Sunday, January 31, 2010

Local Food

There is much food grown in the Monteverde area and we purchase items regularly from the grocery as well as fresh produce and dairy from many local residents. Attached are some pictures of locally grown and produced items. Advantages of purchasing locally: Time from the field to our table is quick - food is fresh. Many farmers grow organically - less chemicals going into our bodies. Transportation is not a huge factor - fruit can be picked and sold while ripe and it does not need to be engineered to survive long rough trips or handling. Additional costs of transporting food is minimal when it is moved for a few miles rather than thousands of miles. We shares hugs, handshakes and smiles with Benito, Maco, Pepito, Victoria, Rufina, Meg, Glenda, Andy, Flori, Kathya and others who harvest and carry the produce on their back, milk the cows and goats, make the tamales, bake the bread, pluck the chickens, teach us how to make yogurt and more.

And the bigger picture: less fuel for manufacturing fertilizer and for transporting goods means less resource consumption, less pollution of air and water, and less carbon output. Buying locally directly stimulates the financial well-being of our neighbors resulting in less dependency on external factors such as big-money or political influences. We see the bananas growing in a yard, the goats being milked, the yogurt fermenting on our counter, the hens sitting on eggs, the cows grazing and we know where the food comes from while the boys gain an understanding of their dependency on the natural world.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Massages, Movies & Memories

"Really, Doc - I will ice my back for 15 minutes every waking hour for the next 24 to 48 hours"....right! I think today I got in 6 ice opportunities between laundry, pushing the kids on the bike, doing dishes, walking up to Cerro Plano because we didn't have a colones in the house and finishing up some documentation for the school project. So, again I say...."oh my aching back".

This week I splurged for a deep tissue massage at Rio Shanti and I must say out of all the massages I've had - maybe 5, (Mario Triccoci in Chicago, Plaza Hotel in Manhattan) this was indeed the best. Janet, the owner has a heavy hand which was just what I needed and she honored my request to concentrate the full hour on my back. The price for MFS teachers - $25 - can't beat it. She recommended I see the chiropractor that visits Monteverde each month from I did just that on Friday afternoon. Ed, the chiropractor, could not believe how inflamed and hot my back was and after adjusting it, recommended the 2 day ice treatment. So, here I am filling the little ice trays that accompany our freezer with enough ice to fill a tiny zip-lock.

Rio Shanti is a quaint little establishment just off the main road/path on the way to school. Janet sells everything from jewelry, clothing, soaps, lotions, raw honey and has a nice little yoga studio in back. The outdoor deck is where many a meeting is held, Peace Pilgrim discussions, Prayer and Share. It is great to pray/meditate with the winds whistling overhead and the river quietly roaring in the background. I've included some pics. I have yet to take a yoga class there, but who knows...never say never.

The last two Friday nights, we've walked across the driveway, up the stairs to Bromelias and watched a movie. It is a great family night, free of charge - last night I sipped on a red wine, while the kids enjoyed an empanada. Last week's movie was "Fly Away Home" - I had never seen it - very sweet, the boys were so engaged and loved the relationship between the little goslings and the 13-year old little girl. For those of you that know the movie (the scene where the bull dozers come plowing in and destroy some of the forest), well this scene disturbed a friend of our's little 7 year old boy so much, they got up and left. She told me later that they had quite a discussion on the fate of the trees on their way home that night "but Mommy, how are they going to replace the trees?"...this concern from a 7 year-old...perhaps only in Monteverde! Last night we delighted in El Oso "the Bear" which was very endearing as well. The boys again were focused and all-eyes. A great way to relax after a busy week. When we walked up to Bromelias, they were getting their bon fire ready out on the terrace as some of the parents of the older kids sit out and visit during the show. There is a play and live music coming up soon, so we have so much entertainment truly just a stones throw away. I think a celebration of Bob Marley's birthday is coming up.

Somethings never change....on the odd occasion, I would get a call from my sister asking for help with her resume..."I can't align the headings", or "can you help me finesse the wording?" or "am I completely crazy for applying for this position?" She'd come over, I'd crack open my laptop and a bottle of wine and we'd let our creative juices take over. Well, thanks to Skype, we are able to continue this tradition whenever she gets the 'itch'. So, the other night, I found myself dragging the computer and the modem around the corner, out of my bedroom, where Mike and John lay sleeping at 8 p.m., into a darkly lit living room. I perched myself on our couch (it really is a futon) and placed the call to Beth back in Chicago. "Got your resume - hey, let me share my screen with you so I can take real-time edits". She was drinking the wine; I was just trying to keep my eyes open, truthfully. We chuckled about how, even though I am in another country, I can still support her through yet another round of resume writing...ah - technology!

