Viva Saprissa!

30 08 2010

Ultra Morado-Monstruo Morado-Deportivo Saprissa!

Our adventures this week lead us to Estadio Ricardo Saprissa Ayama to watch Saprissa take on Las Brujas.

I have always been a big soccer fan so it has been great being in a country that loves it so much.  It seems like every time I turn on the TV, all 5 of them, the only sport on is soccer.  No complaints here, it is just an interesting change from the baseball and football dominated television back home.

It became very obvious to V and I upon our arrival that we were going to have to make a choice about which soccer team we were going to support.  Soccer here is taken very seriously and it would be sacrilegious to support more than one team…for me it came down to two teams:  Las Brujas-a team that used to play in Escazu, which was alluring, and Saprissa-the most winning team in Costa Rican history and is located in San Jose just a 10 min ride away.

I had told myself time that I wanted to go to the game between the two teams and let that be my deciding factor.  However this past week leading up to the game I found myself staying up just a little later than normal to catch some of the Saprissa game or mindlessly going to their website to try and decipher the spanish and thats when I knew…I was going to support Saprissa.  I was going to become part of the Ultra Morado and love the Purple Monsters!

This afternoon Vanessa, a fan now by default, and I pulled on our recently purchased Saprissa jerseys and anxiously awaited 4pm, the time that we were to leave for the game.  Tedd and Brandon joined us.  We finally found a pirate cab company that knows exactly where our house is, so we called them and were off!  Sitting in the car as we wound through the unfamiliar streets of San Jose, I was not sure what we were getting ourselves into.  We knew we were close to the stadium when a crowd of purple began to overtake the street.  We had heard stories about the games; crazy fans, yelling, jumping, singing, horns, passion!

As the cab pulled around the corner and the stadium was in full view. Vanessa turned to me and said…”wow, this is crazy…I am kinda scared.”  But the moment we stepped from the cab into the river of violet it was obvious there was no reason to be.  As with all people in Costa Rica they were friendly and happy to help new Saprissa fans.

We waited in a line marked out by caution tape tied around trashcans to buy our tickets.  We purchased tickets in the Palco section (the box seats) for 9,000 colones or $18. It took us a couple tries to find our entrance but we finally entered and quickly found our section.  As we entered our cozy box, we were greeted by friendly looking ticos decked out in Saprissa gear.  Vanessa and I fit right in!  The box was…interesting.  They were box seats but nothing like you would think of at home.  The wood floors with a part of a plank missing, plastic chairs with absent armrests and subtle odor did give it character.  However it was adorned with a personal toilet and a roof over head, which was fantastic because the heavens opened up, as they always do, in the afternoons and evening here.

The game was exciting and fun to watch.  The people in our box were very friendly and told us within the first minute of the game that we needed to whistle or yell obscenities at #14 on the Brujas because he used to play for them but was kicked off the team.  We quickly took part in that as he received the ball only 15 or so rows in front of us.  We also quickly noticed the “true” fan section.  They call themselves the Ulta Morado and they were crazy!  They were standing in an uncovered part of the stadium soaking in the rain but they had relentless energy as the hundred or so of them pounded drums, sang songs and jumped around passionately for all 90 minutes.

I am continually smiled as the game progressed and in it was Saprissa 3- Las Brujas 2.  I am very please with the team I have chosen to support and look forward to returning to the wooden floors and plastic chairs at la casa de
monstruo morado.

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-M

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Our Adventure to Cahuita-Rastas, Monkeys and Beaches!

25 08 2010

This past weekend Vanessa and I ventured out into the depths of Costa Rica.  As the first week of school started to come to a close we decided, along with a number of other teachers, that we needed to get out of Escazu.  For me the goal of the trip was to get away from the city and remind ourselves another reason why we moved here.

