Friday, August 31, 2007

Week 2...done.

Another week of school is over and we are looking forward to some relaxation. It was a very busy week and Thursday in particular. Thursday morning started out with an assembly for student council election speeches, followed about an hour later by an assembly involving grades 3-12 in the gym to watch Jane Goodall. While we as teachers were very interested and while the students were initially interested and excited to see Ms. Goodall, the presentation was not geared towards kids as young as them and the kids lost interest pretty quick. While the kids did their best to be quiet we did our best as teachers to deny bathroom breaks and use our practiced teacher "look" to keep the kids quiet, while still trying to listen. It was a little bit stressful but still exciting! If that were not enough fun for one day it was the first rainy day recess so no lunch break...and then it was also Back-to-School Night. It was a first for both of us. We were both pretty nervous to be in front of eager eyed parents paying so much money to have us teach their kids, but it went pretty well all in all. So, after the 13 hour day at school yesterday it was really hard to go today..but now it is over and it is the weekend and we are going to stay here in Escazu this weekend. Tomorrow morning we are planning on going to the mercado (market) in Escazu Centro to get our groceries for the week. We have been once before and the prices really are unbeatable! It has been raining A LOT! The other 4th grade teacher Debbie says it is raining more then normal this wet season, and the preschool principal said that a storm we had on Monday was the worst she has seen in the 7 years she has been here. The rain takes some getting used to but it is the flooding that really takes getting used to. Our house has not flooded (yet) but my (Allie's) classroom has almost flooded a few times except that my wonderful cleaning lady and the maintenance crew swept the water out of the doorway. A lot of our friends and neighbors arrive home in the evening to puddles in their living rooms so in that respect we are feeling fortunate. It has hard to believe we have not even been here a month yet, it really feels like home in a lot of ways. Having the ability to email and use Skype makes a big difference too!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

More Pictures

The beach, Mr. Kirschner's class, and our house

Monday, August 27, 2007

Heavy Hermosa

They call Playa Hermosa the Costa Rican Puerto Escondido (Puerto Escondido is the Mexican Pipeline, btw). This past weekend I experienced how it earned the name. It was dark when we arrived to Terraza del Pacifico, which is on the Northern end of the 10 kilometers of beach break that make up Hermosa. The old swell was dying, and it was relieving to see some manageable looking waves that night. There was a very cool electric blue lightning show that lit up the whole ocean. Hermosa was not raining that night, and it felt much more humido than Escazu.
The next morning I was woken up at about 5:45 by the noisy toddlers a few rooms down. It was nice to get the wakeup call, because it gave me a chance to get a cafe con leche, some pina y sandia, and a little bit of gallo pinto before hitting the water.
There were only three others out on the north end of the beach, and it was tricky to punch throught the pounding sets and make my way out to the lineup. There is a deep channel offshore that hits a shallow shelf and produces waves that jack up very suddenly at low tide (which it was that morning). There was a rivermouth near our hotel that made somewhat of a channel, although every ten minutes or so a big sneaker set would come through and close out the whole rivermouth as well. Still, there were shifting sandbars, and if you were in the right spot you could pick off some gems. An adolescent Tico kids was out with his sponger Dad, and they knew the place well. The kid was launching out of closeout sections, and spinning alley-oops, air 360s, and even attempting rodeo flips. I also saw him get many frontside and backside tubes. His dad charged as well, and they seemed to know right where to take off everytime. A few more people paddled out, and it was a little bit intimidating to be in an all Spanish-speaking lineup, where everyone knew the wave and each other. I felt like I stood out with my pale skin and the American flag that was glassed into the bottom of my 6'3.
After about 20 minutes I paddled hard into a left, got to the bottom, and raced it out before kicking out to paddle back outside. I also took off on some rights that mushed out when they got to the rivermouth, but one of them kept sectioning and reforming, and took me way down the beach. Later I got a wave that allowed me to link up a few turns. My best wave was a right that I backdoored, stalled on my bottom turn, and submerged my hand to stall in the tube even more. I shot out of the tube and stalled again for a head-dip on the inside. They were not deep tubes by any means, but it was rewarding to get shacked at such a challenging wave. The sets were definitely double over head, and I saw the little Tico kid pull into and get spit out of right hand tube that a small car could have fit inside of.
I came back to the hotel and went to the breakfast buffet for jugo de naranja, huevos rancheros, gallopinto, salchicha, plantains, and panqueques. After my food settled, I paddled back out for another go. The wind was howling offshore, and within a few minutes, a set wave popped up right in front of me. I dug as hard as I could to get into it, and dropped overthe ledge. The offshore spray was blowing so hard into my face that I had to close my eyes. I extended my body for a very low bottom turn (even though my eyes were closed, I swear that my stomach was practically scraping the trough of the wave), then I shifted all of my weight to shoot vertically to the top. I made a really clean snap that must have sent a lot of spray, given all of the speed and offshore wind. It was a really sick wave.
After that I scavenged a few lefts that were fun drops, but the surf deteriorated and it became stormy and blown out. It felt good when it rained because if ou got cold, you had the warm ocean to heat you up.
The next day I woke up early again and surfed, but the tide was really low. The surf was much bigger, and there was nowhere to go once you dropped into the waves. I was able to race out one right, but everything else just closed out for me. I surfed one more time for about half an hour before our cab came to take us home. I had to wear a t-shirt since my stomach rash was so raw (I am used to wetsuits and cold water!). I got a couple of waves, but again, it was so heavy and tricky that you had to be very selective. I almost dropped into a right that would have either been the best tube of my life, or a very poor decision. I am glad that I was careful. The hold-downs were pretty long sometimes, and just getting in and out of the water was tricky because of the gnarly shore break. I got quite a workout on this trip, but next time I think I would like to go for some relaxing point break waves. The swell report for Manuel Antonio, which is a little to the south, and much more protected than Playa Hermosa, was 10-12 feet, so who knows how big some of those set waves might have been. Until next time.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Vamos a la playa!