Per Mike's post earlier today, truly, the white-faced monkeys were something else as they encroached on us humans Friday after school. As Andy and Flori sold their chocolate rolls and homemade breads, the monkeys got almost too close for comfort; there must have been 1/2 dozen of them. So close, almost like they were taunting us! It was pretty amazing; one must remember they are indeed wild animals.

The cat "Comanche" safely made it to Kinder earlier this week. She is adapting to her new home and I am glad she is gone, as I had forgotten how allergic I am to the little felines. Comanche is the second pet the class has welcomed this month. Nube (cloud) the rabbit also is enjoying the love and attention from the 4 year-olds. She is a six year old bunny, and I have come to find out that she only has three legs, as she got 'into it' with a weasel as a baby. No shortage on her love and affable nature. The boys enjoyed picking clover in our yard and filling plastic bags and presenting her with a yummy snack mid-week.

Tomorrow we head to the Guindon farm for dinner with a couple from the East Coast who has been volunteering at the school since August. It will be a good walk, so I am sure the boys will eat them out of house and home.

The mom of the gal who cuts my hair here in Monteverde will be tutoring me in Spanish starting on Tuesday. I am so excited and can't wait to have some one -on -one time to converse and study with her. She is married to one of the sons of the original Quaker families (Lucky and Wolfe Guindon) and is such a delightful person. Although my Spanish is coming along, I am getting to the point where I want someone to correct my grammar and really help me with the pronouns, which I find very confusing.

We had a roaring fire tonight after dinner. We saved some of sausage and threw it into a cast iron skillet and placed it on the fire. We devoured the marshmallows in no time and ended the night with stories around the campfire and I even sang a few versus of Kumbaya. It reminded me of the many years as a brownie/girl guide in Canada and going off to camp with my mom (as she was a leader forever it seemed). Next on our list, hobo dinners on the fire!

Finally, I think we purchased every watermelon the little market at the bottom of the street had in stock this week. We are easily going through one big watermelon a day...que rico!

It is getting late and I am feeling guilty if I don't get another ice treatment in before I turn in so I will close this for tonight. In the background, I hear a crew at Bromelias getting ready for tonight's gig. We'll enjoy free of charge sitting here cozy under our down comforter!
Signed: S

Why Stay In Monteverde?

Why are we entertaining the thought of staying in Monteverde for another year? Of course, there are family and friends in the States that I dearly miss and with whom I want to spend time. For our loved ones, please do not take our hesitation to return to Chicago this year personally. We are not acting foolishly or throwing in the towel to reality. Each person’s life at this moment is their reality. You move to a new town, get a different job, lose a job, play basketball with friends, adopt a child and that is all real. Living in a culture other than urban U.S. culture (not necessarily ethnically different) we have experienced a new reality that in some ways is similar to our former yet in many ways is noticeably different. We consider how we live, what we want for our children and know that there will be sacrifices made either direction we choose.

I will provide some thoughts on what pulls us here in Monteverde.

Community: The small population (600 or so) of Monteverde and our school connection with many families who live in neighboring towns has led to us knowing people wherever we go. Our first time to the grocery store, a woman greeted us knowing that I was the new science teacher based solely on matching us with a description of my family that she had heard. It also means that we have received countless rides, shared many taxis and that walking to the store or hanging out by the road at the edge of the pasture can be a social event.

Weather: If the weather isn’t absolutely beautiful, it is at least tolerable and never extremely hot nor cold. The worst weather here calls for rubber boots and a fleece or rain jacket. Air conditioning and heating are not needed and windows and doors can be kept open almost everyday. The boys just run outside whenever they want to and I think they’ve worn long pants twice in six months. Its the end of January and they are learning to ride their bike on the front lawn and will be planting our garden this afternoon. The cool season (highs 68-75, lows 57-62) should be ending soon and we will welcome air a few degrees warmer.

Investigating Nature: In the past hour we watched a scorpion on our wall eat a winged insect, a Capuchin monkey in our tree looking for fruit and listened to a flock of green parrots squawking in the trees; I was In the pasture at 4:30 this morning collecting data to add to our leaf cutter ant investigation in 7/8 grade; Had an intriguing conversation last night with an ornithologist who is writing a bird guide for the 1152 known species that live in Central America; Entertained by the troop of monkeys at school yesterday. This nature category can go on forever!

Stay tuned for upcoming topic. Tomorrow: Local Food
Signed M

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Oh My Aching Rhomboid!

