Monthly Archives: March 2012

Field Trip!

My first school field trip was a success! I went with grades K-5 to a place called INBioparque. I was responsible for the fourth graders (only the girls went, the two boys in my class stayed behind)

Left to right: Susana, Ro Ying, Oria, Giovanna, Jimena, Pui Yan, and Isabella

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and the fifth graders (these are all of them)

Left to right: Ariana, Carolina, Gina, Valentina, Andres, Alejandro, and Nadim

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It was only about 30 minutes away from the school, and all of those grades, plus teachers, fit in one bus. Yes, there is a student or teacher filling EVERY seat on the bus. The cute Kindergartners were in the back of the bus.

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Once we got there, we ate snack first, because the guided tour was 2 hours of walking around the park. Here is Teacher Barbara with some of the second, fourth, and fifth graders! She is so awesome because her dad is from the U.S. and her mom is Tica (from CR) and she grew up in CR, so she speaks perfect English and Spanish! I’m jealous! She is also awesome, because she set up the whole field trip!

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While we were eating, there were a few of these big iguanas lurking around, one HUGE one in particular! I found out later that this XL dude is 15-20 years old!

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These are all of my fourth and fifth graders before the tour. Well, minus Nadim. I think that’s who Alejandro is pointing at.. lol

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The next photo is all of my kiddos with out tour guide Giovanni. He spoke English very well, but because two of my students don’t speak English that well, we did the tour in Spanish. Which was fine with me. I needed the practice!

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Next, on to the SNAKES! But, not before we saw a fawn trot across the pathway…so cute!

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My eagle-eyed kids spotted a sloth while we were walking! We saw two that day!

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My sweet girls…when they want to be nice to one another…lol. Take the two girls holding hands in this picture, for example. About a month ago Valentina, the girl on the left, was telling me how she wanted to leave school because Oria (the girl on the right) and some other girls were “being mean” to her. Elementary school drama, oh how I miss it. NOT! I’m just glad they are getting along now.

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Entering the butterfly (mariposa) sanctuary! This was my favorite place in the whole park.

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The girls would all scream if the butterflies flew around them…it was hilarious. Like, are the butterflies going to bite you?

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Ro Ying! Exploring for butterflies.

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Andres was messing with the goat. He was pulling away from the goat when I took this, so he was actually even closer to the goat’s mouth than this!

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Sweet Pui Yan wanted to carry my back pack! I even triedd to take it back from her and she wouldn’t let me! You believe me, right? lol

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FISHES (PECES)!! This was seriously the whole “aquarium”. Could maybe use a bit more variety of sea life.Image

This pic below was just too funny to me:

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the next few pics are all fun, turtle pics!

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On to the crocs!

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My sweethearts! I’m really growing too attached to these little crazies.

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~Fun volcano facts ~

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Lava girls!

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Oh boy, can you guess what this is below? That’s right, a MAZE! It wasn’t too crazy, but it was still fun. You had to make your way to the fort on stilts in the middle.

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Last stop: Bunnies! This is Giovanna with one of the bunnies. All of the kids could hold them and pet them, it was so cute and the bunnies were so soft! They must have been cute, because one of my students called her mom, asked her if she could buy one, and her mom said “yes”!! It was only 3,000 colones (6USD).  Image

Fun fact about Giovanna (pictured above): she has been to more countries than she can count! We had to get the globe out the other day after I asked her where all she has been, and we had to write them down. So crazy!

The park had a self-sufficient house that ran off wind and solar power. I learned a lot from that part of the trip. It was a great day, and I was so worn out by the end of the day. So, to restore my electrolytes I had to get a coconut to drink out of on my way home from school!

A guy sells fruit out of his house down the street from us, and he hooks you up with a coconut (and cuts off the bottom so it will stand on its own, and cuts the hole in the top to put a straw in, AND does it all with a hard-core, rusty machete) all for 250 colones (50 cents)! It was a really good day, but I was so ready for the weekend by the end of it.

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Categories: Travel | 3 Comments

Weekend of Festivals

 

This weekend didn’t involve anything too crazy. Or, I guess I should say, it didn’t involve anything that is unique to CR. So, there was this Onion Festival (Feria de la Cebolla) that was going on in central Santa Ana (F.Y.I – Santa Ana is pronounced Santana here, like the band! And a second F.Y.I. – Santa Ana is apparently really famous for growing onions! I believe it too because every onion we have bought from the feria on Sundays has juice dripping out of it, and my eyes don‘t water!). Ok, enough F.Y.I.’s…on to the good stuff!