We have had very busy and eventful weeks, but we made it! Allie's fourth grade students are quiet and respectful and kind and generally angelic. Joe's third graders are a little more chatty but very sweet kids. It is fun to watch the kids play soccer at recess every day and a little less fun when they track in heaps of mud afterwards. It has been raining every day as it is rainy season but that doesn't stop the soccer playing. We manage to stay afloat thanks to the other teachers at our grade levels as well as all of the time we get to prep while our kids are at music, spanish, art, computer, pe, and library. The kids go to Spanish for 45 min. every day and go to art, PE, and music two times a week, with computer and library one time each week. On Friday's Allie does not have her kids at all between 9:00am and 1:00 pm. We have found some rules at the school that you might not find in the states such as keeping your shirt tucked in, and not to pick the fruits off of the trees beceause the fruit is for the maintenance staff. Our hard work this week payed off and yesterday after school we hired a taxi to take us to Playa Hermosa. After a death defying, stomach wrenching taxi ride we made it to a beautiful beach oasis called Terraza del Pacifico. You can literally walk out of the door to the beach and even more important to Joe, one of the best surf spots in the country. The hotel is slightly pricier and much better maintained then some of the other surfer oriented cabinas in the area. The weather here is a little more humid then it is in Escazu, but we have generally adjusted to the weather.

The first week or so we were in CR we noticed that no matter what we did we were being eaten by mosquitos but then one of the other 4th grade teachers turned us on to taking vitamin B and it really works! We have not been bit once since we began taking the vitamins every day. Being here so close to the water we are very happy that we repel the nasty little pests.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Sunday in San Rafael de Escazu

Today we walked to a coffee shop for breakfast called Te Con Te. Allie and I both had juevos rancheros and cafe con leche. There were hardly any other people, so we had great service and tasty food. It was nice to use the fast internet connection and watch a little futbol (Chicago vs. Salt Lake), and the coffee with steamed milk hit the spot.
We also walked down to the farmacia to buy vitamin b to help keep the mosquitos away. On the way back we stopped at a video store and opened up an account. DVDs are 1,200 colons, which is like to bucks. You get to keep them for a week, and they are two-for-one on Wednesdays. After that we went into a toy store near our house and picked up travel Scrabble en Espanol, and a 750 piece puzzle of Machu Piccu.
The streets of Escazu were a lot less crowded today. It was nice to be able to cross the streets without having to wait for the crazy drivers to stop. There must have been some kind of marathon going on as well, because we saw a few hundred runners go past us in a big group. Right now we are trying to help our neighbor's cat, Tuanis, feel more comfortable. One of the dogs, Tita really wants to come inside, so there is some dog/cat tension going on. Tomorrow we will probably read up on some back-to-school books to help get ready for the big day on Tuesday.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

some pics

Nothing new

Nothing new really. We have been busy getting our classrooms ready and having meetings at school. The kids all come on Tues. (because Mon. is a national holiday for Mother's Day). :) We are excited to get the school year going! Another seemingly dull but very exciting thing that happened this week was a big trip to the grocery store! We finally were able to fill our cupboards and have been really enjoying being able to eat at home since then!
This morning we got to go the the market in the church plaza in the center of Escazu that they have every Saturday. We had been looking forward to going because we kept hearing about all of the wonderful fruits and vegetables you can buy for very cheap prices. It really met and perhaps exceeded our expectations! We bought lots of delicious fruits and vegetables and bought some coconuts with straws in them for a little refreshing drink when we first arrived at the market after a 15 minute uphill walk. One of the funnier parts of the market was the Peruvian flautists playing American popular music including songs by the Eagles and Paul Simon. It was very enjoyable.
Anyway we are happy and healthy and adjusting nicely. Our great new house helps too, please enjoy the pictures!

