Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Discovery Fair

Since my first day at my school in Costa Rica, my students have been working on something called "Discovery Fair."  This is something that all students participate in until sixth grade with their class.  They research a topic, create some type of project, and present it to their parents and other classes.  This year, the topic was crystals.  My class was researching how crystals are formed, what they are, where we can find them, and the molecular structure of some specific crystals.  When I first arrived, they were still in their researching stage.  I would look over their written notes and correct errors in spelling and grammar.  Once the research was finished, they copied their notes into a homemade brochure.

The students were split into four groups, depending on the specific crystal that they looked at.  The groups were ice, diamond, salt, and sugar.  In their groups, they created a PowerPoint with what they had learned.  Over the last two weeks, we have practiced and gotten ready for the actual Discovery Fair which has been occurring over the duration of this week.  When I say we have practiced and gotten ready, I actually mean that is basically all we have done for the past two weeks.  It seemed to be a pretty big deal.

Last week the students decorated paper crystals as one of their science stations. (I had glitter all over me for days).


I used their crystals to create bulletin boards outside our classroom to welcome the visitors who would come to learn about crystals and see the work that the kiddos did.

"Welcome to Crystals Through A Lens" with science facts about nano-technology


They also made invitations to take home to their parents, inviting them to come see their presentations.


Other than their brochures and PowerPoint presentations, the groups also made enlarged molecule representations of their crystal with sticks and foam balls.



Yesterday morning at the beginning of class we made sure everything was set up for the parents.  Soon after school started, we welcomed them into the room and the students presented for their parents. They didn't think that their parents learned enough the first time so they presented a second time just to make sure!  The kids were so excited to share with their parents what they had been learning.  They loved being the experts and teaching their parents something for once.  They even got badges to wear during the Discover Fair.


After the parents left, we had a long recess then got ready to present again.  This time, one of the second grade classes came up and the students shared with them what they had learned.  The second graders researched different aspects of crystals so it was fun for them to see what the third graders had done.

Today we went down to the second grade classroom and listened to their presentations.  They had their room set up to look like a mine.  They even had on headlamps and smeared coal on their faces! It was too cute.

My teacher says that once Discovery Fair comes around, it basically signifies the end of the school year.  They have four weeks left until they are done.

I got to teach the whole class for the first time today.  Although I have already been here for nearly four weeks, it has been very crazy and we've hardly even had any whole class instruction (due to our assembly, Discovery Fair, and the fact that my teacher only actually is with them a maximum of 3.5 hours each day).  My teacher had to leave early today on very short notice so she asked if I would take over for her.  Of course I said yes, we only had one period left anyway, so I taught math.  We had made catapults in Science this morning so I had students launch off foam fruit loops then measure the distance that the fruit loop went.  I made a little competition out of it which was fun, especially since the remainder of math was going to be book work.  Overall I think it went well.  I just have to remember to slow down when I talk to them because although they are pretty good at English, they don't have the skills that the native speaking kids at home do.  

Tomorrow is the last day for this week (hooray for four day school weeks!) and we are headed to Montezuma in the evening so expect a post and pictures on Sunday/Monday!





Sunday, October 26, 2014

Manuel Antonio


View on the boat ride

After school on Friday, we came home, packed, and boarded the bus to San Jose.  From there, Darcy, David, Sophie, Sierra, and I walked through downtown to go to the bus station where we would catch the bus to Manuel Antonio. On our walk through San Jose, we stopped at Wendy's to grab some dinner before we left.  I was so disappointed that they didn't have chocolate Frostys but I already had two this week so I guess I shouldn't be too upset.  Anyway, Wendy's was like a darn sports bar! It was full of people watching a soccer game on TV, a WOMEN'S soccer game, no less.  I was very impressed with their excitement.  The game went into a shootout and there were giant globs of people watching through the windows and doorways from outside to see the game.

One glob of people.  The photo is blurry because you have to be careful with iPhones here.  Even iPhone 3 and 4s are worth $1000 so they are stolen from tourists if they're not careful.

