brenes took us through the woods to his Tarzan swing and we all got to jump. Really fun, though not quite as extreme as the Tarzan swing at the Selvatura canopy park...super fun! Yishai, our personal photographer now that our camera finally died, took some awesome photos of us on the swing. Look how he kept Annie in focus while blurring the trees. Photography is not something I wish I did. Not that interesting to me. But I can appreciate a good photo when I see it. Thanks Yishai. Señor Brenes then took us to a lookout where we could see some volcanos and back toward the town where we live. The geology here is such that there are all these ridges everywhere and you can't really see what's on or in them. But it sure is beautiful. Annie could describe it better, I'm sure. At the end, he recited a poem about the people of Cañitas, where he lives, and how the men are strong and willing and I don't remember what else. Very noble. Costa Rica is an interesting study in literacy because something like 99% of the population is literate, but they don't read. It's still an oral culture. People prefer to learn from people instead of books. I'm sure this poem was passed down to him from another person and he memorized it.

In other news, we found ourselves a new tenant for the rental part of our duplex in Montague. Phew. I anticipated it being very difficult to do from here and perhaps having to pay someone to do it for us. But it worked out beautifully and I think our new neighbors will be a great addition to the neighborhood. Even if one of them is allergic to dogs. Poor Toasty. She will be so confused.

Just so everyone is clear, we fly to Newark, NJ (nonstop flight!) on June 16th and will probably be back in Montague that night. Can't wait to see people!








Visitantes!

Summarizing the last few crazy weeks...

Emmy Bean came to visit!!!!!! We spent much of our time together singing and playing and practicing for the gig people here are still talking about. Wish we could do another. We are rockstars here. Actually, this is the first time since working at camp all those years ago when my rockstar self has come to visit. It's about the audience. Monteverde is the best audience I've ever played for. They don't care that we're still learning how to play our instruments and are experimenting with songs we haven't fully arranged yet. It lets me try things and feel confident playing. The concert was fun and I hope we'll do some back in Montague. I promise to keep practicing and learning more about music theory so I can arrange songs how I want them to sound.

Emmy and I went down to San José a day before she had to leave so we could go shopping. I was a little nervous about getting it all done. Then the taxi showed up later than expected and I didn't think we could do it. But our driver turned out to be the amazing Sergio, who took us to the mall in Escazú and dragged us around to the stores we needed. I desperately needed new shoes. My old ones had holes in them and no traction and my feet hurt just thinking about walking down the rocky road in them. My new ones are shiny red and make me bounce. And I can't feel the sharp rocks through the soles. We also bought some gifts for some of you loyal readers, which I cannot divulge at this time because you haven't received them yet. But having Sergio along meant we got the Tico discount. You really can bargain a little bit here, even in the mall full of U.S. stores. Weird to see Abercrombie here. We had a great time. And when one of the shoe store clerks started flirting with Emmy (who was blessedly unaware of what was happening) by asking about her tattoo, Sergio went off about how she got it on their honeymoon. Then he and I both started calling her wifey, a new vocab word for him that he loves. He speaks really good English but we got to teach him a few key slang phrases. Bimbo is my favorite. It's the name of the really big bread company here than sponsors fútbol teams and such. It's printed on shirts and in stadiums. He told us a great story about when he was just starting to learn English and was giving a presentation to an auditorium full of Canadian high school students. He spoke about how great the beaches of Costa Rica are and how everyone like to visit them because they are hot and you can relax and lie down on them. Except he was pronouncing it like bitches. Everyone was laughing but he didn't know why until after. I love stories like that. It turns out Sergio is also quite knowledgable about pirate history in Costa Rica.

The night I came back from San José with Rhiannon, I had to call a contradance. I thought nobody would show because at 7:30 there was still no one there. However, people eventually came and we had a fun short dance. I enjoy calling, but I miss dancing. Can't wait to get back to contradance central, but I hope the mean Greenfield dancers have gotten nicer since I left.

The next night Annie and I were invited to an A-list party in Monteverde and felt like part of the in-crowd. We have always enjoyed hanging out with people a few years older than us. We were definitely the youngest adults there, and we're not all that young anymore, both in our 3os. I've been getting asked by friends and strangers alike lately when we're going to have kids. Don't worry, it's in the plan, but we need some money and a baby daddy first. We're hoping for the next few years. We already have a name picked out, lucky kid. According to my half brother it's not bad growing up with old-fashioned and weird names. Just hard to go by the middle name all the time. We'll keep that in mind, Shockey. Thanks for the advice.

