Tutoring- Not my day job, but I wish it was

27 03 2011

Isa working at her desk

Surprisingly, tutors are on high demand at our school.  Country Day doesn’t really offer special education services because it’s so small and many of the families that have children in our school are wealthy, to say the least.  It is because of this mix that many parents turn to tutors to supplement their child’s education and to ensure that they are successful.  Apart of me also thinks that our parents are very busy and very hard working, and thus, need someone to sit down with their child and make sure they are doing ok in their classes and getting all of their homework done.

Miguel and I have found that English teachers are also pretty needed in the tutoring field because many students are second language learners; English being their second language.  So, in November when a parent called me and asked me to help her 5th grade daughter with studying for tests and preparing for 6th grade, I jumped at the opportunity.  In the pool of kids who need tutors, a 5th grader who wants to prepare for middle school is an amazingly good catch.

It’s kind of hard for me to wrap my tutoring experience in a nice little post.  I don’t even know where to begin to describe it.  I suppose I should mention that Isabella, one of my tutees, is such a sweet little girl, I have really come to enjoy hanging out with her.  We are buddies for sure.

I began tutoring her with the expectation that I would visit her house and we would have our sessions in her room.  I immediately came across the problem of getting to her house.  I had her mom talk to the cab driver to make sure that I had the right directions, and when he pulled up to the house, I was astounded.  Her house wasn’t a house, but a mansion.

The entrance to Isa's house

Her live-in-maids, yes plural… MAIDS, greeted me initially and her mom and brother welcomed me with a kiss.  I was led to her room and we got straight to work studying for a spelling test and working through her reading homework.  It was strange, and I don’t think it was ever intentional, but I felt like “the help” for the first time in my life.   When our hour was up, I had the maids call a taxi to come and get me because I had no idea where I was.  I was overwhelmed, but I knew Isa and I were going to get along, which was the most crucial part of tutoring.  When I finally made it home I spilled every detail to Miguel, including recounting Isa’s private soccer field and basketball court.  Wow.

The partial-front view. There is a guest house in the back.

I was able to get a taxi to Isa’s house pretty easily, but for the first four weeks I struggled getting a taxi to pick me up from her house.  You would think it would be very easy to say, “The mansion on calle Los Laureles” but it wasn’t the only mansion on the block, and the house is really inauspicious from the road.  I met with Isa 2 times a week but the frequency didn’t matter.  I had to tell the dispatch lady a million different land marks to describe the place.  I would often try to arrange a pick up with the taxi who dropped me off, but it just never worked out.  I was regularly waiting 20-30 minutes for a taxi (sometimes out in the rain because Isa was eating dinner and I felt awkward being the random person waiting in the living room while the family ate).  I eventually gave up calling a taxi to pick me up, sucked it up, and walked the 2 kilometers to the gym.  I made the right decision because I really enjoyed the walk and I was saving money AND I was forced to go to the gym.  I had formed a routine that worked.

About three weeks ago my routine was changed.  I showed up to the house to work with Isa, and it was in disarray.  There were workers all over the house and everything was covered in plastic.  There were huge renovations underway.  We worked in Isa’s mom’s room while she rested… it was super awkward, and from then on we have been meeting in my classroom.  My life is now infinitely easier because of this.  I love it.  Also, not surprisingly, Isa is way more productive during our sessions in my class than in her bedroom.

Isa's room mid-session

Miguel has also been tutoring.  He tutors Gabe, a 6th grader, one day a week in writing and reading.  They have been working together for nearly 5 weeks now, and I think he’s not as thrilled with tutoring as I am… Gabe is a fidgety and anxious kid.  Sweet as they come, but he’s an 11 year old boy… much different.

To add to all of this, just this past week, a mom approached both Miguel and I and asked us to tutor her son, Santino.  She wanted Miguel to tutor him in social studies and me to tutor him in reading/writing.  We both meet with Santino once a week at the school and we are both really happy that we took him on.  He’s a really good kid, and it’s really rewarding to work with him.

