18 March 2011


Over my last three-day weekend, I traveled to the beaches of Nosara, on the Nicoya peninsula. The beaches in that area are amazing!

Getting to the bus station was interesting. I had heard that the buses fill up quickly, so I wanted to arrive early for the 5:30 a.m. departure. I arrived at the bus station, which is in a pretty seedy part of town, at around 4:45, only to discover that the station doesn't open until 5:00, so I had to wait outside in the dark until then. Even the cab driver seemed a little worried about this plan and admonished me several times to be careful...and in my experience, if the cab driver's worried, things aren't looking good. To avoid being detected by thieving vagrants, I lurked in a gutter/corner area, where the rats kept me company. I wish I was kidding about that last part. On the upside, speaking of the cab driver, as we were driving to the bus station, we were having a conversation about how hot it had been recently. I mentioned that I love hot weather, as I had adjusted to it while living in Texas, and he was surprised that I was a foreigner. Score! Sure, we weren't discussing nuclear testing or anything...we were just having a very basic conversation...but still, I was really excited that he couldn't tell from the quality (or lack thereof) of my Spanish or from my accent that I'm not from Costa Rica.

Back to Nosara, which is in a dry part of Costa Rica (I didn't realize that those existed!) Right now, they're experiencing a drought, and everything was caked with layers of dust:

(No, this tree is not dead, its leaves are just covered with dirt.)

Because the roads are unpaved, motor vehicles are prohibited from driving over 20 kph, because going faster kicks up a lot of dust. The local towns are in a state of medical emergency due to all the dust, and an ambulance drives around constantly, picking up people who need medical treatment for dust inhalation.

The scenery inland from the beaches is beautiful, too.

I got a little lost while walking from my cabin to the beach the first day I was there. An older couple kept zooming by on their ATVs, and I guess they must have realized that I was lost, because the man came back at one point to ask if I wanted a ride to wherever I was going. I gratefully accepted, and as we were riding along, an ocelot ran across our path! I've never seen a live ocelot in the wild before--it was pretty incredible. My new friend took me to a soda (traditional road-side restaurant) to get lunch and 80 glasses of water, after which I hit the beach. At dinner that night, I met a great couple from Denver while enjoying some pretty delicious Mexican food (which I totally miss from my time living on the border!)

At the end of the weekend, as I was walking to the stop to catch a return bus to San Jose, I almost stepped on this guy, who must have been hiding from the sun:

Ha! The weather was pretty hot, but it was great for going to the beach.

15 March 2011

what's in a name?

You may have realized by now that I love to abbreviate words. I also love calling my students by their nicknames, because they're often really interesting. A Yuseth might become Juicy, a Sergio might go by Serge, and so on.

Of course, I always ask my students' permission to use their nicknames as part of my getting to know you routine at the beginning of each year. Several years ago, I noticed that a student named Oliver* had left the nickname section on his student survey blank.

Me: Oliver, do you have any nicknames?
Oliver: Yes, miss. (long silence)
Me: Really? Would you like me to call you by your nickname?
Oliver: Yes, miss. (long silence)
Me: Um, ok....what is it?
Oliver: You can call me...Olive Garden.

Olive Garden, got it. Because that is obvs a human name and is so much shorter than your original Oliver. We met in the middle and agreed to use "Ollie" in class. He continued to go by Olive Garden on the playground for the rest of the year.

Maybe I should be more clear on what I mean by nickname in the future.

*actual name used with permission

02 March 2011

let's do lunch

At the end of last semester, my principal expressed some frustration over our school's cafeteria situation. The cafeteria was just completely chaotic and messy during the elementary shift, and it was stressing everyone out. Rumor has it that a visiting student sat with his hands over his ears for the entire meal. Not good. It was clear that we needed to "take back the school," as my principal put it. So at the beginning of this semester, we started a new system at school in which all of the teachers eat lunch with the students, who now have assigned seats in the cafeteria. Although I don't think anyone was too thrilled about the new system at the outset, I must say, my kiddos are quite excellent dining companions, and lunch has really turned into a fun time to chat with them.

All this reminds me of one of my first-ever experiences with lunch duty. Sometime during my first month of teaching in Texas, Miss S (a friend from my teaching program) and I happened to be on duty together. I had re-heated some pasta with black olives and feta cheese, and Miss S, who hails from Louisiana, was enjoying a salad with balsamic vinaigrette. Our students' reactions to our lunch choices were hilarious:

Samuel (to me): Oh, Miss L! Don't eat yet...it smells like someone vomited! Oh wait, that's your food...ew, it smells ugly.

Many students (to Miss S): Ewwwww...Miss S, your food smells ugly too! How can you eat that?!

Miguel (to his friends): Stop guys...be quiet! Don't say that about Miss S's food...that's what they eat in her country!!!

Riiiiight...her country, which is also your country...

Oh, well, you gotta give him points for politeness!