After Wendy's, we finished the walk to the bus station where we waited until our bus arrived.  We boarded the bus and headed off to Manuel Antonio.  I sat with Darcy and we gabbed for most of the 3 hour bus ride.  Once we got there, we hopped in a taxi which took us to the Pura Vida hostel where we were staying.  The lady who helped us was a little crazy (and also wore the same dress the whole weekend-ew.)  She needed to see all of our passports and I didn't bring a copy of mine so that was a fiasco; then she woudn't let us all pay separate and that was even more chaotic.  Eventually we got it all settled and hung out in the lobby until we went to bed.

The next morning we got up and ready and our shuttle picked us up from the hostel and took us to the boat landing.  We went on the Ocean King boat as part of Catamaran Tours.  The locals call it a "booze cruise" because they offer unlimited drinks, alcoholic and otherwise.  The boat that we were on was a two story boat with water slides!


There were trampoline type beds that we laid on for awhile, and a "hot tub" that actually had cold water in it that we relaxed in.  Of course I had to be a typical tourist and get all excited when we saw dolphins.  They were jumping in the distance but also swam along side our boat.


Once we stopped out in the ocean we went up to the second floor of the boat.  They were letting people jump off, so David went and took a dive.  Somehow I got the courage to try too and I jumped off as well.  It was so fun, I had to go again!  I probably would have jumped more but then lunch was being served. 



For lunch, there was chips, pasta salad, some type of fish, rice with vegetables, and other vegetables.  I had everything but the fish. (I even ate my pasta salad- another new thing for me!)


After eating, we hung out some more on the trampolines until we headed back into the marina.  After our four hour boat trip, we got off the boat and headed back to meet our shuttle which took us back to the hostel.  Sierra and I stayed at the hostel and took a nap while the other three went to the beach because we were exhausted.  Despite my use of sunscreen, I had already gotten a little sunburned (shocking, I know) so I figured I probably didn't need anymore sun that day anyway.

Once it started raining, they all came back to the room and we showered before going out to dinner.  We took the bus to another part of town (the area is too sketchy to totally walk around in at night) and then walked to the restaurant.  IT WAS SO GOOD! I had a grilled chicken breast with zucchini, a tomato, and a baked potato with garlic butter.  Normally I would not eat zucchini or a tomato but they were seasoned so deliciously I gobbled it up.  The meal was so delicious that I was disappointed when I was too stuffed to finish it.


After dinner, Darcy and David stayed in town while the rest of us took the bus back to the hostel.  I had a splitting headache so I went to bed right away.  Naturally, I woke up before 6 this morning and laid in bed listening to music until everyone else woke up.  We got ready, packed out bags, and took the bus into Quepos.  We sat at Subway for a couple hours and ate lunch before boarding our bus back to San Jose.  I sat with David on the way back but slept most of the way so I wasn't very good company.  From San Jose we got on a different bus and headed back to Santa Ana.

Sierra, Sophia, Me, Darcy, David

On another note, I can't believe this is already going to be my fourth week here.  Although it feels like I haven't been home in forever, it still feels like I just got here last week.  We have two- four day weeks of school ahead of us so I know time is going to continue to fly by!




Sunday, October 19, 2014

Multiplaza

Yesterday Brittany, Sierra, Becca, Sophie, Darcy, David and I went to Multiplaza.  They had all been there before but it was my first time.  Multiplaza is a big mall in San Jose; I would say it compares to the Burnsville Mall in MN.  We took a bus there, which was so full we were all standing.  There were so many people standing in the aisle there was no way we could squish anymore people in, though the bus driver sure as heck tried.  Once we got inside, we went and got tickets to go see The Maze Runner.  In the theater here you got to pick your seats ahead of time which I thought was interesting.

Multiplaza Escazu

Following the movie we went to Chili's in the mall to eat dinner.  Then we walked around for a bit, went to a bookstore, and headed out to the bus stop.  We waited at the bus stop for quite some time before our bus arrived.  It pulled up ahead of the stop to let people off.  We ran to the doors to get on but the bus took off without us anyway.  Then we trekked through the rain to a different bus stop where we caught a bus and made it back home to Santa Ana.


