Friday, December 4, 2009


I took my fourth graders on an overnight field trip to La Carolina Lodge, near Tenorio Volcano and Rio Celeste. The place where we stayed was very rustic and self-sustaining, so it was great for the students' units on Pilgrim's and Colonists.We saw a lot of cool plants and animals on the trip, including this sloth.

Panama Trip

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

We're in the San Jose airport right now getting ready to leave for Panama City. Looking forward to the canal, colonial buildings, food, etc! Things are going very well in Guanacaste, but we're also looking forward to a little change of scenery on this getaway. We'll be back in the states for X-mas. Pura vida!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Costa Rican Independence Day

There was a big festival at our school for Independence Day last week. There were a bunch of local dancers and bands. There was also a carnival and comida tipica for sale. It was a little hectic, but the kids had a lot of fun.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Car Inspection

In Costa Rica you are required by law to get your car inspected every year. The inspection is called the RTV, and it costs about 10,000 colones. If you pass the test, you get a little sticker that goes on your windshield. If the cops pull you over with an expired RTV, you're screwed.
So this month our car's inspection needed to be completed and we did not want to mess around and wait too long. We asked our Tico friend Duglas (who is also a mechanic) to fix up our car for us and take it in for the RTV. The inspection is pretty rigorous, it helps to know about cars so that you can fix any problems that the inspectors find.
Duglas did a few things to fix up our car. He installed a new windshield wiper fluid reservoir, fixed a light, and even took off our "mataburro." The mataburro is more commonly known as a brush guard in English, but apparently in Latin America they are used for killing donkeys according to the name. The reason why he took it off was because the inspectors are very particular about the license plate being very visible, and the mataburro concealed it slightly. Then drove 45 minutes to Nicoya, which is the closest town where you can do the inspection.
I was not present to see any of this, but Duglas later recounted how the inspection went. There were several problems, such as the mirror being loose, the muffler sounding strange, and the most concerning, our vehicle ID number on the chassis had been welded over. Fortunately they eventually let these mistakes go, including the chassis number, because the chassis had also been welded in another spot. They said that this proved that there had really been chassis problems in the past (which is concerning as well), and the number was not missing because it was a stolen car.
So, finally came the emissions test. Duglas' wife Katia is our school secretary, and she had assured me ahead of time that if the car did not pass the emissions test, Duglas knew a trick. Well the car did not pass, so Duglas used his trick.
He told the inspection people that he would go work on the car a little and come back again. Here is the genius part: He took the car and emptied the gas tank. After this he added alcohol to the gas tank (which burns very clean, like ethanol). Next, he used some kind of product that he described as "little balls that you use to make your clothes smell good." I believe he said that he put the balls in the muffler of the car, and then he went back for a re-inspection.
This time the car passed! We would have never been able to pass the inspection on our own, so we were so grateful to Duglas. Our car is totally legal to drive around, and we don't have to worry when we drive by the cops. We also know a great trick for if we ever have problems passing a smog check when we move back to the states.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

The kickball game

Yesterday we had an evening barbeque at Jeff and Sarah Haun's house, which is across from our apartment here on campus. Jeff is the director at Country Day School, and Sarah is a first grade teacher. The teachers and staff got together to drink a couple Imperials, eat some burgers, and play a little kickball.

Last year's kickball game was really competitive. A big group of teachers and dorm counselors gave it there all for an hour or two, and left their blood, sweat, and tears out there on the kickball field. This year we did not have the same kinds of numbers, so we agreed to take it kind of easy. There were about 12 of us in all: 8 adults and 4 children. For some reason, I didn't quite register the part about taking it easy, and my competitive side definitely got the best of me. I'm reminded of a scene from the movie "Billy Madison," in which Adam Sandler, the adult main character unleashed his fury on a group of kindergardeners in a dodgeball game. By the time the kickball game was over, I somehow managed to leave each one of the kids roughed-up or in tears.

My first offense was totally accidental. I was playing catcher when somebody kicked a foul pop-up behind home plate. I quickly began to backpedal, determined to get underneath the ball and catch it. With my eyes on the ball, I kept backpedaling and prepared to make a dazzling catch, when I heard all of the players and fans shout "Stop! Look out!" Too late. I heard Ella, the Haun's 5-year-old daughter let out a shriek right before I plowed right over her and sent her flying. Ella was really brave and did not cry, but I'm sure that getting taken out by a 200 pound 4th grade teacher was not fun for her.