So, just like when we left Montague to come here, things are going much better than they had been. Rainy season was hard. We were really homesick. We had a few friends here, but nothing like our community in Montag. We didn't like our work and missed our house. But now things have improved a lot for me and I'm feeling sad about not having another year here. I love teaching music lessons, even on instruments I'm not really qualified to teach. My students are making rapid progress though, so I'm not freaking out anymore. My advanced English class is awesome and I always leave in a good mood. I've started teaching computer skills to a group of middle-aged housewives who have never touched a computer and gotten a ton of requests from people for private lessons. It seems I have some needed skills here. If we should ever return to this beautiful town, Annie will work for the zip line people as a guide and I will teach music and computers to Ticos and gringos. I will also offer dog training classes. I hate being around poorly behaved dogs and I don't like the Tico attitude towards dogs. They are either guard dogs only and stay chained up at the house all day or are allowed to wander and behave in a way controlled only by their instincts. Very few people spay/neuter their animals so there are always animals needing homes. People take the puppies but don't like the behavior and so give them away or chain them up. I want to teach people how to train their dogs so that they are loving and lovable parts of the family. I can deal with them not being allowed inside the house because it never gets too cold for a dog here. As long as they have shelter and enough food (Ticos think skinny is healthy) and love from humans I'll be happy. Toast is doing her part as an international ambassador to improve the well-being of dog populations here. She convinces Ticos in a heartbeat of how great and happy a well-trained dog can be. It helps that she is naturally soft and clean and smells good. Mmm. I love her smell.

This week I spent a million hours trying to organize showings of our soon to vacant rental unit. Muchisimas gracias a Tamara who is saving the day yet again. There are some good-looking prospects, but I'm nervous about not getting to meet them before having to choose. I want friendly helpful neighbors. I wouldn't mind if they were bilingual Spanish too. Annie and I want to keep up our Spanish for when we go traveling again. You know, with all our money.

Things that happened recently that I wish I had documented.

On the way home from our gig and then again a couple of nights later there was a HUGE sloth using the power lines to facilitate its quick traveling. There's been a baby sloth living with Benito and it's been cool to see it on occasion, but huge giganto sloths climbing along power lines are very different than baby sloths in bags (don't worry, not suffocating) because they have diarrhea. In addition, though it makes just as much sense as birds and squirrels using power lines, I never thought to see a sloth on a power line.

The other day at lunch I looked up (on the day when the sun was directly overhead at noon, so it would have been Monday) and saw a swallow-tailed kite. It was the first time that I recall seeing the sun directly over my head (though it should have happened in August too, but I probably wasn't paying attention). That was cool enough. But then there was a new bird of prey to add to my list of birds. I like new birds. Your job, people with faster internet connections than mine, is to do your own darned google search if you want to see it because not only did I not have my relatively crappy camera, but I also didn't have my glasses on so it was literally just a silhouette with a cool forked tail.

Also, I recently saw a meter long brown snake while I was out with Toast. She missed it and had barreled on ahead, but I apparently scared it enough that it needed to run for cover. I've heard rumors that there's a quetzal building a nest in a visible place up at the reserve and I am going to try and get up there sometime soon to see it.

Other recently spotted critters that aren't new, but are recently on the upswing, are various different sized ticks. I found one that was about the size of a period (.)while I was combing Toast; I think one tried to bite my leg that was about four periods large (if you put them in a little circle), but I found it and there was an almost normal dog-tick sized one that decided to hitch a ride on my shorts that same day. I say boooooo to ticks and that they should go back to wherever it was that they've been for the previous 9 months when they would only occasionally show up on Toast and not on me.

I promise I'll bring the camera to our tour of the only local organic farm run by the father of the old school secretary (meaning there's a new one now, not that she's old). We buy most of our produce from him so it'll be good to see his layout and know more about where our food comes from, plus he's a nice guy. That's all for now.

The week after vacation.

