Big-Kid Decisions

22 09 2011

It has been a whirlwind these past few months. When Miguel and I returned to Costa Rica after our amazing summer, we knew our lives would soon become a little more complicated. I had no idea that we could shake things up quite so much in just a couple short months.

The day that we flew in to Costa Rica from Denver, we were exhausted. The flight was a red-eye and we didn’t sleep. We shivered and tossed in our seats the entire night. So, when we finally made it back to our house just after 6 in the morning, we double checked that, “Yep, there’s absolutely no food in the fridge.” and we slept. We slept past noon, and about an hour after waking up, we made the decision to buy tickets to return for our friends’ Katie and Marcus’ wedding. How could we not? It was so hard leaving all of our friends for the second time in a year, and we knew it was a great opportunity for us all to be together again. That afternoon, the tickets were purchased. We went to the US on September 8th for a super short visit. Great times were had, and we both left wishing we had more time to visit.

We started school at the beginning of August, and I must say, I was pleasantly surprised by my 8th graders. They have been really impressive. They do the typical stuff that is abnormal for the US, like saying thank you at the end of class. But, they also are so complimentary and sweet. I am so excited to be working with them. I also started my movie elective this quarter. The class is now open to all of the 7th graders (the kids I taught last year) and it is almost completely full of 7th grade boys… Wonder what that’s about. They are loving the class, and I am having a blast with them.

School is off and running, and about 3 weeks ago, I started a “Critical Thinking” course. I asked for Country Day to pay for the course for professional development, and I was a little worried they wouldn’t help out with it because of the cost, but there really was no hesitation on their part. The course is a huge deal and will be incredibly helpful in making me a better/more relevant teacher. It is a lot of work, but I think it’s paying off big time. I feel like I am becoming a better teacher every week.

In other new-stuff news, Miguel and I have purchased a car! We debated and debated over the decision, but our quality of life has improved quite a bit, and we are both so happy to have a little more autonomy in our lives. YAY! We haven’t named the car yet, but we are open to suggestions. It most definitely is a boy-car, though.

The '96 Volkswagon Golf... He's been good to us so far.

The rims are a little conspicuous, and we have decided to trade them out

We have taken a couple trips to the beach so far. Only to the Caribbean though. Something about that place is just so great, that when we have to decide where to get away, we unanimously vote for it.

The only down-side is how far it is. It takes us about 4 hours to get there. But, we have found a great breakfast place called “Bread and Chocolate” and it is fantastic.

Home made bagel, melty cheese, perfectly cooked egg... yummm

Personal Frech Presses


I’m not sure if the Caribbean is the place to take visitors though. Something about the rugged-Rastafarian vibe, might no go over too well with some of our visitors.

Anyway, life is busy, lots has changes, but we are super happy to be where we are and doing what we do! I will do my best to keep the blog going… Love you all!

-Vanessa

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The Corn Islands…they were delicious

15 08 2011

Man oh man are we behind!

I think all of us were more than happy to leave Ometepe.  I am sure the place is wonderful, as I have heard many, many people rave about it but for me…not so much.  I was more than ready to go somewhere new.  That new place was the Corn Islands.  The Corn Islands are really just two islands, Big Corn and Little Corn; they are just of the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua.

Before our trip I had done a lot of research about all of our destinations…except Litte Corn.  Brian and Pam said that they really wanted to go there and had read that it was amazing, I guess that was enough for me.  I kind of left it up to everyone else to figure out the details and went along for the ride.

We flew from Managua to Big Corn, it only took about 2 hours.  Directly from the airport we caught a 2 minute taxi to the dock and from there took a terrifyingly wet and heart pumping boat ride to Little Corn.  I was impressed with the island.  Upon disembarking form the boat, which was packed with people, bags, chickens and everything else, I promptly noticed that there were a number of men awaiting our boat with wheel barrows…This struck me as odd, until I glanced around further and realized…this was their taxi/transportation system.  There are no roads on the entire island, just a simply footpath system to take you from one side of the island to the other.

We made our way to our hotel (Derrick’s Place).  It was nice enough.  The bungalows themselves were pretty sweet; thatch roof, nice porches, hammocks, chairs…but the downfall was there was not a running shower.  It was the old bucket and bowl system, which was pretty much the last thing any of us wanted at our final destination of the trip.  We made due and enjoyed our time on the island.

Highlights include: 1) Snorkeling and seeing sharks.  They were just nurse sharks and harmless but still super cool.  2)Eating fresh caught lobster.  The tail sitting on my plate as about the size of my forearm…and I have pretty large forearms.  3)Having some drunk guy continually yell “It’s Hammer Time” over and over because he wanted our snorkel boat to go look for Hammer Head sharks…but there was a huge storm coming and any intelligent person could tell that we needed to get off the water with a hurry.

