Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Guaranteed Clean Floor and Clothes upon my return

A brief entry before I head down to the Airport on Thursday morning bright and early…will take the four hour bus ride down the mountain and then board a direct flight to Charlotte, arriving at John’s house on willow pond about 11 p.m. Wedding bells are soon to ring for John and Amy and I can’t wait to share in their special day.

I know the housework will be left in good hands as the boys scrubbed the concrete floor in the kitchen last week and then proceeded to continue their good deeds into their bedroom. They even grabbed the toilet brush and each had a turn scrubbing out the bathrooms. Good little workers indeed.

John has been asking for a ‘little boy’ clothes line so we found some spare rope around the house and went to work yesterday; I wanted to ensure it was carefully placed in the yard as to not get in the way of bike-riding, playing tag and other activities. We had some sun this morning, so they were both eager to grab a clothes pin and get to work. They were very proud of their abilities and oh so capable! Little did we know, the rains would come ½ hour later, but it was nice to see them so interested and engaged.

I had to laugh today when the kids were devouring the left-over tuna noodle salad for lunch that I had taken to a pot-luck last night…Michael said, “Mom, God is with us”, I said “yes Michael, he is”, then John added “God is hot”, I said “really, why?”, he replied, “he doesn’t have sun-screen”. It was a great day, from sunrise to sunset…John had a great sleep and that put the day off to a great start.

As I get ready to head back to the States, I am trying desperately to grow my nails (those of you who know me), are not surprised when I say, I’m a bit neurotic when it comes to my nails, and have bitten them for as long as I have been upright. So, for the past three weeks, I’ve been growing them and using every little bit of will power I can muster up. Gaudy, the gal who helps me with the boys, has been painting them and now the boys are into painting their nails and my toe-nails (of course with their washable paint sets). We have a great time and take turns painting each other’s and comparing colors. Gaudy is giving me a pedicure tomorrow – she actually has a portable machine, so I’ll look forward to having presentable nails at the wedding. Oh, also walked into Santa Elena yesterday for a haircut and color – back to short and dark, easy, easy, easy!

Last night, we shared a lovely evening with the Guindon family who opened up their home for a potluck to bid Peter and Carol a goodbye as they are returning to the states tomorrow. Peter and Carol have been permanent fixtures at the school and within the community since almost the beginning of school. They have been so generous with their time and have been a pleasure to know – we will miss your smiling faces.

Last weekend we were invited to friends who live in Cerro Plano for dinner, homemade mac and cheese and two pies, lemon and coconut. The boys were entertained with their dog and cats and Mike’s (a music teacher) trombone – John kept eyeing the instrument so after a quick lesson and a cleaning of the mouthpiece, John had a turn at letting go of some hot air. This family returns to St. Louis first week of June and will be missed as they have been fun getting to know and have hosted the weekly “Prayer and Share” at Rio Shanti.

The Pet Festival is almost here and I am sad that I will miss the event, Mike will take the boys on Sunday – lots of activities planned, so they are guaranteed a good time.

We had a day of rain here, which is finally helping to control the pollen and dust – so we are thankful for that.

Mike has some great pics of his field trip this past week and I’m sure will share a post with you and catch you up on his camping trip to the beach.

I am exhausted and fighting a cold/sinus thing so will close this post for now. Stay tuned early next week, as I will post some pics from the wedding upon my return.

Signed: S

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

One of those Daze!

I think I left my head in bed this morning. We got Mike off on his field trip successfully this morning and the boys and I have not yet burned down the house. Gaudy came in the a.m. to help with the boys which freed me up for a run. Half way into my run, just huffing and puffing to make it to the top of one of the worst hills in Santa Elena, I wait to turn the corner, and what do I see pass me but a mid-size tourism bus with Mike and his 5th/6th graders waving like mad at me - I gathered all my energy to jump up and down and wave my arms...they were indeed off and I was just nearing my turn-around spot up ahead to head home. I had run my best time the afternoon before with Raul who pushed me again - but we were able to shave off 6 minutes from my previous run along side him. I keep telling him "hey, I'm twice your age", he just smiles and kicks up the pace!