I wanted to go check out this Onion Festival after we went to dinner Thursday night with one of Peter’s poker friends in Escazu. On the way home from dinner the streets where the Sunday feria normally is were lit up with white Christmas lights in the shape of different designs, and there were people still out and about walking around! It looked awesome, so I decided that on Friday at school, I was going to ask Megan if she wanted to go walk around the central part of town with me and check it out. She lives in Santa Ana Centro anyway, so it wouldn’t be too much trouble for her. Also, she is just super fun to hang out with! Anyway, on Friday I asked Megan if she wanted to go to the Onion Festival in Santa Ana and she replied that her boyfriend, Jorge, mentioned a festival going on in La Sabana which is this huge park on the western edge of San Jose. (some pics are posted below) So I decided to go out there with her Friday night and told myself I would just go to the Onion Festival on Saturday or Sunday.

After school Friday we both went home and relaxed for a bit, then around 6:15 I met Megan at her bus stop (it’s on the way to the pista–highway). Together, we hopped on the already crowded bus, which only grew more crowded as we continued on toward San Jose. Once we got to our stop, we followed a path that led to a concrete and graffiti-ed skywalk that crossed over the highway.

[ Sidenote: San Jose gets COLD at night! If you ever visit CR and stay in San Jose, bring a jacket!! ]

After crossing the highway, we crossed through the park where there is this really big running track, with a roller rink track inside of it, with a mini outdoor skate park located inside of that! 

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We met up with Jorge here and after that the three of us walked all around! We looked in many of the tents, and there were arts and craft for sale. Everything from wooden furniture, to jewelry, to organic chocolate, to candles! Then we looked around this area that had tents from all over Central and South America. Honduras, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, and many more. The main foreign tent was Coreo (Korea)! They were already closed down by 8, or whenever we were there.

The last awesome thing that we did that night was stick around for a concert! This band was playing that is kind of popular here, called Calle Trece (13 street). When they went on stage at 9 everyone there went nuts! It was an outdoor concert and there were even a couple of people who climbed the trees so that they could see!. People all around us were singing along and knew all the words. Even Jorge!

Hope this link works:

http://party.navegalo.com/index.php?view=detail&id=7545&option=com_joomgallery&Itemid=54&catid=304

Here is a pic of the Concert stage in the day:

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and another pic of the stage. People were filled in all the way to where this pic was taken! SO PACKED!

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We did that for awhile, or at least until we were tired of laughing at all of the wasted people (one guy was carrying around a box of wine like it was a juice box). Also, I probably managed to get some sort of unwarranted contact high from all of the people smoking pot freely. Yes, the police were only a few yards away. Oh! And, I saw a man there with dreadlocks that reached passed the back of his knees…yeah, no words for that…lol.

After the concert I was SOOOO tired. Probably because I am officially on “adult time,” which means it was only 10 or 10:30. We got a ride home with Jorge’s friend who had a booth in one of the tents.

All in all, it was such a good night that I went home, told Peter we should go tomorrow, and passed OUT!

Peter and I did go back on Saturday (St. Patrick’s Day! And I did not wear green..). We walked around and got some food (see below).

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I opted for ice cream 🙂

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And this is a pic of the “food court,” lol.

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Peter was feeling pretty homesick that day, so it helped that that evening we got to Skype with his family, John, Jeffrey, and Catie! Not all days here are easy. Sometimes we miss the little comforts that come with living in the U.S. (Like having a car, or getting to see friends and family more, or even just going out to eat!) We are still super happy here, and there are a lot of habits we hope to bring back with us to the states that we learned here!! But, I’m saving that for another post, another day 🙂

Below are other pics I took when I went back with Peter!

Like, men on stilts!

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This next one is one of my favorites…

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And some fake men on stilts…

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This is the actual bark of the trees in this park!

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My Petar!

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Had to take a picture of the people in line at the Vegan Comida booth! lol I know, so cliche. 

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Cute kids playing in a cart!

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Dragon!

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Sun setting:

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Some of the stands we passed by:

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And finally, the last picture I’m posting is in the middle of La Sabana Parque and I was told by a local that this building and the park (only grass..) use to be the airport a long time ago. Like, 40 years… All I could think of was, “That’s not THAT long ago.” lol. Very cool though and very cool building. Peter took this photo and did a fantastic job!

