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, CaƱitas, 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.