exploring, examining, exchanging, expressing
Thursday, September 20, 2007
Better'n No Class
Our advanced classes are a bit odd because students come and go all the time. The class lasts two months, but students came be there for any two months. So the class is circular, not linear. And the composition of the class can change from week to week. Some weeks I'll have 6 students. Then others I'll have fewer. Today I had two. Tomorrow, one of them has to work, so I'll have one.

I like small classes because I get to really interact with the students. I get to know them and understand their needs. It gives me an opportunity to tailor the material. But it's really hard to fill 3 hours 5 days a week with only 1 or 2 students. That's a lot of talking time for me and the students. It's good for them to have the practice, but it's also very draining. It's difficult to keep up the energy for that long. And if a student is tired or just doesn't feel like talking... well... then the class is really shot.

It could be worse, though. This is apparently a low time for the school. Other teachers have been without any students. So I'm lucky that I've been able to keep a class going, no matter how small it is.

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Monday, September 17, 2007
Saturday was Costa Rica's Independence Day. I manage to completely miss all of the celebrations. I thought they would be in the early afternoon. So in the morning, I went to the farmer's market (where I got an excellent bag of habanero peppers). By the time I got to the central park, it was of course raining. The park was empty except for one little snack stand, where I got to eat some meat on a stick.

That evening there were supposed to be fireworks, but I'd made plans with friends to go to the National Theatre to watch a performance of Macbeth. Again, we were too late, and the tickets were sold out. Since we were all dressed up in San Jose, we decided to go out to dinner instead. We found a decent restaurant with a second floor patio. We enjoyed good food and conversation.

In the end, as always, it worked out fine.

Sunday I went to have lunch with my Tico family. It was nice to see them again. They gave me a hard time about getting old. They also gave me grief about not learning much Spanish. But, while they were picking on me, they fed me, so it was worthwhile. I could feel the love.

Honestly, they are wonderful people, and they continue to amaze me with their warmth and hospitality. They've been far too good to me. I could never repay their generosity. In a place where I've felt very isolated at times, they have given me a home and a sense of family.

Sometimes I wonder if I've been too lucky.


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Tuesday, September 11, 2007
Bam Bam Bam
This Saturday is Costa Rica's independence day. My students were a bit slim on the details. They don't seem to know too much of the history. But, like other holidays, it will involve parades and fireworks. That explains the constant drumming from every school around here. We happen to live right next to a highschool. I hear drums even when they're not playing. Ba-dump-bump-bump. Ba-dump-bump-bump. Ba-dump-bump-bump.

Since the holiday is on a Saturday, we won't get any extra days off. That's the real bummer. In fact, there are no more work holidays until Christmas. I'm petitioning for the school to observe some of the US's holidays, since we're an English academy. But so far, the administration is unreceptive.

In fact, the administration is rather somber lately. The school has been a grim environment for the past couple of weeks. It's not as lively and fun as it used to be. We don't have as many classes here at the school during the morning any more, so there aren't as many people around. And two people in the office are doing the work of six. We've lost more than just staff and students, though. There's been an attitude change. I can't exactly put my finger on it, but it's definitely a different vibe.


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Friday, September 07, 2007
A La Mierda!
Every once in awhile, my mind breaks free from the monotony of my daily routine, and I realize the reality of my situation. These are my "Holy Shit!" moments. I had two of them recently.

Holy Shit, I only have 3 months left in Costa Rica! When it was 4 months, I felt like I still had plenty of time. But 3 months is nothing. I still have a few places I want to visit and things I want to do: Vulcan Arenal, Monteverde (for a tree-top zipline tour), Playa Samara, Playa Grande, INBioParque, see a performance at the National Theatre, watch a live soccer game. There's time. But with only 12 weekends left, I need to get off my butt.

Holy Shit, I'm 29! Yikes. That's way too close to 30. As my young German roommate put it this morning, "Twenty-nine and still alive, aye? Wow!" This is karma. I've made fun of others that were leaving their twenties. It's my turn to be the old man. But I refuse to act like one. I've requested a piƱata for my party tonight.


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Students Say
I was teaching phrasal verbs to my students yesterday. We came to "get by with" and I explained that it means to do the minimum, to manage with very little effort. One student was thinking and thinking, and then said, "I don't know if we have a word for that in Spanish, but that's so Tico!"

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Thursday, September 06, 2007
Dos Playas, Cuatro Noches
J, my roomie and fellow teacher, was going to be class-less for two weeks. I, being a kind-hearted gentleman, offered to let her teach my class for three days this week. She and our academic coordinator agreed to the proposal. That meant one thing for me: beach trip!

Saturday morning, bright and early, I made my way towards the southern Pacific coast. I spent my first two nights in Manuel Antonio, which is a beautiful beach. It's also heavily touristed. More tourists means more people selling things on the beach. Are these people selling things that beach-goers need, like icecream or beer? No, they're selling ceramic pots. Every five minutes, I was confronted by someone with a pot on every finger, calling out "Ceramica, Amigo?" Who the heck goes to the beach to buy pottery? I didn't see them sell a single piece.

Manuel Antonio Beach

The highlight was on Sunday, when I visited the national park. It was absolutely stunning. There were monkeys and iguanas and racoons and all kinds of birds. And not a single ceramica salesman in sight. I hiked up to the various lookout points, which provided amazing views of the beach. Breathtaking.

Manuel Antonio National Park Manuel Antonio National Park

Monday I took a bus down to Dominical. It's a relatively short trip, around 40 kilometers, but it took over two hours because the road is unpaved. It's all gravel and potholes. That makes the busride, literally, a pain in the ass. But it was worth it. Dominical is my kind of beach. It's small and quiet. It has a great vibe, very laid back, and filled with surfers. The food is good and the beer is cheap. Ideal. Unfortunately, it rained all afternoon and evening. Less than ideal.

Dominical Beach View from Tortilla Flats

Tuesday I tried to go a little further south (17 kilometers, to be exact) to Playa Uvita, which is supposedly an even more remote, quiet beach. Unfortunately, I got off the bus too early. I made it to Uvita the town, but not Uvita the beach. So I had to walk a few more kilometers. I found more of the town, which consists of several farms and a few cabinas and sodas. I found the entrance to the national park. But I never saw the beach. I didn't see any other tourists and only a few locals. Hot, tired, and a little nervous, I headed back to the bus stop, where I waited a couple of hours and had a nice conversation with a Tico who assured me the bus would come. Finally I went back to the comfort of Dominical, where I enjoyed my final night.

Wednesday I headed back, but took a different route. Instead of going through Manuel Antonio, I went over the mountains to San Isidro, the only "big city" in this part of the country. The bus ride was crowded, but the view from the mountains was beautiful. From there, I caught a bus to San Jose and arrived in Heredia safely.

I love these mini-adventures.

More Manuel Antonio pictures.
More Dominical pictures.


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