For my second strike I definitely tried to do the right thing, but may have used poor judgement. This time I was playing third base. Someone kicked the ball to me as Elyse, the P.E. teacher's 4-year-old daughter was trying to run to my base. I did not want Elyse to think that I was playing easy on a little kid, so I held the ball up and acted like I was going to throw it at her (we were playing with the rule that you could throw the ball at baserunners to get them out). However, it would be mean to throw the ball at a little girl, so I softly tossed it and purposefully missed her so that she could get to third safely. Elyse did not see it that way. As soon as I threw the ball, she quit running to third, burst into tears, and ran straight off the field to her mom. Oops.

The third mistake that I made was partially caused by my competitiveness and partially caused by my poor judgement. I was playing first base, when the director's son Jackson(who is also one of my students) kicked a short ground ball. I had to scramble in get the ball, and by that time Jackson was nearly at first. I was determined to make a spectacular play, so I quickly threw the ball at Jackson right before he got to first. Jackson was sprinting his little heart out, and my powerful throw connected directly into his back and knocked him over with a great "thump." I was proud of my play, but all of the other teachers looked at me, wide-eyed and very concerned for Jackson. "Let's call him safe, Joe."

At this point I knew that I had to clean up my act a little. No crashing into kids, no scaring kids, and no pegging running kids in the back. You would think that I had learned my lesson, but I guess I was destined to upset one more kid. This time it was another one of my students who happened to be there. It was the last inning and getting dark. Aiden, my student, had just kicked the ball and gotten out, so it was my turn to kick. Aiden must not have understood the rules or something, because instead of sitting on the sideline, he ran up to home plate again and got ready to kick once more. I could not believe it - it was my turn to kick! I told Aiden this, but he did must not have registered. I went in front of him a little bit and waited for the pitch, but Aiden was determined to kick, so he budged in front of me again. I gave him one more warning that it was my turn, and at that time the pitcher rolled the ball forward. Aiden got ready for the pitch and started to run forward at ball. This is probably the part where I should have backed-off and forgotten about it, but I could not get myself to give up! As Aiden was about to kick the ball, I darted in front of him and kicked it right before he could make contact with it. He looked dumbfounded that his teacher had just done such a thing. I ended up getting out before I made it to first, and at that moment I began to ponder my actions. I did not set out to do the terrible things that I ended up doing in this game, but I did them, nonetheless. Oh well, it could have been much worse if we were playing a big game of tackle football.

*Author's note: these events may have been portrayed more dramatically than what actually occured. I am a teacher and I know that it is not OK to hurt kids!

Here we go...

It's that time again. We've spent the past week attending staff meetings, reviewing curricula, and getting our classrooms ready. Yesterday there was an "Open House" for new students and parents to come and check out their classrooms. It was nice to have some faces to put to the names on our class rosters. Even though we have been preparing a lot, I am sure that tomorrow we will be very hectic and busy adding last minute touches to our classes, because if it wasn't, it just wouldn't be the day before the first day of school.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

work, licenses, and snakes

Tomorrow we go back to work. Actually, this week we are just having meetings and getting our classrooms ready. The following week is when the kids come back and all of the action begins. Allie will be busy moving into her new classroom (right next door to me) where she will be teaching a 2nd / 3rd grade combination class. I will be in the same room teaching fourth grade.

Last Friday we drove up to Liberia to get our drivers licenses renewed, and everything actually went really smooth. It must have paid off that we were so patient and persistent the day before when we got all of our bank and medical stuff together. The COSEVI in Liberia was a lot smaller than the one that we went to in San Jose two years earlier. The guys working their were really friendly and helpful, and we were in and out in less than 30 minutes.

This morning we Allie opened the back door to let Isa out, and said "What is that?!" in a calm but concerned voice. There was a little snake curled up in the doorway, exactly where Allie found the tarantula a few days earlier. I tried to get it into a box, but it slithered under an air conditioning box outside. We were able to snap some pictures, and when we showed them to our neighbor Kim, who teaches biology, she told us that it was some kind of venomous baby viper, probably a fer de lance. That was the first snake that we have ever found down here, and we feel really lucky that no one got hurt.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Back in Paradise

Well, as the title of this post suggests, we are back. Had a wonderful and eventful summer, and in a little over a week the first day of school will start, but for now we are just getting back into the swing of living in Costa Rica.
The first night that we got into Liberia we were pretty exhausted from traveling all day. We picked up our dog Isa, drove home, and fell asleep. Actually, I had to kill a scorpion, but then we went to sleep. Oh yeah, we also had to shoo a giant tarantula out of the house, but after that we definitely fell asleep. Wait..there was also a dead gecko on the floor in our bedroom, but we slept like babies after that was taken care of.

