We Had Ourselves a Day

As a teacher, as a student, as a learner, as a college graduate, as a human being, there are days where you just have days.

There’s no other way to describe it except just by saying that Monday was one of those incredible, unreal, wow-I-can’t-believe-I’m-here, kind of days. We went on a field trip to Eco Park Diamante to see up-close and personal the animals the second graders had been studying for their last big project of the year.

(Side note: one of our earlier posts was talking about field trips and how both Mom/I kind of dread them, but this one really changed my view of them to be completely honest.)

I’m not sure how else to describe the experience except through pictures, to see what I saw.
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We started with an hour and a half bus ride, playing iSpy, Cheesey Touch, and eating snacks.

Once we got to the Eco Park, we had to take another bus to the visitors’ center, and another to the actual animal sanctuary. IMG_6408 (1).JPG

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here we are waiting at the welcome center, looking at a map and organizing our plan of attack for seeing all the animals. IMG_6414 (1).JPG

I also couldn’t resist getting a picture of these awesome kiddos waiting zip-liners and “The White House” (which is actually just a popular resort).

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Can you tell we were excited??

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The first animal we saw was the chestnut-chested toucan. The best part about the big birds were that we actually got to hold them!IMG_6432.JPG

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Then it was off to the snakes, then big cats! (Here we are peering into the margay cage.)IMG_6442 (1).JPG

The jaguars were playing around when we got there. When we went back later in the day, Nico (one of the jaguars) was sleeping.

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Monkeys!! They actually climbed on over to us too. This one had a baby on its back that I didn’t even notice until one of my kiddos pointed and shouted with awe, “look, a baby!”

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Then we said “hello” to a crocodile, which was amusing since we know a song “Never Smile at a Crocodile!” You can’t see him in this picture, but he was basically right below where the kids are standing. IMG_6460.JPG

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Found the iguana doppleganger of this little nugget and just had to take a picture. (He’s in the middle right. They both have red tops and the iguana was basically the size of this guy.)

 

 

 

In the butterfly exhibit we got to hold butterflies on our hands. I’m holding a blue morpho, which is one of the biggest butterflies in the whole world!IMG_6515.JPG

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The worker in the butterfly area also let us set a newly emerged butterfly into the sanctuary! However, the butterfly didn’t want to leave us, so we thought blowing on it would be a good idea (update: it didn’t work).

 

 

My favorite animal was the sloth!! We got to see it during feeding time. Not only are they too lazy to eat, they’re also so lazy and slow that they don’t even need cages. IMG_6493.JPG

We rejoined as a whole class and explored the butterfly exhibit again. Everyone wanted their picture with the butterfly they were holding. And I, of course, obliged (happily).

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Finally, on our way out, I snuck away with this little nug to say goodbye to his favorite animal, the jaguar. IMG_6514.JPG

Best field trip I’ve ever been on that’s for sure. It was amazing to see all of these animals in rehabilitation homes and then to see the pure joy on my students’ faces when they saw the animals they had been studying.

Times like these make me never want to leave and make me incredibly happy and confident of the profession I chose.

Case of the Homesickness

I have 12 days left. 13, technically, if you’re including traveling. 10 more school days. 4 more weekend days, 5 if you include traveling.

I have a calendar with days that are slowly dwindling down with plans that are yet to be completed. Two more reflections, one essay, one project. Done.

The closer the day is for me to leave, the more homesick I feel.

This is not to say my experience here has been bad. In fact, it has been the opposite. Speaking Spanish everyday has pushed me. Immersing myself in a new school culture forced me to be uncomfortable. Being abroad in a new country taught me to look for the small things among the big things.

I have fallen in love with Costa Rica. I have fallen in love with the way of life, mi familia, my 21 little nuggets, the faculty and staff of La Paz, La Paz itself, this experience.

This experience is exhausting though. Being uncomfortable is exhausting. It draws from you mentally, physically, and emotionally. I have had to be the most independent I have ever been but also dependent on many people day-to-day. I have become comfortable with my routine but uncomfortable when I least expect it. I have adapted but must continue to be flexible. I have learned something new everyday but continue to have an open-mind. I am attached but am also homesick.

