31 August 2010


One of my favorite uses for YouTube is finding inspiring videos and showing them to my students to help them visualize themselves reaching their academic and life goals. Today, my fourth grade friends and I watched the amazing video Can, one that I've been using for a few years now, and although you may have seen it already, I wanted to share it with you all.

On the off chance you haven't seen it yet, definitely check it out! It's an incredible story about the relationship between a father, Dick Hoyt, and his son, Rick, who compete in marathons and triathlons across the United States. Because Rick has cerebral palsy, his father, Dick, pushes him in his wheelchair so they can compete in these events. The father-and-son pair make up Team Hoyt, which strives to help those who are physically disabled become active members of the community.

Update: Unfortch, I was unable to load the video here, even after four several-hours-long attempts. If you'd like to watch the video (and I hope you do!), go here.

Warning: this video may induce misty eyes. After I showed it my sixth grade friends last year, one student said to me, "Aw, Miss, that movie was so beautiful. I kept starting to cry, but I can't cry...I'm a man!"

A sixth grade "man" admitting to crying in front of his friends? I ask you, what higher praise can there be?

Clips of their story are also cut to MercyMe's song I Can Only Imagine, if you'd like to see and hear more about this amazing father-son team.

Image via.

30 August 2010

el origen of a weekend

On Friday, my friends RB and EA made the wonderful discovery that the movie El Origen (Inception in English) has finally made it to our neck of the woods! After hearing so much about it and seeing the awesome previews for weeks (and *just* missing the release date when moving down to Costa Rica) how could we miss it?

On the bus to the theater:

I'll admit it: I was feeling pretty good about figuring out how to navigate the bus system downtown. I've been known to get lost in my hometown, so the fact that I figured out how to get to the theater in one piece was really exciting for me. Ok, so really I just blindly followed my friend's perfectly precise directions there, but we don't need to get caught up in the details, right? We got our tickets, made our way into the theater, and sat back to enjoy the show.

So, we're chilling there in the theater, watching all the previews, and suddenly it dawns on me that the current preview is really pretty long. As in, we've been watching Adrien Brody try to release his parachute while plummeting towards the earth for at least 2 minutes now. I'm thinking, "Hmmm...what kind of movie preview is this? Why aren't they trying to get us excited by showing us some cool action shots or explosions or something?" Adrien engages his parachute just in time for us to realize...it's not a preview. The movie has started, and we're in the wrong theater.

Let's pause for a moment here and take a look at my movie ticket:
You may notice that clearly emblazoned across the middle of the ticket is the bolded word Depredador. That would mean Predator, not Inception, just in case you were wondering. Somehow, we had bought the wrong tickets...still not sure how that happened, as we all speak Spanish at least conversationally, but it's just one of those funny things that will probably happen all the time as we're getting used to living here. Once we realized the mix-up, we ran out of the theater to try to get into the correct one, and luckily, the ushers let us in to see Inception, which had started just a few minutes earlier. BTW, the movie was incredible and thought-provoking. If by chance you haven't seen it yet, you really should...totally worth all the shimmying around at the beginning.

After we saw the movie and discussed its amazingness, we couldn't stop laughing about the mix-up with the tickets. The really funny thing is, if EA hadn't pointed out that we were in the wrong theater, that thought probably wouldn't have crossed my mind until about half the movie had gone by, if at all. I would have just sat there dazed and confused, wondering why the movie seemed so different from the previews.

Because we had an Open House at school on Saturday, we decided to stay in the San Jose area this weekend.

After the school functions, we found a new restaurant in San Jose...

...discovered a little street fair en route to the grocery store...

...and picked up come culinary essentials.

EA and RB moved into an unfurnished house, so they've been picking up as-portable-as-possible furniture here and there, and lugging boxes up hills to their new home. Note to self: moving is hard. Without a car, it's even harder. If at all possible, avoid moving without a car.

This friendly dog seemed eager to help with the moving process. Or maybe he just wanted some free food. What do you think?

Hope your week is off to a great start!

26 August 2010

wise words and a winner

This week's Quote of the Week award goes to:

As seen in the lovely home of friends EA and RB.

In other news, the random winner of the "Taste of the Tropics" giveaway has been selected!
Congratulations to... H, who commented, My favorite is a chocolate flavored breakfast cereal from Croatia called Cokolino. It's super yummy, and full of vitamins and minerals! I eat it daily for breakfast when I visit...and usually smuggle a box or two home with me :-).