We had previously talked with Andrea and Brandon, our neighbors, about visiting the Caribbean coast and a small town by the name of Cahuita.  We had heard and read wonderful things about this sleepy town.  There was talk of dreadlocked Rastafarians casually smoking pot along the street and the dirt road (the only road) lined with beautiful bungalows.  Lucky for us…these myths were a reality.

We started our adventure around Wednesday by sending a flurry of emails amongst the people that had expressed interest in going.  Seven people ended up deciding they would venture east with us.  The question now was how in the world are we going to get 7 people to Cahuita.  The answer was either take the bus or rent a large vehicle.  After countless “I don’t care what we do” emails someone stepped up and decided that we would rent an SUV from a place here in town.

So, Friday afternoon the seven of us (Me, V, Andrea, Brandon, Joanne, Katie and Tedd) met at a Soda (small store) just up the street from the school.  All of us hustled out into the rainy afternoon to catch the taxi van that was to take us to Dollar Rental.  Upon arriving I promptly sat on a chair and let Andrea and Tedd do all the work.  I chatted excitedly with the others about what adventures and relaxation awaited us.  By the time we loaded the 7 person Montero with NO luggage room, stuffed our things between our legs and got everything sorted out, made a quick stop by the grocery store to get snacks and beer and visit the ATM (which ate my card because I forgot to press return…more on this later) we headed out around 5.

The 4 or so hour trip awaited us and everyone was excited.  Getting out of Escazu and San Jose was an adventure.  It was rush hour and it seemed like everyone in the entire city was out driving, on top of that is was dumping rain.  Lucky for us Tedd had volunteered to drive so we were just along for the ride.  After winding through the stop and go traffic we finally broke free and started east…and promptly stopped for a bathroom break at a very nice truck stop/restaurant.

Our excitement of being out of school and heading to a new place was so overwhelming that when we stopped a second time at little bar we couldn’t help but take a shot of tequila!

After a couple more hours of driving we came to Limon, which is the name of the area on the east side of the country.  Limon is known for shipping.  We past a number of HUGE storage facilities and ports.  However, the most exciting site, even in the dark, was the endless ocean.  A short time later we worked our way into Cahuita.  We had made plans to rent a small house in town and were instructed to find a place called Bungalows Ache.  However, as we had previously learned, in Costa Rica there are not street signs and finding any place, let alone at night in an unknown town, was impossible.  So we made a group decision to stop at one of the many places along the main dirt road.  Fortunately, we picked a beautiful bed and breakfast and rented two small bungalows for the weekend.

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We called it an early night.  It had been a long day at work and a long drive.  However, the anxiety of waking up early and exploring the beach that continually echoed the sound of waves kept me from sleeping well.  I was up early staring at Vanessa willing her to wake up.  Vanessa, never the one to get up early, slowly opened her eyes after I had been trying to telepathically wake her and finally resorted to nudging her with my knee.  It was time to explore!

As it turns out everyone else was already awake and checking out the beach that kept me from sleeping.  Vanessa and I sauntered toward the sound of crashing waves making our way along an enchanting little path.  I will let the pictures describe what awaited us…

After walking around a bit we met up with the rest of the group to eat breakfast.  Since we have been here I have not seen or had very good breakfast.  That changed with this meal!  Breakfast started with fresh fruit (pineapple, mango, star fruit, papaya, and banana) and coffee.  Just as we were taking the last bites of our fruit, we were brought fresh Cas.  For those who don’t know, Cas is a type of fruit that apparently turns into a fantastic juice mixture.  I had tasted Cas before but this Cas had to be made from some special place called heaven because it was AMAZING.  I tried to savor as much of the drink as I could and soon enough eggs and bacon were sitting in front of me.  I hungrily shoveled it down and enjoyed making plans for the day with everyone.

The plan was simple.  We were going to go to the national park near by and visit the beach there.  But as we got ready to go for the day and I was gathering my things I realized that I did not have my ATM card.  I am very responsible with my ATM card, I have never lost it, never.  So wasn’t it great that the frist time I do is in  Costa Rica while on a trip, where there are no phones and no internet.  I broke the news to Vanessa and we informed the rest of the group that we needed to find an internet cafe and a phone so I could make sure to put a stop on my account.  After a little bit of work on my part and I got in touch with the bank and sorted everything out.