That about wraps up our summer adventure…finally!  I am ready to blog about other things! -M

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Let’s Play Catch Up: Ometepe

8 08 2011

So, after a month or so break from blogging, I think it’s best to pick right back up where we left off.  The last actual post (I’m not counting Miguel’s strange clip-art bear post) we were headed for the Ometepe Island in Nicaragua.  We spent three days there, and let me tell you, it was an interesting visit.

Ometepe Island

Ometepe is an island in the middle of Lake Nicaragua.  It has two volcanoes on it and it is quite a site to see.  Part of what made our Ometepe trip so adventurous was getting there.  We had to take (in order) a taxi, a bus, another taxi, a ferry, and then another taxi to our hotel.  The travel time was a good half day, and we were worried about making it at all.

When we left Granada, we knew that the Ometepe bus left only twice a day,  once in the morning and once in the late afternoon.  Essentially if we missed the morning bus, we were kind of screwed.  So, we woke up early and even opted to take a taxi to the bus stop, so we wouldn’t be late.  After running a few minutes behind (story of my life), we were driving through a crowded street in a taxi looking for our bus that wasn’t there.  Then, in true “Nica”style our taxi driver rolled down his window and yelled at a kid in the street and asked where the bus was.  The kid told us to follow him, and then immediately started running down the street.  A minute or two later, we turned on a busy highway.  We spotted the bus up ahead making a stop.  The kid was gaining on it, but the taxi driver took charge.  He drove right along the side of the bus honking and yelling all the while, and when the bus driver didn’t respond, he simply turned the taxi in front of the bus so it had no choice but to stop.  I paid the man, grabbed my bag, and ran to the back of the bus.  The kid running took my bag from me, threw it in the back of the bus and we took our seats.  Not without a few shocked stares from the locals on the bus.

We were the minorities on the bus, for sure

Ready for the ferry

Once we finally made it to our hotel, it was clear… we were not prepared for the heat or the amount of bugs on Ometepe.  We had also chosen to stay at a place called Finca Magdalena, which is a local co-operative farm that has been in business for many many years.  It’s a farm… so, we weren’t going to have A/C, room-service, or even a choice for dinner really.  To get out and see the town was quite a fiasco… both expensive and far.  We were in over our heads.

Finca Magdalena had quite a nice view

Hot and thirsty!

On the second day we tied up our mosquito nets, packed up all of our things… just in case,  and we trekked out of our hotel to find a bicycle rental shop.  We were going to look for the beach, and maybe a new place to stay.  The place we found that rented bicycles, wasn’t quite what we all had in mind for “bike rental shop”.  The woman had a few bikes, a few pieces of bikes, a few pigs, a loud television, a baby without clothes, bare feet and an exposed belly.  Again, you might wonder, “What the hell were you thinking?” and again, I might add, we were definitely in over our heads.  But, we had to get out and see the beach.  Without some kind of water activity and beer, we were going to roast.

I think we all kind of forgot how far the beach was from our hotel, but it became pretty apparent that it was a million miles away when we started riding our bikes on the most hilly, mud-puddle-boulder-filled road I have ever been on.  On top of all of this, there were pigs, chickens, young children, and old men all over the place and all equally ambivalent to our newly formed bicycle gang.  AND! Yes, there is more… Our bikes (don’t act surprised) were the worst bikes in history.  Miguel’s was missing a pedal.  Pam couldn’t reach her seat and her handle bars did some serious damage to  her hands.  My front tire was wobbly and my breaks didn’t work.  Miguel’s breaks didn’t really work either.  So.  You take all of that, add a million miles of hot-buggy, pedestrian/animal/boulder/hill-climbing and falling, and you have probably a really funny picture of all four of us, but we were miserable.

After making it to the beach, we cursed ourselves for paying money for those damn bikes, and seriously considered throwing them in Lake Nicaragua.  Needless to say, we were all a little crabby, and were quite happy to stay in the water and enjoy being lazy.  We had earned it after all.  We found a local place for lunch with fresh fish, cold beer, and free wi-fi, and we immediately began searching for a new place to stay.  One preferably right next to the water and with A/C.  We found one… we were actually right next to one.  The problem was that we had to get our things and come back, and it was getting late.  Our plan was to take a bus back to our hotel and a bus back.  Things fell apart quickly.  The busses weren’t interested in picking us up (our bikes were a big deterrent) and they didn’t run directly to our part of the island, so no matter what, we were going to be walking/riding/dangerously careening part of the way… we might as well ride back the whole way for free.  We were all miserable when we finally made it, but looking back, I know it must have been hilarious to see me riding down a rocky-ass hill with a piece of shit bike screaming at chickens and children the like to get the hell out of my way or I would loose it, for sure.  How ridiculous!

