Saturday, September 29, 2007

A Day in the Rainforest

a sloth
a toucan
a butterfly on Madison's finger
Madison got to feed a coati (cousin of a racoon)
a poison dart frog
a howler monkey

Today we joined a group from our school on an all day trip through two portions of rainforest. We took a very pretty boat ride down the Sarapiqui River. Our guide had a keen eye and pointed out some great wildlife. After the boat trip we went to La Paz. This is a series of beautiful waterfalls. At this site they also have an amazing amount of beautiful wildlife. Above are pictures of many of the exotic wildlife we saw on our adventure today.

Friday, September 28, 2007

The One Semester of Spanish - Love Song

No, we didn't write this or record it, but, sometimes we feel like this is about all we can say. What I can say is - after a record "cruddy" day in language school - this just made my day. Enjoy!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

A Month in Reflection

Today is our one month anniversary of being in Costa Rica. Looking back it seems we just got here, but it also seems like we have been here for quite some time. I feel comfortable going places, the mall, the bakery and the store by myself now. That's a good feeling. It gives you a sense of freedom. It is also interesting what we have become accustomed to that would have seen so odd not even a month ago. Washing dishes by hand, throwing TP in el basurero (trash can), cooking everything from scratch, torrential aguaceras (downpours), and speaking Spanish everyday; Madison going to school, homework, tests, notes, detention (yes, once so far), gymnastics, and walking, walking, walking; taking the bus, and never watching TV. All in all, we are happy with our time here so far, we are managing, although somedays it seems to take so much time to do anything! Our days fly by because of school and how much time it takes to do everything. Many good experiences, a few bad ones.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Trash Day in Costa Rica

Who would have ever thunk that taking out the trash could be such an ordeal. In our home in California we used to pull the wheeled trash cans aaaalll the way out to the curb and the cans magically showed up empty by the end of the day. In our Apartment in California we would walk the trash out to the big shinny dumpster and somehow it went away.

Here in Costa Rica things are a little different. In commemoration of trash day, which is tomorrow, here is a video explaning how the trash “goes away” in San Jose, Costa Rica:

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Isn't one enough?!

Learning a language can be a challenge. Anyone who has done so or attempted to do so will tell you. Along with learning the language is the specifics of learning numbers. Numbers are difficult indeed. Imagine a country where a gallon of milk will cost you 1530 colones. That's a big number, and it only goes up from there - imagine a grocery bill of 97,482 colones. Now that's a big number to hear in Spanish, then translate, then to try and figure out how much that is in dollars! Yikes! A person only likes to repeat themselves once or twice! On TOP of learning numbers, and money - Costa Rica uses many types of coins that are all the same value, but look very different. There are 3 types of 5 colones, 3 types of 10 colones, - all of which are the same value. Apparantly they are going to discontinue the large coins, and the bronze colored coins for the smaller value - and use the newest ones made of tin. But - they aren't taking any of the old ones out of circulation. They also use a 1 (imagine that - worth 1/5th of a penny!), 20, 25, 50, 100, and 500 - all in coins. Then they have bills of the following values: 1,000; 2,000; 5,000; and 10,000. They have other bills, but these are the ones we primarily use. That's a LOT of money! 12 different coins, and 4 bills. Sigh...

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Fun day

Jaco Playa (Jaco beach)

Stanley at the beach (expression added :-)

If you have a chance, read our main blog to get additional info on our trip to the beach, but here is from my perspective. We started our day bright and early. Not a problem as we have all been up early since we have been here. We managed to catch the bus, and were about 30 minutes into the ride when Madison started groaning. What honey? I innocently asked. She had that green look on her face. The road was QUITE windy, and no way for her to look straight ahead. Next thing I know, I felt like I was back at work in the hospital with a sick child throwing up on me...poor baby. I just grabbed the first thing I could find - my Mickey Mouse embroidered sweatshirt. She only managed to get my shoe and part of my pants, the rest of it made it on the sweatshirt. Mike was sitting a few rows away from us, so he was oblivious to it all. She managed to get every last bit of items out of her stomach and felt oh so much better :-) Once we got to our location, my first business was to find a farmacia (drugstore). They had dramamine, and 30 minutes before our ride home I gave her some and she was asleep before we left town. She made it home just fine. An AWESOME day of relaxation, and the final stop for Stanley (see prior blog entry). So - this is a farewell to Stanley, I think he had a great trip to Costa Rica!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Flat Stanley in Costa Rica

