Charlie and Roe

30 09 2010

A lot of places in Escazu are expensive.  It’s strange, because I think every new teacher was expecting the cost of living in Costa Rica to be way less than in the US.  While in most cases, it really is cheaper; food is not.  For dinner out, it is not unheard of to pay around 16 dollars for an average meal (average in size and taste).  For a pretty nice meal that will offer leftovers, you can expect to pay 30-40 dollars.  I think it is in part because of inflation and also because we are living in a town that is considered the “Beverly Hills” of Central America.  Surprisingly, this is REALLY good for Miguel and I.  We set out with goals when we moved out here, one of those goals was to reign in the amount of money we spent on eating out and how we spent our money in general.  Since we have been in Escazu, we have been forced to eat at home A LOT.  The luxury of a local pizza place or Chipotle (oh how I miss you) are not available or are just not reasonable.  We have to choose our dining out occasions wisely, and we have to really seek out those things that offer the most flavor and value. This is how we stumbled upon Charlie and Roe.

This is the part where the angels sing and baby Jesus appears

Charlie and Roe is this amazingly unpretentious restaurant next to the church.  If you walk by when it’s closed, you wouldn’t even know a restaurant was there.  And to be quite honest, I don’t even know if you could call it a “restaurant”.  There is a bar with some stools… and that’s about it.  To top it off, it’s an empanada place.  I’ve never really thought highly of empanadas,  fried dough filled with strange meat… no thanks.  But Charlie and Roe has completely changed my perspective.

When we walk by the shop in the morning, I almost forget that it’s there.  It doesn’t open until 8, which for us, is a good thing.  Breakfast empanadas might be the end of me.

Charlie and Roe in the morning

Completely unrecognizable. Most definitely a hidden treasure.

So what makes this place so great?  Well, to start, one empanada is only 500 colones.  That’s less than a dollar a pop!  The other selling point is the flavor.  Roe hand makes all of the empanadas.  You can choose from Spinach and cheese, Chicken, Mozzarella, Shrimp, and a Sweet apple. The choices are limited, but what they do make, they make damn well.  Miguel and I both have our go-to favorites.  I steer clear of the meat, and Miguel can’t get enough of the chicken.  After ordering, Charlie then proceeds to yell to Roe, “Dos Espinaca y Queso!  Dos Pollo!”

That's Charlie. He was camera shy and weirded out that I was taking a picture.

Roe pulls her handmade pillows of love out of the fridge in the back.  Charlie fries them in a small fryer right in front of us.

Freshly made in front of me. Crispy, cheesey, gooey, yummmmmm.

While we wait, he makes some spicy salsa and talks to us about the weather or listens to me painfully practice my Spanish.  He brown bags our food, reminds us that the queso has folded corners, and smiles as we leave.  All the while, locals stop by with their own coffee cups and get a refill, or come and share the local bit of news on the street.

Miguel and I usually take our warm goodness to-go.  We don’t go to Charlie and Roe very often, but when we do go, it’s usually before Spanish class.  We will leave work a little early, head over to Charlie and Roe, visit a soda (convenience store) for a drink, and then head over to Spanish class with just enough time to enjoy our afternoon snacks.

Take the first bite to make a little pocket, and then you add salsa.

And try to pace yourself.

Can I have some more salsa? Signs point to no.

In an attempt to grasp the bigger picture, Charlie and Roe represents more than just a great bite to eat.  It’s a simple pleasure that in any other circumstance or any other place in my life, I would have taken for granted.  My life has changed dramatically.  I own a third of the clothes I once did.  I don’t have a working television.  I walk every day to get where I need to go (even if it’s dumping rain).  As a result, and quite wonderfully, I am learning to appreciate the simple and small pleasures in my life. Charlie and Roe is most certainly one of those.

Miguel rushing to Spanish class to get out of the rain and eat our brown bagged treat.



A day in the life of…

26 09 2010

One of the things I enjoy most about my profession is that no day is ever they same.  It is wonderful when you have the moment when a student looks up at you and smiles because you just helped them unveil something they never knew or understood about the world.  Of course with everything in life, one smile can make a day and one comment can ruin it.  Regardless, challenges await and 5 of the 7 days are consumed by this quest.

So here is what at typical day looks like for me:

5:15:  The alarm sounds.  One of the best purchases Vanessa and I have made is buying an alarm that plays our iPod in the morning.  It is great to wake up to a great song…or sometimes, like the other morning, wake up to a little MC Hammer because I forgot to change the song before bed.