Friday night after school I came home and relaxed and had dinner.  Then Becca and I had a movie night and watched Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.  On Saturday, we went to the Crepe Cafe for lunch.  This time I tried the Banana Foster Crepe which was a crepe with bananas, ice cream, and a banana rum sauce- it was delicious.  Becca had a chicken crepe which had chicken, bacon, mushrooms, and a cream of chicken type sauce.  They were so good!

Banana Foster Crepe                                                       Chicken Crepe

A difference that I have found while living here is that they don't have all the soda types we have at home.  For one, there is no Mountain Dew or Mello Yellow or anything of the sort.  I'm stuck drinking Cokes that say "Juan" if I need caffeine. (I love that they all have Spanish names here, I don't know why).  Another difference is that you can't flush your toilet paper in most places, you have to throw it away in the garbage, otherwise it disrupts the sewage system.

Juan! :)

Today we are going to attempt to go to Walmart which should be interesting because I don't think we quite know which buses to take/where the stops are.  Just another Costa Rican adventure, I suppose!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Similarities & Differences

I have been trying to pick out and observe what is similar between the classrooms here and the ones I have worked in in the U.S. and what is different.  Keep in mind that this is a private, semi-Americanized school, I am not sure what public schools are like in Costa Rica.  This is what I have found:

Similarities

  • They use curriculum guided books for Math, English, and Social Studies.  These books come from publishers in the United States (at least Math and English do, the Social Studies is all in Spanish, I haven't looked to see where they come from.  I just happened to notice that the Math and English series are ones I have seen used in the states).
  • A lot of the resources that teachers use are common from home too.  For example, teacherspayteachers.com, abcteach.com, etc.
  • The standards/benchmarks appear to be similar for the grades here as they are in the United States.  I think this is big in part to the fact that they use U.S. curriculum.
  • My students do mad minutes (aka rocket math, timed math facts, etc) here just as every classroom I have been in at home does.
  • The general way things are run is pretty similar.  The teacher teaches, the students listen, they do whole groups stuff, stations, modeling, guided practice...


Differences

  • They wear uniforms.  This is probably partially due to being a private school and I know schools in the U.S. wear uniforms, just none that I have worked in.  They wear a white polo with their school logo on it, navy blue pants/shorts, navy blue socks, and black shoes everyday.  The only exception (outside of spirit days, special days, etc.) is on the day they have Physical Education in which they wear a yellow t-shirt with their school logo on it and navy athletic-type bottoms (leggings, running shorts, etc.).
  • Class sizes are smaller here.  I have 23 students in my class but we have a large class.  I know many other primary classes have less than 20 students in them.
  • The whole school (ages 3-18) follows the same block schedule.  The bell rings outside every forty minutes; at this point the whole school switches classes.  Primary grades stay in their classrooms (unless they have a special) but switch subjects.  That being said, sometimes we will have two blocks worth of a subject.  There are three schedule breaks throughout the day.  Two-15 minute ones (one in the afternoon, one in the morning) and one-40 minutes one for lunch.  During this time students can eat snacks/lunch or play with their friends.  
  • Also, the classes during each period are different everyday.  Sometimes we have Spanish right away in the morning, sometimes we have English, sometimes math..it changes every day.
  • The students are also done at different times depending on the day.  Sometimes they are done at 1:05, sometimes they are done at 2:40.  I am done by 1:05 every day since my cooperating teacher doesn't every teach the classes after that.  Except on Wednesdays I am done at 12:30 since my teacher doesn't teach anymore after that.
  • We do not walk the class to their specials/lunch.  When class/break is over, they go to where ever they need to be next.  This was so strange to me when I first got here.  I can't imagine just letting a third grade class leave back home and expecting them to get to Music class quietly and on time or to remember to eat lunch during their recess/lunch break.
  • The whole lunch setup is different too.  Students can choose whatever they want and then pay for it depending on what they got.  I have found that most students bring lunch however.  They all have access to microwaves too.  I often see students hanging out during recess snacking on bags of microwave popcorn.
  • There is so much outdoor space for students to roam.  As soon as you exit the classroom, you are on a balcony outdoors.  The windows in the classrooms actually open to the outdoors as well.  The fresh air feels fantastic.
In case my blabbering confused you, this is my schedule every week.