Apparently, I didn't want vacation to end. Emmy being here was (she and jordan are in San José right now and her flight's tomorrow early) frankly pretty amazing. We played music for more than half of the hours that we were awake together, I think. Additionally, we played a gig with 20 songs, more than half of which we had never played together before she got here. Basically it was four days of rehearsal and then a huge set list and a lot of fun laughing at each other. I've really want to include a photo took of our superexcited audience, but it'll have to wait because the connection is awful tonight. Many of my students (and some of their parents) are now more aware of the things I've gotten in trouble for in the past thanks to jordan. It's relatively innocuous, I guess, but when I don't think I ever told my mom about the time I got to go and visit the Dean's office with my friends... Maybe I did. Really, all we did was break into the pool and go swimming. We had lifeguards. And a lack of swimming suits. I can't remember now which thing the dean thought was worse, the entering (one of the lifeguards had taped the latch on the back door to the pool) or the swimming because the cross-country team had just streaked a bunch of alums, or parents, or board members or something. We got more of a lecture about inappropriate nudity than we did about breaking and entering. Odd, considering that all of our nudity was consensual whereas those silly runners were subjecting unwilling participants in their antics. (Don't get me wrong, I just wish there were more acceptable ways to be in the world, including with less clothing on occasionally.)
The concert at Rio Shanti was pretty freaking amazing. Using just word of mouth we got a sizable collection of people who were willing to sit on the floor with blankets and pillows and yoga mats that smell sweaty. There was singing along, people learning new songs, and now a good selection of the ex-pat community in Monteverde know "I wanna be sedated" by the Ramones. Emmy does a really excellent impression of Joey Ramone. I thought I was going to blow out my voice, but it turns out I just used up the few reserves I had accumulated during vacation. A bunch of jordan's students came, both music and english, which means we actually had some Ticos in the audience. During science today I will freely admit that most of us had a five minute nap. Anyway, my new personal motto might be something about how perfection is unattainable. Given how much time we had together, we cobbled together a credible performance that was appreciated by many. We even got to give out tamborines and maracas for the Stevie Wonder song at the end. Next will be finally getting around to writing our own material and doing gigs in the states, I suppose. We shall see.
While we were out today Toast and I came upon some Capuchins. They like to bark at Toast and she only barked at them once. I think, perhaps, that my dog is scared of monkeys. I came around one corner of the trail to see her staring up at one of them and it was standing partly on a branch and partly on a stubby piece of branch that it was wiggling back and forth in an apparent effort to fashion a spear to throw at my dog. I guess I'm glad it stopped when it saw me because I don't want my dog to be assaulted by monkeys, but it might have been awesome to witness the monkeys throwing projectiles they had made themselves.
Anyway, I thought I would go to sleep hours ago, but instead I watched a movie and Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along-Blog and now am finally approaching extreme tired. If you're still reading, thanks... We'll be home sometime around June 16th or 17th. Devon was wondering about a gemini party, but I think we might be busy trying to find furniture and moving back in since we sold or gave away almost all of ours including the bed and the couch. Any help on that front is, of course, appreciated.

Just a few things...


Again it's been a while since we've written. I've been having lots of thoughts about how I should be writing down stories about what I'm doing with my classes (making fireballs above campfires) and the animals I'm seeing (Toast chased a pisote the other day when we were out for our run) and the excitement I have about Emmy Bean visiting on Friday (uncontainable at this moment) and the gorgeousness that is the dry season finally upon us. Instead I've been teaching, going for runs, thinking about our upcoming gig at the yoga studio and trying to fend off yet another ear infection. I didn't even go swimming this time. That means it doesn't matter if I go swimming and I can just do whatever I want, right? I hope so. Anyway, the moral of the story is that I am on vacation this week and I hope to get a chance to catch up on all of my grading and some of my blog post writing. Right now, though, I need to go buy milk and then go home and grade some math tests. And some science assignments. And a quiz or two. I hate grading. Oh, and I need to write up my reports that I've been putting off all year. It's a good thing I have the whole week and not a beach in sight... Here's a picture of me diligently working in the backyardof the institute. The little building is where they do classes about greenbuilding. It's got a nice loft situation happening, and some skylights. I like skylights more and more.

You Lost Her, I Found Her, Now Give Me A Footrub


Last night Toast got "lost" for the first time. In Montague, she has gone adventuring alone, but this time she didn't know how to find us. It's cute and a little stressful for her when Annie and I go different directions. She doesn't know who to follow and generally runs back and forth between us until one of us makes sure she follows. Yesterday she decided to follow Annie, who went into a store to look at and pet a rescued tree sloth. When Annie came out Toast was nowhere to be found. In the past, she has always stuck around. She's learned that she isn't allowed to come in with us, except at the little grocery because the owner is a sucker for dogs. He has a tiny chihuahua named Bruiser that is his baby. I was already home by the time Annie called me to tell me that she couldn't find Toast. So after Annie went out and called her again I retraced my route and found her patiently (and a little anxiously) waiting for someone to collect her at the yoga studio where Annie and I had parted. I was annoyed at Annie for losing her and making me find her, since I figured she was closer to Annie's location, and a little annoyed at Toast for not being smart enough to go home. But I guess she's only two and parents always tell their children to stay put and wait for help instead of running off, so I guess she did the right thing. And as soon as I found her I wasn't mad anymore. But I had to tell myself that Annie would never leave our future human baby and lose her.

Our life here has become so normal that we forget to blog about it. It just doesn't seem like an exciting foreign adventure anymore. We went to the beach about a month ago for a long weekend. That was fun. I sat in the hammock and read three books. I went swimming twice and successfully body surfed for the first time. We saw these really cool teeny tiny snail type creatures buried in the wet sand. When the wave washed over them they would open up their "arms" and collect food I guess. Then when the wave left they curled back up again. We played a few rounds of underwater leg charades - one of the genius ideas of a crazy friend. Basically, you flip upside down in the water and make some sort of shape or motion with your legs, sustained for the few seconds you can do a handstand, and then the other people guess. It's surprisingly fun and humorous. The first photo is the view from my hammock. The second is an iguana in the tree off the veranda. It was nice to be in the heat and sun, since most of the dry season this year has been cold and rainy in Monteverde, requiring beach vacations. It finally warmed up about a week ago and now it's gorgeous, though still chilly at night. The sun can be really intense, even if it is only 70 degrees.

