Dominical- (MTV Cribs Edition)

24 02 2011

When I was younger, there was a show on MTV called Cribs.  On this show, a camera crew would show up at some celebrity’s house and go through every room with a camera.  The celebrity would take you on a tour of their home and they would show you how much better their life was than yours.  It was pretty depressing but I watched it quite regularly.  I always liked seeing such nice houses… It was like going into model homes and checking out all of the rooms.  I don’t have any desire to own anything like those movie/music star mansions, but it is neat to see.

Recently, I had a MTV Cribs-like experience.  A few weekends ago we went to Dominical.  The place we stayed in is exactly like a place you would see on MTV Cribs.  The house is called Casa Buendia (Good Day House).  It was massive.  Every room had it’s own bathroom and balcony.  There was an infinity pool, a jacuzzi, an amazing kitchen, a comfortable bed, and a breathtaking view of the ocean.  The best part was that it was reasonably priced because there were eight of us staying there.  It turned out to be around 60$ a night for Miguel and I.  If I had a camera, I would have made a mock-Cribs video.  For now, you guys will just have to live with the pictures.

Photo courtesy of

The "Crib"

Photo courtesy of

The Back Deck/ Pool

The Entry Way

The Dining Room and Living Room

The Kitchen

Casa Buendia is just South of Manuel Antonio, where we spent Christmas with Miguel’s parents.  Miguel and I had heard of Dominical but we knew very little about it because most people don’t make it further South than Manuel Antonio.  Dominical is, for this reason, beautifully undeveloped and untouched.

No one really wanted to leave the house.  It was luxurious and comfortable, but we drove 4 hours to get to Dominical, so we all figured we should check out the beaches.

The Crew

It took us a while to pack our things and make it down the “mountain” that Casa Buendia is on, but when we finally made it to the beach, I was amazed.  Costa Rica has a strange jungle-y feeling no matter where you go, but Dominical felt like more than that.  Dominical felt prehistoric.  It’s hard to explain, but the pictures kind of help.

Playa Uvita: It's huge, and there is water on either side.

Playa Las Ventanas: This place had sea caves and it really felt like I should have seen a dinosaur or two.

Dominical and the beaches were all really spectacular, but the thing that made our trip to Dominical so wonderful was the house and our friends.  We have been fortunate enough to move to Costa Rica with a group of new teachers.  They come from all over the place, we are all different ages, and we all like different things.  But, for some reason, we all get along really well.  This crew of teachers has been so great to have.  We have formed a little group and we try to travel and do things together.  The idea of going to Dominical and renting a house for the weekend is just one example of cool stuff we plan together.

The weekend really helped me appreciate the core group we are apart of, and the fun things we do together.  We spent most of our weekend at Dominical enjoying each others’ company and the house.  For one of the nights there we made a nice dinner together.  We split up the menu and all bought our various ingredients at the local market.

Andrea and Nicole deciding what to make.

Miguel and Scott finished early and were taking bets on how much it would cost. They both lost.

After a fun visit to the market, we headed back to the house to make dinner.  We played music as we cooked and relaxed.

Dinner (from left: Nicole, Andrea, Mike, Tedd)

The boys were in charge of clean up. Scott was enthused.

The NEW Brawny Man... His roll of paper is looking a little thin.

We enjoyed sunset together on the balcony.

Miguel, Scott, and Tedd had fun making up pool games. They were moving too fast for the camera to focus!

The weekend turned out great thanks to an amazing setting and fun friends.  Dominical is on my list of favorite spots because it’s beautiful, but I think we would have had fun no matter where we went, as long as our friends were there.



Have You Ever Had “One of Those Weeks”?

17 02 2011

Just like with everything in life anything new becomes old, or in our case normal.  For Vanessa and I, we have reached the point in our adventure where it is no longer an adventure but our daily life.  Lucky for us, this blog has forced us to continually look at the details of our lives and analyze, evaluate, appreciate and savor the small morsels that feed our routine.

With that being said, this week is taking FOREVER and I started thinking of ways that get me through the never ending plateau referred to as “one of those weeks”.

Here is what the week looks like visually:



A nap maybe...

Going Crazy

During times like these I often find myself turning toward exercise and climbing, but unfortunately I have been in a sort of slump with that too.  When those fail for me, I have to buckle the hatches and hunker down for a long one.  So, here I am, Thursday, right in the middle of “one of those weeks” and I find myself eeking out every minute with my only savior being music.  For me there are only a select number or musicians or songs that can rescue a week like this and I am eternally grateful for them.