The next day we woke up and went to eat at our favorite breakfast spot, The Shack, in Playa Potrero. Then we went to Playa Grande for surfing, playing with the pup, and relaxing on the beach. The 80 + degree water felt amazing compared to the giant ice cream headache that is the California Coast. Next it was off to Auto Mercado, which is a lot like a Trader Joe's back in the states, but everything is written in Spanish.

The day after that entailed more surfing for me, a trip to the salon for Allie, and a WHOLE LOT OF CLEANING around our house. We're talking hours, and hours and hours of sweeping, mopping, dusting, scrubbing, and not stopping until all of the dirt, dust, grime, mold, bugs, and dead geckos were gone.

Today Allie went out to brunch with a friend and I went to ICE, the phone company, to get our cell phones reactivated. The phones were supposed to start working in 15 minutes, but here we are 10 hours later, still unable to make calls. I foresee a return trip to ICE in our future.

Then we took on the big task of the day: renewing our drivers licenses. Two years ago we got our Costa Rican licenses and tomorrow they finally expire. If you are a Tico you can renew your license by setting up an appointment at the bank and picking it up. If you are an "extranjero" (foreigner) like us, it's not so easy.
First we had to go the Banco Costa Rica. Sometimes the lines at BCR take over an hour to get through. We were thrilled to make it through the line in 10 minutes. "Cool! This license renewal thing will be easy!" we thought. All we had to do now was get some doctor paperwork and go to the Costa Rican DMV. It was 1:00, and we had 2 1/2 hours until we had to be at the DMV. Plenty of time for a quick check up, right? How foolish we were...

So we went the Emergencia 2000, which is 5 minutes down the road in the town of Huacas. Unfortunately, when we went in to get our check ups, we were promptly told that they did not have the forms that the doctor must fill out so that you can get your license. "Go to the Emergencia 2000 in Tamarindo, you can do it there." 10 minutes later we were waiting in front of the Tamarindo office. The lights were on and the sign said "Abierto," however the door was locked. We knocked and knocked, but a TV was blaring telenovelas inside, so nobody could hear us. Finally someone came to the door and let us in. However, when we asked to get examined for our licenses we were once again shut down - they didn't have the forms either! The EMT guy who was helping us called 3 or 4 other clinics, but NOBODY had the freaking forms.
It might seem odd to go into so much detail about such a mundane task, but the point is to show the patience that one must possess in order to survive down here. Sooo, our EMT friend told us to check out another clinic owned by a different company in Villa Real, another little town 5 minutes down the road.

We showed up and told the receptionist what we needed, and this guy actually had a copy of the right form! The key word here is "a" form, because there were two of us, so one would not suffice. The guy helping us got on the phone and called at least five other clinics asking if there were doctors with this sacred form, but believe it or not, no one had it. Finally, on his sixth, or seventh, or eight, or ninth call he got ahold of a doctor who was 20 minutes away in Potrero, and this guy had the forms - two of them!!!
We thought we were almost done, but then the guy told us that the new drivers licenses require you to get a blood test for your blood type, and we would have to go the lab to get that done. 15 minutes later we were at the lab for the tests. When it was all said and done we learned that Allie was A positive, and I was A negative.

After the blood tests, we raced back to the clinic and found that the doctor had arrived, forms in hand. It took him about 20 minutes to check us out and fill out the papers, and by that time it was too late to go to the COSEVI (the Tico DMV). The good news is that tomorrow we will be able to leave the house first thing and go to the COSEVI and get our licenses right away. On second thought, we will probably have to wait in many long lines and jump through all types of hoops at COSEVI, but it will be OK. We are so lucky to live together in this paradise of lush jungle, pristine beaches, and the friendliest people on earth, and it is definitely worth all of the waits in the end.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Pictures from when we got engaged in Big Sur

catching up

Sorry that we haven't written on this blog for awhile. We post a lot on facebook and don't always get around to posting on this. We are back in the states now for summer vacation, so we should have a chance to put some old and new pictures on here from the past few months. It's good to hear that people are still checking out the blog from time to time :)