The rhomboid major is a muscle on the back that connects the scapula with the vertebrae of the spinal column. Why do I care? Because mine hurts and has had me on the heating pad for the last week. You know I am in pain when I actually break down and succumb to a massage - I enjoyed an hour long massage today at the local boutique/yoga joint which helped but the pain is back as I think about crawling into bed. The chiropractor comes to town this weekend, so I have an appointment with him as well this Friday. I am certain that all the documenting of listening circles and feverishly typing up notes as my laptop steadies on my knees is not good for the muscle. Couple that with a basketball mini-course, carrying my 40 lb. son on my shoulders (my bad) and well, just old creaky bones, guess it is time to take some time for Sally. Relax my Dear!

One other thought before I close this quick post for the night:

I came home from school with John trailing behind me sipping and slurping on his yogurt drink we had bought at the dairy on our way home, and spied Gaudy and Michael sitting proudly under a Guava tree in the pasture. Gaudy yelled to me in Spanish "We have a surprise for you". Somehow, I knew it had something to do with a bike - Indeed, Michael had mastered turns and was zooming around the front yard like an ole pro. How sweet it to follow.

A proud mama moment.
Signed: S

Thursday, January 21, 2010

To Stay or Not to Stay

Sometimes things seem so clear and defined within one’s mind. If you would have asked me a month ago if we were returning to the States in June, I would have answered with an unequivocal YES; however, this past month, I have realized more about what makes this community special, and it is that feeling which is tugging on my heart strings and nagging at my brain.

Decision 1: Mike has decided not to return to the Friends School as a teacher next year. His work has been challenging and although he has learned a great deal and is so very thankful for the opportunity to be an educator at MFS, he will seek out a new opportunity. So what’s next for this family?

Answer 1: Flea for the States and return to the life we left behind last year…me working around the clock, and on the weekends and Mike caring for the boys. I pray I would not fall back into the ‘rat race’ per se, but realize that if we were to move back, we would have to be extremely diligent in creating and maintaining a life of simplicity. Here in Monteverde, it is so natural and effortless to not miss the TV, radio, car and the bombardment of advertising that faces each of us daily. I do hold hope that we can establish such a life back in the States and would make it my passion to do so.

Answer 2: Stay in Monteverde and seek out other work…some might ask why? Simply put, the boys are flourishing here; intellectually, linguistically, socially, environmentally and truly, what four year old wouldn’t want this type of playground right outside their front door? If I were to be selfish, I might just run for home, but if I truly have my children’s best interest at heart, we need to investigate this option of staying put. So, here I find myself needing to carve out some time to work through these options with Mike.

If we return, I need to search out school enrollment for the fall, start networking and send out my resume or post on line, connect with colleagues from my past, investigate rental homes and…how much does Cobra insurance cost for a family of four….choke?

If we stay, I need to confirm that the boys have not lost their “slot” in next year’s Kinder program just because Mike is not employed by the school, we need to seek out another house as the one we are currently living in is owned by and paid for by the School. Work Visas…no more, that means we would need to leave the country every 90 days to keep our tourist visas current. Work…what to do…what to do? Mike has some opportunities, perhaps in research; we have some connections and will make some time to seek out the University of Georgia that has a campus in San Luis, the Monteverde Institute or other establishments. I am hopeful I could do some sort of consulting over the internet to generate income.

So, either option requires work and discovery…anything is doable! I always remember my life coach saying….”Sally, you are always at choice” and indeed we are.

When I think back on all the preparations we made to get here, it is hard to wrap my mind around returning back to the States in 5 months.

What has turned me around about this place? Okay, ‘turned me around’ is a little harsh. I do like living here, although I have felt a little isolated and of course, miss my/Mike’s family dearly. People say it truly does take a full year to settle in and feel part of the community…maybe it is just a timing thing. The big moment of “okay, I can see myself here”, I guess happened over the Christmas holidays. Whether it was hosting a potluck at the house on Christmas Eve, the various Christmas programs we attended, the concert we attended at the Institute, the Wassle event, or being on the decorating committee to adorn the Meeting Room with Christmas – it started then. My growth has continued with the kick off of the school project ‘listening circles’ and I must admit, my ears are tired. Listening to other’s perspective about the school, meeting and the community has opened my heart and allowed me to see this community through perhaps a different set of eyes. And most importantly, I have made some friends along the way too which helps when all you want to do is chat a while or share a lunch together.

So, this is what consumes me today – what shall we do? What is our next journey? As I worry about the ‘oh my gosh, I’m not contributing to any 401K this year, we are not putting anything away for the kid’s college this year” I have learned to pause and breathe and mutter, ‘it really is okay, we are fine, we have this great opportunity before us – and what shall we do with it?”