With these 12 days looming in front of me, I am taking a breath. I have already learned so much, grown so much, felt so much, in these 39 days, who says I can’t do 12 more? (Besides the fact that airline company won’t let me leave early.) In these 12 days, I can feel the support of my strong family and my incredible friends pushing me forward.

I bend, so I do not break.

~Pura Vida~

 

 

Weekend Getaway

So I meant to write this post …3 days ago… but as time has had a tendency of doing, it went by quickly and escaped me and now it’s Wednesday night.

Anyway, this past weekend I spent as a full tourist. We went to Hacienda Guachipelin, a hotel and adventure center near the base of a national park, Ríncon de la Vieja (a volcano!!!).

Friday night: right after school, the three of us (the other two girls that I’m studying abroad with) took the school bus to Tamarindo.

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I didn’t take many pictures of the hostel we stayed at (only $16 a night what a steal!) but here’s an artistic picture of the surfboards they had in the main courtyard along with a bar, restaurant, pool tables, and a pool!

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We then went to sunset yoga on the beach and it was absolutely incredible. I always forget how much I love to do yoga and experiencing it like that was surreal. The teacher taught in Spanish, there were only 6 of us, the sunset was breathtaking. I couldn’t have asked for a better experience.

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Then we went out to dinner with one of the teachers – Asian Fusion! I picked it because I wanted to have something a little different than rice and beans. (I ended up ordering a wok bowl with brown rice … guess I really am a tika!)

Saturday

6:30 AM: Picked up & on our way to the hotel!

8:15 AM: Arrival

9:00-6:00: Horseback riding (my horse’s name was Lady Gaga and I practiced my Spanish off on one of the horse guides. This wasn’t my favorite part as Lady Gaga and I liked to take things slow but we were sometimes forced to a trot); tubing (this was super fun. I had the unfortunate luck of getting stuck on almost every rapid/ nearly drowning a nine-year-old but overall it was fun); buffet lunch (much needed); zip-lining (my favorite part! there was one part where we repelled down, tarzan swung across a canyon, & rock-climbed up. I was the first to go and fell in love with rock climbing all over again); mud bath and hot springs (even though it was raining at this point, by the time we got there we basically got the hot springs to ourselves and it was super relaxing).

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We didn’t bring our phones anywhere during the day so I only have this picture I mooched off of Emily. (She’s the one with the red raincoat and Chelsea is to the left.) This picture was taken after the repelling part of the zip lining course.

Sunday

Emily & I woke up early to milk some cows. Even after living in a cow town since I was five and going to school that produces its own milk / ice cream, I have never milked a cow. So thanks for letting me check that one off the bucket list, Costa Rica!

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Featured in this picture: bucket of milk (I am responsible for 0.5 inches), farmer’s hat (had to fit over my super-high ponytail), and cow’s butt!!! IMG_6293.JPG

Action shot of me getting more milk on my arms/hands than in the actual bucket and the farmer getting ready to take over and actually get some serious milking done!!!

The rest of the day we spent hiking around Ríncon de la Vieja. The volcano had actually erupted that morning at 5. Due to its activity, the path to the peak has been closed for the next five years. The loop we went on was about 5K and we were able to see an abundance of wildlife and geothermal activity. It was ~hot~ !! (literally – the pools were over 125 degrees F)

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*Shot with my iPhone 7* Mariposa tigre. I fell in love with the butterflies here! My favorites were the transparent winged and the angel butterflies, but unfortunately they were too quick and I missed them.

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So I just happened to look down and to my left as we were walking on the path and I saw this snake casually eating a frog (note: frog’s legs were twitching). The guide assumed it was a silent rattlesnake, poisonous, and we slowly took pictures, and walked away, keeping our eyes on the snake and hoping it didn’t find us more appetizing than the frog….

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The mountain way in the distance is the peak of the volcano. Pictures can’t do these views justice.

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The view from the peak of our hike. The steam in the right is from one of the stops we took on our trip, one of the many examples of geothermal activity that are in this area.

As I settle back into my routine at school and at the house, this past weekend helps me remember to appreciate everything, the little things, the big things, and most of all, the experiences.

The Power of the Sun

Costa Rica is an environmentally conscious country. They have a goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2020!! That’s three years away and it seems like they’re already on a pretty good start. La Paz is no exception to the rule as they have environmental practices and teach being aware to their students.