We're starting to plan our end of the school year travels to the Osa Peninsula and our return to dear old Montague, but still trying to be present here. A college friend happened to be vacationing in Costa Rica a few weeks ago and had dinner at my house. That was fun. Emmy Bean is coming to visit in a few weeks and we're going to sing and play and sing and play and then sing and play for other people in a little concert. Teaching violin lessons makes me practice so I have actually improved quite a bit this year. I've been thinking about the house and the garden (even though most of it is still buried in snow I'm sure) and lamenting that we won't get to do many vegetables this year since we return June 16 or 17. But that means I can do some landscaping and flower gardening that I never did in the two years I lived in the house. We won't have any money, so we still can't get those horrible stumps from the horrible cypress trees removed. But I did my federal tax returns today and get a nice big refund, which will pay our half of the mortgage for June. We still have no jobs to return to, so keep your ears open for library work for me and temporary work for Annie, preferably not in an office. She's going to take an EMT certification course in the fall and then hopefully work for an ambulance service, while getting herself in really good shape so she can take the firefighter exam next year.

I made pierogies from scratch a few nights ago. Mmmmmm. And not that hard. Just a little time consuming. But worth it. The complete lack of frozen food in the Monteverde zone has made us cook more, which is good for me. Because usually once we get started, it's fun. We cook together well. It's only not fun when we have to cook alone. And if I'm cooking for just me, I eat scrambled eggs. Easy. Comfortable. Yummy.

Escapism


This is an amazing escapist cow that sometimes ends up in our yard. Usually he lives in a barbed wire enclosure with a little shelter, some nice grass, wild flowers, and a stream. Don't know why he wants to leave, but he often does. He also does this really cute frolic dance. He and Toast have staring contests and they are both afraid of each other, though still curious. See that stick tied to his collar? That is to make it harder to get through a fence. I don't know how he does it.

Decisions are made...The email update, blogified.

Here is the update on our lives in Monteverde.

What many of you have been waiting for is the answer to a nagging question. Are they going to really go away for two whole years and leave us in the lurch? Well, the original answer was yes. And in many ways I wish that I could stick with that answer. This teaching gig has been the one I have liked the most. This community is just as great as the one we have back in Montague (heck their names even both start with Mont so I miss-write them constantly). We have played more gigs and gotten more involved with the contra dance scene here than we ever would or will in the states (because without organizing it, there wouldn't be a dance, even if we only have three this year...). I see monkeys, tucanets, mot mots, and various and sundry other wild things on my walks home. There are almost daily rainbows...(sometimes multiples, and often more than one a day in the season we just finished). Anyway, you get the picture. If someone were advertising an amazing place to go and live while the US economy is in an uproar, this location couldn't really be beat, well, aside from the 12 or 17% cost of living increase this year.

That said, we both have been struggling mightily with homesickness. Even though the community is great, it's not ours. Even though the school is great, and there is a library, I have to say confidentially that the library pretty much sucks when you want to read young adult fiction that was published within the last ten years, and that's certainly not the fault of the volunteer librarians who have no budget. It can be tedious to download anything at an average rate of 2-4 kbps. That's the rate my first dial-up connection was in high school. And, perhaps most importantly, we have come to a place of balance with where we want to be.

jordan wants to go back to her work as a librarian (though of course this is one of the hardest times to get work when libraries are often the first cut). If you have any sway in the budget process at schools, now is the time to exert your power. I am ready to be brave and try something I am not certain that I'll be good at, or even like. I am ready to not take my work home every night and that obviously means a career change. While the two possibilities remaining from my list of five possibles upon graduating from college are massage therapist or rock star, I'm not feeling quite that brave. Much thought has been going into the possibilities, and a whole lot of research on the ridiculously slow internets, and I think I might have been right when I was 3. I think, just maybe, I want to be a firefighter when I grow up. So, upon our triumphant return to the greater northeast, I plan on enrolling in the GCC (or other?) EMT course and get started with dual paramedic/firefighter career training. Of course if you have any knowledge about said career path, and no I don't think I want to do wildfires primarily, I'd love to hear it. Finally, we're experiencing a lot of baby-lust and hope that once we get settled and employed and all of that, we can finally figure out how to get that baby thing happening. I'm not holding my breath, so you shouldn't either, but just be aware we wish we were among those Montaguites who were having babies all over the place this fall...

We can't wait to be back, but if you even have the possibility of visiting, we still have room in March, most of April and all of May. Plus, if you get out of school in early June and want to go exploring in Costa Rica with us, you should let us know. Though it won't be a free place to stay, and we won't be up in Monteverde after school gets out on the 9th, we will happily include you in our plans for the Osa Peninsula and maybe some other locations equally amazing.

