Friday, July 24, 2009

One Day More – Coming home

July 24, 2009

Today is the last day of classes. Tomorrow is my last full day in Costa Rica. Sunday...I will be home.

It is strange how much and how little I have become accustom to this place over the last ten weeks. I’ve learned the restaurants, the roads, the stores, the bus routes. I’ve learned how to avoid the rain and how to escape the heat. I’ve even somehow managed to pick up a little of the language. I look at the new students; see how they gaze wide-eyed at the tour guides, chat excitedly about new restaurants they’ve discovered, and even try to fit their own habits and customs, however awkwardly, in this strange, new world. I cannot help but smile inwardly when I watch them. They will soon transform from the “idealistic freshmen” to the “veteran” sophomores. They will become accustomed to this place and move on.

I have had the slightly unusual opportunity to spend my entire time at CPI studying in the same town throughout my entire time here. Most students here study for much less time and almost no one chooses to spend all their time in only one of CPI’s three campuses. In that sense, I have had a somewhat unique ability to come in as a student and not just travel around, but to live here for ten weeks. At the same time, though I have been living in this place, I haven't lived here. It has been only an extended visit – a journey to finish, not a destination or place of rest.

This idea stirred the question in my mind: What is a home? What makes a place that you go back to rather than just come back to? Obviously spending a mere seventy days in a foreign country is unlikely to replace the roots and ties a person has to the place he has been living his entire life. But what would be enough to make that change? Is it merely a matter of time? If so how can so many of the students at Patrick Henry, after spending a few short weeks on campus, a semester length in the decades of a lifetime, consider the school their home? Does it depend on the people you are with? If so, how are new homes ever established? How did the pioneers leave their families to stake out new homesteads in the frontier? How do grown, single sons and daughters leave their parents and make homes for themselves miles away from the family that raised them?

Maybe “home” is just a preference. “Home is where your heart is” and thus wherever you feel most comfortable, that is your home. But I think that is a dangerous idea because I believe that “home” is an objective, not subjective idea. We can choose to be comfortable in many places. It is even easier to choose to be uncomfortable in many places. I have seen both here. I have seen how a more tranquil lifestyle, a lifestyle that makes time for just hanging out with other people with nothing in particular to do, is restful, comfortable, and important. I have also seen how hours, afternoons, and dare I say even lifetimes can be wasted lounging “comfortably” in your bed, mindlessly watching television all day; how when the very real responsibilities of exerting energy to some higher purpose, of living for other people and not just working for them, become uncomfortable, they remain ignored responsibilities.

I believe and hope that I have learned many things here in Costa Rica. I have learned to value a more tranquil lifestyle. I have learned just how little I actually “need” to use the internet. How blessed we are to live in a world where doctors and medicines are available, where consumer products and department stores exist, where food is readily available and is stacked in piles. I’ve gained an increased appreciation for the unique and rare opportunity to spend time simply learning and educating oneself – a luxury that for most of history was reserved for kings and nobles. I have seen patience, kindness, and boundless hospitality displayed by my tico family whose generosity has humbled me and made my ask myself if I would be as selfless as they. There are many lessons I hope to take home with me, but that again raises the question: What is home?

Home, is the idea of permanence. It is an objective concept in the sense that you should match your subjective expectations to the objective realities, but we view “home” to be the place we expect to be our permanent shelter and refuge. This is why you cannot truly feel at home when you know you are leaving in ten weeks, or even ten years. This is why people are so devastated when that idea of permanence is shattered by losing their homes, even how an entire civilization can be gone with the wind. For us, home is the place where we understand our shelter ultimately is, our journey ultimately ends, and our responsibilities ultimately lie.

Where is that, I wonder? And am I living knowing, not just understanding mentally, that place might not be exactly where most people would consider it to be?


One day more. Another day, another destiny. This is my final day of studying Spanish at CPI. This is also my final blog post.

