30 April 2011

sisterly love!

March was a big month for visitors around here! (I know, I know, this is a little...o.k., a lot...late!)

My sister came at the beginning of the month. While she was here, we went out to celebrate my friend R.B.'s birthday:
(Side note: do you see the girls sitting behind us? I know the one on the right from teaching in Texas before moving to Costa Rica, and randomly ran into her at the restaurant. Craziness!)

Over the weekend, we went to La Fortuna to enjoy some of the activities around Volcan Arenal. While walking around, we spotted this awesome sign:
I think I need a "Broken Espanish" sign to wear around my neck at times!

In La Fortuna, we hit up Baldi Hot Springs...

...where we enjoyed views of the volcano...

...and relaxed in the thermal waters.

We also went on a zipline canopy tour...

...and almost wet our pants from the terror of the Tarzan Swing! (TMI? Sorry!)

Actually it wasn't so bad! After it was over.
No, really, it was cool!

After the zipline, we walked around La Fortuna for a while:

When we got back to San Jose, we went to see our grandmother's family's old house. This is the street where they used to live!

Amazingly, the current owner was there and let us in to look around. (Amazingly, because he is trying to sell the place and doesn't actually live there anymore...we're so lucky that he happened to be there watering the garden and was willing to let us in!) This huge rock used to be in the back yard, and there are many pictures of my great-uncles playing all over the rock when they were little. When the house was expanded, the owners at the time couldn't move or break up the rock, so they just built the rock its own room!

What a great visit!

27 April 2011

won't you be my neighbor?

I have the greatest neighbors! One of my goals for this year is to "spread some joy" to those around me, so each month I pick one little thing to do for my neighbors or co-workers. These projects aren't anything big (in February I passed out heart-shaped sugar cookies; in March I gave out Shamrock notes and gold-wrapped candies...you get the idea). But over the past few weeks, I have gotten the following things as thank-you gifts from my neighbors:

(The lighter might seem random, but it's totally useful for the tricky burners in my apartment building!)

A package of chocolate was also dropped off since I took the photo. I think I'm totally lucking out with this deal...I mean, a bag of craisins and a pint of strawberries is way better than a sugar cookie! I'm thinking of going with a Cinco de Mayo theme for next month...any ideas?

24 April 2011

it's a small world after all

One of the reasons I was interested in teaching in Costa Rica is that my maternal grandmother's family used to live here. It has been really interesting to visit places I had seen in my grandmother's old photographs when I was a kid. I also love running into people who knew my grandmother's family. During a conversation with my principal over dinner one night, I asked if she had ever lived outside of Costa Rica, and she mentioned that she had lived in Raleigh, North Carolina for a while, a city I used to live in as well. One part of our discussion led to another, and we eventually discovered that her grandparents were very good friends with my great-grandparents, and even worked together to start a school in Costa Rica! We also learned that she and my cousin attended the same all-girls high school in Raleigh (at different times), and that her mother and my grandmother attended a women's college in Raleigh together--the same college where I spent my freshman year. I don't really buy into the "everything happens for a reason" philosophy, but I do think it's so neat that I ended up working with someone whose family knows mine so well!

Image source.

21 April 2011

clowning around

My neighbor G and I were standing outside our apartment compound the other day, waiting for our ride to work. As an unfamiliar car pulled over, G wondered out loud, "Who is that?" I squinted to get a better look and replied, "I think it's Mr. P [a co-worker of ours], but it looks like he has a bunch of stuffed animals in the seat next to him." Of course, that wouldn't make any sense, but that is how it seemed.

When the car pulled up alongside us, the person in the passenger seat--who happened to be a clown with neon green hair, not a bunch of stuffed animals--rolled down the window and called out to us, asking for directions to a nearby school. I was so surprised/freaked out to see a clown asking for directions at 7:00 a.m. that I didn't hear what she said at first. Unfortunately, we couldn't tell her where the school was, so we parted ways. I hope she made it to her destination. I also hope I don't run into any more clowns early-ish in the morning.

Image source.

18 April 2011

breaking and exiting

Have you ever reached that point where you are determined to finish all your work at school--no matter how long it takes!--because you just can't stand the idea of lugging home a bag filled with papers whose weight makes your spine curve? The other day I was remembering the time I reached that point during my second year of teaching. I went in one Sunday before report cards were due to finish all of my grading. After parking in the front lot, accessible only through the main building, I was let into school by the computer teacher, who evidently also had lots of work to catch up on. She unlocked the upper elementary building for me, and said that she would page me on the intercom when she was ready to head out, as I would not be able to leave once the main building was locked for the day. For almost four hours, I graded away in peace, until it suddenly occured to me that I had been at work for quite a while...such a while, in fact, that it was getting dark outside. I decided to wrap things up and pack up my remaining work to finish at home. When I paged my colleague to ask if she could let me out, I realized that she had already left, locking the door in the process! Getting locked in at school on the weekend...how sad, right? I mean, is that the depths of nerd-dom or what? After a quick meltdown, followed by a scan of the area, I realized that the only way to get out was to crawl under the bus gate (the top of the gate was wrapped in some mean-looking razor wire). Luckily, the gap between the gate and the ground is pretty big, but still! As I was wriggling under the gate, nearing freedom and feeling like things were finally on the upswing, I heard a small student voice calling to me. Sigh. Of course.
Student: Hi, Miss!
Me: Oh, hi, Babs! Hi, Babs's family! Are you all having a good weekend?
Student: Yesss...what are you doing down there?
Me: Um. I'm just checking the gate to see that it's working for when the buses arrive tomorrow morning. What are you up to?
Student's Sister: We're walking to the Family Dollar. Were you working out in the school gym? You're really sweaty.
Me: Not exactly...
Thankfully, neither Babs nor any of her family members mentioned the incident again. As for me, schlepping papers back and forth doesn't seem so bad anymore...

