exploring, examining, exchanging, expressing
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
I've been back in Tennessee for about a week now, and I've really enjoyed being able to spend this time with my family. In the past seven years, I've only been home during the holidays or brief vacations. I've missed out on quite a bit. It's nice to hang out with my nieces and nephews and catch up on their lives. They've grown so much! They're each developing such strong personalities. And of course it's great to be able to spend time with my parents and my sister without the pressure of holidays or schedules.

It's funny, I never thought I'd miss all of this so much. I never thought I'd want to return to a small Southern town. I'd forgotten how friendly the people are, and how comfortable the pace of life is. I've missed being surrounded by mountains. Seven years ago, I couldn't wait to leave. I latched on to the first excuse to get out of here. I barely looked back. Now that I've returned, I have a whole new appreciation for this area, the people and the lifestyle. I almost regret that I'll be leaving again in a month.

But this time, I don't think I'll stay away quite as long.


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Sunday, January 14, 2007
Goodbye, Columbus
We had some good times, you and I. We shared some laughs. We had a few romances. We lived it up for awhile. Sure, we got off to a rocky start. I was young and didn't know what I was doing. I made plenty of mistakes. Still, we made it work. You've been really good to me. You accepted me, faults and all. It's been a nice 7 years.

But, to be blunt: It's over. Don't worry, it's not you. It's me. I've changed. I'm a different person. I mean, you're great. Really! You've got lots of things a guy would want: safe neighborhoods, plenty of bars and entertainment, a low cost of living, decent jobs, and wonderful people. I'm just ready for a change. I'm not prepared to settle down. I'm sorry, but I've just got to move around a little bit. I've got to visit some other cities. I'm sure you'll make a great home for another guy. Just not for me.

I'm sorry. I'm moving on. I'm sure you will, too.

I'll remember my time with you fondly.


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Wednesday, January 10, 2007
Frequently Uttered Comments & Questions
Now that more people know about my plans, I'm starting to get more varied responses. Most have been encouraging, of course. People are happy for me and wish me well. They think it's exciting. They say that they'd do it, too, if they could. (They can, of course, but they really don't want to. That's a whole different topic, though). Some people are skeptical. They look at me like I've lost my mind. (And I very well may have. It wasn't doing me any good, anyways). Lots of people are curious and interested to hear more about Costa Rica. You might be interested in the common questions and my answers (which are the result of several months of reading and research - all second hand information - I'm no expert yet).

Where exactly are you going?

It's in Central America, between Nicaragua and Panama. No, it's not an island. No, it's not Puerto Rico. I'll start out in San Jose, which is the capital and right in the middle of the country. I hope to end up in a city outside of San Jose. I won't be right on the beach, as there aren't too many teaching jobs there. But it's only a few hours from San Jose to the beach by bus. The whole country is about the size of West Virginia.

Where will you live?

A former ESL student of mine is from Costa Rica and has generously offered me the use of her house. That'll get me started until I find my own place. I browse the housing classifieds at costarica.craigslist.org almost daily and I see plenty of reasonable apartments. I don't think I'll have a problem getting settled. But since I don't know where I'll end up, I don't want to commit to anything ahead of time.

What are you taking with you? What are you doing with all your stuff?

I plan on taking a duffel bag of clothes, a few books, and a laptop. From various other moves in the past few years, I've already gotten rid of many of my belongings. This time I'm really simplifying. I'm leaving a few boxes with my parents, but almost everything else has been given away or trashed. It's a fresh start. I don't want to go to a new country with a ton of baggage, literally or figuratively.

How will you get around?

Costa Rica has a good, cheap bus system. I plan to make use of it. There are taxis, too. And walking is good exercise. I won't have a car. The roads are scary and I'd like to be car-free for awhile.

Do they have nude beaches?

You know, I hadn't actually researched that. Thanks for the idea!

Is it safe? Aren't they in a civil war or something? What about the drug cartel?

It's as safe as the United States. There's petty theft, but no real violent crimes. Just like in any city, there are muggings and scam-artists. No war. They don't have a military. Costa Rica is considered "the Switzerland of Central America."

Can you drink the water? What will you drink? What will you eat?

The water's safe. The coffee is excellent. The beer and rum are supposedly fine, too. The food is mainly beans and rice, with some meat. Lots of different fruits and veggies. It looks good to me. I don't think I'll go hungry or thirsty.

Where will you work? Who will you teach? Do they have real schools?

Since I don't have a job lined up yet, I don't know exactly where I'll be teaching. But they do have "real" schools, from elementary up to university-level. Quite a few of them, actually. And there are lots of language schools, too. There is a large demand for business English teachers, so I will likely end up teaching adults rather than children. I'm fine with that.

Do you have to get a special visa?

The Costa Rican government has made it very difficult for foreigners to get work visas. They value their native employees. Fair enough. My passport allows me to stay in the country for 90 days. If I leave the country for a few days and cross the border, I'm allowed to stay for another 90 days. Etc, etc, etc.

Do you know Spanish?

Well, no, not really. I know a few basics and can recognize some written words. I studied French, which is just similar enough to be confusing. I hope to pick up Spanish quickly once I'm immersed in it, though. Barring that, I'll have to stick to the main cities where there are more English speakers.

Do you have to get shots? What if you get sick?

No, Costa Rica does not require any vaccinations. I'll likely get some sort of traveler's health insurance just in case something major happens.
They actually have rather good medical care. Some people even take special vacations there just to get dental work or cosmetic surgery done because the quality is high and the cost is cheap.

Will you have Internet access?

The main cities have DSL, wireless hotspots, and Internet cafes. Dial-up is available nearly country-wide. I should be able to get connected at least occasionally.

What about phones?

I won't have one of my own. The phone system is a government-run monopoly. They only allow residents to have phones. And residents may only have two cell phones each. I'll use Skype if possible.

What is there to do there?

I'm not going to a different country to sit on my butt and watch TV, that's for sure. So I'll find other things to do with my time. There are lots of national parks (rainforests and volcanoes) for hiking and visiting monkeys and such. There are bars and beaches. Heck, even things as simple as going shopping will be an adventure considering I'll be in a different country and don't know the language. I'll be very busy, I'm sure.

Don't you have to watch out for the tootsie fly?

I think you mean tsetse fly. And you're thinking of Africa.


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Wednesday, January 03, 2007
It's a brand new year. It's the year that I'm making my move to Costa Rica. And things are moving along nicely.

I've registered for CELTA training at the Instituto Britanico in Los Yoses, Costa Rica. The course begins March 5th. Some people say that it's possible to find a job without any sort of TEFL certificate, but I will feel much more comfortable having formal training, experience in front of a real classroom, and local contacts. Plus it will give me a month to get a feel for my new location.

I've scoured the Internet in an effort to contact as many people who have taught in Costa Rica as possible. Many folks have been incredibly helpful, providing me with information about schools, travel tips, job hunting, and housing. It's encouraging to know that there are plenty of people who have made the move and have had positive experiences. I feel confident that I'll be able to do the same.

It's a good thing I have that confidence and encouragement, too. I put in my two-weeks notice at my current job yesterday. So far, people at work have taken the news well. They're actually very supportive of my plan and most wish they could do it themselves. I have gotten a few strange looks. "You're going where?" "Do they even have electricity there???" "You don't have another real job lined up?!" But for the most part, people think it's cool.

So my days in Ohio are numbered. I'll move back to Tennessee when I've finished my work obligations. That will give me an opportunity to spend time with friends and family before leaving the country. There are only a few things left to do before I can begin my new life. It's all very exciting!


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