Delicious, nutritious breakfast cereal? Sign me up! Please e-mail me your shipping address and your choice of candy flavor from the amazing Cafe Britt selection.

Thank you to everyone who participated...I loved reading about all of the delicious foods you have tried while traveling! I'm on the lookout for other fun Costa Rican things to share with y'all, so stay tuned for more giveaways.

25 August 2010

if all the raindrops were lemon drops and gumdrops...

...I'd be in sweet-tooth heaven. Several people have asked me what the biggest transition to life in Costa Rica has been.

For me, the greatest adjustment has not been getting used to the different [amazing] language,

or the different [delicious] food,

or the different [relaxing] concept of time,

but getting used to the massive amount of rain that falls here.

I knew that I was arriving in Costa Rica during the rainy season, of course, but I guess that after living in such a dry climate for the past five years, I really had no concept of just how much rain can fall in a 24-hour period. Most days, it will downpour for around eight hours, and it can be hard to get everyday chores done during these downpours.

During a particularly vicious storm the other day, a co-worker who has lived in Costa Rica for at least 20 years said to me, "So this is the point when Noah started building the ark, right?" Walking home from the bus stop that day, my friends and I got caught in a fresh onslaught of flash-flood proportions. I actually lost my sandal in the torrents streaming by us. I hope I didn't pick up some nasty infection while walking barefoot the rest of the way home.

It was a close call, but we made it home in time to catch the latest episode of Project Runway before our weekly Thursday Night Dinner. My rain boots had to make an appearance before I could leave my apartment for said dinner.

Fortunately, the rain usually begins in the late afternoon and continues on into the night, leaving the earlier part of the day sunny and the temperatures fresh. I keep reminding myself that it's the rain that keeps everything so green and beautiful here. The sound of rain falling on my tin roof and of thunder as it rolls across the central valley helps me fall asleep at night. And I've definitely gained a new appreciation for sunny days!

Do tell, if you've ever lived in a place different from where you grew up, what was the hardest thing for you to get used to?

And don't forget: tonight is the last night to enter the "Taste of the Tropics" giveaway, so if you'd like to take part, jump on it!

Casado and astrological clock images via and via.

24 August 2010

hello cupcake!

One of the great things about teaching elementary school is that my little cupcakes (a.k.a. my students) still bring in cupcakes to celebrate their birthdays. When I taught middle school, there was no cupcake action going on, which is pretty much the main reason I no longer teach middle school. Even in a class with just 10 students, we've already celebrated a few birthdays this year. Yes, you read that correctly...I have only 10 students in my class this year. I guess it's just my reward for having over 40 kiddos in one class for part of my first year of teaching...yeesh.

Anyway, during the second week of school, my student Liliana brought in cupcakes to celebrate her birthday. She was so pumped to share them with the rest of the class during morning recess, and the other students were equally jazzed to help her celebrate. So jazzed, in fact, that as we were walking out to recess together, a student crashed into me, which caused me to lose my grip on the cupcake container, which in turn, caused the cupcakes to tumble to the ground, frosting side down. I saw Liliana's look of horror, and began praying for the cupcake-covered ground to open up and swallow me.

Mortification, folks? I hadn't realized it was on the daily agenda that fateful Friday, but there it was, right between recess and math.

As if that wasn't bad enough, Iggy and another boy Argelio began licking chocolate frosting from the ground. Aaaaaaaah! I'm pretty sure I have the world's biggest sweet tooth, so I totally understand the need to get your sugar on. But licking frosting from the ground? I mean...

Luckily, the other fourth grade teacher came along just then and saved the day by exclaiming, "Oh! A birthday celebration! Let's give Liliana a big hug, because it's her birthday and she deserves to have a wonderful day! I just hope there's one for me!" (There was, phew!) We put the candles into Liliana's cupcake and had a fun little party for her in the cafeteria.

Liliana was really sweet about the incident and we had a fun pizza-making activity later in the day, so I think the whole shebang was pretty much forgotten by the time the last bell rang. All the same, I'm appointing someone else to be cupcake carrier the next time we have a birthday celebration!

P.S.: Don't forget the enter this giveaway for your chance to win a taste of the tropics! The deadline is Wednesday at 11:59 p.m., MDT.

