"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

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

La Luna

Fun and tasty review in sixth grade science today! I think today's science lesson was the quietest and most attentive I have had in a LONG time with that group.

And no, my phases of the moon are not in order, but at least you can see what every phase looks like!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Thanksgiving in Costa Rica

Thanksgiving translates to día de acción de gracias, but just because it translates doesn't mean it is celebrated here in Costa Rica.  Pilgrims came to America after all.

Since I teach at an International Bilingual school, I decided it would be appropriate to include a few Thanksgiving lessons for my students.  My fifth grade class is all from Central American countries, so I planned for them to watch a short movie explaining the Pilgrim and the Indians and how the first Thanksgiving came about.  After discussing the meaning and tradition of Thanksgiving they each wrote down what they are thankful for this year.  

I only had 4 students that day (out of 7),  but I put this outside our classroom so others could see
My favorite is the top left:  his brother just had a major heart surgery.
After writing and drawing about what we are thankful for,  I took my class out to the mango trees (our favorite place to go for read alouds) to read Thanksgiving at the Tappleton's.  This was all on Wednesday, because I don't have English with my fifth graders on Thursdays.  

For those of you who don't know the story, Mrs. Tappleton opens the door for the milkman in the morning and the turkey slips and goes sliding down the icy hill.  She just can't tell the Mister.  So Mr. Tappleton goes to pick up the pies, but the line is extremely long so he goes to the nearby cafe to have a cup of coffee.  When he goes back to the pie shop, they are all sold out so he asks for two empty boxes tied up with string.  He can't let Mrs. Tappleton.  You can predict the rest of the story.  One by one, each person responsible for a dish has a mishap.  The Tappleton's all sit down for dinner and one by one they confess to why their portion of the meal is not at the table.  They come to realize that the important part is that they are all together.  It doesn't matter what they eat;  in fact, they end up eating sandwiches.

Well, my fifth graders loved the story.  More than I expected actually.  We were talking about the story afterwards, and one of the students asked if we could have a Thanksgiving.  Then another suggested we could eat sandwiches, just like the Tappletons.  So they got together and planned who would bring what.

Instead of our normal lunch on Thursday, we stayed in the classroom.  I moved my table/desk toward the center of the room.  Since I only have one chair, I pulled each of their desks up around the table.  I sliced up the tomato, someone washed the lettuce, the boys went to bring juice from the lunchroom, and the rest helped prepare the sandwiches in assembly line style.  (Ham and cheese, by the way).

I was kind of unsure what to do next, because I really felt the need to pray before a Thanksgiving meal, but the school specifically does not teach religion.  God solved that before I could blink, because one of the boys asked if he could pray before we ate.  Then I told my kids that my family always goes around the table and says at least one thing they are thankful for.  They were very thoughtful and said meaningful things.  After one student said she was thankful for her family, and her friends, she said "and I'm thankful that Teacher shared her tradition of Thanksgiving with us."  That almost put a little tear in my eye.  So sweet.  

First Annual Thanksgiving at EFV!  All happy and healthy :)
I really enjoyed our ham, cheese, lettuce, and tomato sandwich Thanksgiving.  I was sitting there eating my sandwich and thinking what a bittersweet day it was:  I couldn't be in Florida with my family, but I was part of making a new memory for my seven fifth grade students.

Also, one of the American moms came around and gave all the teachers mini pecan pies.  My mom always makes pecan pies, since it is my brother's favorite, so it was nice to have a little taste of home.  

Thursday night, one of the American staff at EFV, invited me and the other American teaching staff over to her house for a pot luck style Thanksgiving.  It was 6-8:30 or whenever you could get there.  I know I got there more than fashionably late, but the group I was coming with had some of the food, as did I, so I knew it wouldn't be a problem.  I'm on Tico Time now.  Seriously.

Anyways, it was soooo wonderful.  We had a Turkey!  That's actually a big deal here.  Usually you have to go to capital, San José, to buy a turkey, but this year someone was smart and asked the supermarket in advance if they would order a few for Cóbano.  I was telling my host mom and her friend about Thansgiving, as I was waiting for my ride to arrive.  They both said they had never eaten turkey.  That's so hard to believe.  One of the tica teachers also came to the Thanksgiving, and she said it was her first time eating Turkey.  

My camera was misbehaving and the flash would not function, so my pictures are not so fantastic.

Nicole and her BF, Brian
TURKEY!!!! and delicious rolls

Serving line on the washing machine!
Turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, stuffing, sweet potatoes, veggies, and a roll!
Only missing something cranberry. (Not to be found in Costa Rica)
Thanks to Kim (behind the stairs) we had Turkey!  
la mesa

And we even had dessert...

apple pie.  The crust was made by the EFV students during cooking class.

Sarah's passion fruit bars garnished with Ylang Ylang flowers

Melissa, Nicole, and I: fat and happy.