Stanley doing gymnastics with Madison

Stanley hanging out to dry (no - he didn't get wet - he just wanted to experience hanging out)

Stanley helping out with homework (has his pencil in his hand ready to be available)

Stanley helping to buy groceries for the evening dinner

There is a very fun book called Flat Stanley. Madison read it a few years ago and enjoyed it very much. Well...Flat Stanley came for a visit yesterday. A friend of mine has a daughter in 4th grade at a Christian school in Sacramento. They obviously read the book and their "mission" was to send Flat Stanley to a missionary for a month and find out more about them. We were asked to keep a photo journal of Stanley's adventures as he finds out about the culture and work that is going on wherever the missionary is. So - enjoy a few pictures of Stanley's adventures. He will be with us for a few more weeks, so I may post more pictures of his adventures.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

La Bou and Costco a la Costa Rica

We have managed to find a few places where things don't cost an arm and a leg around here. The first, as shown a few days ago - the farmers market. GREAT deal of fruits/veggies. Now, where to buy bread? The local bread from Bimbo's (no Wonder bread around here), costs about $2.50 for a loaf. Not bad, you may say - that's what I pay in the states. Well, true - but when everything else costs twice as much - you gotta save where you can. We have two bakeries very close to our house. If we go a different way home from school - tags on about 2 minutes walking we can make it to Mus Manni. Fresh bread for less than a dollar! Ahhh...fresh bread everyday! Yum! Our second "discovery" is Costa Rica's answer to Costco. Think bulk - this is where you go. But again, think location. You won't find bulk beans or rice like this in the states:

That's 17.6 pounds of red beans, and 22 pounds of rice - for under $2 TOTAL! That should last us a week or two :-)

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Allocation of chores

We have decided how to split up housework around here. Everything is back to the basics. Mike does the sweeping and moping of floors twice a week. He also does the laundry and the trash. I do all the purchasing of food, cooking, dishes, and cleaning the bathroom and kitchen. Here is a video to help you enjoy our kitchen.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Farmers Market

Farmers Market

Items we purchased

Rambutan - tastes like a grape, very juicy, VERY yummy - just watch out for the pit in the middle.

We went to the farmers market today - about a 15 minute walk from our house. Saw all sorts of cool things - many things we didn't recognize. Madison was able to ask for things using her Spanish :-) We were even "advised" from a local Costa Rican to be wary of a certain vendor (all in Spanish I might add) - very nice man - watching out for us poor gringos :-) Had a very fun time - and overall only spent around $6.00 on a week of veggies and fruit. The only reason it was so "expensive" was because the watermelon was $2.00. Otherwise, $4.00 for fruit and veggies for the week - GREAT price! Love it! Will be going often! Had some fun fruit - rambutan - see the pic above.

Had some firsts today:
1. Made refried beans from scratch
2. Ate some rambutans
3. Purchased stuff / talked in Spanish at the farmers market in Costa Rica

Friday, September 14, 2007

Tests and Independence Day

The school kids at the assembly.

Erin with a ferol - that's a representation of the torch carried from Guatemala to Costa Rica. They don't do fireworks, they light a candle inside the ferol and carry them around.

Our "parade" around school.

It's been a week full of tests! Mike had a test yesterday, I had three today, and Madison had two! My oh my! Mike received an A on his test. I only received the grade back from one of the tests - an A. The other two I feel pretty good about. Probably an A on the second, the third test was my grammar test - tons of regular and irregular verb conjugations. Not just the conjugations, but we were given an "answer" to a question, and we had to devise the question using the same verb, but of course conjugated correctly. We also were given a word, and we had to create a sentence using that verb, probably conjugated. A very difficult and long test. Will find out the results on Monday. Madison had a Math and Spelling test today. She feels pretty good about both of them. She received some papers back today - high marks on almost all of them. Overall, it appears we are all doing fairly well. All thanks given to God for keeping us alert during class.

Today our school celebrated independence day for Costa Rica. The students had a "parade" around campus, we sung the Costa Rican National Anthem, heard about the history of their independence (all in Spanish), and raised the C.R. flag. Neat to be there for a piece of history.

Noble patria, tu hermosa bandera
(noble mother country, your beautiful flag)
Expresion de tu vida nos da;
(Expression of your life you give to us; )
Bajo el limpido azul de tu cielo
(under the clear blue of the sky)
Blanca y pura descansa la paz.
(pure and white she rests in peace)

It's a "loose translation" - the best I could do - not sure if it holds the true meaning of their national anthem. This is the first stanza.