Obviously my list of differences is longer than my similarities, although things seem to be fairly similar here.  I think it's just easier to notice the differences because they stand out more from things I already see everyday in the classrooms back home.  I am sure I will mention more in future blog posts as they occur to me, but I think this is a pretty good list for anyone wanting to know what my school here is like.

Among other things, today I did the dictation for my class.  Dictation is basically their spelling list.  I give them five of their words to spell, then I give them five sentences to write that also each include a spelling word, then I give them a sentence but leave the spelling word out and they have to figure it out and write it, THEN I give them four more spelling words and they have to write sentences using those words, and LASTLY, I give them a spelling word which they write and then provide a definition for.  My teacher is having me do all of their listening activities as she thinks it is good for them to hear English from a native speaker.  I definitely agree with her but its weird to me because sometimes they get so confused with what I am saying since I don't share the same accent as them.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Encuentro de Culturas

Dia de las Culturas (Day of the Cultures), or Dia de la Raza (Day of the Race), known as Columbus Day in the states, was celebrated this week in Costa Rica (on October 13 to be exact).  The students spent their social studies periods discussing the journey of Christopher Columbus and his impact on arriving the the Americas.

I am working in a third grade classroom in Costa Rica and today my wonderful third graders, along with the other third grade class, put on an assembly for the rest of the primary school.  They have been practicing various dances from different countries to celebrate their various nationalities.  Dances were included from Ireland, the United States, the Dominican Republic, Peru, Ecuador, Venezuela, Peru, Mexico, and other countries.  They got all dressed up in their respective country's costumes and performed for the other classes.  It was so fun to see where all of the students in my class had come from.  They were so cute in their outfits, I wish I could share the pictures with you!




Adding to yesterdays events...we went out for pizza and on the way found an accident, or as the my southern friends call it, a 'wreck.' (I swear I'm going to come back talking like I'm from the south).  I have no idea what happened but one vehicle was on its side (with what appeared to be very little damage) and the taxi that it hit also appeared to have very little damage.  I am very surprised that we don't see more accidents around here.  Tico time is a cultural thing here.  Everyone is very laid back and not rushed...unless they're driving.  Cars go so fast and motorcycles zip in and out and around every vehicle on the road.  We see semis driving down the wrong lane and the buses zip through the bus lanes on the side of the road even if they don't have to pick anyone up or drop anyone off.



On another note, Nicaragua apparently got a 7 point something magnitude earthquake the other night so we think the mini earthquakes we got were just the aftershocks of that.  I'm still mad I wasn't awake to feel them.

I also tried another fruit today that my teacher brought for me.  It was called "guava."  They have two types of guava here- green and pink.  The pink is native to Costa Rica and the green I think my teacher said is Chinese.  I tried the green kind; it reminded me of eating a green pear, but with seeds.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

New Experiences

Nothing overly eventful has happened in the past two days.

On our bus ride to school yesterday we had dropped people off at the bus stop and as we began to pull away we heard people from the back of the bus yelling.  The only word that I could make out was "chicito!" or "small boy."  The bus driver stopped and got off the bus and talked to a lady outside who had a young boy hugging her leg.  They talked for 5 minutes or so and then he got back on and off we went.  I have no idea what actually happened but it added some craziness to our Monday morning.

Today, my teacher brought to school a fruit called "guisaro" for me to try.  It reminded me of a combination of cherries and grapes.  She grows them on a tree in her yard.  She told me all about the various fruits they have here.  I informed her that I am typically a very picky eater but I am trying everything that is offered to me here as I want to get the most out of my experience.  To that she told me that she needs to take me to the farmer's market (which is held every Sunday morning) and that she is so excited to bring me more things to try.