Although I was not with my family this Thanksgiving, for Thanksgiving 2012 I am thankful for the new "family"  that gathered this Thanksgiving and gave me the special feeling of togetherness usually felt on Thanksgiving.  Maybe my story is the reverse of the Tappleton's.  We had all the traditional Thanksgiving foods, but we were missing our loved ones from back home.  Of course we were grateful for the food, but the most important part was that we could all come together and enjoy each other's company!


Wedding Crasher

I'm a wedding crasher.  I went to a wedding that I wasn't invited to, and I had never met the couple that was getting married.  I have become such a rebel.  not.

My host family was going, and promised me it would not cause a problem if I went.
Did I bring wedding attire?  I didn't think my paisley boots should make an appearance in the Catholic church of Cóbano.  I borrowed a LBD (little black dress) from my host mom, and dug out the one pair of wedges I brought with me.  I somehow put my hair in an updo in like 5 minutes.  Not sure how, because I am not good with updos;  I just know how hot that church is (no AC, remember!) and I wanted to do something a little different than my normal low messy bun with a flower clip.

The wedding started at 3 pm, tico time.  We left the house at 3:05 and we arrived before the bride.  What I realized halfway through the ceremony is that there was not a bridal party.  Just 4 children--2 flower girls and 2 ring bearers, and the bride and the groom.  That certainly saves a LOT of drama!

Maybe I just watch too many TLC wedding shows, but for all the stress, and time and money that goes into planning an American wedding--having to have everything perfect, with every t crossed and every i dotted.  I was so impressed by the beauty of this tico wedding.  Why?  The simplicity made it so beautiful.  She forgot to carry her bouquet, as she walked down the aisle, and when someone gave it to her at the reception, it was just like oops!  Whereas, it would have been catastrophic if that happened to any TLC bride.

I am always astonished by the huge figures that are spent on food and booze for a wedding in the US.  None of that here. A group of women who attend the church of the bride gathered together in the morning of the wedding.  They cooked the main dishes and a few little appetizers.  We ate off of plastic plates, and drank from plastic cups.  Everyone left with full bellies and I didn't here any complaints.

Here are a few pictures from the wedding:

the setup 
the bridal party

here comes the bride

during the ceremony

signing and making the marriage official

where the reception was held
decorations at the reception

admiring their cake  (she just may be wiping a tear!)

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


Do any of my readers know anything about obtaining grants to purchase books for my classroom??  I have not had any luck finding international grants...

Or does anybody know how to solicit donations for books??  Are there any non-profit organizations that do this?

I want my students to be exposed to quality literature, but I found out today that any books that I want my students to read during the school year will have to be purchased on my own dime....

One of the challenges of working in a third-world country.

Please e-mail me if anyone knows of a way to obtain cheap/free books or any international grants.



Friday, November 16, 2012

Cooking 101

Today I had another cooking class with my host mom.  Last weekend we made chimichurri, which was actually a lot easier than I expected.  I think chimichurri is the same as pico de gallo, which is just a fresh, flavorful, non-spicy salsa.

This week I asked to learn how to make arepas.  I mean, I know how to eat them, but what am I to do when I go home for Christmas?  I can't bring my host/ chef with me!  Well, now I know why arepas please my taste buds so much:  they are basically just a dough of sugar and flour.  Who wouldn't like them?

Although I never had the chance to cook with my Nana, I have a feeling that cooking with Nana would have been very similar to cooking with Guiselle.  No measurements.  Just eyeball it.  Or until it looks right or tastes right.  I don't know how well I will duplicate arepas once I am back in the states.

If I can get the dough right, then I know I can do the rest.  I was having trouble making my arepas flat, and they were far from round.  Guiselle is on the other side of the stove just pat-pat-patting perfectly round circles.  And so fast too!  She taught me how to work my fingers, and it turned out much easier.

The round ones are "plain," or just the cooked sugar dough.  The semi-circle ones are filled with a mixture of crumbled cheese and white sugar.

adding cheese before folding

I made this one!

The arepas turned out well and just as I was finishing cooking the last few, she made the coffee.  It's custom here to have afternoon coffee and a snack; usually a bread, empanada, etc.

So I went outside to enjoy my coffee and arepas in front of the Christmas tree.  That's right:  Christmas tree already.  I'm still having trouble wrapping my mind around the fact that Costa Rica is entering into SUMMER now as the Christmas decorations are going up!

Happy Friday!
Oh and I'm going to a wedding tomorrow, so I'm pretty pumped about experiencing a Costa Rican matrimonio.

Monday, November 12, 2012

My rant about books.

I have been on this Paulo Coelho kick ever since I got my Kindle for graduation.  I was looking through the week's specials and I downloaded By The River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept.  The plot sounded good, and it was only $2.99 that week or something like that.