So, three days out of my week and two days out of Miguel’s week are spent meeting with students for tutoring.  It is a big part of our lives and I think both of us really enjoy the experience plus the money isn’t bad either!



Who knew oxen were pretty? – Dia de los Boyeros

19 03 2011

a boy driving his goat cart

Last weekend we stuck around Escazu for a low key weekend and I am glad we did!  We don’t always get the news about things happening around town; mostly because we don’t have television or read the local newspaper, so we sometimes find things out at the last minute.  Lucky for us we did get word that the Dia de los Boyeros or the Annual Ox Cart Festival was going to be happening on Sunday.

majestic black and white oxen

We had heard about the Ox Cart Festival from the day that we arrived in Costa Rica.  People had told us about the elaborately hand panted carts, the great celebration, and parade of Oxen.  The festival reminds the locals and visitors of the roots of Costa Rican farming.  While most the farmers now use modern machinery every now and again you will see a farmer holding up traffic as he drives his ox down the main road with the cart packed full of produce.  The intricate paintings on the carts are supposed to symbolize a peaceful way of life and acknowledge a sensitivity of nature.

hand painted cart

intricately painted wheel

The festival lived up to everything I hoped it would!  We arrived a bit early, with our friend Tedd, and had plenty of time to people watch!  It was some of the best we have had in a while because, apparently, at a festival like this all of the young female girls dress as if they are going out on the town to attract as much attention to themselves possible…and of course they looked ridiculous.  Anyway, their pea-cocking quickly paled in comparison to the beauty of the parade of oxen.  I was expecting the carts to be beautiful but what I did not expect was the beauty of the animals.  They are large and majestic and they were carefully ordained with small jewels or intricate headdresses.

Pasqarp-a palooza: V watching the people

this guy was very unhappy with me taking his photo

After taking over 400 pictures we enjoyed walking around the artist and food booths while enjoying being immersed in “the real Costa Rica”.  It was great to be surrounded by the culture and not hear a word of English spoken.  Looking up at the amazing mountains surrounding us and listening to the drone of the not-so-foreign language it was a great reminder that we live in foreign country…and it is amazing!

With so many amazing photos here is a slideshow with the best of the best.  I also attempted to put together a couple of video clips.  Enjoy:


This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Untitled from Miguel Gonzalez on Vimeo.

Bugs 2- Spiders cerca la casa

13 03 2011

I think it’s about time for a good bug post.

I have been trying pretty hard to take photos of bugs when and where I see them.  I have somehow turned into “that girl”  who instead of stopping and saying, “Oh gross!  That bug is really creepy!”  I have been grabbing my camera and getting as close to it as I possibly can without freaking myself out.  Miguel usually is chiding me in the background, “What are you doing?!” or my favorite, “Don’t get too close!”

Fortunately, our house is not as rampant with bugs as many other places in this lovely country.  Aside from the occasional ant here and there (thanks to Carol and Chico’s wonderful ant traps all those ants are dead), we have very few bugs.  Of course we have the weird creepy crawly bugs that I photographed in Bugs! #1, but in addition to those guys, we have a random spider here and there as well.  The spiders that we see are generally outside of the house.  They lay in wait for us to get home, and then as we try to get inside the house, we are able to glimps some strange and scary looking bugs hanging out.

This guy was right by our front door. Super creepy looking. I was a little freaked out while taking this picture.

A black widow near our front door. Miguel and I were definitely glad to see her gone the next day.

In addition to the creepy spiders I have seen outside, we do have a “Kitchen Spider” as I have so aptly named him.  He hangs out in a little crevice near our sink.  And, as a true testament as to how I have switched mentalities in regard to bugs, he has been living as the “Kitchen Spider” for a good 3 months now.  Spiders eat other bugs… namely mosquitoes.  We live near a river, and thus if we aren’t careful about open windows, we have mosquitoes.  I have let K.S. live and hang with us for his not-so-short life because he serves a purpose.  He eats other bugs, and he’s not that big AND he runs away when I get close to the sink.