Your love and support has been amazing. In some ways, it has caused this perhaps unsurprising turn of events with all of the "Come home now! We miss you!" emails. As always, we skype under the pseudonyms funklera and jorjorjorjor. We are facebooking quite a bit lately if you're on that silly thing, though thanks to the aforementioned slow connection, we're not actually addicted. And gchat works when we remember to log in...

As always, we look forward to hearing from you even if it's a "wish I could visit" sort of email. If you include information about your own life, you know, that makes us feel even more connected. We miss you terribly.

Jordan Enjoys Teaching Again

Is it any surprise that the weather affects my mood? Not really. I'm seriously appreciating the dry season, even when it gets really windy and misty, because I'm not wet. I hate being wet. And there is so much more sun. And when it's warm and sunny I can leave the door open and then Toast doesn't whine at me to sit outside with her. Usually because I do sit outside with her. She wants to be where I am, but wants that place to be outside, so she can be a little whiny. I think she's missing having a constant canine companion. Also, she got spoiled when Annie was wogging (walk/jogging) with her a few times a week and now she wants constant attention. I have been walking her on trails in the woods (or should I say jungle) near the house and we both like that. But Annie has been too busy or sick lately to give her the exercise she wants, but I don't have the same kind of endurance.

I'm only teaching one English class this term and I love it. It's basically an advanced class of five students who are all really interesting and funny and willing to try most anything. So we have a lot of fun together. This week they are reading in pairs either Green Eggs and Ham or The Cat in the Hat to practice the short vowel sounds, especially the short a, which is so hard for Spanish speakers. We'll do some cooking together next week. Maybe macaroni and cheese, the fancy kind, like Ken makes. :)

I'm also teaching a few guitar and violin students, which is going well. I'm kind of tired of the guitar as an instrument. I don't love how it sounds (especially since my baby, my jumbo Martin Mahogany is still in Massachusetts, and I'm playing Annie's Seagull) and my calluses are gone and folk music is boring. But teaching is making it fun again. I like the fiddle better, but it hurts my neck and I could probably use a lesson or two of my own. Instead I'm teaching a 6 year old, trying to do some semblance of Suzuki, and an adult who likes to play what I like to play. I just hope I'm not screwing them up forever. I look forward to getting back to the cello when I return to the states, though I probably won't be able to afford one for a while. Anyone know of an extra lying around that wants to be borrowed?

We're going to Playa Hermosa this weekend because Annie gets presidents' day off for some weird reason. I don't mind. It's time for another surf trip and hanging out reading on the beach. Maybe we'll finally get some photos of us surfing. It's nice to have a reliable, cheap dog sitter just around the bend because now we feel like we can go away whenever we want.

horsies

Here is one reason why I like teaching at MFS:
Any day you can look out onto the playground and field and see horsies randomly grazing.
So there.

Etc.

Well hello there...
Lately we've been a little busy. For example, today I sat down with the computer and did a little google verb meme that I saw on a vlog from Hank Green. This is what I got when I googled my name and a bunch of different verbs...
annie needs to release a live album
annie looks like a bit of gossip
annie says you can’t run a linear system on a finite planet indefinitely
annie wants someone to love on '90210'
annie does live here
annie hates shots!
annie asks media to stop publishing untrue reports
annie likes bananas! stinky dog treats; having her belly rubbed; running...and boy is she fast!
annie eats grass
annie wears her holiday best
annie under arrest for poisoning her sister
annie loves God and R~no (R~no is a person that this other annie is apparently in love with so much that her last name on myspace is "loves God and R~no)

Additionally, today we hosted our second open studio book making reality (party). It was good to have a completely new group of people over, but this means that the others who were partway done are now at the same step as the people who started today and we don't have that many curved needles... We'll just keep having book making parties on Sundays and hopefully one of these times I'll get to make one myself. Today's party had some kids, some almost adults and some real adults with kids and stuff. It was good to be helpful, even if Toast didn't really like being ignored. I'm looking forward to the day when one of my students (who did come today) actually gets the book down in writing that he wants to put into the book he was making. We only damaged the table a little bit with the rotary cutter...We miss the self-healing cutting mat more than I can say. And, you know, once we've gotten the ability to pay the morgtage worked out again and have acquired a couch and a bed, I'm really looking forward to purchasing a paper cutter.