One last little tidbit- apparently I experienced my first earthquakes last night.  Unfortunately waking up at 5:30 in the morning means I am usually sleeping by 9 so I missed out on the 10:30 PM event.  I was pretty bummed to hear that I slept through it.

Until next time!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Weekend Getaway

This weekend I had my first Costa Rican vacation.  Sophie, Becca, David, Darcy, Sierra, both Brittanys, a professor from OSU and I took the four hour trip to Arenal/La Fortuna.  Let me just pause here to say that I have only known these guys for a week but it already feels like so much longer.  It is wonderful to have such great people to be spending my time here with!

As soon as we got home from school, we packed up and walked to the church where our shuttle was picking us up.  We got lucky and had a 20-something passenger shuttle for the 9 of us because that was all that was left.


Once we got to the hostel it was already dark out.  (It gets dark here around 6 o clock, if not earlier).  We checked in and hauled our stuff up to our rooms.  We ended up with two rooms- one 5-double bed room and one with three sets of bunk beds.  Darcy, David, Sophie, Becca and I ended up in the bunk bed room.  When I heard we were staying in a hostel, I was a little sketched out.  The only information I had about hostels came from the horror film "Hostel" (which if you ever plan on staying in a hostel- don't watch).  When we got there and I saw it however, I was very relieved.  Although it was dark and I couldn't see much, it was a gorgeous place to stay.  The inside (which was technically still outside as its basically just a caged in area with no roof) was filled with trees and hammocks as well as a little hut bar with a waterfall/pool next to it.  The rooms weren't too bad either.  They're basically like hotel rooms minus the appliances, soiled carpet, and questionable bed spreads.  We even had air conditioning!


Once we settled in, we left to go get dinner.  We ate at the Lava Lounge which was basically just across the street.  It had both Costa Rican type food and international food.  I had a nice juicy cheeseburger with bacon and mushrooms!  It is interesting here because they have stray dogs everywhere.  They were even walking around in the restaurant as we ate.  Once we finished there we went back to the hostel and went to the bar.  We each had a free drink token and used that first.  It wasn't the most delicious thing I have ever choked down but it was pretty at least.  Darcy got this delicious milkshake tasting drink and I had a sex on the beach.  They tried to talk me into shots of tequila but I was not having that.  Yuck.  The bartender did tell Darcy he would give her a free shot if she jumped in the pool, so naturally she did.  He ended up actually giving her two shots (he had a little crush on her).  Once the bar closed down we went back up to the room and had a little dance party before we went to bed.   

                        free drink                                                       Darcy in the pool

The next morning I could not sleep in no matter how much I wanted to.  I was up before 6 despite staying up late.  Once everyone was up and moving we went and bought our tickets for the Baldi Hot Springs.  Then we split and went for lunch.  Becca, Sierra, Sophie, Darcy, and I went to the Rainforest Cafe (no, not like the tropical one we have in the States, just a simple cafe in La Fortuana).  I had the chicken nachos and they were delicious.  

                        Sophie's Coffee                                                              Chicken Nachos

After lunch we headed back to meet everyone else at the hostel.  We got ready to go then hopped on our shuttle to Baldi Hot Springs Resort and Spa.  It was a beautiful place.  There were a dozen or so different pools, some hot, some cold.  It rained some while we were there but it felt so good, especially when we were in the hot pools.  They had a couple water slides to go on too.  One of them got you up to speeds near 45 KPH! You had to hold onto your swim suit for dear life though.  Two of the hot spring pools were in little caves and the water was so hot you could barely stick your toes in.  The air around it was like a sauna.  There was a beautiful view of the Volcano Arenal from the hot springs as well.  Once we finished in the water many hours later we had a buffet for dinner at the resort then headed back to the hostel.

One of the hot springs

The Volcano + Hot Springs

Back at the hostel we went up to our rooms to change and relax.  My room took relaxing a little too far however and ended up all piling into one twin bed.  Darcy's mattress was much more comfortable than everyone's so we all snuggled up on her bed and didn't move for quite some time.  Eventually we decided to stop being lazy and go join everyone else at the hostel bar downstairs.

