"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.' "
Jeremiah 29:11

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Tortugas :)

I had a really neat experience Tuesday night. My friend and I were downtown Montezuma finishing up dinner and debating what we should do next. You see, there's not much to the town of Montezuma and many places are closed until November. It's "low season" right now.
We were talking about how we really wanted to see turtles. Friday is a full moon so it should be a decent time to see some sea turtles at night.
Well, no time like the present. Or so they say. Some local came up to the little restaurant we were at and said that turtles would be coming out in 10 minutes! There is a volunteer group on the beach in Montezuma that collects turtle eggs at night and protects them so that people and animals will not damage the eggs before they hatch.

One of the nests had hatched and the turtle volunteers were about to set them free!
A small group gathered as we walked the path to the beach, which is even beautiful at night. The waves appeared to be glowing. I was told it is a special type of plankton that glows. A second person told me it had to do with the high salt content reflecting off of the moonlight. I don't know. All I know is that I have never seen glowing waves before and I was amazed.

Anyways, we got to the turtle hatchery and there were a bunch of teeny tiny baby sea turtles in a large bucket. Each nest has 104 eggs so we had a few minutes to ooh and aww over the little fellows while waiting for the remainder of the eggs to hatch.
When all were hatched, the group that had gathered was told to walk down the beach a bit. The turtle volunteers stopped in an area of sand free from drift wood and rocks. They had drawn a huge rectangle in the sand and all of the onlookers had to stay outside of the rectangle. They called it "the runway."

One by one, the volunteer took the babies out of the bucket and carefully placed them in the sand. And they were off! The little tortugas knew exactly what to do. They started crawling (do turtles crawl?) straight toward the sea.

It was beautiful to see God's creatures out in their natural habitat. Here are these teeny tiny turtles in this huge beach. Only moments ago have they entered the world, yet they already know exactly what to do. Confidently each turtle headed out to the big, dark sea; not for a moment did I see any turtle fight to stay in the bucket. These infant turtles were not following their mother turtle, sheepishly taking each step or waiting to see momma's next move. No, these babies just headed out into the sea because they knew that's where they are supposed to be. Within 20 minutes all 104 tiny tortugas had moved on to the next phase of their lives. They will "just keep swimming, swimming, swimming."

My pictures and video are of low quality because we could not use flash, only a red light.  Can you make out the turtle shapes?

If this video works, here they are heading out for their first swim!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Part 2: ¡Semana Cívica!

A week has passed since I started my blog entry about civic week, so I guess it is time to continue it.  Of course I intended to finish this entry during the week, but that didn't quite happen.  You see I had last Monday off in observance of Independence Day, so I was busy going on adventures with my friend in Montezuma.  Then Tuesday, as a result of my adventures the previous two days, but mostly as a result of sleeping in my contacts, my right eye burned like it was on fire, was red and puffy like I had conjunctivitis, and was watering so much that I appeared to be crying.  All day long.  That resulted in me leaving school early to have my eye checked out, because I literally couldn't keep  my eye open.  Then Wednesday I decided to stay after school before an afternoon meeting to catch up on work I had wanted to do the previous day.  I ended up not leaving school until 6 pm, and after my 11 hour work day, I didn't exactly get much done.  I woke up around 10 pm that night still with my clothes on, my light on, and the book I had been reading tossed aside on the floor.

But now it is Saturday, and I am curled up in the hammock as I type this, trying to regain feeling in my legs from my morning bike ride up and down these hills.

I believe I left off my civic week entry with Thursday evening's events.  

Friday morning was the running of the torch; or, it was supposed to be.  The event was cancelled as a result of the September 5th earthquake.  Since the earthquake the ferry, which is the primary means to access the Nicoyan Peninsula where I live, has been inoperable.  The water levels dropped significantly, and the ramp was also in need of repair.  

A bit of history about the torch:  I am going to pre-apologize if any of my facts are wrong, because I am just learning all of this, too.  The independence torch is a national symbol of freedom in Costa Rica.  When the Central American countries declared independence from Spain in 1821, the letter carrying the message of new-found independence left Guatemala and ended in Costa Rica.  

It has become a tradition that the schools in Central America emulate the path of the mail carrying the news of independence back in 1821.  The torch actually didn't arrive in Costa Rica until a month after the declaration of independence, but each year throughout semana cívica students run with the torch from school to school.

I was super excited about this event that our small school had the honor of participating, and I was equally disappointed once I learned that it would be cancelled.  Well, enter the police force of Cóbano:  although the official torch could not arrive without the ferry, the police force arranged for an unofficial running of the torch to keep the tradition alive.

