Monday, November 30, 2009
Where did I put that bottle of sunscreen? I quickly reached for it today before the boys sported their swimming trunks and darted outside. Yesterday after spending three hours in the sun, we all needed a little bit of protection as the sun shone brightly again today. Glorious sun!
Rubbermaid tubs deserve a mention here...I remember that early morning back in July, when Mike and I were frantically packing at the 11th hour. The taxi to take us to O'Hare was arriving in three hours (4:30 a.m.) and we were staring at my sister's living room full of our 'stuff'. We quickly decided what was staying behind, the other 'essentials' were packed into four tubs that made the flight with us on the airplane. Great suitcase alternatives and they meet the approved dimensions for most airlines. Other uses, just in case you are wondering...
1. Great for building forts (and an added bonus, you can store all the sheets and towels one uses to construct the fort in the bin after your little ones tire of fort building (at least for the day)
2. Impromptu games of "Pop goes Michael, John, or Mommy".
3. Swimming Pools - It is this use that put a smile on my face yesterday and today as I remembered how much the kids enjoyed the little pool we had back on Tuttle Avenue. Throw in a couple of plastic water bottles, yogurt containers, funnels and measuring cups, and hours of fun quickly follow. While Mike buried himself in school work yesterday (Sunday), I enjoyed some relaxing in the sun as the boys frolicked in their 'tubs'. Their play was uninterrupted - mom didn't have to intervene once - what a welcomed change. They delighted in getting their hands wet and warming them in the sweet sun. We pulled the patio table and bench out into the yard and ate our lunch, picnic style. What fun!
We also enjoyed our version of a beanbag toss (I have two change purses) from Guatemala that we've filled with small change - they make great bean-bags - we had a blast!
After the fun in the sun, we ventured with Dad to school as he had to make copies of some material for the upcoming week. A quick detour into the Dairy to enjoy an ice cream and then up a side road as I wanted to check out a street that leads up around the Monteverde Institute. It was there that we ran into a family that we had previously met on one of our hikes -- they were in their car scouting out house rentals as they were preparing to move from San Jose. Andres is the Assistant Manager for one of the big hotels in town. Edda, his wife, came out of the house, holding 5 month old Luna, while 4 year old Javier, greeted us at the stairs, chatting us up in Spanish. "Ah, yes, Edda, how are you?" I said in Spanish. She welcomed us and invited us in - a quick tour of the house, and the boys were off playing, while we sat on her balcony basking in the sun in the late afternoon. I look forward to building a friendship with this family. She is eager to make new friends as I am as well. The boys laughed together and chased after Javier's new puppy, Kala. It is this spontaneity that I love.
Another high-light of our long weekend - WE FOUND A BABYSITTER! SWEET! Denise, a 9th grader, came over to the house Saturday monring and spent 1 1/2 with the boys - they loved her and showered her with goodbye kisses and hugs as she left for home through the pasture gate. Mike and I are thrilled as we have not had a chance to enjoy a night out without kids since we arrived end of July. Jude, my partner in crime, on various projects for the school, has invited us over for dinner on Sunday night. She and her husband, Theo, rent a house going toward San Luis and plan to live out their lives here in the Monteverde area.
Today, I spent some time again with Jude to prepare for another meeting this Wednesday with the School Director to update him on the progress of our project.
Good Day, Sunshine!
Saturday, November 28, 2009
There are so many things I love about living in Monteverde. Many have to do with adventuring outdoors in semi-natural surroundings (much of the forest around our house is second growth, but still very lush), learning about the lives of other people here, and living a more simple life.
Yesterday morning, we had a group of nine hiking through some trails at a neighbor's house across the street. Ages ranged from four to eighty-seven and to give you an idea of its challenge level, we had to take the dogs back home because John the elder of the group was worried they would fall into the ravine or pull someone with them. We ventured down to a waterfall, admired a massive strangler fig tree and a huge thirty five year old walnut tree that would take over one hundred years to attain the same size in Illinois. In future blogs, we will have to write about the strangler fig tree and about John's move to Monteverde in 1971.
As we started the hike, someone mentioned black friday and shopping. It literally brought a strange chill as I thought about sitting in a car attempting to navigate through the Best Buy parking lot and being continually bombarded with advertisements from every direction. I do not miss the gauntlet of commercialism that tells me "buy this, take your kids here, your life will improve if you have this, eat here, drink this, wear that, he can't be a man 'cause' he doesn't smoke the same cigarette as me," and on and on.
We do not have a TV, a car or radio. Yes, we do have internet and do need to buy things, but shopping is not part of the culture in this community. There are some signs with arrows pointing to a point of interest and most of the signs for restaurants and hotels are small and simple. There is one sign for the Super Compro along the road - its seems out of place and of course there are the two vehicles that occasionally drive by blasting commercials from their rooftop speakers. One driver we know, Ricky always stops and waves "Pura Vida", cheerfully accepts guayvas from the boys and lets the boys speak into his microphone! In general, consumerism is not a major part of people's lives here.
