Sunday, October 24, 2010

Doctors, Diving & Decisions

A hot shower after a run and I am feeling pretty good. And, to my new sister-in-law, I actually did some push ups today, so trying to get these flabby arms in know bikini season is right around the corner here in Costa Rica. :) The kids are out delivering freshly baked muffins to the neighbors, so I am taking advantage of some quiet time.

We have settled back into the school routine after the October break. We headed to San Jose to take care of some doctor appointments for me and John. The bus is always an adventure, so down the mountain we traveled for about $6.00 each. The kids enjoyed singing songs they are learning in Kinder and I am sure Melody (their teacher), who just happened to be sitting one row in front of us on the bus, was smiling as she heard the two little voices belting out familiar tunes. We spent four days and three nights in a nice hotel in Alejuela (Orquideus Inn) which had a great little whirlpool for the kids to frolic in and expansive gardens and greens to play and let off some steam. The hotel was nearly deserted as it is the low season, so we felt like we had the place to ourselves, except for these spiders that just hung from the trees (I found myself constantly ducking while enjoying the gardens). We befriended the driver of the hotel (Willy) who was kind enough to shuttle us back and forth into San Jose to the clinics and labs. He gave quite the spanish lessons to Mike, so certainly a Jack of All Trades!

John Gustavo was a real trooper at the Lab, not only did he have blood taken once, but twice, as we fed him the first morning (oops), so we needed to return the next morning for the glucose test. Barely a flinch! He proudly displayed his Certificado de Valentia (Certificate for Braveness) for being such a brave boy. Michael squirmed a little and he was just an onlooker! I was very impressed with the private lab facility and the friendliness of the staff. About 90000 colones for all the blood work (about $180 US mas o menos). All is well, just checking out why he is up 3 hours a night!

Willy planned a day trip to Volcan Irazu for us so we picked up some sandwich material, some juice and piled into his van and headed up in elevation. We passed through Cartago (which was the capital city prior to San Jose) and then were amazed to see all the onion fields unfold infront of us. Many workers taking care of the crops. As we wound up the mountain we eased back on the gas to enjoy a local school celebrating Dia de Raza (Day of Race). If I understood Willy correctly, it is the day where Costa Ricans celebrate their Indian heritage. We reached the volcano and quickly searched for our windbreakers and long sleeve shirts as it was quite chilly. Lucky for us, the clouds parted making way for some brilliant sun. Mike looked like a lobster that night. The boys enjoyed playing in the ash/sand and practicing their letters! It was quite a lunar experience and much different from our visit to Volcan Poas last year. We enjoyed a picnic lunch with Willy and keeping an eye on a very friendly Coati (who knew exactly where his every meal came from).

We headed back through Cartago where Mike jumped out to visit the beautiful cathedral while we all grabbed a couple of zzzz's in the van. You can see by the pics, it is quite something.

We also enjoyed a quick trip back to the Children's Museum but were disappointed that the Amusement Park was closed on the weekdays due to low season. Perhaps a trip back during Christmas break is in order.

Thursday found us lazing around the pool, the kids busy collecting small coconuts from the grounds and Mike and I discussing everything from our future here to Quakerism and Faith. Quite a healthy discussion. We are hoping to seek out some local churches in the zone as we are desperate to find some type of Sunday school alternative for our boys. The Monteverde Meeting is conducting a day long Quakerism 101 education for all community members on 11/13 in which Mike and I plan to attend. Should be interesting! I'd very much welcome the opportunity to lead a Children's Meeting with focus on a lesson from the bible. Nothing heavy, just a fun activity which can perhaps be founded on Jesus' teachings. Stay Tuned!

Thursday we met with John's doctor and quite liked her. She knows Monteverde and actually spent five years here practicing at the clinic in Santa Elena. Small world for sure. She is an MD and a Naturopath so a nice combo. A quick stop at the Homeopathic pharmacy in San Jose, then another at the Mall to buy some Melatonin at the GNC store, and then back to Alajuela to meet Kathya for our ride back home. Or so we thought! The traffic was unbearble, taking almost 2 hours to get through San Jose. Bumper to bumper brought me back to visions of driving on the Eisenhower or Stevenson in chicago. We ended up meeting Kathya in Alajuela Central Park and piled into her van and slept the entire way home, getting to the little brown house about 11 p.m.