The journey continues…


Monday, January 18, 2010

Nothing But Net!

As I sit here looking at the computer clock, it is 7:16 p.m. - the boys are in bed and I am trying to decide what to do with my time before I hit the bed: (1) clean up my notes from the Friday night Listening Circle activity (school project), (2) type up the minutes from today's Fundraising Committee meeting or (3) post an entry to the blog...#3 it is! Somebody warned me when I first arrived here in careful what you sign up for...your time can be gobbled up in a blink of an eye. This is indeed the case!

A couple of highlights from the last week:

SWISH - Basketball Mini-course - Tim, the new volunteer, and I kicked off the basketball mini-course last Thursday - we were a success and I had a ton of fun. The themes of the mini-courses this quarter focus on sports (biking, running, soccer, swimming, frisbee and my personal!) Tim just arrived in Costa Rica and will be spending time here at the school volunteering through April. When I got my first glance of Tim, a huge smile came across my face -- tall, slender guy, surely must know a thing or two about basketball...right? My assumption was correct....he is a teacher back in Boston and has done a great deal of coaching in his time and has even run some bb camps, so I knew I was in good hands. He has all the drills in his head and right away commanded the attention of the ten kids we have in our course. The kids range from 3rd grade to 8th grade and well, let me just say, soccer is certainly the sport of choice here :) It was cute to watch the kids as I'm sure, most had barely touched a basketball, let alone, dribbled, tried to execute a lay-up or a chest pass!

I could not help think about my days as a highschool bb player and my few summers spent away from home at basketball camp when Tim had us out there on the court stretching and practicing the various drills! We will make a good team over the next few months and I look forward to Thursday's at 1:30. I'm sure glad I had a couple of pick-up games with my sister and Stuart Leigh before leaving Chicago or I would have been really rusty. (Stuart - next time I'm states side - you and me buddy)! And for all you reading this now...remember the bob-sled team from Jamaica - never say never - don't be surpirsed if you see a Costa Rican basketball team proudly waving its flag and marching in a future Olympic opening ceremony...dare to dream!

Last week, the school project I am working on kicked off - MFS Values, Vision, Mission Statement. The school committee has approved an initiative to re-examine the values, vision and mission statement of the comes me and Jude, my project partner. As I may have mentioned in a previous blog, the Director has tapped us to help with this initiative as we both have many years working in a project management capacity in the corporate world. For me, this project was, in the beginning, very daunting, as working in the corprorate world, is worlds away, from managing a project here within a Quaker community. The approach we are using to gather information from all of ours stakeholders is called Listening Circles...It is very spiritual work that involves all of the constituents in the community, meeting with the main focus being that of listening. I guess I would equate these circles to focus sessions if I had to make a comparison. We use a rain-stick which is a stick that is filled with seeds or pebbles and each speaker uses it to open and close the 'space' from which to speak. The main intent of our circles is to have the consituents lend their ideas and heart to the Listening Circle to explore questions in support of discerning Values & Vision for the Friends School. Through this, we hope to reflect the spiritual energy of the growing and expanding school community and provide the spiritual foundation to achieve a more strategic plan. We hope to hear from everyone in the Friends School community, parents, students, teachers, graduates, and former parents. The Circle is a special way of learning what others have to say. It is not a time for debate or argument.
Here’s how it works:
 Listen from your deepest self, from your heart
 Listen without judgment from a compassionate & empathic heart
 Give your complete attention to the speaker
 Affirm the speaker; send positive energy.

The questions that we are asking the folks to speak about are:
1. What is the purpose of the school in the Community?
2. What do we most deeply want to create through having a school?
3. Who and what are we serving as a school?
4. How does the school support and enrich life for my family and me?

Jude facilitates the meetings, while I scribe. The circles are scheduled over the next two weeks, some in Spanish, some in English and some a mix. I walked into Santa Elena Saturday afternoon to lend support to a Spanish circle, a Tico member of the community was kind enough to facilitate. He and his wife own a Macrobiotica store in town - their house is beyond the store. It was a very small and intimate circle where Tico parents shared their desire for their children to have a chance for a better education. It was humbling to listen to their stories of sacrifice and struggle so they could pay the tuition so their child could attend MFS. I enjoyed huddling in their kitchen after the circle as they treated us to tea, coffee and some snacks. I am really getting a flavor of how special this community is...everyone talks of respect and the values of the Quaker community. In one of the circles last week, I asked what those values are...a Quaker visitor from NY (who just happened to participate in our circle chimed in and said: harmony, integrity, equality and simplicity. What I am hearing over and over again in these circles is a desire and a common goal to teach our children respect, equip them with the tools so they can resolve conflict peacefully and to love one another. It is not all about academics or test scores, but rather, providing an education that nutures the entire soul, emotionally, intellectually, spiritually, enviornmentally, etc. I know there is much more here (in the community) that meets the eye, and believe me, there is plenty that meets the eye. But there is so much other 'stuff' deeper, under the layers, and I look forward to this week as I continue to search to discover why this community is so rich and vibrant.