These are a couple of songs that keep me moving in the only direction possible…

Safe And Sound by Electric President

Weekend Wars by MGMT

White Blank Page by Mumford & Sons

*Click on the blue link to listen to the songs.  This is a new feature that V and I installed!*



Miguel is definitely having a rough week.  I think he’s threatened to call in sick a few times and I really think he would if we weren’t doing our “state” testing.  Some weeks we all need a mental holiday.

The week seems to be moving at a slower-than-healthy pace and I think it has something to do with a 3-day weekend coming up.  We are in desperate need for some beach time.  When I’m not dreaming of soft sand beaches and warm water, I am reading, listening to music and trying to will more coffee from my coffee cup.  🙂

The latest book to get me through. By the way, have I mentioned how much I love my KINDLE!

I know there's more in there!

Can't you kids see I'm busy!!!! (Just kidding... I'm a good teacher. This was during my break!) My "I'm busy" look is a lot more scary in person.

Other than my Kindle and coffee, the only other things that save me are these songs:

Nirvana:  Lithium

Led Zeppelin (This one reminds me of my Grandpa Terry for some reason): When the Levee Breaks

State Radio: Fight No More

(Mom- You need to check out Mumford and Sons… I think you will love them)


Grocery Shopping… how I learned to stop worrying and love the chaos.

13 02 2011

If you know me at all, you know I hate to be rushed.  You also know that punctuality is not my strong suit.  One of my many Miguel-given-nicknames is “Pokey” (Gumby’s donkey who was really slow).  He calls me Pokey because, well, I’m slow as hell.  And, like an ass, I dig my heels in when someone is rushing me.  While I still possess this trait, I am getting better.  It may be because everyone around me is on “Tico Time” and is thus making my tardiness look punctual, or it could be because of the massive speed exercise that is grocery shopping without a car.  And, believe it or not, I have made an informed and conscience decision to make my grocery shopping experience rushed and chaotic.  This weekly exercise may be just what I need to shed that stupid nickname.

There are 2 ways the chore of grocery shopping can go.  The first way, and this is very rare and wonderful, is my neighbor (Andrea) will be headed to the grocery store and will ask if I want to go with her.  These grocery shopping experiences are great because I can take my time (kinda), not worry about getting a taxi ride back, I can even roam around the aisles until Andrea is ready to check out.

The second way is the most common and is a little bit more chaotic:

I start by making a list.  The list includes anything I wasn’t able to buy at the farmer’s market.  If we have taken a trip over the weekend, that means we missed the farmer’s market, and then I have to buy all of my produce from the grocery store.  It is more expensive, but not by too much.  Usually I will put some items on there just to check the price and see if we can afford it.  For instance, during this trip I was going to check the price of Chocolate Chips.  They were a little over 3,000 colones ($6).  I didn’t buy them this trip.

A short list for this week.


After making my list, I get all of my bags and water bottles together and call a Taxi.

Waiting for the taxi. Bottle of water and reusable bags. (Grandma Lorrie- that's a bag you bought me for Christmas a few years ago. It made it all the way to Costa Rica with me!)


While in the taxi and on my way to the grocery store, I ask the driver if he can wait for me.

This guy is super nice. I am always happy to get him as my driver.

It took me awhile to figure out that having a taxi waiting for me (and charging me per hour) is far better than having to call a second one to come get me.  When I first started out, I would call a taxi as soon as I started unloading my cart.  This didn’t ever seem to work out correctly.  The taxi would show up too early and would be honking maniacly while I paid, or they would be late and all of my groceries would be sitting in the sun in the front of the store.  It’s pretty embarrassing to have people step over and around your bags as you wait for a taxi you called 10 minutes ago.  It makes it even worse if a cart-guy is helping with your groceries, because then, he has to sit and wait around with you to figure out which strange and busted car is actually the taxi.  Obviously the method of 2 taxis was a pain.

The alternative is to have the taxi wait.  While they do charge by the hour, It only amounts to about $2 more than calling two separate cars.  The down-side to having the taxi wait, other than paying more money, is that I have to haul ass through the store.  After a few months of practice, I now have my shopping trip down to about 25 minutes.  The first time I had a taxi wait for me, I went too fast and left off a bunch of things on my list.  Now, I can get all that I need and still take some random pictures for the blog without breaking a sweat.