We are engaged now and really excited about it! The end of the school year came and went, and now we are in the middle of a two month stint back home. It's nice to be on summer vacation.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Friday, April 10, 2009

March in Guanacaste

The weather has been great! Kinda hot though. Allie's sister and brother in law, Katy and James, came down to visit. We went to a lot of great restaurants, and also went to the Buena Vista Lodge at the Rincon de la Vieja volcano and did canopy tours, horseback riding, a huge waterslide through the jungle, went into the natural hotsprings and volcanic mud. We were at work for a lot of their visit, so they went to the beach or to the pool at Conchal during the day. It was great having visitors, and we hope that they come back again after they move to Colorado!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Witch's Rock

A couple weeks ago I went on an all-day surf extravaganza with a couple other teacher friends. We went to Witch's Rock aka Roca Bruja, one of the best spots in the area. We woke up at 4:00 AM, piled into Dan's truck (he teaches high school science and math), and drove to Witch's. After driving about 2 hours we made it to the Santa Rosa National Park. Once you're inside the park, you drive for about an hour on the worst road ever. It's rocky, uneven, and impossible to go faster than 5 mph. However, that same road prevents people without 4WD vehicles from driving in, so it's also a blessing.
Next we got to the ranger's station, and with our backpacks loaded up with sunscreen, towels, water, and food, we walked for 1/2 hours until we were at the beach. Actually, right before we made it to the beach, we went past the estuary which feeds into the surf spot. The area is known for having a lot of crocodiles, and sure enough we saw a good sized croc laying out and getting some morning sun on the river bank.
When we got to the beach it was empty. There was a little hut that someone had made out of driftwood, and even though it wasn't even 8:00 AM yet, it was already getting warm. We hung out in the shade of the hut, and waited for the tide to get a little higher. There were really strong offshore winds blowing, and the surf kept getting better and better. We went out for our first session, and found the water to be pretty cold due to the wind (well, cold by Costa Rican standards at least).
It was hard to catch waves with the strong winds, but if you were in the right place you could get some great ones. After surfing for a couple of hours we went back to the hut, ate some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, drank water, warmed up in the sun, reapplied sunscreen, and then went back out. We repeated this pattern two or three times until about 5:00 PM. By then we were totally exhausted of course. Finally, we headed back to the truck and made the long journey home. That night I slept like a baby, and I'm sure the other guys did too. It was a quick but fun getaway, and I can't wait until I do it again.

Monday, February 16, 2009

It's been awhile...

Sorry, we haven't had a chance to update this blog in months. Things have been busy, and we have been having a lot of fun. We had a lot of fun in the states over the holidays, and after that we flew back to Central America, only to Nicaragua. We spent a few days in Granada checking out the cathedral, colonial buildings, markets, and Lake Nicaragua. We will try to post some pics from that trip on here as well.

Life in Guanacaste has been so pleasant and relaxing. The weather is gorgeous this time of year (it's summer right now)- it's warm, sunny, and breezy everyday. Actually the offshore winds got a little too strong for about a week and knocked over a few tall banana trees in our backyard. In some places the wind even knocked down houses!

Every weekend there have been different fiestas in different towns, and we have gone to many of them, like La Garrita, Villa Real, Tempate, Santa Cruz, Huacas, and Brasilito. The fiestas have bull riding, greasy fair food, music, and dancing. They all take place in the summer because the weather is so nice.

Our classes have been steadily growing, which is good for the school, even if it means a little more work for us. Our classes are still so much smaller than they would be if we were teaching in CA, so we have nothing to complain about. Also, we get a lot of prep time everyday, so we can usually get out of school pretty early in the day with time to go to the beach, gym, etc.

On our weekends we like to explore the coast and go to different beaches, like Playa Grande and Avellanas. We went on a camping trip to Marbella a few weeks ago, and the area was beautiful, but it was pretty isolated, and next time we will probably camp in an area where there are more people. Today we just got back from an overnight trip to Playa Junquillal, which is about an hour south of our place. We had a great time, and it was nice hanging out on the beach in the slow little town. In the next few months we have a few sets of visitors coming, and we are looking forward to showing people around the paradise that we call home :)