Snugglefest 2014

We hung out at the bar until it closed at ten, then we had some dance lessons.  The bartender taught Darcy and Becca some moves and David taught me to two-step (because apparently if I want to live in Tennessee I have to know how to do that).  Eventually we made it back up to our rooms and crashed for the night.

After we woke up this morning, Becca, Sophie and I did a little shopping around La Fortuna.  Then we went back to get everyone and we all went out for brunch.  We ended up going back to the Rainforest Cafe.  After brunch we headed back to the hostel, rented our shuttle, then headed back to Santa Ana.  We were much more crammed this time as our shuttle was only meant for 9 passengers.  We were definitely spoiled on the way there.  It was quite the ride back.  Very bumpy and twisty and turny.  Our shuttle driver stopped on the way and pointed out a sloth (or oso perezoso- lazy bear) to us in the tree.  I don't know how he spotted it.  

Can you spot the sloth? He is in the direct middle.

Now I am relaxing before dinner time. I have a feeling tonight is going to be an early night as it was a very long, exhausting weekend.  I had a lot of fun and I cannot wait until our next adventure!





Thursday, October 9, 2014

(Almost) One Week In..

I can't believe I already (almost) have a week of school under my belt.  For the most part, the week has flown by, and I am 100x more acclimated to the culture here than I thought I would be by this point.

Yesterday we had an early release as the teachers had parent/teacher conferences.  It was nice to come home early and have time to relax before actually feeling like I had to accomplish anything. (Not that I accomplished anything anyway...my EdTPA lessons still have a little ways to go).

Teaching Notes:

  • My teacher uses a "mirror" technique often.  For example, if she says a spelling word or vocabulary definition, the students mimic her and repeat it.  Sometimes she uses hand motions to represent something as she talks about it which the students also repeat.  I think that is a good way to help them remember something and also lets you know if they are paying attention or not.
  • I began to have my first real interaction with the students today (as in not just observing/chatting/answering their questions).  We did math stations and I ran a decimal/fraction activity.  
  • A game the OK professor taught us: you pair the students together and they play it much like "Rock, Paper, Scissors."  Instead of saying "rock, paper, scissors, shoot," you say, "I love math, shoot!" and on "shoot" you hold up a number.  The first person to add the two numbers (from each persons hand) together correctly wins and you play again.  This can then be done with two hands, one handed multiplication, and two handed multiplication.
  • An attention grabber than my teacher uses that works really well is saying "Class, class!" to which they respond, "yes, yes!" And she says "Give me a yes!" and they respond, "yes!"  It's definitely something that would have to be practiced to work but it does work really well.
It is interesting to be here where they only have two months of school left considering just last month I was just starting school with my second graders in River Falls.  As my teacher told me this afternoon, I will get to experience two totally different forms of 'teacher stress.'  My cooperating teacher is great.  She is a really fun person to be around and I enjoy watching her teach.  

I am very excited for tomorrow, as we will be headed to Arenal National Park for a weekend vakay.  Volcano, rainforests, hot springs...I'll post pictures on Sunday/Monday, but if you want a preview.. http://www.arenal.net/


 
Snapshots from the bus ride to school

The view from my classroom; I love the mountains in the distance



Tuesday, October 7, 2014

It's Raining, It's Pouring..

I have been here four days and it has rained, drastically, every single one of them.  I knew that was how it would be but ufda! It rains hard! Better than snow I suppose.

Last night I ended up going to zumba for my first time with Becca, Darcy, and David.  For a rookie, I think I did pretty good! It was really fun too, as opposed to every other way of working out ever invented.  They hold a class down the street at a gym for free on Monday nights so hopefully that will become a frequent activity.

Today at school one of my students came up to me as I was sitting down and gave me a hug.  He was laughing as he patted my back and said he was sorry the Packers beat the Vikings by so much in their last game. Yes, even here in Costa Rica I am finding Green Bay Packers fans.  Who knew?  I told him I didn't want to talk about it and he continued to laugh as he walked away.  The Vikings better beat the Packers when they play in November so I can tease him about it! Darn cheese heads.

