Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Wild Things Come to La Colonia!

April 23 is International Book Day.  The 23rd isn't just a random choice, it coincides with the birthdays of William Shakespeare and Miguel de Cervantes (you know, Romeo and Juliet and Don Quijote de la Mancha) amongst others.  In La Colonia we didn't celebrate any of those authors that happened to be born on April 23, instead we celebrated the lesser known (in Costa Rica at least) Maurice Sendak (you know, Where the Wild Things Are - Donde Viven los Monstruos in Spanish).

Our adventures with International Book Day began on the 15th of April with a book reading and mask making session.  The kids had never heard the story and there were bursts of laughter as they followed the tale of Max to the land of the wild things and back to his bedroom.  The masks that the kids made were quite imaginative.  We had provided them with the basic mask background and some cutouts and they went to town.  All students were proud of their creations and were a little disappointed when we reminded them that they wouldn't get to take their masks home until after Semana Santa.

Students hard at work and showing off their creations

On Monday, April 25 our journey came to its end with a dramatization of Where The Wild Things Are during an assembly for the rest of the student body (rather, two dramatizations since we have two student groups during the school day).  Chris played the part of Max like it had never been done before, steering his sailboat (made out of a shower curtain, bandanna and broomstick) to the land of the wild things where I led the students in a wild rumpus, dancing in circles around Chris until he sent us to bed without dinner.  

International Book Day - Monsters and Dancing Books

All in all it was a wonderful book adventure and we're hoping to do some more dramatizations with students to get them excited about books.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Semana Santa [Holy Week]

The week before Easter in Costa Rica is called Semana Santa or Holy Week.  The week provides a break for students, time off from work for many adults (those who do not work in the tourism industry) and a time to visit family members that live in other parts of the country.  In other words, spring break!

For us, Semana Santa meant camp, a house full of María's family, birthdays and swimming in the river.  It may not have been a relaxing week as some may view a week of vacation, but it was an enjoyable one.

We offered camp to community youth Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.  We did art projects in the mornings (drawing, coloring and origami) and played games in the afternoons (cards, tag games, relay races and soccer).  We had a great turn out on the first two days, but then kids started disappearing for their own family get aways.

There were not buses to or from town after 11:45 Wednesday morning through Saturday morning at 8:00.  In that time we walked with friends, celebrated birthdays (mine and a host sister's boyfriend's), ate a lot of cake, visited the cayman that lives in the river out by the colegio and caught up on some reading.  These were relatively low-key days during which we were mostly left to ourselves while María caught up with her sisters that she hasn't seen in several months.

We caught the first bus out of town on Saturday to go visit Rafa's sister and the river in Puerto Viejo.  After spending some tentative moments on the river bank we made our way into the river to brave the chill of the water and the strength of the current.  We walked upstream so that we could then float back to our point of entry.  We found sand sculptures during a beach walk and watched as a tour boat passed us by.  After thoroughly exhausting ourselves we returned to Rafa's sister's house to clean up and fill our bellies.

The rest of my weekend was spent making personalized bracelets for all.  This was the end result of teaching a "cousin" how to make a simple friendship bracelet.  She asked to see some of the others that I had made and those on hand were personalized ones that will be given out to students completing programs that we do. She in turn showed them to everyone else and that resulted in persistent questioning as to whether or not I could make bracelets for the visitors.  It was a lot of work but they loved them.

When everyone left Sunday afternoon, we took the chance to breathe deep and enjoy the silence.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Canasta Update

We're fifty games into our tournament, and we thought it was a good time for an update.

It's been a little rough for Tarah.  If the tourney ended today, Chris would be the winner of about a month's worth of massages.  However, we have over a year left to go and Tarah is riding a two game winning streak.

If you are interested, and I know you are, you can check out the numbers below.

screen grab of what I affectionately call "nerd numbers"

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Celebrating Sports

Last week we had the pleasure of participating in some great events with our educational communities.  On Wednesday the schools celebrated National Day of Sports and on Thursday our colegio (high school) hosted its second annual mountain bike ride.  We had a great time with our students, but with the incredible heat that overtook our region last week we were exhausted by the time Friday rolled around.