On Friday night there was a cabaret. This guy Hank puts them together, making posters, getting the space, organizing the acts. He's a genius with slide shows. Anyway, we were later on in the show which was of course a good place to be. I can't say that I ever really like going first, and things got moved around and that was good because the guy who was supposed to go before us, and actually has a weekly gig at Moon Shiva, wanted to go first so he could get home to his baby. I'd never heard him before and we asked someone if he was going to be a lot better than us because we were nervous, having virtually no time to practice. Anyway, the good news is that he got the crowd warmed up and it just kept going from there. Our friend Tim doesn't normally play his own stuff but he did and it was just lovely. jordan said he reminded her of Dave Mallett. I just can't get enough of listening to him sing. So mellow and beautiful. There were a bunch of movies between the musicians: an older movie from my school that was an ironic take on bullying and a video put together by some younger kids (maybe around 10-12) that was a long string of mini-vignettes. I LOVED IT! It opened with a sketch about a box alien - her face was altered by her computer - who was asking for donations because her eye had been destroyed and there was a war happening on Mars. It just didn't stop. Their comic timing was genius and I especially liked the ones that reminded me of movies my friend Christine and I made with her little brother Billy when we were kids. One of my students performed too and she did a fine job, though I know that she and her accompanist didn't have enough time together, just like jordan and myself. Tricia did the Jabberwocky and that totally made my day. That brings us, of course, to our playing. We played Good Riddance by Green Day, Through to Sunrise by Girlyman and Quest for Spinach. It was a crowd pleasing sort of set. There were so many people singing along to the first and last songs, and I have to say, since Tim et. al. had been playing up the comedy, there was a bit of hamming it up between songs and as we were tuning. I ended up telling the story of why my name isn't Funkler and jordan made fun of me a bunch. All in all, a good night. There were a bunch of Mt. Holyoke students there (and some from Goucher in the same program at the Institute) so they were excited that we said the word Massachusetts and are more excited than I am that I'm legally married.
Anyway, there is a large tired factor happening at our house tonight. No one wants to cook and the pizza guys in Turners don't deliver down here... Oh well.

A slightly embarrassing photo


Here is a photo of us talking to Tamara via skype. You, too, could have this amazing opportunity to see us make funny faces and wear scarves on our heads. It was good to talk to Tamara. Hi Tamara!

It's raining today, which is common in the rainy season, but now it's the dry season so it hasn't really rained for weeks. It reminds me that I like the dry season.

Annie went on a ridiculously long hike yesterday. And now I will write about it. We met up at this end of town and then walked through Santa Elena, Cañitas, and then past a bar that is quite literally the only building on the road in the midst of farm fields. The views across back to Monteverde were awesome and at every stop the folks I was with (and Toast too) pulled out the binocs to see what we could see. The middle of the hike was a hill that may or may not be called Pinnochio Hill in spanish because it sticks up steeply into the sky. We watched cows being herded from a distance that made them look like micecows. Toast thought she could herd them using only occasional barks and a stare, but they didn't listen very well to her. We could hear the caballeros even though they were far away, and that in and of itself was pretty fun. Toast clearly wanted to go and help with the whole situation, even though she's still rather afraid of cows and horses. On the way back we went past a hill where the kids had bags filled with something squishy (I assume grass of the long variety) and they were using them to slide down a hill. They were clearly having an awesome time and some of the high schoolers I was with reminisced a bit about how they had done that a bunch when they were younger. It was fun to go for a hike with students I don't teach because then even though I answered some geology questions for them about geology I don't really understand well enough, I got to be friendly and funny and all of my normal things too. I'm going to figure out if there's a way to get my 5/6 class out to the cliff with the nifty columnar joints, but from our viewpoint, I think it might be a scrabbling adventure. Anyway, I didn't get too sunburnt and I had a good time and Toast was tired for at least 4 hours afterwards. We were out for about 7 hours so I was hopeful for a tired dog today too, but oh well.

The guy skyping next to us is talking about how his hotel was burgled and they managed to get into the safe. He lost $10,000 and is talking very calmly about it. I can't even imagine. The only time I held that kind of money was when my father wrote me a check to help with the down payment on a house, and I kind of freaked then. That is such a huge amount of money to me to posess all at one time. But I guess we all have different lifestyles.

My Instructions

So Annie instructed me to write about a few things and I figure it's been too long since I contributed, so here goes.