I am still very busy with the Fundraising Committee as well - we are in the full swing of our annual appeal letter and hope to meet or exceed last year's donations. Jude and I are actively redesigning the School's newsletter as well and I will likely be known as "Scoop Schaefer" shortly as I hope to interview the Kinder teachers for an upcoming article in the Gallo Pinto publication.

The school will also be ramping up for their 'Caminata'/Walk-a-thon Fundraiser end of March. From what I hear, this is the biggest local fundraising event for the school. I hope to be not only walking but also lending a hand to help coordinate the event this year - the walk will end up at San Gerardo which will be quite a good jaunt (I will need to look up the stats to find out the exact distance as I am unsure, but know that it will get the blood flowing and the sweat glands working).

Comanche the Cat: The cute, little stray cat who has adopted us, is well, still part of the family, despite the 'over-loving' it receives from the boys. A proposition landed in our laps this Friday when Miss Melody (one of the boys teachers) asked us 'do you really have a cat that you are thinking of getting rid of"? I replied..'yes, keep talking'. MIke had announced at a teacher meeting that this cat had adopted us and if anyone was willing to give it a home, we would be happy to turn it over to a loving family. Melody said that they would love to have the cat for 'mouse control' in the Kinder building. I thought to myself "is she really serious'? but the more I engaged in the conversation, I knew, she was definitely straight-up. The cat would stay in the classroom and help to control the mouse population....a win-win for us and them right? The boys could still see/play with the cat while at school and hopefully Comanche would grow a little paunchy while helping to control the mouse population:) I'll be talking to Melody tomorrow - stay tuned !

Constipation - Things are a moving now! We had our first real bout with constipation last week. Poor little Michael was plugged up for about four days. I sent MIke into Santa Elena on Saturday for some glycerin suppositories, prunes and papaya, papaya and more papaya. We had also purchased some boxes of apple juice from the store at the end of the street. Finally had some success yesterday. Michael was a trooper, but in a lot of pain and discomfort last week. We are happy that things are back on track and will continue to push the fresh fruits and veggies. For any of our local friends, happy to share the suppositories if you find your child 'stuck with no where to go'.

Family Visit - I am SO excited to see family next month. We have decided to spend three days at Manuel Antonio National Park in Quepos (the coast) on the first leg of Mom, Dad and Auntie Beth's visit. A real treat for all - We are all counting down the days and can't wait to see some familiar faces.

Well, it is 8:33 now, Mike has been in bed for an hour now, I've chatted with Beth over Skype half way through this writing and my continual yawning is telling me that I should retire.

Signed: S

Friday, January 15, 2010

Nice weather finally!

Yesterday, Thursday, the winds died down and the sun came out for good late afternoon.. Mist still swirled in the air but it dried as quickly as it fell. This AM, plenty of blue sky and no mist. The temp inside the house reached 67 yesterday, the highest since last saturday. We are both busy with school things and sharing one computer keeps us from having the luxury to blog. I had to run to the bakery to send this as INET at home is off again. Gotta run to school. More tomorrow.

Signed M

Monday, January 11, 2010

Weather Update

A quick update before I retire or we have a power outage. The winds settled slightly, yet remained strong through the day. There were only a few trees uprooted and leaning on other trees. Remarkably, very few branches or heavy limbs have fallen. The trees here appear very flexible and any brittle species such as silver maple would have been crowded out millions of years ago by more hardy species.

I did discover that the local forecast predicts this wind will continue through thursday. It is especially severe in the mountains - a typical January windstorm as told by the locals. It is evening, the wind has strengthened again in the past hour (gusts to 60mph?), the house is creaking, roof panels are banging, and my hands are actually cold. This is the first cold I have felt since living here, well except for those not so hot showers.

The cat darted into the woods to relieve itself and came right back, instead of venturing around for half the day. I wore rainpants for the first time, took a stroll down a wooded trail and was reminded of a sales slogan, 'There is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing.'

It is remarkable that our power, phone and internet is still on! Flashlight in my nightstand and preparing for another night of little sleep.

A big thank you to the Troesels for a delicious homemade bagel brunch this morning! Signed M.