On a related note, I faced a challenge in the 7/8th grade classroom this week when I introduced a method for presenting an animal species. I instructed them to create a magazine, TV, or radio advertisement 1) as a vehicle to tell the audience about the animal while 2) encouraging preservation of its habitat and 3) discouraging the construction of a shopping mall that could endanger the species. The kids understood their animal and the concepts of habitat preservation and endangerment, but stumbled with the advertisement part. When I presented a task like this in Chicago, the students would run with it and I would be impressed with the creative juices, but these kids just did not understand advertising the way the Chicago kids do. I realized, after playing a TV commercial actor and showing magazine ads that this would be difficult. I asked, too late, who had experience with creating an advertisement, and two students raised hands. They presented their animals on tuesday, with a varying degree of fanfare!
Oh no! Children in this community will have a disadvantage when competing for that marketing executive job after college! These students have plenty of talent and skills that I would not find in a Chicago classroom (blog about that soon). I think about the meaning of education: Are we training our child to be a good worker? Or, are encouraging our child to be a learner for the sake of learning. Is education a combination of these or something completely different? Depending on the culture, does the purpose of education vary from neighborhood to neighborhood? and country to country? We are part of our culture.
Posted are some pics from yesterday's hike and of local advertisers. Signed M.
Thursday, November 26, 2009
'Pot Luck' as it is called here made Thanskgiving day seem almost normal. Yes, we missed family and frequently thought about the fun being had at David and Sandy's house. We did have a feast - sin turkey and stuffing, but loaded with lasagna, a variety of vegetables and sweet potatoes. We did not have a dessert table beyond belief but did enjoy a mango pie! Carol and Peter, Veronica and Stuart, Ginna, John, Adrienne and Odeliea joined us and brought their delicious dishes.
It was a warm day, about 75 degrees and I could not help but think of the games of running bases we would play back at the Scottsdale house after stuffing our tummies on a Sunday BBQ. The boys played on the swing, had several games of soccer with Veronica and Carol.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
On Sunday, we ventured out for a walk to the Guindon Farm to watch the milking of the goats and cows. Wolf and Lucky Guindon were part of the first group of Quakers that came to Costa RIca in 1951. They raised seven children here and the family has been and still is a keystone to the development and life here in Monteverde. Benito, their youngest son, has always had a passion for animals and now takes care of the farm making sure the animals are attended to twice a day. Benito is easy going and always welcoming of visitors, so we arranged to meet him for the 4:30 milking.
Along the two kilometer walk to the farm we stopped to talk with Miguel (on the motorcycle) and to say hello to the man on the horse. The boys found some vines on which to climb and strangler fig trees to look at in awe. We crossed a footbridge, passed a field with a colt and mother and finally came to the long(kilometer) driveway up to the Guindon house. As we gained in elevation, we found a view down into the valley and overlooking the Bay of Nicoya. The plant life was thriving and thick. Apparently, more rain falls here than at our house.
The first building at the top of the hill is the old Guindon house, now empty except for a few million termites and surely a snake or two. We are greeted by a handful of barking, yet friendly dogs wanting a sniff of fresh 4 year olds. Wolf and Benito soon arrived and it was time to empty some udders. We followed Bennie to the milk room as watched him rinse and prepare the stainless still milk cans. Out we went as he opened a gate and allowed the goats to walk the ramp up to their feeding and milking platform. Michael asks, "Why do you tie the goats?" "So they don't ram their horns into another one's butt!" Benito replies laughing, but completely serious. Michael laughs, "That's funny!" The goats are focused on eating their molasses sweetened while Benito does the milking. I would guess that the seven or so goat yielded about two liters of milk, or about 1/2 gallon. The largest amount was given by a goat that just gave birth 10 days ago while the others yielded little because they are pregnant. I thought about how much work went into the 1/2 gallon of goat's milk I bought from him that morning for two dollars. He let the boys feel warmth of the bucket before taking it to the milk cans. We waited while he called the five cows in from the pasture and started milking them -all by hand, no fancy machinery on this farm.
The sunset was beautiful and darkness was creeping over us and it was difficult to pull the boys away. Michael and John were naturally thrilled by the animals and wanted to see the chickens, ducks and rabbits. This will have to wait for another day explained mom and dad as we were eager to begin the hike back home. I was familiar with a trail through a forest and pasture that would lead us to the road. Darkness was settling in and the boys and I talked about how our night vision really improves when we don't use flashlights. Reaching the pasture, we were pelted by wind driven mist while dodging rather large cow pies. Almost to the road, I heard a strange noise behind me and John. We quickly turned to see a colt running and crossing our path just a few feet behind us. It let out some gas and galloped away. Interesting, I thought, glad it didn't strike us.