Getting home from Nicaragua really was an adventure and I'm super glad I speak Spanish because it would have been much harder (or more expensive) otherwise. We left Wendy in Liberia to fly home and figured we'd just catch one bus to the next bus, but Monteverde is pretty difficult to get to by bus. Only four buses go up the mountain each day, two in the early morning (which we missed by about a half hour) and two in the mid afternoon (which would have meant waiting 5-6 hours in the hot sun). I have this instinct to trust bus drivers, but maybe I should stop doing that. When Wendy was trying to get here she told them via my written out phrases that she wanted to go to Sardinal and could the driver please tell her when to get off. Well, he told her she was on the wrong bus (which she wasn't, but she had to trust him) and put her on a bus to a different Sardinal. It doesn't help that there are 4-6 instances of each place name in this country. Anyway, it was an ordeal with her not speaking Spanish and not knowing how to get here. So during our trip home, the bus driver said to take the bus and he would let us off at the turnoff to Monteverde where we could catch that bus. And oh no, we wouldn't miss it. Except we did. So, for the first time in our lives we hitchiked. And it was successful. There was a fair amount of walking first, carrying all our stuff and walking on the highway. And also, I see to have really bad transportation karma. I miss buses, they drive right by me, my schedule is wrong, cars break down, etc. This time I caused a freakin' accident! Well, not really caused, but somehow my bad transportation karma caused the accident in front of my very eyes, just as we were about to start hitching. A bus rear-ended a pickup truck and they dallied in the middle of the road right by a bridge for a long while, meaning that any potential ride givers were held up for a while! So we walked for maybe an hour and were very very hot. Many people honked hello at us but didn't stop. We came upon some howler monkeys in trees above the road and stopped to record some video and then a car stopped for us. He turned out to be really nice. Probably around our age, driving a hand-control car. He said he'd never picked anyone up before because it would be difficult to get away if anyone tried to hurt him, being unable to walk and all. I learned that cars adapted to be hand-controlled can also be driven in the common way with foot pedals. And he told us a bit about his life and we about ours. We only went about 15km down the road and it was fun. It is definitely easier to hitch a ride when wearing a lot of luggage. So he dropped us at the gas station where all the taxis turn to go to Monteverde and hired a pirata (unofficial taxi) for $50 and got home in no time. It was a little more expensive than we had hoped (the two bus system would have cost only $15 total) but we arrived home to find that Toast had such a good time with our house-sitter that she wanted to go home with him.

In more recent news, last week I attended a week-long workshop for language teachers that was basically pointless. Except that I usually find I get something unexpected out of these things. The content of the workshop was nothing I will ever use, but the course was entirely in Spanish I had been feeling like my Spanish had stopped improving because I speak English most of the time, even at work, but this course proved to me that I am more competent and can understand a lot more than I used to. My transportation and food Spanish are really good because I get the most practice with them, but explaining in Spanish my inspiration for becoming a teacher was a bit harder. Still, I managed pretty well and made some Tica friends who teach Spanish locally. They’re really sweet women who speak little or no English and they seem to like me, so now I have new friends. Also, I got to do something I really miss, which is teaching people how to use their computers. Our instructor has a brand new MacBook that she had no clue how to use, so I walked her through a bunch of things. I really really miss my work in the states, books and technology. I have found small ways to teach those things here, but not enough to make me happy. As much as I complained about my job last year, I really miss it. I miss the kids and my colleagues and being around books and having a budget to use according to my judgment. And I miss reading good teen literature. On my trip to the states in November I was given some money by the school to purchase teen lit for classroom libraries but I bought mostly books that I had already read and could vouch for. Now I only have two or three left that I haven’t read and then I’ll be back to complaining about the lack of books around here.


So, of the recent reads, I loved The Hunger Games, Impossible, Paper Towns, and The Graveyard Book, and I got to read the latest Artemis Fowl. And if any of you readers have books to send me let me know and I'll tell you where to send them in the states so a visitor can bring them to me. It's cheaper that way. If you want to see everything I've been reading then check out my Goodreads page .

Other good news: we hired someone to help us with the house cleaning and it's making a big difference in my house happiness. I was not prepared for the amount of mud during the rainy season and dust during the dry season (which it is now) and you really have to stay on top of the cleaning. Which I'm horrible at and hate. So now we have help and I can stop feeling like a bad person for not cleaning my house. I'm great at tidying up at least, and then I know where things are when Annie can't find them, such as her glasses, her planner, her chapstick, etc.

I start teaching guitar and fiddle lessons soon, so I better go do some planning.

recent adventures.

So, jor said maybe we should write an entry tonight. It's been a while and we've been on a few adventures since either of us last wrote. Wendy was here for three weeks. We went on a grand adventure to Nicaragua. The island of Ometepe was sadly only okay. The water level of Lake Cocibolca (aka Lake Nicaragua) was way up from the rainy season so there was no beach to hang out on. Some of the highlights included going to Ojo del Auga which is a not-hot water spring and you only have to pay $2 to go and play in the water for as long as you want. It was interesting to be there during a time that many Nicas had off as well because it was the weekend so there was a mix of people visiting the springs. I was sad that there wasn't a rope swing anymore, but we saw a bunch of parrots!

Then it was off to Grenada which I think might be jordan's new favorite city. We spent a few days there wandering around, finding food to eat and generally enjoying the ambiance. I've included a picture of one of the many churches around the city. One night jor and I went for a walk and ended up lost in the market (it was HUGE and confusing with so many people) and then in the end of town that isn't on the tourist map across the very dirty river when the sun was just setting. It didn't feel too unsafe, but we were probably the only gringos within a mile radius. It wasn't the side of town where the books say you should always take a cab because of the nervous knife wielding muggers, but we were a bit lost. Then we found the church near our hostel and just sat on the corner for a long time and watched the world go by. Even on New Year's eve at 7pm you can get a haircut in Grenada. During our whole trip, sitting on the corner was the only time that we were bothered by someone past the initial asking for money, and he persisted in bothering everyone else near us as well.