Kitchen Spider (K.S. for short)

I have, of course, found some bugs that I just can’t bring myself to get close enough to take pictures of, so I have had students take those pictures.  🙂 All the Costa Rican kids are totally unfazed by giant bugs.  There has been one bug who has gone un-photographed, and will continue to go un-photographed… this bug is some kind of worm that can actually lift the upper half of it’s body off of the ground.  He was in our car port one day and I ran inside immediately.  Ehhh… as brave as I have gotten, nothing will make something that creepy ok.


Surf’s up-Hang 10-Cowabunga-

4 03 2011

Tedd created this after the weekend! Good times.

It is the dry season here in Costa Rica, a.k.a: Summer.  The weather is beautiful every day with the temperatures ranging from the mid 70’s to 80’s in Escazu and higher on the coasts.  Needless to say, this is the time to get out an explore the country and we have.

Our group of friends jokingly said that we should try to go somewhere every other weekend for during the dry season, while we haven’t quite lived up to that we have gotten pretty darn close.  A couple of weeks back we headed to Puerto Viejo, which is a backpackers paradise on the Caribbean coast.

Tedd, Scott, Vanessa and I loaded up into Tedd’s trusty Mitsubishi Montero and headed into the sunset with surfing on our minds.  Our destination was Rocking J’s.  Rocking J’s is a place of travel lore; wild parties, hammocks for beds, bonfires… We were not exactly sure what we were getting ourselves into…but it was a three day weekend and we had nothing to lose.

Pick your poison...

3.5 hours later we puttered up to the hostel and were greeted what I can only describe as: Animal House.  We quickly found out that it was the monthly Full Moon Party, where they dress in togas and sell ridiculously cheap drinks.  We rolled in a little late and most of the people were in full party mode, singing, taking shots that were being poured down a huge ice block to be consumed by the patron waiting at the bottom…

We cautiously checked in to our private rooms (no hammocks for us), which were very clean and pleasant.  As Vanessa and I climbed the stairs we kinda glanced at each other with silly grins on our faces mixed with nerves and excitement that were saying: “What are we doing here?”.  Thankfully, as we settled into the room and when we closed the door, almost all of the sound was drowned out and we knew that everything would be ok.  We were going to enjoy ourselves but we knew that we could escape to our room when we were ready.

Our private room...Where is the bed?

The loft bed...it took us a minute to realize where the bed was!

Mirror right next to it...I woke up thinking there was someone laying there...it was just me.

We put our “party pants” on and joined the fray for as long as we could.  Vanessa and I just can’t party like we used to, but we sure enjoyed watching everyone else. We couldn’t help but laugh and point at the poor guys that were sound asleep in the middle of the bar, written all over, with drool dripping down their chins. We also enjoyed the guy who thought no one was looking and randomly started dancing wildly with a dog.  Needless to say, he was enjoying himself.

Rocking J's on the second night. It was much more calm!

Hammock Room

We woke up fairly early the next morning, slightly hung over, threw on our swimsuits and flip-flops, met up with Scott and strolled out to the beach.  There were already surfers bobbing in the water and we couldn’t wait to get in.  We tossed our stuff down, Vanessa got comfortable with her Kindle, and Scott and I rented boards and dove in.  Time became a blur as I continually paddled to either avoid a being crushed by a wave or attempt to catch one…The next thing I knew I had spent two days surfing, the skin on my face was crispy from the sun beating off the water and it was already time to head back to Escazu.

Scott and I going to get boards

A wave breaking in front of Scott and I

Vanessa's Kindle Camp

Taking a break

day 2

I was lucky enough to catch a few waves.

The escapades Friday night were a nice change of pace, but I really enjoyed spending two days holding my breath as I fell from my surfboard, paddling around the picturesque beach, and enjoying good company.

This weekend we are doing a reconnaissance trip to Tamarindo to prepare for Raquel and Jason’s upcoming visit…I plan to find myself bobbing around in the water pretending to be a surfer again.  Stories to come…


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