Alarm clock- McHammer waiting to play

5:15 and 5 seconds:  Hit snooze…

5:45:  I lethargically roll over and wake Vanessa to get in the shower…There are usually two results with this action: 1) she makes some sort of animalistic moan and stumbles from the bed and begins her day OR 2) she pushes me, and says in the i am going to rip your heart out tone of voice “I AM NOT SHOWERING TODAY!”.  That is my que to scoot away as far as possible because, well, you don’t mess with Vanessa and sleep.

Sleeping Monster

5:46:  I lay there staring at the ceiling thinking of random things.  These thoughts usually include things like… “did I really hit Vanessa in the face with a pillow because I thought there was a spider on her face????”

6:09: get out of bed, shower and get dressed

6:45:  make coffee, eat a little breakfast, pick up the kitchen and the house before we leave.  Usually at this point I debate whether to disarm the house alarm.  Every time it is armed or disarmed it makes a siren sound.  This has become the signal for “We are ready to go” between Brandon, our neighbor, and I.

French Press is the best!

6:50: Vanessa races around like a maniac to finish her morning duties…which is usually making the main part of our lunches, I usually put together the sides like chips, fruit, ect.  (Brian Lewis used to love to look at what we packed for lunches at Skyview because I always had the “cool” food)

7:15ish:  Arrive at school.  I try to take the time to pause outside my room and look at the fantastic landscape.

View from my class in the morning

8:00-3:00:WORK.  I would like to say that most days fly by but as we all know time is a tricky thing, sometimes the day is over in a blink and other days a minute can’t go by fast enough.

my desk

my class

my door to the hall-decorated for independence day

3:30 on Tuesday/Thursday:  Vanessa clamors into my classroom and we dig out our umbrellas and meander down the street to Spanish class.  I would love to tell you the name of the school that we go to, but I don’t think that I have ever learned the name.  All I know is that I generally enjoy going to class.  Vanessa and I are the only students in our class and we have a wonderful teacher, Imelda.  She always seems to have a smile and laughs when I try to make jokes in Spanish.

Same view as the morning. The stom is upon us. Umbrellas ready!

5:00:  Vanessa and I head home from Spanish and usually try to test out our new found knowledge in a conversation as we saunter home.  I usually enjoy this walk because many of the Tico’s are on their way home from work and the streets are alive!  People are chatting at the park, the bus stops are full and shop owners are consumed by the people waiting for their services.

Jorge's Place


5:15-10ish:  This is a time that we relax, Vanessa might make dinner, we might go out, I play basketball on Mondays, we continue our quest to find a car, or just zone out with a book or the computer.

The entire time that I have been working on this post, from its inception to the first draft and through the revisions, I have been trying to capture what a day is like for Vanessa and I…but I can’t seem to do it.  The daily actions are the same as home, the conversations we have with colleagues, the interactions with students.  You could see what we do and hear what we say and think we could be anywhere, but we are not, we are here in Costa Rica.  Life. Is. Different.  There is a charm in the foreign street signs, the slight smells of food, or garbage or flowers.  There is character in the way people dress, the cars that drive wildly down the street.  There’s endearment in the stray dogs that wander the streets with fully bellies of scraps and the noisy rustle of 30 parrots in a tree outside my class or the mismatch colors of a fence adorned with barbed wire.

This is our home, for now, this is our life.

Fence on the walk home

STOP! it is just a suggestion


Mmmmm… Grapes

15 09 2010

Punta Uva at night

Punta Uva- “Grape Point”

But your saying, “Grapes don’t have points.” and I’m saying, “Exaaaaactly!”  Now you know.  First lessons free.

We decided to take a second trip to the Caribbean coast a couple of weeks ago.  This is the rainy season for most of Costa Rica, and “el Carib” is the only place to get away from the rain.  The tricky part is, to get out of the rain, you have to first cross through the mountains (which are magnets for rain).  Tricky, I know.  The weekend of the 3rd we packed everything up, loaded 8 people into two beat up cars, and headed out of town.  We didn’t make it far.  I guess something about rain makes dirt turn into mud, and mud has an incredible knack for sliding… on the only road to the Caribbean coast.  We were pissed, so we went out to dinner and drank.  And in our spirited conversations we decided, next weekend would be THE weekend.  Screw the mud.