We enjoyed having Veronica, Stuart and a new family over for a campfire last Saturday was a dry night, so we took advantage of it! Everyone had a job, whether it be fanning the fire, whittling sticks for campfire bread, cutting up garlic or making gnocci (sp), we all pitched in. The kids got along great and were real troopers to keep the fire going through a little spotty rain. We enjoyed spending time with Debbie and Evan and their two daughters were great with our boys. Hey ,we actually had a chance to converse with adults...imagine that!

Michael and John amaze me now as they are really into their letters, spelling words, sounding out letters and hungry for paper and pens! Little minds are truly amazing!

The school project continues to keep me busy and I feel like we are starting to gel as a team. John, the director of the School, had a successful trip to the States where he grew existing relationships and formed new ones with potential donors. It really is exciting to see this school go through some changing times. Anyone interested in seeing the presentation or checking out the artistic renderings of what is planned over the next five years, just post a comment and I'll direct you to the site where you can view it all! Of course, donations are always welcome!

I'm thinking about posting my resume to some boards to see what the appetite is for doing some consultant work from here. If we want to stay longer, I will have to pull in some American coin. So for any of you out there, let me know of any networking possibilities - open to suggestions for starting a more aggresive job search!

I took the kids (Gaudy's son too) to swimming lessons yesterday. They have been eager to start and finally, Yesterday was the day. It is nice to have some organized sports coming into the zone - Leo, the owner of Bellbird, is a real go-getter and wants to provide as much opportunity for the kids here as he can.. "If it doesn't exist, we need to make it happen" is his mantra! The sun shone in the morning, so all was looking good. The lessons were offered through the Bellbird School at the bottom of our hill (2500 colones for one lesson - a little less than $5.00). The boys had a blast, there were about ten kids, ages 4 to 10 or so. Bellbird has a swim coach from Puntarenas that comes up and she is wonderful with the kids. Mike hitched a ride to the farmer's market, while I enjoyed snapping pics of the swimming activities. Can't wait until next Saturday. El Establo hotel opened up their pool from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m., so nice to have the offer from local businesses.

Thinking that the boys would have been 'spent' and tuckered out, I sneaked out for a run, but I didn't get away without them both saying that they wanted to go with me. I looped back to get them on my way home and was amazed that they ran about a mile (up to where the pavement meets the dirt road) and back! Michael quickly found the couch and snoozed away until 5 pm. where we then headed to Veronica's for dinner. A full day indeed!

Mike and the boys enjoyed a trip to the Reserve last week with Veronica and Stuart - I for one, am glad that I wasn't there to see John gallop across the hanging bridge...yikes!

Lastly, we are saddened to have a number of birds flying in to our windows, this one didn't make it. Needless to say, we are putting stickers on the windows now in hopes of giving the little fine feathered friends a gentle warning...look out for glass!

Well, the boys are home now, and up in the trees out in the pasture with blankets and sheets constucting some type of fort while Mike is down at Megs with another couple learning about gardening in this climate....Never a wasted minute.

Lastly, we celebrate the new arrival of another Schaefer baby, little Charlie, congrats Sarah, Ken, Kenny and Jack!

Signed: S

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Drying Days

Weather this past week has been absolutely wonderful, plenty of sunshine, breezy and highs about 70. We took advantage of the mold killing sunshine by placing furniture, books and some clothing outside yesterday. We’ve been having our ‘King’s Breakfast’ outside and even had a campfire Friday night. The camera flash revealed John’s terribly over-crisped campfire bread.

Even though my boots were previously sun dried and packed away in a plastic tub, the leather still succumbed to the humidity and mold spores. Of the few leather items we possess, the ones that sit stationary are more susceptible to mold growth, whereas the items that are continually handled, one of my belts and Sally’s binder, are mold free. Its similar to the reduced tendency of long hair to grow where your clothing rubs against your skin. More research is needed!