In a way, this post is the essay I wanted to write for my final Spanish project. The ideas that I can but express in my mother tongue alone. Only this time, I write in a matter of hours rather than weeks. It is an essay with much less revision than the one I submitted this morning, but hopefully one that conveys what I really mean.

I am incredibly excited and looking forward to be returning home. I will truly miss Costa Rica. But I yearn for someplace else. I miss my family, my friends, my home...and yet I also know that deep inside, I yearn for Home.

Thank you for reading.

This is Tico Adventure, signing off.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Dia Sesenta y Seis y Dia Sesenta y Siete – Casi hecho

July 22-23, 2009

So, for today I am (kinda) breaking my usual habit of posting a day later. (i.e. instead of posting my Wednesday post on Thursday, today I am posting my Wednesday, July 22 post AND my Thursday, July 23 post.)

Yesterday, (Wednesday), we have a very interesting class. Because I am now in Book 2, and Book 2 is mostly review of Book 1 concepts with some nuances added, I asked if we could cover some of the topics of Book 2 that were not in Book 1 at all (namely the subjunctive tenses). So first, I think she tested me to see if I really knew the stuff we were covering now. We went over twice the number of concepts we would usually go over in one day (and thus, I have twice the usual number of pages of homework). But apparently I did sufficiently well for her to agree to teach me the present subjective tense today. It was an “official” lesson because we are technically supposed to go in the order of the book, but since I this was my last week here and it was a topic that we haven’t covered, she first taught the “official” lesson on participles and gerunds and afterwards taught the unofficial lesson on present subjective. (Unfortunatelly, we will not have time to cover the other subjunctive tenses so I will just have to study those back in the States.)

Also today, I learned the Spanish word for “like” or “um.” We were doing an activity where I had to make up a story based on some pictures and my profesora kept noticing that I was using “uh” y “um” while I was thinking. When she pointed it out, I asked if there were similar words in Spanish. In Spanish, you use “este” or “entonces” as your filler words. Now that I know that, I have all I need to know to speak Spanish. ;-)

I have been keeping a to do list of everything that I need to do before I leave...but the list keeps getting bigger! I finish one thing just before remembering two other things I need to/would like to do. :-P And half the time, all I really want to do is sleep. Costa Rica is hot and humid and you get tired more easily here. I calculate that I walk an average of three miles a day with my bag, which isn’t all that much, but here it feels like double. Anyway, I can’t wait to exchange this hot, sticky Costa Rican summer for the hot, sticky summer of Virginia :-)

I am finishing up my essay today, it is on draft four and I still don’t like it much. It’s the kind of thing I want to do and then bury forever under six feet of earth. Maybe I am just being too proud and haughty – sticking my nose up at substandard writing – but I really am not excited about this essay. It is technically fine. Grammatically, structurally, etc. But for me, it is formulaic. It lacks spark or imagination. It lacks passion. I like to care about what I write or what I speak on, and I do care about my trip and experiences here in Costa Rica. I just can’t seem to care about this essay’s message and I am worried it may end up like a cliched Disney movie.

Oh well, I ready to be done. Tomorrow is the last day of classes. Casi hecho.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Dia Sesenta y Cinco – Not Much to Read

July 21, 2009

I have a lot to do today and a ton of homework, so I am being lame and this is all I have for my blog.

Have a great day!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Dia Sesenta y Cuatro – It's continuing mission to explore strange new worlds...

July 20, 2009

Forty years ago today. Forty years ago today the culmination of humanity’s first venture to explore the universe beyond our planet earth was realized by the astronauts that landed on the lunar surface. Forty years ago today, that one small step ushered in a new era in humanity’s mission to explore the vast and beautiful creation of an amazing God. But was that giant leap worth it? Billions of dollars, millions of man-hours, and even the cost of men’s lives were the price we paid for that endeavor. What makes space exploration worthwhile when we have so many problems here on earth with real people involved? Doesn’t God’s dominion mandate specifically say “fill the earth and subdue it?”