Image via.

22 August 2010

weekend recap and giveaway announcement!

After exploring the San Jose area over the past few weeks, some friends and I decided to to get out of the city for a change and visit nearby Volcan Irazu.

Waiting at the bus stop
It took us a while to find the stop. We totally made a special effort to arrive early to where we thought the stop was, stood there for 30 minutes, and then realized we were in the wrong place when streams of people started walking past us to the correct location. Oh, well. At least we made it there eventually!

Just a two-hour bus ride later, we were there

Looking down into the main crater
Word on the geologic street is that this volcano erupts every 15 years or so. It last erupted in 1994, so I guess it's any day now. Yikes!

We got to see some interesting wildlife...

...rare plants that grow only in volcanic ash...

...and the rainbow towns near the volcano.
(Thanks to my lovely lady EG for letting me steal these last three photos!)

Between the fun getaway and a shout-out from Marisa on one my favorite blogs ever, I wasn't sure the weekend could get any better...


When the bus made a pit stop at a pulperia (little grocery/general store-type deal) about an hour outside of San Jose, I saw these near the checkout area:

I had heard a lot about these candies from my friend A, who loves them so much he wants to start importing them to the US. I wasn't totally convinced of their deliciousness, as I don't really like either guava or chocolate (I know, I should probably get that checked out), but I thought I'd give them a shot. And let me tell you, these puppies are the a.maz.ing.ness.

I have decided that this discovery is too great to keep secret. So, in honor of this confectionery delight, and in celebration of the fact that I have finally figured out how to mail things to people, we have arrived at...

Giveaway Announcement Time!

Giving: A bag of Cafe Britt candies, your choice of flavor here (just in case guava isn't your thing)

Please comment on this post to enter to win. The winner will be chosen randomly.

Tell me your favorite food discovery made in another country OR your favorite food from another culture.

You have until 11:59 p.m., MDT, on Wednesday, August 25th to enter.

Good luck!

Cafe Britt image via.

21 August 2010

dinner with friends

Let's be honest: the movie wasn't the greatest. But having dinner with friends is still one of my favorite things! Last Friday, a bunch of the new teachers tried a new-to-us restaurant near school. Check out the gorgeous view from the dining area of San Jose and the surrounding hills:

Say cheese! (Even standing on my tip-toes, I'm still the shortest of the bunch, ha!)

The meal was delicious, and the presentation beautiful:

Dusk settling in...at 6:00! Without daylight savings time, it gets dark pretty early.

Clouds rolling in for the daily rainstorm:

Hope you're having a great weekend!

P.S.: Tomorrow, I'll be announcing my first-ever giveaway, inspired by a recent (delicious!) find I made in San Jose. Stay tuned!

Dinner with friends image via.

20 August 2010


No, that's not a typo in the title. It's just my modified celebratory acronym acknowledging the goodness of the weekend to come, and it stands for Thank-Goodness-It's-Viernes, in tribute to my new, Spanish-speaking country.

Today was the end of my third week of school. I'm teaching a rock-awesome group of fourth graders, and it has been super fun so far! Even still, I love it when the weekend comes, bringing some extra time for exploring Costa Rica and chilling with friends.

Obviously, the weekend comes regardless of what we do, but do you ever have those times when you feel like you have totally earned it? My first weekend of the school year was like that. As usual, my students were amazing, but I still left school Friday feeling completely drained because of something that happened during recess.

Ignacio, or Iggy, is one of my fourth graders. Iggy has autism. People with autism generally have different sensory perceptions than people without autism do. This different sensory perception means that the ordinary sights, sounds, smells, tastes and touches that you or I might not even notice can be downright painful for people with autism, and everyday environments can seem hostile. Understandably, then, Iggy hates fire drills, evacuation alarms, and any other very loud, ongoing sounds, and will often try to hide during these events.

While the fourth- and fifth-graders were playing after lunch on Friday of the first week of school, a ferocious hail storm whipped in, bringing torrents of rain and blasts of thunder and lightning along with it. Gotta love rainy season in the tropics! We all rushed inside to escape the golf ball-sized pellets. Our school's roof is made of tin, so the clamor inside the building, from the storm hammering on the roof, and from the kids' reactions to the storm, was excruciating.

