Monday, December 15, 2008

One Week until Christmas Vacation!

We have been pretty busy the past few weeks, and we're definitely ready to go on vacation. The elementary school has had so many fundraisers, such as bringing in items for blind people, collecting food supplies for the maintenance workers at our school, garage sales to help nearby schools, and of course the big one: The Readathon. Our students collected pledges and read as much as they could in an hour one day. The money is going to help public school students in nearby Brasilito and Huacas by school supplies and uniforms. It was a big event with a large turnout from the community, and so far it seems as though the kids have brought in a lot of money.

The elementary school also put on a big Christmas production for parents. There were songs, plays, and dances. My class performed the Polar Express, and Allie's did The Grinch who Stole Christmas. Allie even played the role of Max the dog in her play. I helped with curtains and changing the set backstage. The Christmas show was fun for the parents and students, but it was a lot of work.

The day after the Christmas show, my soccer team from Matapalo came to play a game against the Country Day School team. It was a really big deal for the Matapalo team, who usually just play pickup soccer games in the town square. The Matapalo team ended up crushing the CDS team pretty badly, 7-1. They are all natural soccer players, and the CDS kids have not been playing as long. Still, it seemed like everyone had a good time.

We also had a very fun and very different staff Christmas party last Saturday. There was gorgeous 85 degree weather that day, so it did not really feel like a typical Christmas. There were tables set up by the swimming pool, with some red and green balloons hanging from some of the palm trees. Each table had a sign that said "Party Christma's." Three pigs were killed for the party, and there were huge pots of roasted pork, chicharones, and tamales. There was also plenty of cold Imperial and Pilsen, dancing, and karaoke. It was a lot of fun because all of the maintenance workers, gardeners, and people from the cafeteria came in vans with there family. Kids played in the pool and had hamburgers and ice cream. Everyone seemed to really enjoy the day. One of our friends brought her new labrador/great dane puppies for some of the coworkers. One of the puppies stayed at our house for awhile during the party, and it was funny to see how skeptical Isa was about this new little creature in her house.

After the party we went to the Fiesta del Pueblo in Villa Real, about 10 minutes away. The week before we were at the Fiesta in La Garrita, another town near us. The Fiestas are a big deal in Guanacaste, because this is the cattle country of Costa Rica. It's cool to see everyone out and about in their boots and belt buckles. There are fun rodeos, and they're pretty humane with the bulls. There's also great music and food.

This week we have spent a lot of time at the mechanic, at the bank paying our yearly marchamo for the car and getting out money to bring home, and just tying up lose ends in general. We are really enjoying life here with all of the nice people we are meeting, our great classes, the beautiful weather, and our wonderful little dog. With that said, we're both very excited and ready to come home to the states for a couple weeks of relaxation.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Matapalo Soccer Team

I have been volunteering as a soccer coach for a 5th and 6th graders in a little town called Matapalo, near Playa Grande. I got set up with the team through an organization called CEPIA, that helps underprivileged kids in the area. Basically, the CEPIA people gave me some soccer balls, some cones, and a whistle, and wished me good luck. The previous coach quit after a few weeks because he got injured and had a tough time understanding the kids.
My first experience with the Matapalo team really intimated me. Half of the team was barefooted and did not have shirts. Kids were eating candy, wrestling, cussing in Spanish, and when I spoke to them they barely listened. The kids didn't speak a word of English, so everything had to be said in Spanish. My first practice was difficult, but I survived.
For my next practice I prepared a lot of drills ahead of time and wrote them down on a piece of paper. This worked like a charm, and my second practice was much smoother. The little town of Matapalo is centered around the soccer field. There is a grocery store, some bars, a church, a school, and not much else. Once a dog chased a few horses directly across the soccer field. Another time, after a scrimmage, the kids insisted on having a penalty shootout since the score was tied. I agreed, although I didn't think about the fact that the goal we were shooting on had no net and was right in front of a grocery store. One of the kids made a great penalty shot that blasted through the goal, and headed directly for a man who was drinking a beer in front of the grocery store, knocking it out of his hand of course. Everyone cheered a lot when that happened.
Costa Ricans live for soccer, and Matapalo is no exception. Since the town is built around the soccer field, there are always old men, kids, drunks, grandmothers, and construction workers checking out the practices. When we scrimmage, a lot of the "borrrachos" start making calls and criticizing my reffing. Some even have their own whistles that they blow. One day we received a few new soccer balls from CEPIA, and the kids were so excited. However, Axcel, one of the 14 year olds on the team (there are some very old 6th graders in Costa Rica), blasted the ball across the field and into the street. Of course a car was speeding by at the exact same time, and it nailed the soccer ball, causing a very loud "POP!" The whole town laughed and applauded, and it was probably the most exciting thing that happened in Matapalo all week. Some of the kids took the flat soccer ball and took turns putting it on their heads like a helmet and running around.
One thing that I have been working with my team on a lot is cussing and pushing. I speak Spanish pretty well, so I understand a cuss word in Spanish when I hear it. I know that a lot of kids say bad words when they play sports, but it started rubbing me the wrong way when every other word that these kids would say was a swear word. Finally I started cracking down on cussers, and makingkids sit out practices if they cussed too much or pushed too much. It seems to be working so far.
Our team as already scrimmaged a local "soccer gang," and it was very exciting. They played against a group of kids who basically formed their own little neighborhood team. I made everything very official, from the coin toss, to kick-off, to the corner kicks. It was great to see how much they enjoyed it, and the whole town of Matapalo was definitely cheering (and criticizing my reffing) during this game. Today I made the players write letters to people in San Luis Obispo, California, telling them who they are, and asking them to donate old soccer equipment if possible. They wrote excellent letters, and then scrimmaged the soccer game again. A lot of players had to leave early for music class, because there was a big parade that they had to do around town (one thing that public schools here take very seriously is music class). Our scrimmage went OK, except that whenever the parade walked behind the goals, I stopped the game for fear of hitting someone (this really aggravated the players). I am really enjoying bonding with the local kids in the community, and I feel like I have a great opportunity to help them out with something that is important to them, and sneak in a few lessons about building good character along the way.

Monday, October 27, 2008