Severe Weather In Monteverde

This is the worst weather we've seen here. We are in the midst of a wind/rain storm, but I do not know if this is classified as a storm here. There is no indication of severe weather either on the radar nor in San Jose's forecast, but it would qualify for a severe weather warning in the US. I think it is just a compression of air being released over the mountains. Imagine an October cold front in the States bringing wind gusts, rain and cooler temperatures. Now imagine that front and its wind blowing for days rather than hours. The wind picked up Saturday night and has steadily gained strength since. Yesterday (Sunday) I clocked 40mph gusts, using my new anonometer (thanks Poppy & Choppy). Through the night, the sounds of trees blowing and the ceiling beams creaking kept waking me and I estimate 2AM gusts at 60mph. Although this house's framing looks like it can withstand a strong hurricane, (which do not hit Costa Rica) I was a little concerned about the termite damage compromising its strength! Do not worry - the house is fine and fortunately Melvin came the other day to tighten any loose roof panels. I am surprised that our electricity has been out for only a couple of minutes last evening. Of course, no internet when it goes out. The temperature outside and inside is 55 degrees. We might need to adjust our schedule today - I do not want to get hit by a falling branch!
All for now -
Signed M

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Sloth In The Night

One thing I noticed about sleeping in the San Jose metro area the other night, was the lack of night noises. It felt eerily silent not having the crickets to sing me to sleep. Well, last night was another night of noise in our Monteverde house. The wind has been howling for two days now and has caused a few roof panels to loosen and bang and creek. Heavy mist is pelting the windows, drip and drain sounds surround us and blowing leaves scratch at the windows.

It was about 1 AM and the rattling just would not stop. Mice found the cat food? The cat trying to get a stuck cup off of its head? This new sound need investigating, so up I sprang peering into the kitchen. Nothing. The sound was outside our dining room window. Something was clanging: the hammock? The cat trying to get in? I shined the flashlight at the window and saw two giant claws attached to a long haired limb. I new what it was. Another limb with a set of claws reached up and scratched at the window and wooden frame. Really? This isn't supposed to climb houses! Attempting to gain height, this slow moving creature's head popped up revealing its flat nose and little innocent eyes. Yes, it is a sloth! I turned the light on, put my boots on and grabbed the camera as it retreated under the bench.

After a minute of hiding under the bench, it reached out with one limb, then another and another and slowly dragged itself across the concrete patio. I snapped pictures from a few feet away. Sloths do not move rapidly, but I certainly did not want to get close to its huge daggers. Not able to support its body weight by pushing up, the shy creature looked sickly or at least from another world. Sloths have plenty of strength to hang and to pull themselves up, but apparently do not practice pushups or run from predators. It crawled to the nearest tree and methodically climbed up until its was out of my reach within a couple of minutes.

In this morning's light, the sloth is nowhere to be found. We will go outside in a few minutes to look up into the trees nearby.

Signed M.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Mini-Vacations Rock!

Question from Previous Post: Any guesses as to how two four year olds will do on a four-hour bus ride tomorrow?

Answer: GREAT!, as I wipe away the sweat from above my brow!

Our trip to San Jose was fun-filled with barely a meltdown worth reporting ☺...seems like we were gone longer than just a day and a half (those are the best type of vacations). The boys were enchanted by the bus ride, John had the window open the entire time and commented on everything; the cows, horses, Bay of Nicoya and enjoyed about a two hour nap on the way down. Michael enthusiastically yelled out when he spotted a banana or coconut tree and also caught a cat-nap. He chatted Mike up the entire way home; so no doubt, Mike refined his story-telling skills –it was at this point, I was happy to have John beside me quietly napping as he stretched out over my lap.

We arrived at the San Jose bus station about 11:00 a.m. and walked through some of the main streets of the city – they must close the streets to cars in support of market days. Lots of activity, vendors and stores selling their wares. We hung out at a park; enjoying the boys delight in chasing the pigeons and snacking on the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches we brought with us as well as the banana bread I baked the night before. We then ventured on to my Dr.’s appt (on foot) and I was in and out in 30 minutes. We haled a taxi and were off to the Children's Museum. We were very impressed with all the exhibits and much more than just a children's museum. The building itself is a refurbished prison and is quite commanding. They seem to have utilized all the space very well and have some very notable displays on the history of Costa Rica, the culture and how the early settlers sustained themselves, very educational. The boys enjoyed the volcano, electricity and magnetic force exhibits, as well as ducking into the dental hygiene display, hence the pic inside a replica of a mouth. The museum also has an outdoor section where the kids can experiment with water, bubbles and the like and just beyond that sits an old passenger train exhibit, a replica and hand-on station on of how bananas are harvested and a small, outdoor animal farm and play-yard. Very extensive, I only wish we had more time to explore…I'm sure the 2.5 hours we spent only covered a quarter of what the venue offers. Would definitely recommend it if you have some time to kill in San Jose.