We spent all of Wednesday, National Day of Sports, at our escuela (elementary school) and since they have two groups of students that cycle through each day, we were able to do everything twice.  The easy part was being line judges for relay races (sack races, hula hoop races, and clothes races); making sure students came all the way to the turn around point and tagging our hands before continuing on their way.  The challenging part was leading two aerobics classes for students and teachers (roughly 150 individuals ranging from 4 to 54) and playing in two teacher v. student soccer games.  We had a blast with these more physical activities but the kids definitely have more energy than we do!

On Thursday we arrived at the colegio shortly after 7am to stand in line to register and buy our numbers for the mountain bike ride.  There were about 75 or 80 students that showed up that morning with their bikes, ready to ride the 15 km that covers rough terrain, big hills and most importantly passes by the river where an obligatory break and swim take place!  My bike revolted on the ride - I managed to puncture a tire in one of the rougher areas that we rode through and I lost one of my bike pedals, but we both made it home in one piece.  The break at the river lasted for about an hour and included a refregerio (snack) of fresh fruit served out of the back of a truck, the throwing of several students into the water (not by us - by other students) and just hanging out on the beach.  We returned to the colegio in time for lunch and raffle prizes and then promptly rode home to enjoy cold showers.

Friday, April 1, 2011

March Madness

Wow! Another month has passed us by and due to a sudden increase in work it has gone quite quickly. With more going on there are more updates to share and so, what used to be quarterly updates are going to become monthly updates (assuming we continue on this trajectory).

March brought us our one year anniversary of service with Peace Corps and living in Costa Rica, it also brought us long awaited projects, grant proposals, recreation and more visits from current trainees. Some selections from our journal may not be as exciting as others, but we're trying to share our experiences in their entirety, the good and the bad, the happy and sad, the challenges and successes.

So, take a breath, here is our version of March Madness...

March 1

This time last year we were out eating sushi in DC. This year we just finished a game of Canasta and are hoping the dog won't keep us up all night.

It's been a long year. It's been a hard year. There have been a lot of moments when we wonder why we are here.

We've been overwhelmed and underwhelmed.

Things are starting to look up at our year mark. We've been saying that we want work and it's slowly coming our way.

So, as we dive into year 2 we hope things continue to move in the direction that has been started this week.

March 2

We've survived one year in Costa Rica! It's official!

March 4

They wrapped up by making mustaches and noses out of silly putty.

March 8

I was distracted a couple of times because Puppy got loose and I tried catching him (no luck – or I caught him twice but couldn't control him enough to tie him back up) but other than that, all went well!

March 9

Well, we can pause the whole work thing for a day or so. Tomorrow there is a teacher's strike – so no class, no Chicos and Chicas.

This evening Rodolfo checked in with us to see what we can do to move forward with working with Angie. Sounds like her work plan has come together, so Monday we'll pop in and see how we can squeeze in (to her schedule).

March 11

When we were walking home Juan's mom stopped us to say that she was surprised that we didn't go to San Jose with the students... [excerpt removed so as not to implicate any counterparts in a negative manner]... if anything we know that parents trust us with their kids. That's nice to know.

Of course, now we're without power so the festival isn't really happening. Shucks – I guess that means we have a quiet evening. Of course, it also means that we have a HOT evening. No fan = dead air = stupidly hot. [*note: the power came back on, so while it wasn't too hot to sleep it was too noisy]

March 12

We decided to stay on the bus until Coyol since we had paid for the full trip to Puerto. When we got off the bus in Coyol we started our trek home. Shortly before Orquideas we realized that in our rush to get off of the bus we had left our binoculars on the bus. Then it started raining.

March 13

After lunch we watched the cabalgata (horse parade) go through town. There were some incredibly beautiful horses. Some were doing the fancy dancy thing, some people were opening beers or drinking guaro, others were texting and others were trying to catch the eye of some guy or girl. It was all pretty entertaining to watch.

March 14

He [Chris] talked with Rodolfo afterward and he loved Chris's ideas of doing a school newspaper or website. He also received permission for us to use an aula (classroom) from 3:15 – 4:30 Monday thru Wednesday, so hopefully all English help will move out of the house (with the possible exception of Alberto and Henry).