Friday morning of September 14th, several students from the school met at city hall in Cóbano and began the relay from the municipalidad to the school.  Since I have walked it multiple times, let me tell you, that is no short distance!  Those of us at school waited and waited for the torch to arrive.  It was estimated to take about an hour to get from the city hall to school, so the teachers gathered all the students into the lunch room and anxiously waited.

As my students were responsible for the acto cívico of the day, I volunteered to stand down at the end of the driveway to keep a lookout for the torch.  I could hear it before I saw it.  Rounding the corner and kicking up dust along the road, the police truck led the way with its siren going.  Right behind the police truck, was our school Director driving and honking his car horn.  Behind his vehicle was the group of red faced, sweaty students still running.  Behind them, a group of police men ran along, and finally a small caravan of school parents drove their cars and honked along. The torch was passed off one last time before running it up the drive and into the comedor where the rest of the students were waiting.  


here they come

getting closer

last leg of the relay

that's my student holding the torch!


running it into the comedor, with the flag waiting

As I mentioned before, Friday was fifth and sixth grades' turn to lead the acto cívico.  We were assigned to explain the symbolism and importance of the torch.  Thank goodness my co-teacher who teaches Spanish and Social Studies to my students is Costa Rican.  She always keeps me informed.  If not, I would have been googling away.  She prepared a little blurb for one of the students to read in Spanish.  I translated it for one of my students to read in English.  The previous day, we got crafty and made little torches from construction and crepe papers.

cute, right?
Our acto cívico was short and sweet.  The students put the torch in a special torch-holder (not sure the official name), and were recognized for their job well run.  No pun intended.

Then we sang the 3 patriotic hymns, and said the pledge.  

And then two of my students read the story of the torch.  

Like I said, short and sweet. Unlike this blog entry.

Friday night, September 14th, was supposed to be a parade with faroles (lanterns).  All the children in town make their own paper lanterns and walk from city hall back to the community gym while singing the national anthem.  The lanterns are lit with candles at 6 pm and this is symbolic of the meeting held in a Guatemalan plaza the eve of the declaration of independence.  That meeting was lit by candles.

I was very excited about taking part in such a unique tradition, and once more disappointed when the announcement came that the lantern parade had been cancelled.  Again, we can blame this on the earthquake.  We have had so many tremors and shakes since September 5th that the city officials did not want to have children and families out walking with lit flames in case of another quake.  First their decision was to change the time from 6 pm to 2 pm in the afternoon and just ask everyone in the town to turn off the lights (what about the sun?), but it was then decided it would be safer to cancel it all together.  Can we say thank goodness?  Because that was the day at 1:57 pm a 4.1 shook us with the epicenter only one kilometer from this house.   Three minutes before the time that we would have been about to start the lanterns.  Talk about being in the right place at the right time.

Saturday morning, the actual day of Independence, Cóbano holds a parade, so the students donned their uniforms once more and the preschoolers dressed in their cute Trip the Worm costumes again.  The preschool students rode in a float. The honor students marched behind, leading the way for a banner held by each grade.  The teachers marched alongside their students who held the banner.

Of course the parade started on Tico Time, and the sun wasn't taking it easy on us.  The teachers had to wear our school polos and jeans because apparently jeans are the only pants we all had in common...I know it's "winter here", but 29 degrees Celsius may as well be summer.  We also were given these red scarf things to tie around us, because its part of the typical clothing of this area.

with my Tica sister before leaving for the parade .  She was an honor student!

I took plenty of pictures while WAITING for the parade to start

The fancy banner for our school.  Ohh-la-la

another float.  Don't let those "rain clouds" fool you.  

so thankful for a recently hired American teacher/ new friend :)

I let Jorge choose between my sunglasses and the hat.

precious pre-school on their float.

yay!  The 5th grade banner.

stopped for a bit in el centro

Despite the heat, it was an exciting way to start the morning of my first Costa Rican Independence day.  I loved marching alongside my kiddos and waving to their parents as we passed by!

The parade followed the route of the rest of the semana cívica activities:  from city hall to the community gym.  Once we finally arrived at the gym, it was packed with townsfolk and a performance was already taking place.

no wonder the Ticos dance so well--start 'em young!
I went back outside to watch the remainder of the parade while waiting for my complimentary plate of arroz con pollo.  

The color guard is a little bit different here...the flags don't spin.  I guess more of an honor guard.

And last but not least, the animals:  I guess so the other parade marchers wouldn't step in their poo.


an old coffee cart

That is the end of my longgggggg two-part blog entry about civic week in Costa Rica.  Yes it was a montón of extra activities throughout the week, but I loved every bit of it.  I'm just trying to soak up every little bit of culture I can while I'm still here.


Saturday, September 15, 2012

¡Semana Civica!