Monday, August 13, 2007

Well, today we began moving into home number 2...our classrooms. The kind souls that used to be in our rooms have left us with everything imaginable ranging from the necessary to the ridiculous! Things such as faded construction paper, old used workbooks, and long out of date teachers editions are filling dusty boxes and cabinets scattered among the far more useful art supplies, math manipulatives, and current teacher's editions of text books. Aside from the dusty time spent in our classrooms today we finally got to meet the staff from the elementary, middle, and high schools. Looking at all of these new faces together was a bit overwhelming, but the realization that we will typically only interact with the 25 or so elementary school teachers made the name remembering seem less daunting. Over all the staff seems young and friendly with many interesting experiences to share. After school today we had a very early birthday celebration for Joe and Biba. We had everything from a singing candle to cake (from Hiper Mas/Wal Mart), and presents to make it like a real party! We also had a feast from Rosti Pollo which included rotisserie chicken, black beans, rice, fried cheese and yucca, and a salad for the semi-vegetarian. We also received a wonderfu present of a crockpot for our new house. The crockpot will really come in handy after spending long days at home #2 and getting to come back to home #1 for a nice hot meal without the work.
By the way, on Sunday we saw the La Paz waterfalls, which are about an hour from San Jose. There are five huge waterfalls, with very steep and spooky trails leading to them. It is a majestic place, and besides the caterratas, there was also a hummingbird garden, orchid garden, snake house (with all sorts of venemous and non-venemous snakes), a frog-a-torium, and an incredible butterfly garden. Best of all, there was an all-you-can eat buffet, with pasta, gallo pinto, salad, soup, chicken, cheese empenadas, hotdogs, french fries, pizza, and rice pudding. It was a great trip, and our driver brought along his son, who is 10 just like Willie, and his 14 year-old daughter who hung out with Biba.
Tomorrow we have a meeting and more work to do in our classrooms, but Laura and Biba Kirschner have been recruited to help with this task before they fly home on Wednesday.
Our neighbors in the "Dos Rios" complex are great: Jason teaches 4th grade next to Allie, and just finished teaching in Honduras for two years. Martin is an architect from Argentina with two very cute kitties.

Friday, August 10, 2007

How Amazing!

It has been a great couple of days! We were picked up from the airport by our principal in the school bus (which is more like a hotel van) and taken to what was our home up until yesterday, the Costa Verde Bed and Breakfast. Most of this week was spent getting to know the school, the administrative staff, and finding a house. All of the new teachers (5 of us) were taken around by a person from the school named Maria Fernanda to look for housing. We were a little worried the first day because we could not find houses that we liked. However, on the second day we found our house! It is two stories with lots of nice art and beautiful woodwork throughout the house. It is pretty well furnished, but we had to do some shopping at Mundo Pequeno for dishes, pots, bedsheets, etc. Also, we bought plenty of candles for the blackouts, which seem fairly common. Not only is the house beautiful but the garden is amazing! It has many huge tropical plants iwth bright flowers, there is a banana tree behind the house and a papaya tree in front of it. There is a bridge that leads over the creek to a very large garden area with a small pool and waterfall in the center of it. There are two dogs named Tita and Negra, and also several kitties here. It seems like a great place to live for both human and animals. There are seven other people who live in house and little single apartments on the property, but because of all the wildlife it seems very private. There is also a guard who is very helpul! He speaks no English but we seem to communicate very well. We still have a long list of things to buy to make our house a home..but we are well on our way!

Sunday, August 5, 2007

It Begins...

When we arrived at the Sacramento Airport the check-in ladies were not happy about our four "overweight" bags and two surfboards. We were not sure if our luggage was going to make it on the flight at all. But, after much moaning and groaning on the part of the check-in gestappo about their aching backs and an ever increasing line of angry passengers behind us, we checked our bags and got some much needed coffee and breakfast. So, here we are in the airport...still in California but very much excited for the beginning of our adventure!