It's been a LONG week, and we are more than ready for a rest - we may only adventure out to go see a movie tomorrow and nothing more. We shall see.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Homework in the dark

We were sitting down to do homework, and the beans were simmering on the stove when a huge lightening storm came. I know, nothing new, but we heard a HUGE CRASH and lightening struck a transformer. So - out came the candles. We all had so much homework to do, we couldn't let the lack of light disturb our study. So - we studied by candlelight. Of course, the beans stopped simmering, but what's a girl to do? I was SURE we weren't going to get electricity back for quite some time, but it was only about an hour - and dinner wasn't that late after all :-)

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Our daily walk to school

heading out to school

The local police "station" a block from our house

The closest park to us

view of downtown San Jose

Main street we walk down every day

Madison and dad stopping for a little fun

The sweetest little stray dog we see almost every morning

some of the local flowers

Madison entering the back gate to school

So caught up are we in the daily "survival" mode of the day, we often forget to stop and look around at the beauty that is in this country. I thought I would capture our walk to school each morning so you all can see what we see every day. It's beautiful here. We really haven't had an opportunity to see the countryside at all. The most we have seen is downtown, although it's nice, it's a big city. We hope to go on a day trip in the near future to some of the countryside area to capture the beauty of this county. Anyway - enjoy our walk with us to school.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

study time

Family at study time

Dad and Madison studying Spanish

No rest for the weary. Our typical schedule from the time we get home, until about 30 minutes before we go to bed is to do homework, eat, finish homework, study vocabulary, settle down and get ready for bed, asleep by 10:30pm, up each morning around 5:30...whew! As we are all in school, it has been a little challenging to ensure we each get homework and study time. Madison is needing help with math, Spanish, and her spelling. That's what you get for teaching phonetics - that's how she spells. Funny thing is - when you sound out the word the way she spelled it - it's correct! Of course, most of the times that's not how it's ACTUALLY spelled - so the work goes on :-) She is excelling in Science, doing fairly well in History, but struggling a bit with the routine of school - homework, turning in papers on time, getting her books from her locker, etc. Quite a rigid routine for someone who only remembers our casual school times. But, she is a flexible kid, and is starting to get right into the routine as well.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

down town San Jose, Costa Rica

Central Park Inside the National Theater
Back view of the National Museum (former Bellavista Fortress)
Front view of the museum

Owl butterflies in the "secret garden"
Today we went on what I like to call an "adventure". Typically, in my world, that means I get lost. It wasn't quite like that, but sure makes you realize how difficult some things may be. Our list of school things included "recommended" auido recorder. Notice "required" was not there. Well...our teachers told us on Friday that starting Monday we needed to bring them in and when recorded things onto it, that was how we were going to be tested in our phonetics class. Hence the need to go buy one. After 4 stops and 4 different locations, we finally found (believe it or not) a Radio Shack. We purchased it, and off we went on our new adventure to downtown San Jose,.

We started out in Parque Central (central park). We then walked to the Teatro Nacional (national theater) which was built in 1890 and modeled after the main theater in Paris. Very beautiful, but not sure it was worth the $5.00 a piece charge (Madison was free). Then we hoofed it over to the Museo Nacional (national museum). This is an old fort that used to house the now defunct army. It is pocked with bullet holes from their civil war. Inside held artifacts that covered a thousand year period. Incredible, beautiful - and the neat thing - there was a "secret garden" in the lower area of the fort - turned out it was a butterfly garden. LOTS of mariposas (butterflies) flying all around. Tried to catch the bus back, but never managed to find the right bus stop (presada de autobus) - so...caught a taxi, but only $3.00 total to get from downtown to our front door. Not bad at all.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Things you "miss"

This is from the new student "fiesta" after school today.

Okay - let me preface this with this is NOT an "I'm feeling sorry for myself" blog entry. This is simply an internal observation and an acknowledgement of how little things in my life have changed a bit. First, there were the "firsts"

first time...

  • making rice from a pot

  • eating chicken and mango for dinner

  • eating mayo from a bag

  • hanging laundry

  • getting so soaked, you might as well not even carry an umbrella

  • making almost EVERYTHING from scratch

  • speaking everyday to everyone in Spanish

  • so many others...

then, there are the "I miss" items

  • double-stuffed Oreo's ... sigh ...

  • toffee-nut syrup from Starbucks

  • ponchos. Yes, we get SOAKED, and Costa Ricans don't wear rain coats or ponchos, and there are NONE here to buy - no Target or REI co-op

  • canned pumpkin - already thinking ahead to Thanksgiving, can't find any canned pumpkin

  • canned cranberry sauce - same thing - thinking ahead for Thanksgiving (I'll have to be creative with mango sauce?!)