I have to admit right up front that I have always had a soft spot for space travel. Space is the final frontier and it never ceases to fill me with awe and wonder. Ever since I can remember I’ve been a self-proclaimed “Trekkie” and had a deep interest in space exploration. One of my biggest regrets and one that my goal is to rectify someday soon is that I never really studied the history of space travel as much as I wish I would have. I never studied star constellations as much as I now looking back would have liked. (There is still time for me :-) I have this all on my to-do list.) So understand that when I say this there may be a hint of boyish idealism - space travel has never failed to spark my imagination.

I believe that space exploration has brought about some of our nation’s proudest moments and should be a national priority. Politicians don’t talk about space exploration much (and my libertarian friends may not talk to me soon after this post :-P) – it really is not a national issue, the people don’t care, the politicians don’t care, NASA has been relegated to just another one of those everlasting government agencies (Reagan: The closest thing to eternal life on earth is a government agency) with no real mission other than to simply exist. Some people see this as a reason to get rid of NASA and the American space program; to discard it as the government waste spending they see it as. I agree that there is a problem with the American space program, but to me, the solution is not to quietly shut it down, but to open the gates, sound the trumpets and set out on a grand new adventure to the stars.

I first started writing this post about two weeks ago. The month had just turned and I was watching Apollo 13 when I realized, “Hey this is July, and it is exactly 40 years since 1969. I am going to be in Costa Rica for the anniversary of the moon landing!” To be completely up front, I usually don’t remember to mark the moon landing every July. While I love the history of space travel, I have to admit it usually isn’t on my radar. This year, I started thinking about it ahead of time by happenstance. As I was planning this blog post during these last two weeks, I suddenly started seeing a swarm of articles on the US space program about a week ago leading up to today. As I started reading the various articles, it was for me it was an affirmation. I have not done a tremendous amount of research so I am not in a place to comment on particular policy proposals, but the articles (both those I agreed with and those I disagreed with) strengthed this belief that I view as fundamentally true:

And God saw every thing that He had made, and, behold, it was very good.” God created a universe worth exploring. He gave mankind a sense of wonder over His creation. Exploration is not always profitable for bottom lines, but it is profitable for inspiring minds. Inspiring minds with the awesomeness of God’s creation and the incredible universe He has given us. Should we go to Mars? Return to the Moon? What should be the government’s role and how much should we leave to the private sector? These questions are for another day, and frankly I have not done enough research to give an answer I could confidently stand on. What I do believe though, is that space exploration is important. We have problems on earth. We have issues to confront. But we also have a universe outside. A universe that is unfathomably huge and yet still less than a grain of sand in the hands of our Creator. If we fail to explore it – if we ignore it – all I can say is, (to slightly alter a phrase) it seems we are wasting an awfully big space.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Dia Sesenta y Uno hasta Sesenta y Tres – The Last Weekend

July 17-19, 2009

This weekend was my last full weekend in Costa Rica. This time next week, I will be in the United States, in the Great Commonwealth of Virginia.

This weekend I successfully completed a challenge, I hung out with my tico family’s family, and I analyzed the content of my milkshake.

Just before Benjamin left a few weeks ago, he (out of either the goodness or maliciousness of his heart...I can’t tell which ;-) ) gave me free money. Only this money wasn’t exactly the kind of money you’d want. All the small change that he had aggregated and didn’t want to carry with him to Monteverde he graciously bestowed upon me. Dozens of coins worth anywhere from 4/5 of a penny to a whole 3 cents! Wonderful. Just what I needed.