From there, we headed to the hotel in Escazu (Costa Verde Inn) that is tucked quietly in the foothills with great views of the city of San Jose. We passed all the familiar fast food joints (KFC, Burger King, McDonalds, Tony Romas and more) on the way out of San Jose and commented on how nice it is to not be burdened with advertisements and an abundance of choices in Monteverde. The hotel was very accommodating and the kids enjoyed the little bit of TV they got to watch while we confirmed our dinner plans. We headed to a small Mexican restaurant in the middle of town, a good walk; so I enjoyed a cold beer when we arrived :) We were able to purchase new shoes for the boys while on our way and did not realize they light up (until the sun began to set)...a bonus for the boys, for us...well, lets just say that we'll never be left out in the dark if we forget our flashlights. After hoofing it back to the hotel post dinner, we settled in, read some stories and lights out. I slept like a rock, enjoying the comfy bed and clean surroundings.

Sunday morning, we enjoyed breakfast at the hotel and chatting with some of the other guests. The boys could not wait to put on their swimsuits, so off we went to check out the pool. Not sure when the last time the pool was used; so I took it upon myself to grab the skimmer and off we were, cleaning the pool prior to our dip – I think I see summer jobs in the boy’s future! The water was frigid, but they didn't seem to mind. The day was beautiful, sunny and warmed up quickly. It took me about 30 minutes to get waist deep; once your legs grow's not so bad :)

Our bus back to Monteverde wasn't until 2:30 p.m., so we decided to hit Parque La Sabana (an urban park in San Jose that we had passed on our way into Escazu the day before). It was filled with joggers, roller bladers, bikers of all ages and families enjoying the beautiful day. Many vendors selling everything from oranges to young coconuts to kites and pony rides. We enjoyed an orange, two coconuts and the pony rides. The park was sprinkled with kids and adults alike, flying kites so we managed to purchase two from a vendor who made some of the flyers himself. We; however, opted for the more traditional triangular kites that were not hand-made. The boys had great fun and were red-cheeked and sweaty by the time we hailed a cab to the bus station. All the cab drivers were very friendly and very conversational which made all our travels fun and exciting. We hit the public bathroom at the bus station and loaded up on snacks and boarded the bus for the 4-hour ride back up the mountain. For those of you coming into the bus station in San Jose, you'll have to have some change handy if you want to use the bathrooms across the parking lot at the bus station. I think it is about 250 colones - what you'll get in exchange?....entrance and a wad of TP. Bienvenidos!

It was a lovely weekend and restored our faith in taking a more extensive family trip on our next vacation, which may be to Guatemala this coming March to visit with the boy's foster family.

Coco Update:
The first thing we did when we arrived home -- place a call to Veronica. Much to our dismay, Coco was still running around Monteverde despite her and Mercedes' efforts to corral the dog in the forest the day before. We were so disappointed and still hoped for a miracle. Well, indeed, a miracle followed on Monday afternoon when I received the call from Veronica that Coco had been found. Mercedes spent the entire day out in the forest and found him lying in the grass, too weak to run. She quickly got him to the vet and with the help of some antibiotics will recover and heal from his week of roaming. Mercedes will see him through the next week and then we will start an aggressive hunt for a foster family to take him in. We are relieved and thank Mercedes for her commitment to Coco. This, no doubt, concludes the Schaefer involvement with any type of dog-sitting services. Certainly after the Ellie and Coco incident we would be better served in declining any future animal sitting jobs!

Enter Comanche the Cat: So, what about a cat? Mike mentioned in a previous post that a cat has been lurking around the house and enjoying the dog food we were leaving out to entice Coco back home. Well, this cat (which the boys have named Comanche) has apparently adopted us and makes itself right at home. Hopping on the counter, lounging on our laps, and getting up around our faces when we are sleeping. We discovered that she/he is entering the house through the open cinder blocks over the boy’s toilet in their bathroom. The previous renter had a cat and left the opening for her cat so she could get in and out on her own. We will make up some fliers with a photo and post them around town in hopes of finding its owner. The cat is sweet and loving and no doubt has been a family pet at some point in time. Big Mike has really taken a liking to it...John and Michael enjoy it as well if we can keep them from tormenting it :) More to come on this animal adventure for sure.