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White Water Rafting Weekend

I hardly know where to start about this weekend. It was definitely one for the books! I suppose I’ll start with  us going to see John Carter on Friday night with two of Peter’s friends, Clint and Ryan. They are also the two who set up the whole white water rafting trip and invited us to come along, and I am SO glad they did! 

We woke up at 5:00a.m. Saturday and shared a cab with Clint and Ryan (b/c they are staying down the street from us). We were taken to the Quality Inn in an area of Santa Ana called Lindora where we waited for the van/bus to pick us up. They arrived around 6, and as we got on we realized that we were going to be travelling that day with 14 locals (Ticos), 1 American that was part of the large group of locals, and 1 kid from Missouri (weird!). For those of you that may not know, Peter is from MO. Actually, Peter’s friend, Clint, is from MO originally too! Half of the Americans in that van were from MO! Ok, done with the MO talk for now. 

We stopped in San Jose to pick up 5 of the 14 locals I mentioned, and after that we were on our way! It was about an hour and forty-five minute ride to our first destination. Peter and I both brought a pillow so we could sleep, but it was a difficult decision to choose between sleep and looking out the window at the gorgeous hills and country side. Honestly though, there was no way we could have slept on that bus though because all of the locals on the bus were riled up and making jokes and singing the whole way there. We could barely here some of the safety instructions that our bus guide was telling us! Eventually, we arrived at our first stop which had a breakfast buffet set up with a bunch of tables and bathrooms to change into whatever you were going to wear on the water. Breakfast was delicious!

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Gallo Pinto, potatoes in a tomato sauce (soooo good!), scrambled eggs and all different kinds of fruits! I was really glad that we had this huge breakfast at 8:30, because we didn’t eat again until almost 3! After breakfast we piled back into the van and headed down to the spot where we let in at which was 45 minutes away on these rocky, back country roads. Finally, by about 10 we had all of our gear (life jacket, helmet, and paddle), and our guide, and we were ready to go! I have to admit, I was a little nervous at this point, but I was also really excited!

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Next, we shipped off with our tour guide Albaro (sp?) who is a member of the Costa Rican National Rafting team! They got fourth in the World Championships for 2011, which was held on the very same river we were rafting on! The name of the river is Pecuare, and it is one of the top five rivers in the WORLD for rafting!! Anyway, here is our guide giving us a run down of safety and what to expect.

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He also told us how he got into rafting 12 years ago. He was living in San Jose and studying to be an architect. He said that he came rafting on the Pacuare River with some friends and he fell in love! Said he packed up all of his things and moved closer to the river. He got a job with one of the tourist companies out there, practiced the steering position, and eventually joined the national rafting team! It was an awesome story. 

The way it worked once we were on the river was by the rafts staying pretty close together for safety purposes. If someone falls in and their own raft moves on or can’t get to them, then another raft may be in a better position to pick them up from out of the water. Also, there was a kayaker named Walter that followed us along the river to warn the guide about major rocks or dangerous areas ahead. Although I was still nervous, I was ready to take on the river!

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And so was Peter.

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Oh, and I just wanted to post the pic of everyone who went! from our group!

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From left to right: Clint, Peter, Jordan (new Missouri friend), Ryan, and me!

The sixth person on our boat was a girl named Andrea who was around our age and she spoke English really well. She said she was the sports reporter for channel 6 in San Jose! Our guide said she’s famous in CR, but I think he was really just flirting with her, a lot! Either way, she was SUPER nice!

Over all the rapids were so much fun. We went down rapids that raged from grade 1-4. We were told that a grade 5 was the highest possible grade, so I was even more nervous once we started.