The boys were troopers and walked home the full distance in the dark of night on a slippery muddy road while being refreshed by wind driven mist.
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Oh, how my life is getting busy…as I write this, I am sitting outside the school office perched on a low bench waiting for Mike to finish his last class as we are observing Michael and John in Kinder today at 1:30. Their teachers have extended an open invitation to all the parents to observe their child/ren in class during the month of November, so we look forward to this opportunity today. Between 12 noon; the time I arrived with the two boys and this very moment, I have had a fruitful conversation with my husband over lunch/recess, quickly debriefed yesterday’s Fundraising Committee meeting with Jude and spoken to Yuri in the School Office about t-shirts, stickers and other MFS products (which, as of yesterday’s fundraising meeting) is my ‘baby’. I need to put together a plan by the 12/9 meeting with my vision as to how to better market the school’s products and get them more visible in the community…sounds fun, eh? Tomorrow, I again meet with Jude to further design and plan out the work we are doing in preparation for the Master Facility Plan/new building. Did I mention, I have to run home and make another birthday cake this afternoon?…YES, Happy Birthday John Gustavo! We celebrate his turning four today …and is it just coincidence or providential that for the first time in over a year, I did not have to wake up (several times) in the night to lead him to the bathroom to go pee pee and lay back down with him in his bed while he fidgets for another 90 minutes before falling back to sleep. We finally purchased a night light in Santa Elena last weekend and with the help of our dear friend, Veronica, implemented some strategies to break this most tiring habit… hopefully we are on our way…So indeed, Happy Day John!
We are thrilled to be opening up our home Thanksgiving Day for a ‘pot-luck’ lunch for other expats and ‘misfits’ J who are staying local for the holiday. Again, thanks to Veronica for being the catalyst for this! We have ample space for all in our home, so to the Schaefer’s they will come. We plan on making eggplant lasagna while other’s menu includes, mango pie, fried rice/vegetables, sweet potatoes, etc. We are considering our vegetarian amigos and happy to forgo the turkey this year. I hear through the grape vine that turkey purchased here at the SuperCompro can have quite the case of ‘freezer burn’.
Veronica invited us to a meditation group Thanksgiving morning at Rio Shanti (the local boutique/spa/yoga facility). It will be a nice way for Mike and I to do something together while Gaudy watches the boys and Veronica’s little one, Stuart as well.
Friday we plan on taking a hike with Veronica and Stuart as we so enjoy their company.
Saturday, perhaps dinner with Jude and Theo sin ninos or drop in on a 40th birthday party for a friend/5 year anniversary celebration of their local business (Santa Elena Pension)...both contingent upon finding a baby-sitter (we've got to jump on that)!
Well, I look up and see Mike standing before me, my watch reads 1:30 on the dot, so we are ready to head to the Kinder class…I am sure we will have quite a healthy dinner discussion tonight with the kids!
WOW, what an awesome experience today in the Kinder class, both Mike and I were simply amazed and proud parents! We spent 90 minutes with the class and marveled at how busy these little minds are...working, working, working! Both boys worked so independently and we smiled at eachother when we saw their focus and concentration kick in as they worked with the different materials. Michael worked with thread and needle, making a Christmas ornament while, of course, chatting the entire time- so excited to have mom and dad with him, while John worked on the floor with many different materials and with water and flour. They put back all their materials and grabbed for the sweeper and the dust pan to wipe up any flour that may have spilled onto the table. Very impressed with all the kids and all their capabilities. Kudos to Ms. Melody!
Finally, check out the pic of our tie dye shirts...first attempt, so not too bad for nubies. We had three extremely stained, grimey white t-shirts and thought we could extend their longevity with some color. We had fun creating our designs and luckily had the supplies on hand (marbles and rubber bands) and SuperCompro supplied the fabric tint! Watch out Martha Stewart!
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Its official, winter has arrived in Monteverde. Well, its not quite Dec 21st, but people here call this new season, invierno, or winter. Just as November brings dramatic weather changes to the States, it has brought a significant change up on the mountain. The daily downpours finally ended last week and we woke one morning to the sound of wind blasting through the trees. Since then, it has been very windy, misty, and few degrees cooler. I actually put on a long sleeve shirt at school for an hour.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Sunday, November 15, 2009
Last Sunday, while Sally and John weren't feeling well, Michael and I went to the local pulperia (grocer) to purchase some timely necessities: ginger ale, toilet paper and soda crackers. We figured that we would return in fifteen minutes as the store is at the bottom of our road. Unlike previous Sundays, it was closed, possibly due to new store hours or the rainy weather and lack of business. Although most shops follow a general schedule, hours are not posted and this does allow the propietor flexibility depending on the amount of potential business that day.