Well, I am happy to say that I have successfully spent and used all those small coins. It took me three weeks, but the job is done. No more do I have a bulging coin purse filled with 5 colon coins. No more do I pay for everything in exact change. I am free, and I successfully completed this daunting challenge. I am also very proud of the humility I am showing here ;-)

On Satuday, my family went to visit the brother of my mama tica. It was like a mini-family reunion with about three or four whole families there. We ate some absolutely delicious “Chicharrón de chancho.” (Pork...from what I think is the hoof/around the leg, not sure). I played hide-and-seek with Sofia, Ricardo, and Alan (the grandson of the brother of my mama tica...or the first cousin once removed of the kids in my family. Confused yet? :-) ). We also played tag and ninja fighting. I didn’t beat them up too much. ;-)

On Sunday, I went to the Fresas resturaunt for a milkshake. Fresas has an amazing milkshake and I wanted to have one before I left. As I was enjoying my milkshake, I started to wonder what about it made it so good. As I thought about this, I had a few thoughts on ice cream in general.

Now, as a disclaimer, I am not an ice cream afficianado, I have never studied or read books on ice cream but I am an lover of ice cream who enjoys eating it a lot. That said, you know how certain ice cream flavors have different consistencies and textures? I guess that is super obvious, but you know how mint chocolate chip ice cream melts faster than simply vanilla chocolate chip? You know how fruit based ice creams tend to scoop out in half-balls and you never quite can get that full rounded affect from the ice cream scooper as easily? You know how chocolate, after its been in the freezer for a couple days, is not quite as hard to scoop as vanilla if neither one of them don’t have other ingredients (like peanuts/cookie dough/etc.)? Well, anyway, as I am sure you know, there are those little subtle differences in ice cream that make each flavor unique in a way other than the taste. So anyway, I was trying to analyze exactly what ice cream was in the milkshake. It obviously (por supuesto) had ice cream, chocolate syrup (it was chococlate), and milk. But the milk to ice cream ratio was a bit odd. It was a type of soft vanilla ice cream that was mixed with with syrup to make it chocolate. The vanilla flavor wasn’t strong but it was definitely there. The chocolate syrup masked it mostly, but it was a definite factor. In the end, I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but there was something in the ice cream that was abnormal that made the milkshake both different and scrumptious. I failed, however, to divine exactly what it was. :-/

This was my final full weekend in Costa Rica. Twas fun :-)

(P.S. I just realized that facebook was not automatically updating from my blogspot blog. :-P Sorry about that.)

Friday, July 17, 2009

Dia Sesenta – I Love Writing

July 16, 2009

Essay writing is hard enough in English. In Spanish it’s...even more interesting. It’s hard to write “well” with a limited vocabulary and almost impossible when you have no idea of connotations of words. Why use this synonym versus that one? In English, it’s a matter of closing your eyes and “feeling” it (In an un-Star-Wars-use-the-force way). Instead I am forced to write in overarching ideas. For a writer that loves polishing and turn of phrase, it is maddening. Big ideas are fun, and need to be coherent, but I just can’t get into writing the same way without agonizing whether to use “agonizing” or “wrestling with.” In Spanish, you have no such choice. Even when there are two ways of expressing an idea, I have no clue what the subtle differences are. I hate writing like this.

As a side note, Spanish subtitles in movies are uninventive. They just don’t do justice to the actual English lines. Spanish has nuances of its own that give it special life, but you can’t translate great English writing into Spanish (and I am sure the reverse is true too). The great books that have been translated into English from other languages, are all classics in English because of the great stories – those big ideas and plot points that make it exciting to read. But those great stories never quite come out showing great writing. Translation can only do so much. So, for me, I am writing an English essay in Spanish...and wringing my hands with despair.

P.S. Toby Ziegler and Sam Seaborn are my fictional writing heros ;-)

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Dia Cincuenta y Nueve – Essaying

July 15, 2009

I’m working on my essay today.

‘nuff said.


(Wow. That came out a lot more random than I thought it would.)

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Dia Cincuenta y Ocho – Dancing Blogger Batman! It's another Post!