Once we got going though, it wasn’t so bad. I remember thinking that it always felt like you were about to bounce right out the boat and into the water, but you never did. Boy, was I wrong. I bet you can guess what happened not too long after that thought crossed my mind…yep, you guessed it. We went over a grade 4 rapid, and I bounced and slipped around some, and once I thought I had my bearings on my seat again we hit a bump that sent me right over the edge! We hadn’t even been on the river that long! Definitely less than 30 minutes. Peter said he just heard this little, short, “Op!” sound, and he looked back and no one was sitting in my spot. lol. It was actually quite scary for a moment though. You see, when I first fell out of the boat I popped right back up to the surface due to my life jacket. Peter said I looked a little worried when I popped up, but over all I was ok. Unfortunately, I was above water for only half a second when I got pulled under again by the current, because we weren’t totally at the end of the rapid, and there was another rough spot coming up. While I was under water I started to panic slightly (exactly what they tell you not to do), and was paddling as hard as I could to get back to the surface. After what felt like 30 seconds under water (reality, it was probably 3-5), I emerged from the surface far more worried than I was after I came up the first time. This is where Peter and Clint commented later with, “You should have seen your face!” I can only imagine what it did look like. The guide told me to swim to a rock on the side of the river where another raft came by, stuck a paddle out for me to grab onto, and pulled me into their boat. After we got to a more calm part of the river we pulled over and I got back into my boat, still slightly traumatized, but more just excited about the whole experience! It was really scary at some point, but it was an adrenaline rush at the same time!

The only other crazy things that happened after that was the girl, Andrea, trying to “ride the bull” by going down the rapids with us all sitting toward the back of the boat, and she sat on the very front tip and just held on to this one wet rope with her hands! She, obviously, fell in the water. Our friend, Ryan, also tried it and only ended up falling backwards into the boat.

Along the 4 1/2 hour float, we got to see some amazing things. Beautiful waterfalls, bright blue butterflies, and a zipline carriage that indigenous people use to get across the river for supplies, and the children use it to get to school! It was such a remote and breath-taking area. I can’t even describe it. Here are some of the pics we took along the way

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Just one of the many waterfalls. All a little different than the one before!

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Awesome bridge, and some people decided to take a swim! I had just had my time in the water, so I chose not to get in at this time..

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This is us looking up while we were floating under a waterfall. It was amazing! Almost as amazing as the downpour that began at one point on the float. It was such a cool feeling to be floating on a raft and have it pour down rain on you for about 5 minutes. Then it stopped, and the sun eventually came out!

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Peter jumped in for a swim! Our guide said that this water is so pure, that you could almost drink it! We didn’t test it out to see if he was right.

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Above is Clint, Peter (swimming), and Walter! The safety Kayaker!

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I decided to get in as well. This was the most beautiful spot on the whole trip, and the water was refreshingly cool!

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Just chillin’

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This pic has the best view of the really pretty area.

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This was at the very end of the trip. After this, we loaded the raft, paddles, life jackets, and helmets on to a big trailer bed and took the van back to where we ate breakfast. Here, we changed into dry clothes, ate lunch, and just relaxed for a bit. By now it’s around 3-3:30. Oh, and Peter saw a poisonous Dart Frog in the bushes while waiting on me to change! Apparently their skin secretes a poison that can be fatal if you touch it! Here’s the pic we took, but it’s kind of blurry from the water and humidity.

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We were so exhausted on the way home. I swear, the bus was so quiet. All but maybe three people out of the 20 people total were awake. Such a change from the energetic morning ride. I fell asleep for part of the time too. My body was just so sore and a little beat up. We didn’t get back to the hotel until around 6:30, and it was dark, cold, and windy out. The San Jose area gets cold at night.

We had such a great day. We used the company, Rios Tropicales, and $100 per person covered everything! At first, thinking of spending $100 each seemed like a lot. Neither of us had been rafting, so we didn’t really know what to expect or what it would be like. By the end of the day though, Peter and I both agreed that the whole experience was a great value at $100 each. I highly recommend using them if you ever come for a visit!

Hope everyone has a great week, and thank you for reading!

Pura vida!

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A new way of grocery shopping.

After moving here, one of the first things Peter and I tried to figure out was where to grocery shop! After all, a girl’s gotta eat. Not knowing any locals to ask, we decided to hit the streets. There is a Mas x Menos a short bus ride away, but come to find out it’s a branch of Wal-Mart (and we try our best to avoid Wal-Mart), so that was pretty much out. Next, while walking home from the bank one day we ran across a store called Fresh Market. I thought to myself, “this looks like it could be a cute, local market!” Turns out that it is actually a branch of Fresh & Easy (it’s a U.S. chain, for all you Texans who may not know what that is). I was bummed out after that since I couldn’t figure out where the locals shopped. There is a house down the street from us that sells fresh produce off the front porch, as well as a house that was converted into a bakery a little bit further than that, which is SO hard to smell in the morning while waiting at the bus stop!! Anyway, I just assumed that’s where people shopped……..until…..