Weaving among the kids careening around on scooters, I managed to corral my students to my classroom to run a quick headcount. "1...2...3...4...there's someone missing. Where's Iggy?" No one knew. I ran out to the hallway to look for him. No Iggy. I ran to the restroom, calling his name. No Iggy. I asked the other teachers to check their classrooms. No Iggy. To my knowledge, he had been missing almost 10 minutes by this time, and it was clear that he was not anywhere in the elementary building. We decided that he must have been overwhelmed by the sounds of the storm, and gone to hide somewhere.

After we scoured the library, the main building, and the gym, with no sign of Iggy, I began checking the play shelters on the playground and the plant stands along the athletic fields. Iggy was not to be found. At that point, it was going on 30 minutes from the time we had last seen Iggy, and all available adults were on the prowl. We began worrying that maybe he had left campus through the guard's gate, which happened to be unlocked at this precise time.

As I rushed crazily through the gym on a second sweep, I saw Iggy's little face peer around the doorway, and heard him call, "Hello, Teacher!" He waved to me, giving me a crooked little smile. I rushed over to give him a big hug, forgetting that I was a walking river. Oh, relief! He was safe! It turns out, he was at his piano lesson the whole time. Being a new teacher, I wasn't aware that he took piano lessons (I am now, I assure you!), and the music room was the one place we hadn't checked. Of course.

Word that Iggy was safe made it back to the elementary building before we did. When we arrived, the rest of the class stampeded to hug Iggy and present him with cards they had crafted while people were out searching for him. I must have still been ashen, because all the other teachers kept stroking my arm, trying to soothe me: "Tranquila, tranquila! [Calm down, calm down.] It's all right! He's ok! Everything's fine now!"

Meanwhile, I was just thinking, "Tranquila? No, no. What I need is TEQUILA, not tranquila!" However, considering they probably don't look favorably upon references to alcohol at an elementary school, I kept that thought to myself. While the students went to Drama class, I went to the girls' restroom to dry my dress under the hand dryer, and then flopped on the comfy chairs in the Book Nook until the students came back for the last block of the day.

Overall, the incident was definitely worthy of a "Hoo, Nellie!" or two. Ah well, you know what they say...all's well that ends well, right?

19 August 2010

back in the game

Hey there folks! I have exciting news for you: school is back in sesh, so that means there will be more student amazingness stories headed your way! I hope you're ready, because let me tell ya, these guys are a hysterical, adorable bunch.

In the meantime, I'll leave you with Matisyahu's inspiring "One Day" video. The song isn't new or anything, but it has a good message, and it always makes me feel excited to be working with my kiddos.

(Having trouble viewing the video? Click here.)

18 August 2010

over the river and through the woods...

...to the Customs Place I Go!

I received a message from customs the other day. They were writing to notify me that my boxes had arrived in Costa Rica, had been cleared, and were ready to be picked up. Yesssss!

One of my new co-workers, F, offered to drive me in the school van to the customs office in Zapote to pick up my boxes. On the drive to Zapote, we enjoyed a pleasant chat about our hobbies and what brought us to this school. And then, we arrived at the customs office.

Honestly, I don't remember all that went down. All I can say for sure is that four hours, six lines, two trips to the ATM, and 23 passport verification form-completions later, F and I left the customs office victorious after wresting all of my boxes from the depths of that place. On our way out to the van, the bookety rogue wheel fell off of the handy shopping cart lent by a kind customs agent, a feral-ish dog peed on one of the boxes, and the skies opened up so completely that there are no words.


Now I have my stuff, and can finish setting up my apartment and classroom. And let me just say, I'm 100% positive that the Mickey Mouse hand pointer and bedazzled "Brain Sprinkles Shaker" (a.k.a. decorated old Pringles can) I shipped the 1,500 miles from Texas to Costa Rica are going to help my students reach new levels of academic success.

Ok, maybe not. But when you're far from home, sometimes it's nice to have a few reminders.

Image via.

15 August 2010

happy mother's day!

Lest you think I'm confused about the date, I just want to clear things up by stating that today is Mother's Day in Costa Rica. This cartoon reminds me of my mom--I don't know how she manages to accomplish all the things she does every day! I think all mothers are amazing and fulfill such an important role in our communities.

Thank you, Mom, for everything you have done for me and others. And a big Happy Mother's Day to all the moms out there. You're doing a wonderful job!

Image via.