  • Starbucks

  • frozen food of any kind

  • a quiet sleepless night (noise starts around 0500 with the motorcycle paper delivery), and doesn't stop all day!

  • my comfy couch

  • my TV - we watch movies on our lap-top, it's bigger than our TV

  • 24-hour Wal-Mart for those late night "Oh I need.......NOW!" items

  • Fresh milk (we drink boxed milk)

Anyway - not an exhaustive list - but again, not a whine session, just a "welcome to my new life and how can I make it using the things that are "native here"" session.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Madison in After School Sports

Madison had two choices for after school sports – gymnastics and soccer. Her choice was clear…she has nine seasons of soccer experience, soccer is incredibly popular in Central America, and she has a soccer body. You guessed it…she signed up for gymnastics. Here is a quick video of her first day at gymnastics practice. By the way - that sound in the background? That's the rain POURING down on the roof. Didn't let up until we walked home from school. Of course!

Tuesday, September 4, 2007


Top left - softener; top middle, is mayonnaise (not just plain mayo - this one is with lime - others are with lemon; top right - that's the soap you use to wash your dishes - no dishwashers at all, and you must wash with gloves, because it's a killer on your hands. Middle - tomato sauce. Bottom left - you guessed it - boxed milk; bottom middle - BIG tomato sauce (only costs $1), and bottom right - apple juice - comes powdered, you mix it with water.

So, you think shopping sometimes can be difficult in the U.S. Many places, Costco, Winco, Safeway, the best place to find the best deals. Here is no different. However, it comes with a twist - not only are there many times you find yourself saying - what the heck are you buying? What is that word? (no picture on the package). What the HECK is that crazy looking fuzzy red fruit thing? Even more fun - you would be so surprised what comes in bags. Not boxes, not bottles, but bags. Why you may ask? We can only assume it's cheaper to make, and since it's cheaper to make, it's cheaper to purchase.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Costa Rican Frogger

Travelling here has been quite a challenge. So far we have travelled by taxi, personal car, bus, and by foot. Our primary means of travel is by foot to get to school, and to our local grocery store. To get any farther away we go by bus or taxi. The interesting thing comes into play when you travel by foot as it's pedestrian beware! Cars have the right-of-way unless you are at a traffic light. Even then you really have to be careful that they are following the traffic laws and stopping. Usually pretty good. Anyway - someone who had been here for awhile said she feels like she is playing Costa Rican Frogger. Keeping that in mind, the biggest goal when crossing the street is to NOT become the squished frog!

Sunday, September 2, 2007

The Central American Trifecta

We haven’t even been in Costa Rica for a week and we’ve already experienced the Central American Trifecta. What is that you ask? In the last week our power went out, our Internet went out, and our water went out. Why? Who knows. Welcome to Central America.

The good news is that all of our services have come back on. But, we never know for how long. In America we would have never settled for such shabby service. In Costa Rica it is a way of life…get over it.

When you come to Costa Rica you have to learn to eat like a Tico (Costa Rican). Don’t get me wrong. We can find almost any food here we want…it just costs an arm and a leg. A box of Lucky Charms is $6, a block of Velveeta cheese is $10, and a bottle of Mrs. Buttersworth syrup is $8. On the other hand – if we eat local beans, rice and tortillas we can all three eat dinner for about 35 cents…total…and get stuffed. So, I have been trying to learn to cook local. This evening I researched, purchased and cooked our first fried plantains. Oh man they were good! This evening I am going to take my first crack at cooking empanadas…think Hot Pockets, but, with a Costa Rican twist.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Day off

Our first day off in a LONG TIME!!! We had intended on going to the farmers market, but we (Madison and I) had such an enjoyable time sleeping in (much needed), that we didn't get out there. We understand that the earlier the better as the best picked go first, of course - so we are going to get out there next weekend.

Madison needed to get 8 bugs for a science project. So we went to the local park and went on an insect hunt - first was a cockroach (cucaracha) of course, we also caught 2 butterflies (mariposas), a HUGE red ant, a caterpillar type thing, a wasp nest with 3 really irritated wasps, a fly, and bee. Fun time all around. She now has to write up info about each insect.

Here is a video tour of our bathroom (narrated by Mike). Why?! you may ask. Because it's how we live our daily lives, and worth seeing what we are growing accustomed to :-) Yikes! Enjoy!