Damn bikes

That night, we ate dinner and scheduled a taxi ride in the morning to our new hotel.  We would go on to have one more night in Ometepe with A/C and an early wake up call.  We had a flight to catch to the Corn Islands.

Our "Taxi" ride into town

Our improved digs

-V





Climbing=Bliss

22 12 2010

“My happiness is not the means to any end. It is the end. It is its own goal. It is its own purpose.”
Ayn Rand

There is something so wonderful in seeing Miguel climb.  We have often joked at how restless he gets when he isn’t climbing.  There was one year, we often refer to it as “the year when Miguel wasn’t climbing”, he was unhappy to say the least.  I felt as though I was watching him fill a hole climbing had left with any and every hobby he could think of.  I had to limit him to two hobbies a year because he was getting out of control.  A few hobbies I can remember him trying were: flying kites, harmonica, photography, mountain biking, road biking, and backpacking.  Clearly some hobbies were cooler and admittedly way more expensive than others!  When he started climbing again, all of those hobbies fell away and he was at peace again.

I am so happy that he is climbing now.  Weird hobbies aside, I think it’s amazing to see him dedicate himself and really stick with what he loves.  He goes to the climbing gym 2 times a week.  The gym is in San Jose and Miguel has to walk to the bus stop, ride the bus into town, walk to the gym and then do all of that on his return trip.  There’s also the language barrier.  Not many people speak English at the gym. But, with work, Miguel is slowly being accepted by all of the nice Tico’s at the climbing gym.

We have also taken a couple trips to a local climbing spot with a friend from work.  The place is called Cachi, and it’s only one wall of sport climbing, but it’s perfect to satisfy the urge to climb outside.  Also, when everything is dry, I think Miguel will take a trip up to Pico Blanco and check out some reported boulders.  Things are in the works… And I’m happy that we have options here.  I love climbing, but I’m not empty with out it.  Miguel on the other hand, needs it, and I’m thankful he doesn’t have to go without.

Left side of the wall at Cachi

Right side of the wall at Cachi

Route name and grade... The hardest one is called "Ojo del Tigre"

Recently there was a climbing competition at La Sabana (which is a big park in San Jose).  They erected a climbing wall in the middle of the park and had people all over from Central America come.  Miguel signed up and worked hard to get ready for it.  Competition was stiff, and Miguel did well.  I took a bunch of pictures of the comp and of La Sabana.  Next year look to see both of us competing.  🙂

-V

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Hodgepodge Post containing a 5 picture glimpse of our town

18 12 2010

As it always seems to happen around this time of year things have been busy for us and that is my only excuse for the absence in posts.

Vanessa and I have officially finished the first semester of teaching here in Costa Rica.  The time has passed in a blink, not only with work but with everything.  I can’t believe that I have taken a semester of Spanish classes, or learned as many idiosyncrasies of Escazu as I have, or been fortunate enough to have the many of the experiences I have all packed into such a short period of time.  I also can’t believe that I have only gone surfing 4 times, I had big plans to become a professional surfer while down here.

Anyway, I am anxiously awaiting Wednesday, because my Mom and Dad arrive to spend Christmas with us!  I am sure there will be a full blog report on that trip so I will leave those details for another time.

Other things going on in our lives right now… I am competing in a climbing competition today.  If you have followed the blog for a while, you know that climbing is a big part of my life and every now and again I will be talked into competing.

Vanessa and I also had been trying to figure out what we were going to do after my parents visit because we still have over 2 weeks after they depart until we return to work.  After talking ourselves in circles and as usual waiting until the last minute we bought plane tickets to Panama City for January 4th.  We have a loose plan of what our 10 day trip down there will be like but we do know that we will be staying at this unique hostel:  http://www.lunascastlehostel.com/.