After I apologized to everyone, we headed out to find the national park.  The park was easy enough to find.  We scrambled out of the car and started  the day by laying on the beach and playing in the ocean.  Around lunch time we took the short walk back to town and ate lunch at the terrible place that I think Ben Arp my have owned.  Why do I think that?  Because it had a poster of Kim Jong Il hanging above the kitchen and Ben is the only communist friend that I have.

We decided over lunch that we would venture back into the park but this time walk along the path in the forest to look for animals.  I was excited by this because since being in Costa Rica we have not seen much wildlife and I really enjoy looking at Sloths.  Our walk did not disappoint!  We saw white faced monkeys, howler monkeys, leaf cutter ants, blue crabs, all sorts of bugs, a vine to swing from and finally a sloth!

As the day wound down we went for a drink at a Rastafarian bar with pot smoke wafting in the air followed by  a pretty good dinner at a place that had been highly recommended called Cha Cha Cha.  With full stomachs and after such a long day no one could muster the energy to do anything but go to bed.

Sunday, our final day, we awoke to the sun shining through the cracks in the curtain and  rolled out of bed. We knew the day was going to be simple because we were planning on taking off around 11.  We casually ate another amazing breakfast, played at the beach near the bed and breakfast and swam in the pool before making the drive home.  Overall, it was a relaxing and rejuvenating weekend that helped V and I remember why we made such a dramatic leap in our lives!

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-M





New Again- It’s a tough life

23 08 2010

The first week of school is always a hectic time.  It has been an interesting experience going from being the teachers that knew the ins and outs of how the school works to being the people that don’t even know what to do if there is a fire drill…or earthquake.

Both Vanessa and I have also had to make a change in how we work.  For as long as we have taught we have always planned for 55 minute classes, we now have 1.5 hour classes.  On top of that, we have always taught reading and writing together, here we teach both but separately.  Change is difficult!  I was ready to get through the week and start toward normality.

As far as that kids go…Mine are great.  They are extremely polite and do what they are asked.  It was interesting, the first day I passed out letters to take home for their parents to sign and I had a number of them respond saying “my parents are gone, my maid is taking care of me this month, can they sign it?”  What could I do but smile slightly, shrug and say “sure”.

Also, with the start of the new school year, Vanessa and I started ours as students at the local Spanish school.  The classes have been great so far and things are falling into place.

This weekend we went to a small town/village/bunch of small buildings on the Caribbean coast called Cahuita.  It was amazing to go relax and reaffirm our decision to move to Costa Rica…Blog to follow…with lots of pictures.

-M





Reflections on the past two weeks. A.K.A. Don’t worry Mom, I’m figuring things out!

13 08 2010

There are a few things we have learned in our short time here that may seem strange and incredibly simple, but to us, they have been pretty big lessons and may be a little funny:

– Pedestrians DO NOT have the right-of-way!  The leading cause of death in Costa Rica is pedestrian vs. car accidents.  Costa Ricans drive like crack heads on their way to their next fix.  You will be honked at for getting in their way, crossing the street at an awkward time, thinking about crossing, or even breathing in their path.  Red lights, stop signs, broken turn signals, dogs, babies, etc. none of these things are taken into consideration when driving.  I think Miguel and I have waited for about 3 minutes at one intersection alone, just trying to time traffic correctly and not get run over.  It’s pretty fun if you think of it as a crazy game of Frogger.  Only, when you lose, you’re dead.

-Geckos can climb on ceilings.  When you try to cover them with one of your cereal bowls to take it outside, they run like crazy and hide.  They also eat bugs… that’s good.  Just keep telling yourself that.

-You can’t flush toilet paper.  uhhhhh…. yeah.