John Gustavo has this fixation now with wanting to lock the front door when we leave (I never know where my keys are at the end of the day), so he secured the house and quickly shoved the keys in his back pocket as we headed for school. I made a mental note to ask him for them back when we reached our destination...didn't happen (but you probably knew where this was going anyway...right?). Before leaving school, I borrowed the face painting kits from the 1st grade teacher as we will use them for the May 2nd Pet Festival. So, with the kids delivered to Kinder, off I troted with my plastic box of paints and my empty milk-jug as I had planned to stop at the cheese factory on the way home for milk. I set the box aside, ordered up my milk and quickly departed for home. Three hours without the boys...didn't want to waste a minute! Reaching the pasture gate, I dug into my pockets only to realize...no keys, around I turned and headed back up the hill to fetch them. Back home, put the milk in the fridge, again, only to realize I had left the paint supplies at the Cheese Factory. Okay, you know the routine....off I headed to fetch the paints. So now my 9 KM run had turned into more of an 11K not to mention the final walk to retrieve the kids at the end of the school day.

With an hour still to myself, I ran to Casem Coop (the woman's cooperative) across from Stella's Bakery to purchase a wedding gift for my brother. A minute to hang some wet clothes and then off to get the kids. We ended up hanging around the school for 90 minutes, playing on the playground, watching Frisbee Tennis and chatting with other families. I met a family from Oakville (Toronto area) who were visiting and interested in getting some additional information about the school. We exchanged emails as I offered to enlighten him on our journey and the 'kid factor'....they had three!

Walking home, we met our friend Marie-Cecil who runs bare-foot. So, yes, off went John and Michael's shoes and socks -- they hobbled all the way home, but were proud of their accomplishments. A quick shower while I started dinner, the boys then, clean as a whistle, took Daisy on the leash out into the pasture in only their undies. Daisy managed to 'escape' with leash still on and John came screaming up through the pasture with wicked 'grass burns' on his tummy, not to mention him being dragged over these huge ant hills while still holding onto the leash. I refrained from smiling as I found this to be quite comical - we enjoyed a yummy dinner, watched a little Planet Earth and the house is now quiet. I just took banana bread out of the oven and will turn in shortly as one, if not both boys, will surely visit me in bed tonight.

Good Night All,
Signed: S

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Walk the Walk....and....Talk the Talk!

What a Saturday, just getting to the school by 11 a.m. with the boys, a backpack full of snacks, 2 change of clothes, shoes (they actually wore their boots due to rain), three cartons of juice, banana bread, laptop, DVD's and I think that about covers it....was a success in and of itself. Oh yes, the rain....I hear that rainy season officially started on 4/15, so the wet stuff is right on schedule. Very welcome as the foliage was covered with months of dust. I must say however, I am missing my flannel sheets tonight, they hang on the clothes line under the overhang, still as wet as they were when I hung them out at 9:00 a.m.

The School conducted a Workshop today; Phase II of the Listening Circles that were held back in January regarding the School's mission, vision and values. I helped to facilitate; it was a fun activity, with lots of participation from the Gringos and the locals. Mike and Gaudy provided childcare for the little ones while about 40 of us participated in individual and group activities. A full day, just returning home in time for a quick dinner and off to bed.

The Caminata (Walkathon) was held last Saturday; it was a success and I am grateful to everyone that sponsored me. We had a nice, sunny day and although I was up at the crack of dawn and at the school by 7 a.m. to prepare for Registration; I ran the entire 13K (hoping to make my sponsors proud). My run was very peaceful, up huge hills with lots of twists and turns, finally finishing at the Mirador Hotel which provided a spectacular view of Volcan Arenal. Some walked, others ran, some rode horses, others biked, Benito walked on stilts as he has for over a decade now. The clouds rolled in at the Mirador later in the afternoon, but they didn't dampen our spirits, we gathered to sing songs, listen to music and Carmen even offered massages...now how can you beat that. The founding family played a huge role (Wolfe, worked a rest-station handing out chocolates and water from the back of his truck), while Lucky, his wife, walked the entire way (I think she may have been the oldest female walker, at the young age of upper 70's..GIRLS ROCK!)

With these two big projects behind me (for the most part), I look forward to focusing my energy on getting ready to head state-side for my brother's wedding. I am very excited and look with anticipation to reconnecting with family and friends. Not to mention, having my brother married-off ---Thanks Amy!