We made a sidetrip to Masaya to visit the tourist/artisans market and the hammock making neighborhood. That market was not nearly as confusing as the one we later went to in Grenada because it was open to the sky and during the day. We found lots of presents for various people who send us letters and emails and read our blog. And wandering down to the neighborhood where the buildings/houses are where they make hammocks was cool too. We got to see them working on them and buy directly from the artists which of course made us happy. jor was set on getting one of the chair kinds and we found a hammock for our friend Nicole too. Mainly it was just nice to be wandering away from all of the other tourists wearing stickers that said things like 303A. Why would you need a separate sticker for the different 303s? Seems like you could just add on a 304... I'm not in charge of sticker making for silly tours, though. I can't remember if it was my mom or jordan who said if they ever found themselves on a tour like that they'd refuse to wear the sticker. I'm still confused why any of us would find ourselves on a tour like that... Anyway, then we wanted to go and see the lake that is right next to Masaya and maybe stick our feet in it. Hah! It is right next to Masaya, that at least is true. You can see where the land stops and the lake begins. And the closest road on the city side is at least 1000' higher than the water level and I'm not sure if there are any trails anyway down the heavily forested steep bank. Looking back at the Masaya section of our guidebook, I guess I should have been reading more closely. "Allow extra time in Masaya city to walk to the cliff-top lookout point near the baseball stadium, where you'll also find the hammock factories." Right. It was a lovely lookout point. And the baseball stadium is named after Roberto Clemente because he died in a plane on his way to participate in the relief for Nicaragua after an earthquake before I was born. My mom asked me if I remembered when that happened, despite her being around for both my birth and Clemente's unfortunate passing.

Grenada was fun for other reasons too. We went to this tasty joint called the Garden Cafe and were going to purchase their scavenger hunt map done up pirate style, but they had run out and then the next day we didn't get there early enough due to our Masaya trip. We also didn't get to eat any waffles at the waffle house and due to an email from Tamara and the missed waffles at her house, I have been craving them consistently for two weeks now.

Getting out of Grenada was trickier than we thought it would be. We wanted to take a public bus, but it being Sunday and January 1st, we missed the only one of the day by not showing up until 9am. Fortunately for us, we did run into some other tourists who were in a similar bind, so we chartered a truck (or got some guy with a beatup pickup to drive us) down to Rivas where we caught the next bus to San Juan del Sur and they all went to Ometepe. I have been appreciating riding in the backs of trucks very much since I've been down here, and it was fun to have over an hour to talk with people from all over the world. There were two girls from Berkley, a guy from Switzerland with a very nice camera, a guy from the Netherlands, a guy from Australia and a girl from the UK. I think I saw the guy from the Netherlands on the beach at the end of our time in San Juan del Sur, but I wasn't sure. We made the bus to San Juan and then, despite it being the 1st of January, we were able to secure accomodations despite the multitudes of Nicas and other tourists at the beach for vacation. One of the things I liked best about being here was the fact that the majority of the tourists seemed like they were from Nicaragua or Costa Rica (and probably not many of them due to the prejudices in CR against Nicaragua and Nicaraguans). On the bus ride down my mom pulled out her famous "where's the silk handkerchief" trick to much acclaim from the young folks. She also performed for the family that ran the place where we stayed our whole time in San Juan. Many times. They just kept asking her to do the trick. I love that it is so easy to communicate without words sometimes. The kids (grandkids of the woman who ran the place) were supercute about it and honestly I spent a lot of time wishing that my Spanish had improved much more than it has because even though my comprehension is through the roof compared to where it was in August, I'm still always nervous about communicating verbally. I've been doing some studying since we've gotten home to combat the nervousity. While we were in San Juan del Sur we had a surfing lesson, tried to go snorkling despite the waves and churned up water, went on a day long sailyboat ride, practiced surfing and boogyboarding and hung out at the beaches as much as possible. mmm. I like sun. My mom has a whole new classification system for different varieties of waves including: slappers, whackers, rollers, hoppers, jumpers and others. Plus, jor and I can now both consistently stand up on a board. We're not quite good at paddling ourselves to catch a wave or picking the right ones to catch, but I figure that's one of those things that only comes with time. Plus, I now have an excellent bruise on my left forearm that looks like a shark! Well, it did two days ago. Now it's just a really big blob, so I can't take a picture and post it for you.

Getting home was harder than it should have been, but I'll leave that for jordan to write about maybe later. The moral of the story is that we had a lot of fun on our adventure and I really just wish I had more time and money to wander the countryside.