My bag was still packed from the previous weekend when Thursday night rolled around.  Sure, I had pilfered some clean underwear and comfy pajamas out, but other than that, it was intact.  Friday morning we took out the trash, turned off all of the lights, locked all of the windows and doors, and said farewell to Jorge Jr. (the plant).  After school we had plans with an 89 Montero, and a mudless road to the coast. We all held our collective breaths through the mountains.  We had one pass to climb, and then the rest was smooth sailing.  We made it… in damn good time too.  We went out to dinner and went to bed early.  We had plans for the following day.

Tedd the navigator and Scott the co-pilot

Tedd's 89 Montero: glitter stuck to the seats and an endearing squeak

Bannana plantations on the side of the road.

Bannana? Several thousand bannanas?

The plan for Saturday was to eat breakfast, buy some snacks and water, and spend the rest of the day on the beach (worst agenda ever, I know).  Breakfast didn’t disappoint, snacks were almonds and some weird wheat thingies, water was called “Wah Wah”, and the beach was Punta Uva.

I don’t know if I really have the words for Punta Uva.  I have never seen water so blue.  When you walk out to the beach, to the left you see this ragged and untouched point.

"Que Rico"

When you look to the right, you see palms and soft sand beach.

This is where we spent our day

At that moment, you don’t care about the kid who won’t shut up in class; you forget the people who bug you with their incessant bitching; you forget the fact that you can only breath out of one nostril; you forget the crazy day to day of city life.  And you remember… you remember that you are in a paradise with your best friend; you remember you are living a life long dream; you remember the way you love warm sand on bare feet; and in truly bitter-sweet fashion, you remember all the loved ones you wish were with you in that moment.

The Group


An Artsy-Log Shot

A night-time soccer game

Isn’t that great?!

We laid all day.  We played Frisbee.  We all swam out as far as we could go, and then raced back to the beach.  We tried catching fish with our feet.  We walked down the beach and people watched.  We saw monkeys and heard them howling in the trees.  We worried about our heads as we laid under coconut trees.  We found seashells.  We got salt water in our noses.  We read our books.  We drank our water, and I said over and over again, “I love my life, I love my life, I love my life.”


2 posts for the price of 1!: Our Town and Thoughts from -M

10 09 2010

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Last weekend I had the chance to get away from the city for a little while.  Andrea (my neighbor and fellow Coloradoan) and I went for a hike in the mountains of Escazu.  We had a great time, and I really enjoyed the amazing view of the city. The hike was all up hill, but it was wonderful to be surrounded by trees and the peaceful chirping of bugs and birds alike.  I think I will be taking a routine visit up that mountain.  This weekend, however, I am sick.  I have absolutely no voice, and a pitiful cough.  Hopefully I can manage my class with sign language tomorrow.  hmmmmm….

Anyway, here are some pictures of the hike, and some strange things we have seen around the city.  Love and miss you all!  Is there anything in particular you would like pictures of or would like to hear about?  Miguel and I are always looking for things to report on to those of you back home.  Just let us know!


Random thoughts from Miguel on a Friday:

I apologize for the lack of posts.  Vanessa has been sick this week and the internet at our house has not been working.

Last weekend we attempted to go to the Caribbean Coast but the plan quickly fell apart when the road was closed due to a mudslide.  We are going to try again this weekend, hopefully with better success.  I love Escazu but there is so much out there that I can’t wait to see!

My spanish is improving every day, I wouldn’t say that I can speak it yet as much as say random words in some made up order.

Yesterday Costa Rica smelled amazing.  There was the wonderfully sweet smell of flowers outside my classroom.  Between every class I would linger a moment longer to let it warm me.

I am ready to have a vehicle.  I have grown to love walking and am now proficient in calling cabs but I am ready to do things on my own time.

There are things that make me smile every day here: the cows roaming a small abandoned lot, the random roosters that crow at you when you walk by, the friendly smiles of people when they realize you have no idea what they are saying…

My students are smart…very smart…they push me to be better at my job…

I am ready for the point in my life when people ask me “Do you speak Spanish?” to finally be able to say “Yes” and then continue to hope that they don’t say something to me in spanish as that seems to be what they do even when I tell them “No”.

There are new experiences and new challenges every day.  And every day I try to take the time to remember that I live in Costa Rica and remember how fortunate I am to do so.

I love Vanessa and couldn’t imagine doing this adventure with any other person.  She is my support everyday and I strive to be hers.

Let us know what you want to hear about.  Our lives are different and exciting but sometimes it is difficult for us to pin point what makes it that way.


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