Mike is heading to the beach this coming week (Tuesday through Thursday) for a field trip with the fifth and six graders. So, just me and the boys for a couple of days...Hey, no problem for this 'seasoned' stay at home mom now. I guess fair is fair, since Mike will have the boys while I'm enjoying the wedding festivities in a couple of weeks.

What I've noticed of late....more critters in the house, flying, crawling, jumping (on my pillow too...I might add). Just deal with it Sally!

Tomorrow, we head to the Quaker meeting at the school as I'll be helping to lead the Children's meeting - we are talking to the kids about treating animals nicely as we ready for the Pet Festival on May 2nd. Mike and I are also working with another gal to offer some more structured activities for the pre-school children who are not quite 'ready' for the children's meeting. Yes, Michael and John would fall into that category. More to come on that for sure.

Hoping to run in the El MoonRun (Carrera de la Luna ) or should it be "Luna-tics" this coming Saturday with another MFS father. 11K, mountains, happening at sunset...sounds fun!

Well, it is late and I am beat -- a few pics from the Caminata.
Signed: S

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Finding Reality

All the things that I initially found interesting about Monteverde still exist and I continue to discover and to be impressed with the natural world and community. Being settled in for eight months, there is now a different sense of ‘amazement’ as all the surprises, challenges, relationships have become part of daily life. Visiting or moving into a new place or culture can stimulate a variety of emotions and comparisons between what we know about our own life and how we see others live theirs. We compare landscape, structures, infrastructure, behaviors, language, nature and peer especially deeper into home and work life. After all, we can be obsessed with quality of life comparisons and possibly believe that others ‘have it better’ or that we ‘have it better.’ When vacationing, or vacating from our own daily grind, perspectives often become dreamy, idealistic, simplistic due to minimal understanding of the local home/work experience.

I think I can speak for Sally as well as myself, we accept challenges as they arise and appreciate the good qualities of living here. The ‘honeymoon’ period of the first few months, when everything was something to compare or share has ended. We live here and our reality right now is living in a brown wooden house, loving our children, and both working very hard to support the local Gringo/Tico community. Our personalities remain as they were, Sally applies her type ‘A’ drive to advance projects at the school, as I apply my curiosities in my work with students. Regarding parenting, the boys benefit from her structure and from my explorative tendencies. Our professional and personal habits, responsibilities, hopes and dreams have not changed all that much, but the environment in which we apply ourselves, or our ‘reality’ has changed tremendously from living in Chicago.
Signed, M.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Electricity...Gas...Hot Showers....Over-Rated?

Things are looking up here at the Schaefers. Little did I know that having our showers broken for a week and a half would cause a domino effect. Well, cold showers I can do (for a bit), but not so sure how I would have made out back in the time of lanterns and candles.

Melvin (the school's handy-man) fixed the showers yesterday but shortly after he left, the electricity died, no lights, no phone, no computer (and oh no, the fridge)...I won't go into detail about the stench spewing out from the fridge and the ants all over the counter due to rotting fruit...etc. Yes, we forgot to pay the bill - here in Monteverde, there is no notice reminding you that if you don't pay your bill in X days, your service will be cut-off (we remembered this the hard way). So, off to Stella's bakery Mike went last night at 4:45 to connect to the Internet and make good on the bill.

Did I mention that we have been out of gas as well since Sunday night? So, no oven, no stove, no home-cooked meals by yours truly. The tank is huge so we need to get a taxi to take us into Santa Elena to purchase a new tank and then hook it up where it rests in a little closet outside the kitchen. Yesterday, we were consumed with getting our electricity back and today, Mike was in a staff meeting until 5 p.m., so no gas today...this is the first thing on our list tomorrow.

We made 'campfire bread' last night and cooked it over a fire outside on an iron skillet. We then used another skillet to fry up some turkey deli meat, cut the bread open, a little mayo, and voila - a yummy turkey sandwich. The kids enjoyed the impromptu dinner and we ate via candlelight outside. Story time (via books) was replaced with story-telling by dad last night and we all hit the hay around 8 p.m. Veronica had us over for dinner tonight, so we were treated to fresh salad, tortillas and soy meat. Thanks Veronica!