Visitors yesterday included Pepito and two white horses. From Pepito, we purchased eggs($2.50 for fifteen), banana bread($2.50) and empanadas($2.50 for two, large enough with rice and a vegetable to make a meal for four). Fortunately they were not messy eaters and carefully picked the grass without damaging our struggling banana plant. We gave Rigo a call, and sure enough, the horses were his. By the time Rigo arrived in the front pasture, the horses had moved down the driveway behind the house. As usual, John Gustavo had kept his watchful eye on the animals and was able to direct Rigo to their exact position around a corner.

A neighbor confirmed that he measured over (45 inches) of precipitation in September, the highest monthly total he has seen in his thirty years of recording here. This far in October, we have received less than two inches, most of that on Oct 1. Hopefully those downpours can hold off a few more days. We are taking the boys to the Cloud Forest Reserve this morning and to an amusement park and zoo in San Jose sometime this week.

I met an elephant beetle the other day – a very friendly fellow with small mouthparts, no jaws to dig in to my flesh, and effectively pointy claws for clinging onto skin, clothing, tree bark, a mate, etc. The assistant director at school accepted the invitation to have it placed on her pant leg, but enough was enough as it crawled higher and three of us strategically teamed together to pry its legs from the bluejeans and encourage it to advance to a stick. The elephant beetle belongs to the group of largest and most powerful beetles on earth. The beetle is simply HUGE and prefers to eat tree sap, bark and rotting fruits. The pics show the beetle on my hand but the grub pic is from Wikipedia. Beetles belong to the Coleoptera order, insecta class, and arthropoda phylum.

Finally, Science Lab Safety Test time! Look at the picture of the stunt actor that looks like Mike conducting a science experiment. Can you name at least 5 things that should be improved to make his experiment more safe? Signed M.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Who Turned The Faucet Off?

What a difference a few days make. September ended with an amazing 1189mm or about 47inches of rain, 27 inches in the last ten days. The month ended and so did the rain. We have enjoyed some sunshine each day, humidity levels below 80%, and a beautiful breeze. I actually had to water a few potted plants this AM and noticed that the grass and concrete walkway around the house is DRY! The spring at our pasture gate has ceased and the birds and children are once again frolicking in the pastures.

I have a busy week at school - assessing projects and exams, parent conferences tomorrow and a putting together thoughts about teaching lessons on our culture day this Friday. Then, a week of no classes!!! This year so far, has been much more manageable than last year! Mike

Friday, October 1, 2010

Have I been away that Long?

I feel as though I am re-acquainting myself with an old friend, as I can't remember the last time I posted anything to "no bread crumbs". I have missed sitting down and writing about just about anything. This new school building project is keeping me too busy, or perhaps old habits die hard. Yes, I am a type A...Yes, I tend to put too much pressure on myself....Yes, I thrive on stress...Yes, I take pride in my work and if I'm going to do something, it's going to be the best it can be! You get the picture...right? Most of you know me and well, let's just leave it there.

Last night I gave a presentation on the New Building to the Parents (no one walked out, so I call that a good night). Actually the presentation went well, the core team was all there, the design lead gave a wonderful walkthrough of the conceptual design and the fundraising manager, a nice update on the capital campaign. Oh, one little difference I've noted working on this project, you are not handed a multi-million dollar budget like you may have been handed at JP Morgan. What, we have to raise the funds? Can you tell I am a nubie when it comes to not-for-profits! Can you take the 'corporate' out of the girl? The team is keeping a running list of all the 'buzz' words I use during our weekly meetings...'socializing, synthesizing, one-off meetings, scope, etc. are just a few of the items on the list. We all have a good chuckle over it! Daniel, a former student at MFS, translated for me as I stood at the front of the Meeting room at the School, in soggy boots, dirty pants and poncho-head/hair and delivered my update to a mix of parents; some ticos, some quakers, some a mix and other gringas like myself. By the time I walked home and in the door it was 7:45 p.m., the boys were fast asleep and Mike was busy with the dishes. Exhausted, I poured myself into my damp sheets...lovely!