-Staring, hooting, whistling, and telling American girls you love them is not frowned upon.  Even if they are dressed conservatively or give you looks that could melt your face when you do it.

-If you leave IT out, or even near “out”, the ants will find it.  We keep everything in air tight containers.  It’s working well, so far.

-Bus drivers will give you change if you over pay, but you have to cross a line, and then they will slide it to you through a little crack in the plexi-glass.  If you don’t cross that line, they yell at you and get cranky!  Bus drivers, oddly enough, don’t really need a reason to be cranky.

-No one really has an address… ours is something like: Quinientos Metres Este de La Centro Commercial el Oriente.

-When telling a cab driver how to get to your house, make sure you say the correct address.  500 yards vs. 105 yards from the Centro Commercial el Oriente is a pretty big difference and when they drive by looking ahead unaware of you sitting outside of your gate waiting for them, you will feel like a dumb ass.

-Don’t say hello back to old weird looking men.  They only want money, and you don’t have any.

-Sunday mornings are the best days to run.  No cars.  No people.  Just random strays and an open street.  It’s very beautiful.

-Cabs are a must for any return trip from the grocery store.  Carrying a 12 pack of beer on the bus is just awkward.

-Don’t ever worry about your safety at home.  In addition to being in a gated community, having a 1200 volt electric fence around the property, and having an incredible alarm system, Jorge (the landlord) is always packing his 9 millimeter.  He’s also in a motorcycle club.  Bottom line, Jorge is bad ass.

-That call button at the front gate.  You know, the one you press to get someone to buzz you in… Well, even though you are in building #2… that button goes to someone who speaks Spanish.  You don’t speak Spanish, and no, “No gracias” is not the correct thing to say in that situation, neither is running as fast as you can to your house in hopes they won’t see you.

-That green stuff on the cement sidewalk are patches of moss.  You may step on it and your feet may or may not slide right out from under you.  Depends on your shoes, and your level of coordination.  Your odds of slipping and falling are increased if there are lots of people around.

-Big nice looking restaurants are just that.  Although you are in a Central American country, you will still pay ridiculous prices for a ridiculously nice place.

-Peanut butter and Wheat Thins are a thing of the past.  A small jar of PB is $8, and Wheat Thins are $12.  Sad day, but I’d rather go cool places than be a high maintenance grocery shopper.

-Cas is goooooood.  Fruit juice in general is the best drink you can find.

-Don’t let your feelings get hurt when your Spanish tutor puts you in the low class.  At least your husband/wife is with you.  I guess.

-Miguel still has nightmares, even in Costa Rica.  They’re just about spiders now instead of Voldemort. Funny story.

-Guys that work at the DMV think Americans are the cause of devastation around the world.  Just sit and listen to them rant, eventually  they will realize you understand only a third of the crap they are saying and just give you your damn drivers license.

-Just because your bed is King sized doesn’t mean it’s comfortable.

-Walking everyday is good for you.  It builds character and sharpens your ninja skills.





Nightmares

12 08 2010

Miguel has nightmares, always has.  But last night, he took his nightmares to another level.  When I woke up, Miguel was sitting over me and he had a crazy look in his eyes.

For the unaware reader, let me explain a little.  This is all common procedure in our routine of Miguel’s nightmares.  He wakes up with crazy eyes and is ready to run.  I tell him to calm down, tell him he’s just dreaming, and hope he is coherent enough to listen.  Sometimes he will argue and say something like, “No, it’s there!  It’s real!”  or “LET GO OF ME!!”.  Once I turn on the lights and prove to him that he’s dreaming, he will fall back asleep.