July 14, 2009

Having been here for nine weeks and having attended the dance classes for most of them, I am actually at the point where I can teach pretty much all the moves they’ve taught. Every week, there is a “Clase de Baile” that teaches the basic steps of Salsa, Merengue, y Cumbia. Every week the professora teaches the same moves (mas or menos). A veces, ella now enseña algo un poco differente y neuve pero la mayoria de la tiempo it is the same. Entonces, ahora you puedo enseñar the dances and much of the time I am able to help the other students when they are having trouble and the professora de baile no esta. I miss swing though. I need to/want to practice. :-/

Today Alex had to teach an English class so he couldn’t come to our class. Because he is my only other classmate this week, I got a private lesson! My professora y yo talked for a long time (actually, it was probably no more than normal, but it seemed longer because I had to respond and speak twice as much as usual). We talked about government and religion (ooh! I love those topics :-) ), and I learned that the favorite phrase of my tico father was actually a swear word roughly equivalent to the English “son of a...”. When I asked my teacher “What does this word mean?” she laughed, explained, and then we talked about the growth and prevalence of using curses and language. We covered a large number of new reflexive verbs and she gave me a ton of homework.

Because of all that homework, and because I need to work on my final essay, that is all I have for today :-) Hasta luego!

P.S. No, I really have no idea what the title of this blog means. It's kind of just a random string of thoughts and a take off of the old Adam West batman.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Dia Cincuenta y Siete – Week Nine Commences

July 13, 2009

We have an amazing teacher this week. Generally, it seems the older the teachers are, the better they are. (More experience really does make a difference.) My three best teachers so far have been the three ladies with the most experience. (i.e. The nicest way I can think of to say “they are older.” :-/ Sorry.) Anyway, I am in a class with just one other student, Alex Rodman. He is both incredibly fortunate and unfortunate at the same time.

I have had Alex in three classes before this, he takes classes off and on because he works for CPI and gets classes free. He works about six hours a week teaching English and gets 20 hours a week worth of Spanish classes in addition to his teachers pay. Isn’t that neat! :-) On the flip side, because he takes classes for free, he is put in basically whatever class has room. When there is no extra room, he doesn’t get classes, and when there is room, he is put in whatever class is available. In our case that means that I haven’t had him in our class for four or so weeks’ worth of lessons. Luckily his Spanish is pretty good, but he is put in a class that expects you to have covered all the subjects of the previous classes, and the professoras don’t slow down for him when he hasn’t covered the subject. Poor guy :-/ He is also fortunate to be living with a friend of his here in Costa Rica so in general, he does not have to pay for room or board. Isn’t that cool? :-) On the flip side, the friend he is living with is his “ex”-novia who invited him down to Costa Rica for the summer and after he got down here she decided she didn’t have time for him. So she broke up with him but her mother likes Alex a lot and insisted that he stay for the summer. So that’s kind of an awkward situation :-/ Poor guy. Alex is a very forunate and very unfortuante individual at the same time.

One of the neat things about being here so long is that you get to know your classmates stories pretty well. My classmates that have been pretty consistent have been Benjamin, Adonis, and now Alex. We’ve had a couple people come and go for a week or two at a time, but these guys have been my consistent classmates. Every week, with a new professor, they ask us where we are from, what we do, why we are studying Spanish, etc. Basically we talk about ourselves to practice Spanish. But by this time, I have heard these stories quite a few times. I think I could impersonate all three of these guys. I know their answers to all the standard questions. I was joking with Alex today that next week we should switch identities to see if they can catch us or tell the difference. ;-)

So anyway, I need to start my essay. I have two weeks left, but I really want to get a chance to have my professors review my paper before I turn it in so I need to give them time to do that. Five pages of writing in Spanish on pretty much any topic I want. I am going to make it easy on myself and just write a summary of my trip...and I am very glad that I’ve written this blog, it makes the essay a lot easier to brainstorm for and outline.

Hope y’all are doing well. Que tenga un buen dia!