A woman came up to the house and asked if we had left anything on the bus. At first I didn't quite get it since we didn't ride the bus today. After her asking a couple of times I figured out that she was talking about Saturday. Someone had pointed out that we left something behind and she had picked it up to keep for us. We have our binoculars again!

March 15

We actually had an almost 8 hour work day today! It's amazing how this whole wanting to work thing is turning out. Tomorrow we'll have about a 9 hour day. Utter craziness.

We had six students show up for the help session – pretty good for the first day, I think!

Had a family dinner tonight – crema de ayote or chayote – one of those -ote type squashes. David [our 10 year old neighbor] was over so we all sat down together. It was nice.

March 16

This afternoon went by quickly and before we knew it the bell was ringing and kids were running past us to get out of school. These are the kids who clearly are not excited about our after school English sessions.

March 17

For us, it was a happy first day of Chicos and Chicas. It finally happened! It may not have gone perfectly, but that's what first days are for, right?

The schedule's filling up!

March 18

...before going to see the toros (bulls), which we heard started at 5. So, we got there shortly after 5, walked around a bit and came home since nothing was happening. We went back over at 6:30 when we heard the announcer making his sound check. 2 hours later things started. [silly us, showing up on time for scheduled events]

March 22

Hello month 11! Happy to be here. And this time I think we actually mean it!

I checked in with the hogar (home ec) teacher after art class and showed her the fused plastic pouch and the chip bag bag and she was really excited. Then the art teacher wanted to see. Then Rodolfo wanted to see. The all love the idea and the art teacher is talking about using fused plastic as a “canvass” for painting. It seems like it could be a somewhat sustainable project since the teachers want to learn.

March 25

Rafa took us out to see some new calves at the neighbors and then we went to AyA [our water office] for a relatively quick Junta (our town council) meeting. Chavez had gotten everyone together for us, we updated everyone on the status of the grant and let them know what we needed from them. They're hoping to have everything together Monday night when we're going to meet again. We joked around for a bit at the end, reminiscing about of first meeting with them.

While chatting [with Stephanie and Chris] we took many breaks to observe the chirripos (geckos) and make commentary. At one point two were moving in on a gigantic moth – one eventually took a bite – or at least tried. It was pure excitement for all of us – is that sad?

March 27

Lunch was more or less ready when we got back home. Rafa had killed a chicken for Stephanie and Chris – then Maria came in with a baby chick to show them. What do you say to someone when they show you a live chick when you're eating a dead one? Oh, OK, thanks works pretty well. Awkward!

We've got a very busy week ahead of us. Yay work! (will we think that when Friday rolls around?)

March 28

We had another quick Junta meeting tonight. That must be a record; two 45-minute meetings in a row! We got the paperwork that was needed and God willing everything will get to CRUSA before Firday!

March 29

In other [sad] news, Guicho and David moved to Puerto today. We're glad they were at least here during the holidays. We'll miss seeing their faces and hanging out with them.

March 30

We had a fun, crazy and exhausting day. We led two aerobics classes, played in two soccer games and helped out during relay races. The kids all seemed engaged (or most of the kids) during aerobics, had fun (except for those who skinned their knees) and ate a lot of junk food. That's right – on National Sports Day grade levels were selling ice cream, soda, cake etc. during breaks. I guess it's positive that they at least burned a miniscule portion of those calories by participating in activities.

Tomorrow morning is the recreativa (17Km bike ride). Then Friday is No a la Violencia (No to Violence).

This weekend we may have a meeting with the Asociacion de Mujeres (women's association) from Las Orquideas to learn about their hydroponic garden project. They stopped by this morning and had one of the students come and grad me from the school. They're interested in having us work with them, so I told them that we would love to learn more about what they're doing.

What a turn in events life has presented us.

March 31

Today was the recreativa. There were between 70 and 80 students that paid to participate (~75,000 colones more for the cole!) and a few tag-alongs.

On the bad hills past Ademar's the trouble began. It was not a good day for my bike. I punctured the tube in my back tire on one of the climbs and was stuck. Thankfully Willian had a spare tube and he fixed me right up. Then at some point while crossing the bumpy terrain I lost one of my pedals. It had cracked when I crashed some months ago, but was still hanging on there so I just let it be. I guess it's time to go see Javier and get a tune up – things are falling apart left and right!