To make the feat of a 25 minute shopping trip sound even more amazing (considering how slow I like to go), you should know, navagating any public space in Latin America is also a challenge.  People here don’t have the same concepts of, “Maybe I should move my unattended cart out of the middle of the isle”, or “If I’m walking really slow, I should probably stay to the right and not take up the entire isle so everyone behind me has to creep along while I find whatever it is I’m looking for.”  My favorite senario is the, “Oh someone is turning down this isle, let me walk forward with my cart and play chicken until one of us moves or is hit by my cart.”  Many an old lady has received looks of death and firm-but-friendly bumps with my cart as a reminder to get the hell out of my way (I should probably start calling out “Twanda” every time contact is made).  I wouldn’t really care if my taxi wasn’t waiting… but I don’t want to be charged for some random meanderer.  And, after all is said and done, I do have to appreciate that it doesn’t take an entire afternoon to get my shopping done.  The chaos has brought peace to my Sunday afternoons.

I was side tracked-Sorry!  After telling the taxi, “Espereme.  Yo voy muy rapido” (I think I’m saying “Wait for me.  I go very quick”), I take off.  I shop at a store called Auto Mercado for most things.  It’s just like a Kroger or Safeway at home.

Auto Mercado- a gringo's mecca.

They have everything I need, generally.  I started shopping here because the meat is the best I can find.  It’s expensive, but I just don’t feel comfortable compromising on something like meat.  While the taxi waited, I tried to rapidly take pictures of things that I thought looked cool or would be different from the states:

The fruit is plentiful... especially pina!

Pejibayes are yummy potato-like things that smell funny. The sign reads, "When was the last time?"

Big bags. There are also Bolsas Pequenas, naturally.

Eggs: On a non-refridgerated shelf. Milk isn't refridgerated either!

Cheddar Cheese: $7

Chicken breast: $7.50

One of the cheapest things in Costa Rica: Tortillas. 50 cents!

Miguel's favorite cereal includes everything! $4

The efficiency of Auto Mercado is really apparent when I’m ready to check out.  As I unload my things, someone waits by my cart.  As soon as the last item is emptied from my cart, he will take it and put it back at the front of the store with the other carts.  Two guys usually bag my groceries, and one guy scans everything.  If he can’t scan a bar code, he sends another guy to go get the price.  If I have a bottle of water, he sends ANOTHER guy to go get that for me.  It’s amazing.

Labor is cheap- Everything else is not... Well, Ramen is universally cheap. 🙂

35,000 colones at the grocery store. This was a light trip. Food takes up a lot of our budget, as you can see.

After I pay, another person takes my groceries out to my “car”.  I tip him about 50 cents, and he unloads all of my things in the taxi.

These guys remind me of the "Cart Boys" at the commissary.

When I get home, the taxi driver helps set everything on my patio.  I pay the fare, and he leaves after I remind him that our speed bump is giant and to be careful.  I then proceed to unpack and fully enjoy my wide-open Sunday afternoon.  I have learned to stop worrying and love the chaos.


Poetry 101

3 02 2011

“Never let a moment go by that doesn’t remind you that your heart beats 100,000 times a day/ that there are enough gallons of blood to make you an ocean”- Anis Mojgani

This week at work I started my poetry unit.  This is the time each year that reminds me why I teach.  Poetry is so powerful, but unfortunately most of my students have grown to hate it.  They think poetry is old, boring, dead.  And that is what I attempt to do: kill it.  I explicitly tell my students my goal is to destroy poetry, so then we can rebuild it, from the ground up, together.

This is probably one of the most difficult things that I do.  This is the time of the year that the students decide they like me or hate me, as I push their limits of understanding, push them to broaden their horizons, so they can look back at their former selves and wave goodbye or better yet, not look back at all.  If nothing else my students get to see something new: me- exposed, excitable, passionate.  Anyway, this is the time of year that I push my students to become learners, not just students.

I don’t talk about teaching much, I don’t talk about work (other than to complain, which I am working on… kinda…), I guess I’m not that guy.  Teaching is my job, and I love it, but it’s not who I am.  However, if you want to get to know me a little better, sit through these three poems by my favorite poet, Anis Mojgani.  I can’t play all of these for my students (there are some bad words), but if I could, I would. Be a 7th grader again: sit, listen, enjoy, learn.

“Welcome to Mr. Gonzalez’s 7th Grade Literature class, you have probably never heard poems like these.  Be careful, they might blow your mind”:

“Shake The Dust”

This one is where Vanessa’s tattoo came from: “Milos”

One last one.  If you have hung with me this far, thank you and now you have seen a part of me that most have not. “For those who can still ride in an airplane for the first time”



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