Monday, July 13, 2009

Dia Cincuenta y Cinco/Seis – Volcan Arenal

July 11-12, 2009

This weekend I went to Volcan Arenal. It was an unique experience and I had a lot of fun. The trip started Saturday morning and we were dropped off at our houses on Sunday evening.

Our driver Saturday morning was from he actually didn’t know where anyone lived in San Joaquin and was supposed to pick up everyone at their house. So we spent about an hour driving around San Joaquin getting lost and unlost trying to find people’s homes. You have to kinda feel sorry for the driver. He was trying his best, but he just didn’t know the area at all. One of the interesting things about Costa Rica is that there are really no street addresses. Some of the streets have names, but it is rare extremely rare to see a street sign. Directions and addresses are given by landmarks and approximations. I think the local governments should make it a priority to create street signs and addresses...I have a feeling they can really increase the efficiency of their economy if they had better transportation infrastructure. (You’ll have to excuse my policy-minded thinking...I’ve been researching transportation policy in general for debate next year. It seems like an incredibly important, yet overlooked area of national policy...anyway back to Costa Rica...)

We got to the hotel about three hours after leaving San Joaquin and unpacked. We had about 45 minutes to unpack and eat in the hotel restaurant. While we were technically free to eat anywhere we wanted since this was a meal we had to pay for ourselves, they unintentionally (or keenly) scheduled the tour so that the only practical place to eat was the hotel’s $10 lunch plan. :-P

The first thing we did after lunch was go on the rainforest tour. Our guide was extremely knowledgeable and an excellent and entertaining guide. He actually studied Resource/Land Management in school but wound up becoming a tourguide because he loved actually hiking the jungle more than writing environmental impact statements. The rainforest tour was amazing! We saw many types of plants, butterflies, a few frogs and lizards, we smelled wild pigs (yes, we were only able to smell them) and we were lucky enough to see a Sloth, Howler monkeys, AND White-faced Capuchins. (Though, unfortunately, it was very difficult to take pictures because they were far away, and moved quickly.) We were also very lucky that it didn’t rain during our hike, we were able to go the whole afternoon without using ponchos or umbrellas. For me, this was the best part of the tour. (Pictures coming...eventually. I have to sort and upload them and that takes a bit of time.)

After the hike, we went to what others considered the best part of the trip: Baldi Hot Springs. Basically, a tourist resort with natural hot springs from the Volcano. The hot springs were pretty neat...but after about 15-20 minutes it just becomes hot water that you can’t swim in. I don’t know...maybe Benjamin’s boredom syndrome had rubbed off a little on me, but I don’t understand why people get so excited (and are willing to pay so much) to lounge in hot water for hours at a time. You can’t swim, you can’t splash, you can do laps, you can only just sit there and prune. :-/ Anyways, no me gusta mucho. For everyone else, they said it was their favorite part of the trip, apparently it’s just me. After the hot springs, we had a buffet dinner at the resort. It was good food and they had strawberries with a chocolate fountain :-) I went back for seconds. ;-)

That evening, we drove to the back side of the Volcano and hoped to see some lava. The volcano was all black and it was hard to see anything because of the clouds that surrounded it. We waited about 15 minutes hoping the clouds would clear up so we could see the volcano. Luckily, they did clear up a little and we were able to see little “dribbles” of lava flowing down. It was pretty neat :-) We waited/watched for about thirty minutes after that first showing of a little lava and were able to see a few more “dribbles.” The clouds did not let up much, though, so we eventually decided to go back to the hotel. (We were again blessed, though that it did not rain.)

The next morning, we drove to a waterfall and hiked down. The hike was very fun and the waterfall was neat, but I couldn’t help compare it to some of the waterfalls we saw last summer in Yosemite and it just didn’t compare to the good ol’ United States ;-) The waterfall hike was free time, so we were just supposed to meet up outside the entrance by a certain time. I asked the guide how long it would take to hike back up from the waterfall and he told me about 20 minutes...ha! ;-) I (moving at a safe pace, Mother) made it in 6:47. So I hung around the souvenir shop waiting for the others and made some impulse buys (shocking, I know). They were pre-calculated impulse buys, however, so don’t be too disappointed in my NPR instinct.