Fun fact: I am beginning to really like pineapple! I'd only tried it once prior to coming here, probably about a year or so ago, and I did not like it.  Fruit is much better here, as is to be expected.

Today in class we square danced.  They were learning different dances from different countries and the United States dance is apparently the square dance! I thought that was funny but then I really couldn't think of a better representation.

Something I find interesting in my school is the way the students address their teachers.  Typically, they just say "Miss" or "Mister," but if they do use names they use the first name only: Miss Gretchen.  Another interesting thing is that when it is lunch/recess time the students are just dismissed to do as they please.  They have 40 minutes or so for lunch and recess and can eat whenever during that time and play whenever during that time.

I'm finally beginning to understand the money system here (I think) but I still need the rest of the week before I'm totally comfortable with the bus.  I get so absorbed in watching out the window that I forget to watch for when we have to get off.  Thank goodness everyone else is responsible!

I don't think I will share this to Facebook, as I often won't with short daily (every other day? every third day?) posts.  As much as I want to keep everyone filled in on my experience, short blurbs like this are written mainly to serve the purposes of remembering what to write in my scrapbook. TTFN.

Monday, October 6, 2014

My Second First Day of School (This Year)

Today was my first day at the school I will be student teaching at in Costa Rica. (It's crazy to think just three days ago I was teaching in River Falls!)  I woke up bright and early- somewhere around 5AM- so we could leave for the bus by 6:30.  The school is so much different than back home. The biggest difference is that there is so much outdoor space.  You have to walk outside to get to different rooms, and some classrooms have other doors into an open space outside that they can use.  The day seemed to go muy rápido. It was a crazy schedule because my teacher was sick so they re-arranged the schedule in case she had to leave; also it was the founder's birthday and the whole school sang to him which was pretty cool.  I was surprised that I still knew most of the words to "Las Mananitas" from high school.  The students are supposed to have Spanish right away in the morning but it was switched to the end of the day.  They spend half of their day learning English, Science, and Math in English and then Spanish and Social Studies in Spanish.  Because of this, they have two different teachers which I think is part of why the day seems to go so fast.  The schedule is also different each day, as opposed to home where it is essentially the same everyday.  That will take some getting used to! My cooperating teacher is great though and I am very excited to work with her. I attended a meeting today and all they spoke was Spanish, I was surprised at how much I understood.  Two days in and I am already feeling better about my Spanish skills, though I still have a long way to go.

Every time it began to rain during the school day (it rains here virtually everyday at this time of year), the teachers and staff would say to me, "Welcome to Costa Rica!"  I will take the rain over the snow that is already occurring in places back home any day.

Again, I am so so thankful for the student teachers who are already here.  Without them I am not sure I would have made it to the bus to get to school, nor back from school.  I am going to zumba with Becca and possible Brittany tonight so that should be fun!

Another highlight of today was that I tried two new things! Papaya, which I had never had before, and mamones, which I have never heard of before.  Both were delicious!

Mamones (I forgot to take a photo, found this one here)

Needless to say, I am definitely becoming more comfortable here and am much more settled in.  My host family is great and although my Spanish skills are lacking I am learning slowly.  Lucky for me I still have plenty of time to practice!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Emotional Rollercoaster

In all honesty, I don’t even know how to put into words the emotions inside of me.  I’m not usually one to admit my anxieties; sometimes I even struggle to admit them to myself, but I’m already learning a big part of my experience here is learning to be vulnerable.  My independence so often prevents me from sharing my emotions with others, but the sooner I am able to do that, the sooner I will “get better,” mas o menos.  And really, what better time to do that than now?

They warn us all before we leave that coming back to the states will be a culture shock.  They warn us that no one is going to understand the life changing experience that we just went through.  I am not even two days INTO this experience and I already can see the truth in that.  There is no way anyone who is not in my place, or who has not been in my place, will understand the emotions and craziness that this experience brings about.