Christmas Revisited: The packages from my family finally arrived this week after a month plus in the mail. So many crafts and activities to keep little minds engaged. Great fun and the boys are so into all of it. The Spider Man undies are a hit. Thanks so Much! We still await Mom Schaefer’s package, two months and counting but have not lost faith ☺

My Family's Visit: Five more weeks until my mom, dad and sister arrive. I can't wait and will start laying out an itinerary so we can keep them busy and show them the beauty of this country. I will look into spending a long weekend near Volcan Arenal as well as hiking in the local reserves, visiting all the museums in Monteverde, zip lining in the forest's canopy and sharing dinner with some of our friends here in town.

School Volunteering: The project I am working on with Jude is in full swing. We will kick off some interview sessions (which are deemed "Listening Circles") with all the school stakeholders starting this Sunday. It will be a busy two/three weeks along with the debut as a Leader for the Basketball Minicourse which starts next Thursday when the next quarter convenes. Busy, busy.

Comfort Food - Macaroni and Cheese: We had a great evening last night, thanks to our friend Tedi. Tedi is a new teacher at MFS (came in the same time Mike did) and is one of our favorite people. She had us and another family (Flori, Andy and little Maura) over for Mac and Cheese last night. Andy and Flori are the couple that make the bread and yummy cinnamon buns in their brick oven and sell to the school. When I stepped in the door, I asked that we all talk in Spanish so we had some good chuckles over some foibles made by Mike and me while the kids enjoyed running around her spacious first floor. Good, simple fun – thanks Tedi!

I'm at Stella's Bakery right now enjoying a Mango shake and some time alone while Gaudy is at home with the boys. When I left, they were all knee-deep in the Bendaroo Craft Set we received this week from Poppy and Choppy. I can't wait to see all the creatures they have constructed upon my return.

P.S. - It is 8:45 p.m. and Mom Schaefer - guess what arrived today late, your package! The boys had fun opening it and ripped into everything - we will be making Christmas cookies yet this week using the cookie cut-outs! They are perfect and give us a great excuse to make/eat more cookies :) Thanks so much!

Signed: S

Friday, January 1, 2010

San Jose Bound, Coco Update & Beautiful Butterflies

Any guesses as to how two four year olds will do on a four hour bus ride tomorrow? Should I mention it leaves Santa Elena at 6:30 a.m. And, if that is not an eye opener, I am sure the 'one rest-stop only' limitation, will be. I remember this from my venture into San Jose in October to see my doctor. It is time to see the doctor again and this journey, will be a family affair. I'm just hoping that once we board the bus, I don't hear the words 'pee pee' or 'poop' until we are at the rest stop (typically half way between MV and SJ). Hopefully the novelty of riding on a gigantic bus, swirving down a bumpy mountain road will peek their interest just enough to have them glued to the window rifling question after question at me and Mike to keep their mind off their bodily functions!

We have booked a hotel room in Escazu which is just outside of San Jose and is (from what I hear), quite upscale, so bring on the flushable toilet paper toilets :). The hotel has a pool so I'm banking on the weather cooperating so the boys can splash around and burn off some pent-up energy. We hope to hit the Children's Museum in San Jose as we hear it is quite good and enjoyable for little ones.

We'll head back on Sunday on the 2:30 bus, home by 7:00 p.m. to enjoy our last full week of the Christmas vacation before school kicks in the the following week.

Coco is still on the loose, leash and all, although his leash is now just 1/2 of what he darted out the pasture with a couple of days ago. I surmise he got caught up in something and broke loose with only a little of the tattered leash now flailing in the wind beside him. We are thankful that he is coming back home for his morning meal and even slept outside the first night. I have had absolutely no success luring him into the house...I've never seen a more timid or skiddish dog. Even my attempts at leaving a trail of cheese which then leads to a juicy bone Veronica got from the butcher..leaves me empty handed. Coco's foster mom, Mercedes, who is returning tomorrow from a quick trip to see her family in San Jose, is hopeful that Coco will come to her....I sure hope so, as I have been quite stressed about this and have the dark circles and bags under my eyes to prove it. I'll keep everyone updated on Coco. Luckily Coco was 'fixed' last week at the Vet so he is not adding to the stray dog problem we have here in Monteverde. Coco, Please Come Home!

We had a great day at the Ranario with Veronica and Stuart earlier in the week. Think of it as a Frog Exhibit; also a very neat open butterfly garden. A definite visit in February when mom, dad and Beth are in-town. We leave you some pictures from this week as we have to finish packing and get some shut-eye.

One last comment - we also took in the Bat Jungle this week which is just a stones-throw up the road from Stella's Bakery - who knew there were so many different variations of bats???

Peace to all for a blessed New Year.
Signed: S