We have been so busy lately that we have not been taking as many pictures as we should so I am going to post a couple that I took from around Escazu.  Here is  a little taste of our town…

cross at the graveyard

 

outside a house

not a word was spoken between them

ceplicur

these guys have a tough life

side streets

San Miguel Church-center of town

My apologies for such a hodgepodge post but now that we can relax again after our second quarter cycle there will be more quality posts to follow…to be followed by poor posts…and again by better ones…





A Late Halloween Update

24 11 2010

Miguel and I love Halloween.  There is something so fun about dressing up in ridiculous costumes and making a complete fool of yourself.  And in all honesty, it most likely stems from the obscenely crazy Halloweens we would have in college.  Every Halloween I can remember with Miguel has been EPIC.  From our first Halloween together when his Bunny costume (that I made for him out of old woman’s sweat pants) beat my Wonder Woman costume in a costume contest.  He won 100 dollars for that one!  Or the year we dressed up as Minnie and Micky Mouse and Miguel was randomly assaulted by a stranger, who apparently had something against Micky Mouse. This Halloween, although away from our closest friends, was not going to go uncelebrated.

It was a little hard to find costumes for this Halloween because Costa Rica doesn’t celebrate it.  The country is predominantly Catholic, and it is believed to be the “devil’s holiday”.  We had increased pressure and difficulty finding costumes when an 80′s theme was set on the party.  How do you create an 80′s Halloween costume from scratch?  Most people went as the standard 80′s workout girl, but Miguel and I aren’t really into “standard” costumes.  So, we drew from what we loved best in the 80′s… the cartoons!

Miguel went as Grumpy Bear from the Care Bears, and I went as Rainbow Brite, which ended up just looking like a girl with some rainbow stuff on… sad.  Nevertheless, we had a great time, and I snapped a ton of pictures, and I will attempt to tell you the small details in captions.

Miguel looks great as Grumpy Bear!

The Care Bear Stare!

Our friends(from left): Larry Bird, Magnum P.I., and John Rambo

At some point this strange guy started doing this cool fire-spinny show...

It looked dangerous, but he let random people try anyway... I stayed clear of that.

The food was fun! Zombie cheese ball

Cat Poop cookies... Nobody ate these

And someone brought this italian guy straight from the airport and he started cooking.

 

He said he brought meat and cheese with him in his suit case.

It was AMAZING. The whole thing was gone in a matter of minutes

Magnum Approved!

There was a giant Rubics Cube
Then this random drunk guy sat on it…

It slowly deflated and everyone simultanously said, "ohhhhhhhh".

 

But before it was squished, I took this amazing picture!

Overall, it was a good night.  We ate well, we laughed, and we made memories with new friends.  Hope you like the pictures.

This Thanksgiving we are headed out of town.  We are going to Montezuma.  Here is a link of the place we are staying. It should be a great time… but I’m already missing my family and the yummy turkey feast.  Love and miss you all.  V-





Rain and Tragedy

5 11 2010

What a crazy week here.  It rained and rained and as I write this it is still raining.  We have not lived here very long but one thing we have learned pretty quickly is that when it rains, there are usually mudslides.

All of Wednesday, there was a feeling of discomfort in the air. Every time I looked out the window of my classroom, the rain blurred the trees that are not more than 15 ft away. After work, I splashed down the street to Spanish class. During class we had to stop talking multiple times because the rain became too loud.

On Wednesday, Vanessa and I laid down to go to sleep but the pounding of the rain on the roof made it difficult.  As we started to doze off, I told her a fact that I had looked up earlier:  In the some parts of Costa Rica they had received 1.5 ft of rain in two days, that is more rain than Colorado averages in a year. We slept restlessly. It’s hard getting use to such heavy rain.

Vanessa and I woke up on Thursday to the phone ringing.  It was Andrea and Brandon telling us that there was no school because there had been a major mudslide in San Antonio de Escazu, and others around the country.  San Antonio is just up the hill from us, maybe 3 minutes.  My first reaction was to be happy, it was like a snow day, but then the reality began to sink in.  A mudslide that would cancel school, not just our school but every school around the country, meant that something was probably bad.  It was, it is a tragedy.

The cable, internet and cell service was out at our house, which was nothing compared to the 800,000 people without water or electricity; regardless, we started to piece together the facts pretty quickly and as of last night it totaled to 20 people dead, and 12 missing.  They didn’t even try to count how many houses were gone, obliterated, as if they never existed.

It is such a tragic time here, you can feel it.  The damage is clearly read on the streets, and we don’t have school for the remainder of this week. If something like this happens in the States, it is sad, yes, but life can go back to normal relatively quickly.  Here, not so much. There is not much equipment helping with the clean up, it is men, friends, and families. From what I know, and have seen, the beautiful area in San Antonio de Escazu will not return to normal, ever. The scars will not be erased, like they would in the States.

Mine and Vanessa’s hearts are heavy as we think about the people that were affected, so very, very close to home.  But we are okay, we are fine.  We still love it here, but it does bring a bit of realism as we live out our dreams.

Here is a link to a Costa Rican newspaper article on the disaster:  Tico Times (in English)








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