"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

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Travel Update

This past week has been a whirlwind of excitement, activities, and work related to the end of the school year.  (To be updated in a later post when I have more time)

But amongst this weeks events, I must announce that I signed a contract for the 2013 school year at EFV, and I am beyond excited to be returning to the little school with the children you have stolen my heart.  Although I seemed to teeter back in forth with my decision, at the end of the day it was easy:  I love my job here, and I don't feel like my work here is done.  Absolutely I could earn A TON more money if I taught in the United States;  but my heart made this decision, not my empty wallet.  It was not about the money, it is about the experience!

The first and longest leg of my trip back to the United States is over.  That was yesterday:  from Cóbano to San José.  Car, bus, ferry, bus, taxi, and 5 hours.  Because of the time it takes to get from my little piece of paradise down in the Southern Nicoyan peninsula, my travel had to be broken into two days.

I spent the night in a hotel last night in San José.  It's been awhile since I've actually been outside of the airport in San José, and I was taken aback by all of the hustle and bustle I saw here yesterday.  There actually IS civilization in Costa Rica!!!!

Now I am sitting at the gate ready to board the plane, except the flight doesn't leave for another hour and 45 minutes.

I am BEYOND EXCITED to be going home, because I can't wait to see my family, and hopefully a little chill in the air...  I have to admit I was a little sad to leave Cóbano.  When my host mom dropped me off at the bus stop, I watched her turn her car around and drive off.  It made me cry.  I have been so blessed to have this host family.  Once I got on the bus, I checked my phone and I had a message from her saying she started crying as she drove off and that I have become a 3rd daughter to her.  So I guess the feeling is mutual :)

Merry Christmas from the staff of Escuela Futuro Verde!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Christmas Time Is Near...

Exams have come to a close.  Final grades have been submitted, and report cards will be printing soon.  Teachers have been scurrying to get their end of the year paperwork completed and to update all student files.  Students have been singing away with Christmas carols for the end of the year Christmas pageant at "noche navideña."  In the interim between exams and the last day of school, it has also given us a few days to enjoy the season that is upon us.  

I actually like the fact that the school year ends in December here.  As a child, with all the fun that was had before Christmas break, it was hard to transition back into school mode after the New Year.  It is officially summer time here now, so students are still getting a summer vacation and won’t return to school until February. 

My first art project was more something I wanted to do to decorate my classrooms.  I had planned this during my trip home, as I became jubilant to see the gardening section of Walmart had been transformed into Christmas!  I found just what I wanted:  the small stockings, and also purchased a few small stocking stuffers like Christmas pencils and erasers.  

5th grade's stockings and lovely candy cane that a student brought in
6th grade's stockings
It's quite comical to watch the students, because I don't fill the stocking up everyday.  (Don't make enough $$ to do that)  I think I left the stockings hanging for a week without putting anything in them, so the kids finally believed me that they were just decorations.  Then I started putting small gifts in somedays.  It's funny to see who is the first to realize that the stockings have been filled, and they get so excited getting the stockings down to see what their small treat is.

yes I let my children climb on the windows...
My second art project, I actually did by myself here at home two weekends ago.  For the Christmas pageant, my fifth grade class is going to sing Jingle Bells.  The music teacher asked me if I could make a “one horse open sleigh” to use as a prop.  Sure, why not?  I mean I don’t have anything else to do, like grade exams or anything.  But actually, I enjoy crafts and such, so I honestly didn’t mind.  I was really surprised to find glitter here in Cóbano, but I thought it would be a nice added touch to the sleigh.  Four pieces of poster paper, a silver sharpie, green glitter, Elmer’s glue, hot glue, and several cotton balls later, this is what I came up with:

Miss Hill's one horse open sleigh
This past week I have dug into my suitcase of art supplies/ Walmart purchases I need to have on hand since I can’t easily buy them here or if I can they are outrageously priced.   Our first project to decorate the room, was actually a time filler when I finished my last math lesson early.  I taught the kids how to make paper chains.  I used to love doing this as a child, not only to decorate my room, but to tear a loop off each day in anticipation of Christmas.  

our BEAUTIFUL entrance to the fifth grade classroom

When all you are provided with is construction paper, you learn to become resourceful.  No, very resourceful.  Unfortunately, the school supply of construction paper ran out about a month ago.  But, luckily for me, I had three packs with just a few sheets left in them each.  I wanted to make the handprint/ footprint reindeer, but I only had 4 sheets of cream colored paper, which I thought I could use as the antlers.  But no dark brown....  Until I realized that I could tear off the back cover (brown cardstock more or less) of each pack of paper.  Genius.  Lucky for me, I had one student absent the day we made the deer so I didn't have to fret with fitting 7 footprints on 3 pieces of paper.  I'm glad I had purchased those "googly eyes" during one of my visits home, and a scrap of red felt that I had, came in handy to make the red noses.  I think they turned our pretty cute!

As I was un-decorating the classroom with bittersweet emotion of the end of the school year, I had yet another resourceful idea.  I had draped a ribbon from one window to the next and used paper clips to display my students' Flat Stanleys.  It was time for Stanley to come down, but that silver ribbon would just be perfect.  After all, a sleigh can't fly on its own...