I began my job at the school, as well as tutoring for an hour after school. The student I tutor has really involved parents who happen to speak English very well. When they found out I was walking a mile to the bus stop after school/tutoring they offered me a ride to either the bus stop or all the way to our apartment sometimes! On the way home one afternoon I informed them of where I was grocery shopping (there was another Fresh Market on the way to the bus stop after school that I was going to for groceries) and they immediately responded in shock, saying how expensive it was! They recommended that I go to the Street Market (Feria) on Sundays in Santa Ana, which is where we live! So, after that, we/I try to go the market every Sunday for all of our fruit and vegetable needs! We save a TON of money and get savory fruits and veggies. The pic below is from our first trip to the Feria back in January.Image 

They have a stand at the Feria that sells meats (like a butcher shop), but I have never been brave enough or confident enough with my Spanish to ask them for anything. So, we have been buying pork, because it’s the cheapest meat available at Fresh Market. 3-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts are almost $12!

Luck finally came today though. My student’s parents offered me a ride all the way home today, and I told them to just drop me off before the bus stop and I’d take the bus the rest of the way because I needed to get meat from Fresh Market. Once again, they responded with how expensive the meat is at fresh Market and that they would show me a good butcher shop near where I live. They pulled over on the way home and sure enough this little butcher shop was hiding amongst the chaos that is Santa Ana Centro! They helped me order and I got enough fajita beef for 4 servings (they even cut it into slices for me!), chorizo for two servings, and a little pack of corn tortillas they threw in for free, all for the same price as I’d been paying for just the 4 servings of pre-packaged pork at Fresh Market. I also got a few new recipes from the student’s parents on the ride back to my apartment!

Today  was so long, and I was so ready to be home by the time I was finished tutoring at 4p.m., but the trip to the butcher shop made it WELL worth it!

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The first post. A little background.

So here goes. This is my first blogging experience. To tell you the truth, I have thought about blogging before, but I just never had anything interesting to tell the world about! Now, I am living in a beautiful country with a person I love, and I experience something new just about every day. So, here goes!

Peter and I decided to move to Costa Rica (CR) for a couple of reasons. First, since online poker has become illegal  in the United States as of April 15, 2011, Peter had been playing in the casino near our home in Las Vegas. Things were going fine, but as time went on more and more online players were making their way to the casinos in Vegas to make their money, which in turn made the games more difficult and less lucrative for Peter. I was volunteering through AmeriCorps VISTA program over the summer when Peter and I started toying around with the idea of relocating to another country. At this time it was just going to be him moving here because I had begun a job interview process with a casino on the strip and I wanted to see that through. We talked about a bunch of different options for countries, and Costa Rica seemed to be the best option. Only a short flight home if we needed it (about 4 hours to Dallas!), relatively cheap to live in, and a politically neutral country as well as safe overall. The weather isn’t too bad here either… 🙂

A second reason is for a huge tax break! $$$ Which we hope to meet by the end of the year!

Third, it has always been a dream of mine to live in another country and learn another language. These two things didn’t necessarily have to happen at the same time, but they are, so I’m killing two birds with one stone (I hope)!

Anyway, I ended up here with him because the more I thought about it the more I realized that missing out on an opportunity to fulfill two of my life ambitions because of a higher pay check seemed silly. I don’t want to be one of those people who lets money completely run their life. Now, I know that all of our choices in life are somewhat based around money, it’s how we survive. I just felt like if it is possible for me to put my dreams in to action, what better time than now? We are not guaranteed tomorrow, and we are definitely not guaranteed retirement! It was now or maybe never. I chose now!

So, Peter moved down here December 1st, and I finished up a few things at home and met him here December 23rd. We spent Christmas at Jaco beach!Image

We also had a chance to meet up with our good friends Alex and Lauren in Arenal and watch our Alma Mater (OBU) Women’s Soccer team play 2 games.

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The day after we returned from our trip to Arenal, I started working at Washington International School in Escazu as a 4th grade teacher. I never thought I would be good at teaching or enjoy it, but it has actually been one of the best experiences I’ve had in my whole life! Every day is a new adventure with the kids. They love to learn and they teach me new things (mainly in Spanish) every day!

The purpose of this blog is to let my readers in on all of my crazy adventures while I’m here. Everything from daily activities, to exploring San Jose and surrounding areas, to trying local cuisine! Thank you for being interested and I hope to keep you interested!! Enjoy!

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