This week has been a very interrupted week because it was semana civica, civic week.  September 15th is Costa Rican Independence Day.  Instead of celebrating this holiday with barbecues, beer, and fireworks, Costa Rica goes back to its roots.  Although the actually independence day is only on the fifteenth, the entire week leading up to Independence day is celebrated with daily acto civicos in the schools and symbolic festivities at night.  Despite more ground-shaking, I have had a great time this week learning about the history of the country in which I now live.

Every morning, just after the first bell, the students and staff of Futuro Verde gathered in front of the flag pole for an acto civico.  The students lined up by grade and sang the patriotic hymns, said the pledge and listened to the outdoor lesson for the day.

Each day a different teacher and grade was responsible for organizing and planning the events.  On Monday the preschool shared the importance of Costa Rica's independence by looking adorable, singing the anthem, and having their teacher read a short story.  Tuesday, first and second grade educated us on the history and evolution of the Costa Rican flag.  On Wednesday, third and fourth grade recounted the history of the Costa Rican shield.  Thursday, was a practice run for Thursday night's presentation in the community gym (more on that later), and on Friday, the wonderful 5th and 6th grade students led the students in staff in welcoming the torch to our tiny campus.

In addition to the acto civicos, each class took part in decorating the school.  The students brought in flags, shields, streamers, and anything red, white, and blue.  It wasn't just our school that was adorned in the national colors all week; each of the little bakeries and tiny shops around town were equally festive.

"window" decorations in 6th grade
above the board in my 6th grade room

All of the guide teachers were responsible for their class's creation of a pancarta (banner) for the cumulating event of semana civica:  a parade on Saturday morning, the actual independence day.  I am the guide teacher for fifth grade.  That basically just means that I am the 5th grade teacher, but I also teach the English language subjects to 6th grade.  I was right in my element getting ready for the parade!  I love getting crafty, so it was great being able to get a bit messy (or messier than usual) while making our banner.  My kids came up with the phrase "nuestra tolerancia y cultura" to put on the banner.  They wanted to make a flag to go on the banner, so I suggested that the entire banner be colored like a flag.  And to make it more personal, I thought they should use their handprints.

being silly with my boys!
in progress

And for everyone who thought all of those years of color guard and marching band would be useless after high school graduation...wrong!  The director asked me to lead marching practice during the week.  I reverted back to my days as LMHS color guard captain.  I have to say, from our first practice on Monday until today, there was a lot of improvement.  Monday we had shuffling feet and swinging arms.  By the end of the week we had strong, straight arms and marching feet.  Not to say that everyone was on the same beat, but one step at a time.  Turns out the teachers had to march in the parade too!  But more on the parade later.

Thursday night we all gathered in the community gym in Cóbano.  Our school was leading the performances of the night and also selling the typical Costa Rican foods as a fundraiser.  The night started out with a group of policemen singing and playing guitars.  You know the crime is low if that's what the police do here!

Later the children's string orchestra played a few songs.  The big open gymnasium wasn't the best venue to hear strings play, but I still enjoyed it.  A few of my students play and it was neat seeing their talent at such a young age!

The main performance of the night was put on by our school.  It was sort of like a fashion show of the traditional clothing and traditions throughout Costa Rica's history and nearly every student in the school participated.  The students came out in groups modeling their clothing while a recording played over the loudspeaker explaining the clothing and tradition that was particular to a region at a certain time.  Then the students lined up in the front and music played while they showed off their personalities a bit.  Here's a look:

First Communion

introduction of black

scarves and dancing

typical machete

I don't know if I've mentioned this before but nearly everyone has a machete here.  It's like an essential item.  If you have a car, it is not uncommon to have a machete in your trunk.  Some men just wear them through their belt loops.  How else would you be able to chop open a coconut when you are away from home?!

At the end of the show, all of the performers came out together to take a bow.  Here they are:

Later in the evening, the preschoolers presented the "Story of Trip the Worm."  One of the little girls' moms is a seamstress so they all had little costumes on.  The story was about a worm who looked different than all of the rest;  none of the green worms wanted to be friends with Trip because he was spotted.  Trip was traveling, hence the name, and explained that back home all the worms have spots.  So one little green worm took a chance with Trip and before you know it all of the green worms have accepted Trip and the forest is happy.  The story just made my heart melt.  Here is a little clip of it:

This blog author is tired, but I'm not finished writing about all of this week's festivities so this post will be continued at a later date.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Plate Tectonics.

I guess the plates only needed the green light from Marino Protti in order to start moving again.  Because since my last blog post on Tuesday, I cannot begin to count how many earthquakes or aftershocks or tremors, whatever you want to call them, that we have had.  Six today, three of which were strong enough to be felt.  I hate it when they are during the night.  Today one of them occurred at school.  I was on a break talking to another American teacher.  I was standing and she was sitting.  She immediately jumped up and held each other until our heart rates slowed down a bit.  We talked about how much anxiety this is causing.  It seems she is like me in that every single movement she thinks is the beginning of an earthquake.  