I was in the midst of several other good reads that I needed/ wanted to finish before I started this River Piedra book.  Finally I got around to reading it, and I couldn't put it down.  It was such a beautiful, and beautifully written story.  I began looking into other recommended reads and The Alchemist caught my fancy.  I didn't need to download a $10 Kindle book because I still had several waiting to be read.

Another day I stumbled upon a free download of Paulo Coelho's The Way of the Bow.  Maybe I'm just a big book nerd, but his stories are short but so symbolic.  Read between the lines, and Coelho shares some inspiring life lessons.

Several weeks later, I was in the closet at school trying to see what books, if any, I could use in my class that week.  Everything is donated, so you never know what you'll find.  Well guess what I found?  You got it:  another Paulo Coelho Book.  This one was entitled The Zahir.  It's back page summary didn't make me want to plop on the floor right then and there to start reading, but I decided I would borrow it.

I can't say The Zahir, a love story, was my favorite read, because I was at conflict with some of the view points of the main characters.  Let's just say it was a bit unrealistic of a story, but still offered a few lessons applicable to daily life.

Well, when I was home a few weeks ago, I decided to stop by the Cassleberry branch of the library to see what books they had for sale.  I was looking for my kids of course, and found a few good books for us!  Before paying, I decided just to check to see if they had any Coelho books.  Doubted it, but it must have been my lucky day because there on the shelf was not only a hard copy of By The River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept, but also a gently used copy of....The Alchemist!  Yay.

I wanted to finish my current kindle read,  before starting to read The Alchemist.  To my disappointment, this much anticipated read of mine is only 167 pages.  I read it this weekend.  I split it into two days, just to spread the enjoyment out a bit.  I'd classify The Alchemist as an allegory, but that's asking me to think back to 11th grade AP Literature.  Anyways,  the words on each page are filled with beauty and some biblical references.

Santiago, the main character, has a prophetic dream, and this basically leads us through the whole story.  He's traveling in search of his treasure, or what Coelho calls his "Personal Legend."  Santiago is trying to get to Egypt, but has many stopping points along the way, each of which teaches him an important lesson.  Many times he questioned:  "should I just turn back now?  I don't know what I'm doing.  This is hopeless."

I saw myself in Santiago; in fact, I think there is a bit of Santiago in all of us.  I see myself on a journey right now.  Costa Rica may be my destination, but I tend to think it's only a stopping point along God's greater path for me.

I didn't intend on writing a book review, but  maybe I have done so.  I just wanted to recommend The Alchemist to anyone out there looking for a good read.  It may be among my favorite reads, second to Redeeming Love.  (If you've never read Redeeming Love, don't be intimidated by the size of the book;  it is AMAZING)

Some of my favorite quotes from The Alchemist are:

"There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve:  the fear of failure."

"When something (or someone) evolves, everything around that thing evolves as well."

" 'Why do we have to listen to our hearts?'  'Because, wherever your heart is, that is where you'll find your treasure.'  "

It's me again,  here's a quote that I found to be a good reminder.  How many times do you get stuck in the monotony of routine?

"Every day was the same, and when each day is the same as the next, it's because people fail to recognize the good things that happen in their lives every day that the sun rises."

And possibly my most favorite:

"  'My heart is afraid that it will have to suffer,'  the boy told the alchemist [. . .]

'Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself.  And that no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dreams, because every second of the search is a second's encounter with God and with eternity'"

How wonderful to think of fear and suffering in such a positive light?!  Yes, God is always with us!

So now I need a recommendation of what to read next!  Preferably a Coelho book if any of my readers have one to recommend.  Comment with any suggestions :)

Monday, November 5, 2012

6 months!

Wow!  I have now lived in Costa Rica for 6 months.  I guess I have finally wrapped my mind around the fact that "I live in Costa Rica."  I work here and I LOVE my job.  I can't say the past six months have been peachy keen, but every day is an opportunity for me to learn and grow.  My least favorite of the past six months occurred exactly 2 months ago, on my 4 month anniversary of living here, also my Dad's Birthday.  September 5:  The 7.6 earthquake.  That's by far my least favorite part of living here:  the earthquakes and all-too-frequent aftershocks and tremors.  But enough of that.  There is more good than bad.  I have come to LOVE my students (most of the time) and am so glad that God led me this major life change 6 months ago. :)

p.s.  LOVE how this is paisley AND it has a birdie!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

A moment of serenity

I haven't updated this thing in a month of Sundays, and I do have a bunch of stuff to add, like pictures and such, but for now I just want to upload one photo.  <-----That sentence is clearly a run-on sentence, and I am well-aware; I just don't care.

This is an unplanned (I guess candid would be the word) photo from yesterday morning.  I get these hugs every morning from my fifth graders as they arrive.  I believe this was just after he finished saying "I love you, Teacher."
It is moments like the one captured here where I just know I am right where God wants me.

“having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,” Ephesians 1:18