Within the first 24 hours of leaving home I had to have cried a dozen times.  I am not a crier, so that is saying something.  It wasn’t even preventable crying.  Half the time I didn’t even know why I was crying. Combine anxiety with being alone in a foreign country and it’s enough to make a person have a mental breakdown.

That being said, this is easily the best decision I have ever made in my life.  It is truly a test of my independence and perseverance.  As I told a friend this morning, there is no doubt in my mind that these next two months will change the rest of my life.  I am so, so very excited to see what adventures await me!

On another note, I met the other girls (and guy) staying in the area and at my school as well. Having them here makes it much easier to adjust.  They all are pretty great and I am excited to spend time exploring with them.  Today, I went for lunch at Café Crepes and it was DELICIOUS.  Sonam and I both had Nutella and strawberry crepes and Brittany had a vegetarian one.  There were so many choices we are excited to go back and try them all!  Then Brittany and I took a walk around town.  It was fun to see Santa Ana in the daylight (since I arrived in the dark) and see how different it is from home.  Prior to leaving for lunch, I met the OK Crew.  The other girl, una otra Brittany, staying with my host family is from OK along with four other girls (Sophie, Becca, Sierra, Darcy) and a guy (David) who are staying nearby.  It was exciting getting to know them and I am looking forward to our upcoming endeavors.

Another exciting part of my day was the cockroach-the-size-of-my-thumb living on my wall.  Thank you again, David, for killing that.  Brings back memories of the oversized centipedes back home.. *shudders*


Anyway, I need to get back to working on my EdTPA (the one I swore up and down I would finish before I left the states) before dinner with my wonderful host family and an early night to bed.  Tomorrow will be my first day at school and I am anxious (in the good way) to meet my cooperating teacher and class!

Almuerzo: Nutella y fresas- deliciosa!

Mi amigo nuevo

Destination: San Jose. Check!

After a not so crazy day, and a little bit crazy night, I made it to San Jose (Costa Rica, not CA).

Plane ride #1 from La Crosse to Chicago was uneventful.  It was the smallest plane I had been on, maybe 50 seats or so.  I met a lady in her 60s named Marguerite who was just as clueless about flying on her own as I was so we became fast friends.  Somehow we had both managed to score Priority Access boarding passes, though neither of us knew how.

When I landed in Chicago I booked it to my next gate where I found my seat had been changed due to some family wanting to sit together.  It worked out in my favor as I ended up next to a girl named Michelle around my age from just outside of Nashville.  She was on her way to Miami for a week-long cruise.  We chatted and watched out the window, got confused when we flew over a big body of water (turns out we were flying around the FL panhandle..odd), and rolled our eyes at the crazy ladies in front of us.

Once in Miami, I had negative minutes to get to my gate and board for San Jose.  I had to take the sky train to get to the terminal and once I found my gate I also found a long line waiting to get on the plane (good thing I had Priority Access!)  As soon as everyone was buckled up and settled in and the overhead compartments were closed, the pilot made in announcement.  Everyone was groaning and standing up, removing their carry-ons from above.  I had no idea what was going on as the announcement was all in Spanish.  Then the pilot made the announcement in English and said something along the lines of "someone made a big mistake this morning...there is something wrong with this plane and we cannot use it...we will be getting a new plane as soon as possible." So we all trekked off the plane and back into the terminal where we were soon informed that a plane was at the airport and would meet us at a different gate in a half hour or so.  By the time we boarded the plane, they loaded our luggage, and we waited (forever) for the catering to be transferred, we took off a little over two hours behind schedule.  Luckily I did not have to transfer planes this time.  I got to San Jose and went through the visitors check point.  The man spoke English thank goodness.  I exchanged some money, grabbed my luggage, and went through customs, all of which went pretty quick.

I was worried about finding a taxi, but lucky for me there were a zillion taxi drivers waiting just outside.  Boy, was that ride crazy.  I'm not sure the driver even knew that speed limits existed! I thought I had car anxiety in the states, its nothing compared to here.  I am definitely on an adventure!  I made it to my host family's casa and practically ran to bed I was so exhausted.

I am both nervous and excited to see what this week and the rest of my stay here holds!