15 April 2011

do you know what it feels like...

...to be the last one to know when the lock on the door is changed?

Actually, Enrique, I do. (Random song reference there...sorry.) Anyway, when I arrived home from a trip the other day, I tried to open the gate to my apartment compound, only to find that my key wouldn't fit in the padlock.

I checked to make sure I was using the correct key, which I was. Weird. Then I noticed a tiny note taped to the door that told me to ring my neighbor's bell so she could come let me in and give me a new set of keys. Turns out, a bunch of stuff was stolen from another one of my neighbors, so my landlord had to change the lock on the gate. (Side note: isn't the Tibetan sun on my gate kind of cool? It's really helpful when giving directions to people who've never been to my apartment before.)

The funny thing is, this is not the first time I've come home to discover that my locks have been changed. When I was living in Texas, I found the locks on the doors to my apartment had been replaced after a major creeper/borderline stalker had gone into my apartment...using keys he still had from when his mother was the manager of the apartment complex. Incidentally, at the time, his mother was in prison for embezzling money from the apartment complex. Yeah.

So, as I mentioned earlier, Enrique, I feel you, I really do. On that note, I'll leave you with a bit of musical genius, a la Mr. Iglesias himself:

(click here to listen!)

Enrique image found here.

12 April 2011

something to sink your teeth into

A while back, my students were working on building a model of a colonial village out of re-used household materials (soup cans, yogurt containers, cereal boxes, and the like). They were working together nicely, few harsh words were exchanged, they were using tape responsibly...in short, everything was going great. Two kiddos needed some rubber bands, so I handed them a grocery bag filled with them that I had discovered in a cupboard while rummaging through everything I had inherited with my classroom at the beginning of the year. I listened to them whispering and giggling together while digging through the rubber bands for the sizes they needed, then heard them gasp in horror as they dropped the bag and back away from it quickly.

"Girls! What's the matter?!" I asked.
"A muela! There's a tooth in the bag!" one responded.
"What are you talking about?"
"Yes, there's a tooth all rotten in there!" the other little girl answered.
"No, there can't be! It must be an old yellow rubber band bunched up or something," I insisted.

They brought over the bag to show me, and sure enough, there was an old, rotting molar lying among the rubber bands--easily one of the grossest things I've seen in the classroom. Hearing my gasp, the rest of my class rushed over to see the offending object. After everyone had a peek, I promptly closed the bag and stuffed it in the trash can, and we all shared a nervous chuckle about the weirdness of it all.

I ask you, what sequence of events could have led to this tooth being in the rubber band bag? The only thing I can think of is that two students were fighting over the rubber band bag (those babies are hot commodities, after all), and one kid's tooth got knocked out in the process. But if you lost said tooth, wouldn't you want to get it out of the bag so you could redeem it for some tooth fairy moolah? It just doesn't make sense.

One thing's for sure, though: it definitely made me feel better about the disorderly state of some of my classrooms in the past. Because no matter how messy they were, I can guarantee you that no one ever found a body part in any of them!

Image found here.

09 April 2011

the classifieds

While driving Texas a few months ago, I noticed this sign:

I was really confused for a minute or two, and wondered "Hay [there is] what for sale? What are they selling?" And then I realized that it was talking about hay...as in animal feed.

I'm glad my Spanish is improving, but I think I might need to brush up on my English before I take the GRE this summer.

[Image found here.]

06 April 2011

opinions, please

So, I need help making a major life decision.

Should I become a nun...

...or should I get married?

Just kidding! Kind of. But when I was discussing strategies to avoid unwanted male attention with some co-workers the other day, they came up with these two ideas. (That is, they suggested that I pretend to be a nun or married.) I know it probably seems extreme, but some people are just persistent. In the event of an emergency, my colleagues gave me an adjustable silver toe ring to wear on my ring finger (I have really small fingers) and a rosary to keep in my pocket.

Here's what I'm thinking: while the nun thing would probably be more of a deterrent to many individuals, it would probably also be less believable, given that I would be using this line in bars, at least occasionally. The whole not-having-a-habit thing isn't so much of an issue, as my friends assured me that many nuns go habit-less these days, and I could be pretty convincing by just touching my rosary fondly while quietly murmuring "mi esposo" when someone approaches. However, I would feel more than slightly guilty about impersonating a woman of the cloth. So tell me, what would you do??

[Images found here and here]

02 April 2011

step into my office

It's that time again: parent-teacher conference time. The kiddos are excited because they get two half-days next week out of the deal. I'm excited because it's always nice to see the parents and, let's face it, something unexpected always comes up, which is fun.

Take my Spring 2010 round of conferences, for example. At the time I had 120+ students, so I had a lot more parents wanting to talk to me than I will this year. As the night wore on, more and more of them seemed to want to just get in and take care of business--until Jorge's mother showed up, that is. She rushed in for her turn, visibly excited about something. I was glad to see her so happy, but must admit, I could not think of a reason related to my class that would explain her emotional state. When she got to my table, however, she proudly presented me with the following booklet:

In case you can't tell, it's a social life magazine produced in Reynosa, a city just across the U.S.-Mexican border from the town we lived in. Ah-ha! So that explains the excitement! On second thought, I was still a little confused...

Seeing the perplexed look on my face, Jorge's mother took the magazine back and quickly flipped to the page she wanted me to see:

Oh. It turns out that a reporter had taken some photographs of a group of my friends when we were out one night celebrating a friend's birthday, and said photos had made it into the magazine.

Can we say awkward?? I'm just glad she was excited about the picture!

I think I'll be safe from this particular surprise at this round of conferences...