With electricity back on, hot showers a flowing, I am confident that we'll get the oven/stove operable tomorrow...(does that mean I have to get back to cooking dinners?)

What I miss most? No way to make coffee in the a.m. - I didn't have coffee yesterday and oh how I felt the affects, but today I scrounged up enough colones to treat the kids to a pastry at Stella's Bakery where I quickly downed about four cups of coffee in a matter of 15 minutes. Oh ya, the bank - gotta get to the ATM tomorrow as well.

What have I learned from this? Perhaps I need to assume the responsibility for bill paying? (Love ya Mike) and I do still rely on some creature comforts.

Signed: S

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Land-Slides, Lagoons & Las Juntas

What a delightful week, full of good family time, lots of fun within the community and with good friends. Our week started with a four-hour bus ride into San Jose where, after a quick doctor's visit, we rented a car and headed toward Volcan Poas. The boys were great on the bus-ride and enjoyed their 'big-boy' status sitting alone in the back seat of the rental Jeep. They managed to keep their seat-belts fastened and loved the 'off-roading'! We spent about 90 minutes with Thrifty Car Rental in the city; but finally were on our way. The drive to Poas was beautiful, through rolling hills and spectacular views. We arrived late afternoon, after stopping at a road-side stand to purchase some fresh strawberries and plums...YUMMY! Our hotel "Jaulares' was about 15 KM outside of the Park in a town called Frijanes. We checked in and then headed to a local park so the boys could blow off some steam. The park offered hiking and lots of children's activities. Michael and John enjoyed the trampoline, but our time was cut short by a down-pour. The hotel was very simple, our cabin was very rustic but was just perfect for us. There was a little stream running right behind the cabin which lulled us to sleep.

Tuesday morning we headed out early to the volcano as it is recommended to arrive early before the cloud cover descends. We awoke to wind and cool temps and as we pulled into the parking lot, we were about the fourth car (as some folks were turning around at the entrance gate after hearing of the weather conditions). There was no sun to be seen, as the path up to the volcano was misty and cloud-filled. We arrived at the look-out and waited in anticipation for a glimpse of the crater. The crowd roared as the clouds parted and exposed the crater below. It was spectaular and one can only imagine it on a clear day. We hiked another mile on a "magical trail" tightly enveloped by impenetrable moss covered twisted trees to a lagoon which was also misty and covered by clouds, but got a few pics nonetheless. We chatted with a guide (TJ) and a teacher/kids from a Waldorf school in Portland. We then piled back into the Jeep in search of the Paz "Peace" Waterfall. The drive was breath-taking - we were met with a large sign "Road Closed" due to mud-slides and earth quakes and debated whether we should risk it. As we sat there debating, car in neutral, another truck passed us by, waving their hands "come-on...no worries". A little further down the road we were amazed by the debris and the destruction. Mike "the OSHA Guy", got out and surveyed the situation. After talking with a few folks, we decided to park the Jeep and walk down around the corner to view the Waterfall. It was spectacular! Shortly after, several Police arrived on motos, Mike asked about the road and whether it was safe to continue...their response "Well, it is 'technically' closed, but hey, you have a Suzuki, 4-wheel, you'll be just fine". So with that, we ventured on. Clearly, the roughest terrain we've ever been on; over rivers, through mud-slides; with condemned houses sitting right to the side; broken and rotting from recent devastation. The ride was awesome, but erie as we thought about the people who were affected by the landslides. The kids bounced around the backseat - who needs a roller-coaster? I thought to myself. Crossing over another bridge opened up a rocky river stream; we decided to park the Jeep and get cooled off. The kids stripped down and frolicked in the river-very relaxing and good for the boys to get out of the car and burn off some energy. We headed back to the hotel and decided to stop off at the local park again. This time we hiked a trail, and the kids enjoyed the playground. We would love to go back and camp there on another visit - they had great pavilions with places to pitch a tent.