I am finding my work all-consuming - I am quite sure I am letting it take priority, as I work mornings after I walk the boys to school and again in the evenings after the house is quiet. The culture is so different here from a management perspective, the Quakers invite every voice to be heard, waiting for unity. A lesson in patience for me and oh such a shift in my thinking. I find myself spending the majority of my time on communication: status reports to the School Committee, parents, faculty and to the Meeting for Business, perhaps I need to seek out a Communications Manager! Any takers? I am really enjoying the core team which is made up of north americans who have a broad range of experience and skills to bring to the table. The Director of the School is in the States right now meeting with potential donors and showing them our concept designs. Here's hoping folks like what they see and hear.

For all I know, I am in any city in America right now. Spending too much time on my computer, tracking my hours and generating lots of documentation. What's wrong with this picture?

Times are tough right now here in this little tourist town. I hear the Cheese Factory (where we enjoy treats of the ice cream variety) let 20 people go just this week while I hear other establishments are cutting back as well. I often wonder how people can afford to live in this area.

The Pulperia (market) at the end of our street is closing this weekend. I guess the store has opened and closed many a time over the last five to ten years - I certainly supported it (daily), but my visits were not enough to sustain keeping them open, The good news is that two fellows from the community are going to reopen it and bill it out as an organic whole foods market. They will be selling fruits and veggies from local farmers...heres hoping this succeeds. We visited Liliana and Gaudy today in the pulperia after school- they were busy doing a final inventory before closing up shop. Of course, the boys had to take full advantage of buying their 'last' of everything...mentos, gum, yogurt drinks - am I a push-over or what?

I did learn from Heidi today (the gal that runs the new Bellbird school beside the pulperia) that she is finalizing the schedule for swimming lessons for any interested kids in the community. Hooray! I think I am going to send the boys one afternoon after school a week. There is a very nice hotel in Cerro Plano with two pools and Heidi has a swim instructor coming from Puntarenas so boys...get your bathing suits ready!

The boys continue to enjoy school - I can't believe that the first teacher conferences are end of next week. They are enjoying lots of play-dates and having fun with their friends. So, they are growing up indeed! It has been hard going the last two weeks as the sun has not shined and the rain not let up....UNTIL today. We had a glorious day of sun until about 3 p.m., I opened up the house and worked on 'de-molding' everything. The sun came just in the nick of time as we were all getting a little stir crazy from being inside. There are just so many puzzles one can assemble, tents/forts one can build, block towers, stickers, stories to read, bead necklaces to make....well, you get my drift! With all the rain, you can imagine the state of the dirt road...horrible! Many a car has gotten stuck in the mud - the run off and erosion is unbelievable, not to mention the newly found spring at the bottom of our pasture that is gushing out right where we move through our gate and meet the road. Wow, a river in our own yard!

All roads were closed for a while into San Jose due to mud slides and bad weather. Mike actually bought some high-wattage light bulbs in hopes of getting more light in the house during these dreary days. So much for my new paint job in the kitchen, the mold has come right through again - Oh well- I'll just think of it as 'patina' :)

Funny how people remember things - a gal in the community who grew up here and moved away with her family has since returned from Tanzania and come back home to Monteverde. I remember her asking me a year ago as we stood waiting for the Independence Day (9/15) parade to start, how I was doing and was I missing anything. I had responded, "yes, I miss my church". After school today, she related that conversation to me and is interested in starting up a small women's bible study. Perhaps starting with us gals and then putting something together for kids. I smiled at her and said, "Lets do it" as I knew my mother would be grinning from ear to ear when I told her this and that likely I would be receiving lots of materials or suggestions on web site resources from her as well. :)

Fall break is upon us and Mike and the boys will have a week off starting on 10/11. We will head to San Jose for some Dr. appointments and hope to find some cool things to do while in the city. Of course, the boys are already excited about the prospect of staying in a hotel.

Colorfully clad dancers at the Farmers Market - the boys were mesmerized!

Well, my yawns are coming faster, so I will close for now! Hoping it won't be so long until my next post old friends!
Signed: S