One of the coolest examples was during my first week at La Paz. We were getting solar panels installed and the first set happens to be right above our second grade door! Not only that but in the theme of energy, second grade was studying “light and sound,” so were able to go over and talk briefly to the men who installed the solar panel about how they use the sun’s light to help power our school. Once installed, La Paz became the first school in Guanacaste Province (and possibly even Costa Rica) to have solar power metering.

The next week another representative came in and talked to us specifically about solar panels and the kids were able to see up close and in person solar panels. It was really cool because my kiddos were able to apply what we were learning in the classroom and see how it affects their everyday life.

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Some of the men who installed our solar panels!

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The second and seventh graders, our teachers, solar company representatives, and (above their heads) the solar panels.

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Learning about the solar panels (feat my pony tail in the bottom right corner).

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With Cham (representative) in front of the solar panel!

 

 

Missing Out

I’ve been gone for 27 days. That’s almost a full month away from my family. And I am having an unreal, inspiring, refreshing, innovative, life-changing, mind-altering experience. Everyday I am here I fall more in love.

Everyday I am here I am homesick.

However, it’s not a homesick that’s gut-wrenching, tear-inducing, nauseating, wish to be home right now, homesick. It’s more of a “I miss stir fry nights with my mom,” “I miss watching TV with my dad late at night,” “I miss my sister and I hanging out, talking or not talking because we were together and that’s enough,” “I miss my extended family and my little cousins and their soccer games and family gatherings,” “I miss my dog” kind of homesick.

Today’s my sister’s 20th birthday and I’m not there. I texted her and we FaceTimed a few days ago but it’s not the same. Even though her and I don’t need to talk everyday, I wish I could be there today to give her an extra squeeze and an extra hang out.

Traveling’s great and all but there’s also the piece of me that’s missing out. Missing out on the big things and the little things. I’m missing Krista’s birthday. I’m missing four of my best friends in the whole wide worlds’ graduation parties. I’m missing my cousins’ sports games and spontaneous sleepovers. I’m missing dinners out with my family.

I’m lucky to have such a supportive family who encouraged me to take this risk and board this plane and volunteer at this school. But when I’m here I miss that supportive family. So no, I’m not counting down until my volunteer time is up, I’m counting down until I’m back home, with my people and my family and my tribe.

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PS. Happy birthday Krista!!!

The Grand Tour

I am very rapidly approaching the halfway mark of studying abroad! I only have four more weeks here. How this happened I have no idea. But before I go, I wanted to share a “tour” of my school.

Welcome to La Paz Community School, Brasilito, Guancaste Province, Costa Rica. This is the sign that greets us as we pull in every morning and says goodbye as we leave every afternoon.

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This is the lobby of the school. To the right is the main office. The first buildings surrounding this garden are “el coleigo” (high school).

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To the left is the Guanacaste tree, a symbol of this area and also of our school. It was one of the first things pointed out to us by the 6th graders who gave us our first ever tour of La Paz.

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If you continue walking you’ll reach Arenal, the middle campus which is 3-6. Through the gate and to the right is Miravilles, home to maternal – second grade. The red door is my classroom! (And yes, that is a chicken coop – it’s the project for the sixth graders, taking care of the chickens and selling their eggs.)

 

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Here’s another view of our campus, from the second grade cubbies. Those little mounds are call mountains and kids are free to play on them during recess.

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This is my actual classroom with the actual kiddos and teacher! There are 21 little nuggets, about split equally between native English and native Spanish speakers.

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Here’s a picture of the cuties on one of the mountains after we spoke to a representative from the renewable power company!

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We also had a museum (a showcase of their big homework project from the end of the theme). Here are some projects by my super smart kinkajous! (That’s their classroom name.) IMG_6152.jpg

On Fridays we get to write in journals outside.

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We also have community meetings at the castle. (There’s a mural next to us that is painted as a castle.) This is just for maternal – 2nd grade. But … IMG_6080.JPG

On Fridays everyone preK – 6th grade meets with their big / little buddies. Second grade are with fourth graders … IMG_6179.JPG.jpeg

And then we have a big community meeting with all of those students. As you can see, this is a super incredible community and I am extremely fortunate to be here with everyone, especially my 21 kinkajous.IMG_6180.JPG