Wednesday; we had to think about heading back toward San Jose to return the rental car and catch the 2:30 bus back up the mountain. We headed back via Volcan Barva; another volcano up in the Sacramento area within the Parque Nacional Braulio Carrillo. The drive up was amazing (an hour up, through beautiful country, villas and estates on either side of the road). Clearly some money in this area; as each estate had a spectacular view of the San Jose valley. The road was another bumpy experience, so we were glad to reach the ranger house when we did. We only had an hour before we had to head back to the city, but we enjoyed a short hike through the forest, but did not reach the vista point to view the volcano...perhaps next time. A quick pit stop in the out-house for Mom and I was greeted by a Salamander hanging out in the corner of the women's bathroom. The boys quickly piled in to view the creature. As we weaved through the small towns, we were greeted by two happy jugglers in Heredia who entertained us at a red light - we tossed them some change and could not help but think of Sam & Jules (who could have put these guys to shame :)

We reached the bus station in San Jose with little time to spare; crowds everywhere, it was chaotic (I'd never seen the station so packed, perhaps due to the holiday week). I glanced up and saw our neighbors, Kelly and Lane who live just down the road in cabinas close to Bromelias. They were distraught as they needed to get on the bus but the driver had said it was standing room only and they had reached their capacity (10 people only standing in the aisle). The bus driver then looked at us and said that we could lap-sit both boys, thus freeing up two seats for our friends. It was a quick decision and Kelly and Lane were very grateful. The bus was two hours late getting into Santa Elena due to traffic, slow-going and another 15 people we picked up shortly after leaving the station. ...guess that kind of shoots the (10 person standing limitation???) but who am I to argue. Now the bus not only had ten folks standing, but also another 10 to 15 people sitting in the aisles (talk about too close for comfort). We were glad to arrive safely and welcomed the chance to sleep in our own beds that night, but what a great couple of days.

Thursday, another busy day, we headed to San Luis for some river fun. We have a friend Patrick (who is a NY transplant of many years) who has invited us several times to come down to his neck of the woods. We were on a roll, so we thought, "no time like the present". We enjoyed a day of sun and water. There were several folks down at the river, so it made for a relaxing time. The boys loved it and had fun painting themselves with the variety of clay-rock they found at the bottom of the river.

Friday, a bunch of families from school met in Las Juntas and shared a great day, again 'water' was the focus. There is a hotel about an 1 hour away which has several thermal pools - you can swim or relax pool side in the shade. Another fun-filled day - the boys were toast by the time we arrived back home around 8 p.m.

Saturday Mike enjoyed some time outdoors as he joined a fellow who examines trees for their flowering and fruiting to assist with a study on the three-wattled bell-bird! How many of you remember me writing about the 'stick-bird' sighting in Manuel Antonio in February? We were skeptical as to whether it was 'real' or not...Mike spotted the famous 'potoo' on his outing...check out the pic! I spent the morning constructing a balance beam in the front yard with the kids; putting some old stumps and boards from a long-gone tree house to good use. Daisy got a bath with the hose and I attended a meeting later in the day to continue organizing the first annual Pet Festival with friend Veronica. We hosted a campfire at our house that night and enjoyed getting to know another family from Philadelphia area better. Another late night, but oh so fun!

Today, after a brief Easter egg hunt out in the yard (yogurt and butter containers recycled into Easter baskets), we spent 8 hours again in San Luis, but this time we hiked up to the waterfall. We enjoyed our day with Veronica and Stuart; the boys lapped up water from the stream...probably cleaner than what we drink here in Monteverde. It was awesome, the sky was blue, not a cloud to be seen, the walk was stunning and the waterfall so impressive. We had fun swimming and examining the crabs in the water; although the pinchers got both Veronica and Stuart on the finger...OUCH! We arrived back at the reception area around 5 p.m. tonight only to meet a family from Livonia (near Avon, NY, where my mom grew up and I spent many a summer). I mentioned several names and they knew the Anderson Farm. We exchanged names, and come to find out I was talking with Tom Wahl (sp) the son of the owner of the Ice Cream joint on the main drag in Avon. His wife, Kathy, works now at the Avon School, I think as a librarian - small world!

We arrived home after 6 p.m. tonight and are eager to head back to school for some R & R. Vacationing is hard work :)

Did I mention the little bird that we rescued from inside the house this week as well? Never a dull moment.

Happy Easter to All.

Signed: S