Last night, Miguel was convinced there was a spider on my head.  His way of ridding said spider was to hit me with his pillow repeatedly. And as he’s sitting over me with crazy eyes, pillow clutched in hand, I said in my best negotiator-type voice, “You’re just dreaming.  There isn’t a spider on my head.  Look…”  and then, “WHAM, WHAM”, he hit me right in the face with the pillow!  TWICE!  He then said,”No! It’s there!”   My immediate reaction probably didn’t have the most calming effect, but I think I said something like, “WHAT THE HELL!  Stop it!  You’re having a bad dream, you freak!”  Miguel then said, “No!  It’s a HUGE spider on your head.  Don’t move!”   I quickly checked to make sure there wasn’t, and after I turned on the lights and he realized he was hallucinating, we laughed and laughed at how silly the whole thing was, and went back to bed.  I’m really lucky he chose to use only a pillow!  Silly husband.  





1st Trip to the Farmers Market

11 08 2010

Now that we are official, having our drivers license and all, it was time for us to take another step toward becoming a Tico (thats what Costa Rican’s are called).  We needed to find a place to buy food.  This sounds like a simple task; at home I knew all the grocery stores, which ones are expensive, which ones aren’t and where to go to buy what.  Here…not so much.

I think Vanessa and I asked 15 different people about where they do their shopping and where that place is.  We discovered that there are a couple main options:  Hipermas-this is basically Walmart and I hated it the moment we walked in last time;  Auto Mercado- The “nice” store that has everything they have in the States but more expensive; Mas X Menos- a middle of the road place; Pali- the cheap one; and then there are the farmer’s markets: one on Saturday morning and an organic market on Wednesday mornings.

We decided that we would go to the Saturday farmer’s market with Brandon and Andrea.  We had heard that in order to get the good stuff you had to rise early.  So, we got up just after 5.  I sleepily got dressed and trudged the 6 or so blocks to the church, where the market is held.  The sun was just coming over the tin roofs around us and a group of kids were already in the middle of a heated soccer game on the asfault field.

We separated  from Brandon and Andrea in an attempt to conquer the market.  It stretched down a side street for about two blocks.  Vendors anxiously awaiting you on both sides, small children raced from one side to the next with huge smiles on their face, small dogs enjoyed laying on the warming sidewalks and Vanessa and I stood.  We stood for a moment, tried to take it all in and then looked at each other, hastily agreed that we needed to make list (something that we really should have done before, but stupidly didn’t) and then walked up to our first booth to buy some potatoes…

While walking up and down the block looking for our treasures the booths were packed.  There was: squash, tomatoes, potatoes, cucumber, avocado’s the size of a small cat, apples, oranges, pineapple, banana, mango, garlic, spices, meat, cheese, spiky looking fruits that when put in the mouth were the texture of squid, rice, beans, plants, clothes, one place making mouth watering bread and cheese things, and so many things that I didn’t know the name of.

By the end Vanessa and I had a nice bag full of all the produce we would need for the week, plus some.  We sauntered home with smiles on our faces, chatting about where we were going to buy the rest of our food…

-M





MOPT aka How to waste an entire day of your life.

9 08 2010

On the schedule for last Thursday was the MOPT (the Costa Rican DMV) in the morning, lunch, setting up banking accounts, and signing our leases. Pretty basic day, but somehow we managed to only accomplish one of those tasks, and it wasn’t lunch.  hmmm…

The argument for getting a Costa Rican drivers license:  being able to drive after your 90 day tourist visa expires and your US driver’s license is no longer valid, renting a car for a long weekend to the beach, being able to leave you passport at home when you walk out of the house.

The argument against getting a Costa Rican drivers license:  The MOPT… there has to be a really nasty acronym somewhere in there.

6 and a half hours in a line that never moves, a blood test, a physical exam, and a grumpy old man who hates gringos… that’s my right of passage.  It’s over with.  We made out better than others.  Some people in our group came out with some funny looking ID’s because the grumpy old man wouldn’t let them smile and some didn’t even get an ID, because it closes at 11!

Here is what we have to show for it.

It’s over with, and in the event I die driving/walking in Costa Rica, at least they know I’m O+  Let’s take a minute to appreciate our beloved United States DMV for a moment!  Ha!

-V








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