Ok, we’re here, now what?

6 08 2010

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On Wednesday, our first full day in Costa Rica, we were picked up promptly by Illias (the school driver, he had to spell his name out loud for us). After we hoped in the Transporte de Escuela, we went around the town of Escazu picking up all of the other teachers who live in the area. It was immediately obvious that we had no idea how to get around this place. It’s funny because in Colorado you always know what direction you are headed because of the mountains, and here in Escazu, there are mountains, but as we now know, they face south. The concept of mountains being south of us is really strange to me for some reason. It feels very backwards. In addition to the mountains being “backwards” there aren’t street names and there rarely are markers to tell you if a road is one way or not. Needless to say, this place is really hard to get around unless you know where you want to go, and where you are coming from. To this day, we still don’t know our exact address. Not that it would make a difference, we don’t have a street name!

When we arrived at the school there was a small breakfast of bagels and fruit provided for us. We ate and talked to all of the new teachers. We were asked to have our finger prints taken for our work visas. People from the government came in to do the fingerprint process. They spoke very little English, and it was funny when she asked me my profession she said “Professora?” my first reaction was, “No”. I had no idea what she was asking me, so I really had no reason to say no, but I was confused. She was asking “Teacher?”, and it took me a minute to figure it out, but I remember thinking, how ironic I’m coming to Costa Rica to teach and I had no idea the word for teacher in Spanish… At this moment I realized, I should have done more work on my Spanish. Hmmm… After a little more confusing interactions with the government official and a few red faced and sweaty reactions from being put on the spot, I had my fingerprints taken and was paid a relocation allowance. I sat down and immediately warned Miguel, “She’s going to ask you a bunch of questions in Spanish, be prepared”, Miguel’s reaction, I believe, was “Great”. After Miguel confused the hell out of her, we all went on a tour of the school. We saw our classrooms (my classroom has a balcony-no big deal), took a group photo, and were bussed to the HiperMas. Little did we know it would be one of the most stressful shopping experiences of our lives!

The HiperMas is a pretty nice store in general. It is owned by Walmart and has all of the things you could possibly need both household goods and food. I think shopping here would be just like shopping at Walmart back in the states only some things are way cheap, and some are ridiculously expensive. So, you’re wondering, what is so stressful about that? Well, to start, the exchange rate is 520 colons to 1.00 dollar. Miguel and I are terrible at Math, and let’s be honest, we just don’t have enough fingers to figure some of that math out! I mean, geez! We are dealing with thousands of colons sometimes tens of thousands… that was pretty hard. Although, Katie’s idea (she is a math teacher) to double the amount and move the decimal, is working beautifully! Second, we don’t know the Language. This is our fault, and really, we wanted a challenge… but when you are looking for salt in what is the only place you can fathom salt being, it helps to know what the hell it’s called. It also helps to remember your Spanish to English dictionary… smart, I know. Third, we needed A LOT of stuff. Although our house comes with an amazing amount of stuff, everyone knows what it’s like to start out with an empty house. We needed condiments, hangers, rugs, toilet paper, pillows, all we had to sleep on the first night were our small little airline pillows- that was fun, tupperware, and you get the point… we needed a lot. And while the HiperMas had 98% of what we were looking for, some of it was in really strange places, and some of it was labeled or called very strange things (I guess strange if you don’t know the language). And finally, this is the kicker, we only had an hour to find everything. This essentially would have been like taking all of those other challenges and setting them on fire. Welcome to hell. Walmart in Spanish meets SuperMarket Sweep meets Mega Math. Oh Boy. We managed though. We spent a lot of money, like tens of thousands, we ignored some random lady trying to sell us coffee, we completely missed where the sugar is sold, we bought the most gaudy colored rug, but we found most things. Next time we go to the store, we are planning on taking our time and bringing the dictionary… also, we bought calculators!

-V

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11 responses

7 08 2010
Dad "S"

Oh my gosh!! That was funny as hell!! I think my daughter needs to write comedy as a side job. LOL! Your whole story reminds me of when I went to Germany the first time in 1990. I can totally sympathize with you both. While it is exciting about going to a foreign land knowing you are going to live there for x amount of years, it is very stressful trying to learn everything and insert yourself into that local society and become adapted as a local person. But I promise you by the time best friends, Mom’s, Dad’s and in-laws (only because you live in Costa Rica, ha!) come to visit you will seem like a local national to them, or us. 😉
Keep up the comedy Honey. Love it!!

Love you Both,
Dad “S”

7 08 2010
B

You should get the iPod app called “GlobeConvert.” It does currency and metric conversions, it’s free, and doesn’t need wifi once it gets a current exchange rate. We used it ALLLL the time in Vietnam…20,000 dong = $1 is a lot of math! Also would have helped figure out Miguel’s height in centimeters.

7 08 2010
Pamela

Everything will work itself out friend 🙂 I want to see a picture of that gaudy rug. Also, maybe Brian could find you a translator App? It worked in Vietnam!

7 08 2010
mvgonzo

I will be checking out that application. I am so terrible at math in english let alone when I don’t even understand what the number are…-M

8 08 2010
Twanda

Congratulations to you both for taking such a leap into your life’s next adventure. It is a joy to follow young friends around the globe. I am receiving quite the education. Thank you.

PS Toilet paper is always #1 on my list!

8 08 2010
mvgonzo

@Twanda- lucky for us there was a roll in each bathroom when we arrived…however, you can’t flush toilet paper here so…that is an interesting change…

8 08 2010
Chico

I have waited awhile to respond to your postings allowing events to catch up to you both.

The wedding pictures of Renee’s wedding were full of love and happiness for us all. You captured the innocence of love – Canon kissing his cousin – how special.

Getting together with your friends before you left and saying goodbye to them was exceptional – those memories will be forever.

The Road Not Taken sounds familiar however your travels are just beginning – enjoy the good and the bad!!

Vanessa, after reading you short “glass to symmetry” you are wiser than your years. You are making the best of your relationship with Miguel and experiencing life in a different culture. How cool is that!!

I enjoyed your “Upon Arrival” posting. Viewing life in other countries on ABC, NBC or CNN is not the same as living the moment. Your experiences as little as they may be are special – thanking for sharing the pictures of your new home in Cost Rica – it’s wonderful. I’m sure you will fill it with lots of love and care.

We’re here, now what? I have no doubt that you’ll figure things out quickly but inquisitively. All I can suggest is embrace the culture and language – it will make things go a lot easier. It’s great to read your friends responses.

Love,

Chico

8 08 2010
Brenna

WOW!!! Sounds like I’m going to be jealous for the next two years reading about your experiences 🙂 Can’t wait to read more. The house and other pics look great!!!

8 08 2010
Mom

Took my laptop to NM and showed off your pics to all in Albq & Toas. All relatives thought is was so cool. Of course, I cried but so happy and relieved your safe. Ok Vanessa, you know how to make lots of beans and rice, don’t forget the tacitos in the freezer dept.

Enjoy your week, can’t wait for the next pics and updates.

Love,

Mom

9 08 2010
Mom Stevens

Sweetie, you crack me up! Love the post.
Love, Mom

16 08 2010
Ryan

You both lived in Greeley for 4 years. You should be able to speak pretty good spanish!

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