One of my favorite projects, and I really don't know why, is our class Christmas tree.  I traced each students hands and we cut them out.  Why two different colors of poster paper, you ask?  Because i found a dark green scrap at school, but purchased a lighter green color to add some life to the tree.  I love how the fingers are like the needles.  Maybe I like this so much because it is quite representative of my students.  This exact tree can't be duplicated, because these are the hands of fifth grade.  You're probably noticing the last dark green handprint just below the star.  No, the child was not making some sign with his hands, as they were traced:  he only has four fingers on one of his hands.  He's not ashamed of this; rather, he takes pride in the fact that this makes him unique.  For that reason, I decided his handprint should go right below the star so it stands out!

I also have a student who celebrates Hanukkah, so we needed to add some Hanukkah decorations to the mix.  I know the popsicle stick star of David is something I did in preschool, but my students don't get the opportunity to paint very often, and I just happened to have a bag of popsicle sticks in my suitcase.

 Another cool craft (or at least I think it is cool) that I found online is a paper plate menorah.  I had a few paper plates left over from a previous activity, we have crayons, and I found just enough red and yellow crepe paper at school to make this work.  The candles are actually made from the leftover silver poster board I used to make my sleigh's runners.  I liked this craft because I have never seen it before, it was quite simple to make, and the students enjoyed it.  Since the majority of my students celebrate Christmas, they really enjoyed learning about Hanukkah and how it is celebrated.

Ta-dah:  the final product of our resourceful decorating efforts:  

best angle I could get to show the majority of our decorations
Unfortunately the menorahs are on the side of the wall where I stood to take this picture.
I know it's not much, but I'm proud of my little classroom.

Sending Christmas blessings from Costa Rica!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

My job description.

Rough day on the job...
Not so much. One of the perks of being a 6th grade teacher is that they graduate from primary school. It's tradition to have a graduation party and one of my students' family owns a hotel in Mal País. We are talking ocean view and 4 swimming pools. And such a humble family!

hiking to the highest point at the hotel

the view from the family's house and their infinity pool

really cool swinging zebra beds by one of the pools
one of my students enjoying the view and waiting for sunset

with a few of my girls after sunset

 thanks for reading :)

Sunday, December 2, 2012

día del maestro costarricense

I have no motivation to do anything.  Nothing at all productive.  So I thought I'd write a blog post.

Last Thursday was día del maestro costarricense (Teacher's Day in Costa Rica).  We still had classes on Thursday but Friday was feriado to allow the teachers the chance to spend the day celebrating together.  We had gone back in forth in the previous weeks' staff meetings about what we would do with this day off.  The original idea was to go to Arenal, but that turned out to be a tad bit too expensive.  It was finally decided that we would spend the day at Isla de Tortuga!

The American girls, waiting.

I went to Tortuga last year while on our weekend trip to Montezuma, and I was very happy to return.  Not only is the island BEAUTIFUL, but the boat you take to get there also takes you out to go snorkeling.  Last year I saw the most exotic, colorful fish I have ever seen.

It really surprised me to learn how many of the Costa Rican women that I work with don't know how to swim!  I thought, oh it's just because I'm from Florida, but they live closer to the ocean than I did while in Florida.  One of the Tica teachers held on to me so tight while we were wading into the water to get on the boat.  Every time a little wave came, everyone screamed!

Safe and secured in their life vests!

It takes about 45 minutes to get to Isla Tortuga from Montezuma and it is so beautiful along the way.  (Although the water was too choppy for my liking)  From the water I saw the waterfall that Isabelle and I had gone horseback riding to.

I promise the waterfall is bigger when you are at it!
The water was soooo clear that it was just gorgeous.

Unfortunately, I did not see all of the beautiful fish while snorkeling this year.  The guide said there had been red tide.  I'm glad I have the memory of seeing them from last year.

Back on the island we had a feast.  I had chicken, others had fish, and no one went vegetarian.  You see, there was one vegetarian, but she had recently "changed her classification." ;)

We went exploring and found all these beautiful rescued birds.  There was also a rumor of a pig that lives on the island.  Oh and there was this big gift shop.  Not a huge deal, but it was large and I have no recollection of it being there last year.  I asked the lady how long they had been there and she told me 12 years.  I felt dumb.  Or blind.  Because I definitely don't remember seeing that last year.

we bought hats

and shared them with our coworkers, of course!
Here are the birds.  The green birds were easy access.  I did in fact venture past the sign that said nobody beyond this point because I wanted to take a better picture.  My excuse was going to be that I did not read Spanish, but then I realized the sign was in English too.


I no read Spanish, but I see you back there birdy...
so I came a little closer.

After lunch and before making my American skin not so stark white, I made it my mission to find the pig.  She has a name, a really weird one; so weird that I cannot remember it.  Jiminella maybe?  I think her snout is really cute, and if you look close enough, she has eyelashes.
I found her!  She kind of looks mean in one picture, but she's not.

I think she's smiling in this picture to the right, don't you?!

I petted her too. I didn't even bribe her with food.  I just oinked until she came my way.   She was very wiry:  like a porcupine.  Although, I've never petted a porcupine, but I guess she was how I think a porcupine would be.

Mission accomplished.  We spent the rest of the day basking in the sun.  We also had the option of taking another shot at the snorkeling at a different location,  but many of us stayed back in fears of getting sea sick before the 45 minute boat ride back home.
So we just enjoyed looking at this:

What a beautiful way/day to spend getting to know my coworkers outside of the school setting.