About an hour and a half ago, we had another strong one.  Another advantage to living with ticos is that no one understands me when I inadvertently shout a profanity.  It felt strong and longer than some, so we checked the online registry.  It was a 4.1 and the epicenter was only 1 km from this house.  I walk through here when I go on walks.  Thank the Lord I hadn't had my afternoon coffee and decided to go exercise yet today.  I haven't walked or gone on a bike ride since last week's earthquake.  No thank you.  

You know what is ironic?  I had just finished a unit on earthquakes before last Wednesday's quake.  Well played Mother Nature, well played.  Next week we will wrap up a chapter on Volcanoes.  Let's not get any ideas Mother Nature... We don't need to add volcanoes to the mix.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Día de los niños

Can some one please tell me why the USA does not have a Children's Day as a national holiday?!  I mean there's mother's day and father's day, but we don't have a children's day.  I think when I was younger I asked my parents this very question and they responded "everyday is children's day."  Very true.  But here in Costa Rica, Día de los niños (Children's Day)  is a legitimate holiday.  Whattttt????  That's right.  Why did I not know this when I was still a child????

This past Sunday was children's day, and we had a nice fun day planned for this past Friday.  But with the earthquake and school being cancelled, it had to be rescheduled until Monday, and then rescheduled again to today because of the clown's schedule.  Yes, there was a clown.  The parents who planned the children's day activities went all out and it was FANTASTIC!
decorations in the lunch room

There were 10 stations and each teacher was in charge of one station.  The students were then put in groups.  The older students were each paired up with a younger student.  At first I thought that might not go over so well, but it was neat to see the high school kids helping the pre-schoolers with the different activities. The kids had 20 minutes at each station before rotating to the next.

There was face painting, several relays, sock puppet making.  Obviously I'm forgetting a few stations...

I was in charge of the cupcake decorating station.  Don't for a second think that I was assigned to decorate cupcakes.  Oh no, I definitely volunteered for that one!  I haven't seen a cupcake since.....ummm....I really don't know.  I was thinking it was July when I was last home in the US, but I actually don't recall a reason that I would have eaten a cupcake.  Not that I would actually need to justify eating a cupcake.  We can just say it's been too long for me to remember.

Station 9: CUPCAKES!!!

I'm quite certain I had one of the messiest stations there was.  It's a close call between cupcake decorating and face painting.  And why I chose to wear white shorts today when I'm dealing with icing?  Don't know.  Did I mention the icing was CREAM CHEESE?!  My favorite.

num num num
There was a bubble machine, and a popcorn machine, and the clown was making cotton candy, and, and, and, and, and.  Yes, I am just as hopped up on sugar right now as the kids were.  And we had pizza delivered for lunch.  And it was really good.  And I ate four pieces.  Because I didn't want to waste the leftovers. And we had french fries. And then we got treat bags and they had candy.  Yes, we, because the teachers got them, too.  The director said this morning that this day was not just for the students, because we are all children at heart.  Agreed.

some of my babies

trying to fill the bucket one spoon of water at a time

juggling of some sort

sock puppet!

the clown made hearts for all the girls and swords for the boys
one of the performers
or small,
it was fun for all!


Earthquake update:  we have been waiting of some special geologist, by the name of Marino Protti who works at el Observatoria Vulcanológico y Sismológico de Costa Rica to finish his study regarding last Wednesday's earthquake.  There was a press conference today at 11, but since I was working at that time (if you want to call it work or play) I didn't get to watch the press conference.  I  read an article about it online though.  Apparently Costa Rica had been waiting for a BIG earthquake in the Nicoyan Peninsula for some time.  Protti's study was to clarify if last week's earthquake was the one that CR had waited for.  Now I know you can't exactly predict earthquake's, but since Costa Rica is right on edge of the Cocos plate and the Caribbean plate seismic activity is common.  Quite some time had passed since an earthquake had occurred in this region, so pressure had built up in the subduction zone of the plates and it was only a matter of time until it was released.  

So, the results:  The 7.6 magnitude earthquake at 8:42 in the morning on Wednesday, September 5, 2012, was indeed the anticipated large-magnitude quake.  That is the good news.  

Now, the not so good news.  Only 40% of the energy that had built up along these two plates was released in last Wednesday's earthquake.  That means there is still 60% of energy waiting to be released.  

What the study can't tell us is how or when the other 60% will be released.  Will there be another large earthquake, two smaller ones, or more frequent tremors?  When will this seismic activity occur:  tomorrow, a year from now, 5 years, 50 years?