After the waterfall hike, we checked out of the hotel and headed to town to find a place to eat lunch. The restaurant we went to was very good, although a bit different that what we have in the US. For being in the middle of a tourist trap town it was very affordable. I ordered a “taco” which turned about to be what in the States I would call a taquito with salad on the side. I guess taquitos are just condensed tacos...but it was just a bit surprising when I got my plate :) The taquito was very greasy and very good. You HAD to eat it with a bite of the salad (cabbage) or it was literally too greasy to stomach by itself. Yummm :-)

Finally, after lunch we headed back to San Joaquin. There was a little traffic, but were were able to make the trip in about three and a half hours. I got home at about 5:30pm and was able to eat dinner with my tico family. I unpacked, packed for tomorrow, went to bed, and prepared for my second to last week in Costa Rica.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Dia Cincuenta y Cuatro – My Analysis of My Analysis

July 9, 2009

I made Snickerdoodles today.

After classes, I swung by the supermercado and picked up the few remaining ingridients I needed. When I got home, I spent about three hours doing homework. It wasn’t hard, just very tedious because almost every word I had to look up in the dictionary to figure out if it was a masculine or feminine noun. So even though I knew what most of the words meant, you can never really tell just by looking at a word if it is masculine or feminine. It’s like English grammar: there are rules but there are so many exceptions that they don’t really make a difference. So, unless I specifically knew what article to use for the word, I had to look it up. Very time consuming.

Because of the homework, I started baking a little later than I had planned. I could bore you with a detailed description of what I did...but really all I’d be doing is filling space, suffice it to say that I baked Snickerdoodles while waiting for everyone to get home from their activities. It actually worked out quite well, I finished just as they started getting home so I was able to vacate the kitchen before they needed to use it and I had fresh cookies just about done.

Maybe it is the wannabe psychologist in me, but it is interesting to analyze their reaction to cookies and to analyze my own analysis. My mama tica, Olga, says that they are “muy rico” (very delicious), but I wonder...would she tell me if she didn’t care for them? If she would say that she liked them no matter if she did or not, how do I know if she really means it? Likewise, Maurico, the eldest son, is a jokester. He likes kidding me and he says that they are “malo” and “me no gustan.” So, does that mean he is kidding me this time, or is he really saying that he doesn’t like them? The moment he says he doesn’t like them, my mama tica glares at him and says “no, they are very good cookies.” So would she say that if he was kidding or only if he wasn’t kidding, or both?

Then there is my own self analysis. Why am I analyzing these reactions? What would my reaction be if I truly knew that they didn’t like them? What would my reaction be if they thought they were stupendous and I could tell for sure? Do I care about what they think of the cookies? Should I worry about it? How much weight does their acceptance/rejection deserve in my mind? Where is the brightline between being aware of other people’s desires and needs and finding self-worth in the approval of other people? Why am I spending so much time thinking about this?

Jan L.A. van de Snepscheut said, "In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. But, in practice, there is." In other words, all this analysis and hypothesizing can only take place in the theory realm. The real test is to see how quickly they disappear. :-)

...maybe I could make a Time vs. Remaining Cookies chart and graph it... ;-)

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Dia Cincuenta y Tres – My Pixar Adventure

July 9, 2009

With as much humility and objectivity as I can possibly muster, I am nothing if not a dedicated Pixar fan.

After classes today, I had my whole day planned out – When I was going to finish homework, what stores I needed to go to, what things I wanted to get done, everything. They were organizing a trip to the theaters to watch Up and Ice Age 3 (both in Spanish). When I asked whether Up was in Spanish or English they told me that the show they were going to was in Spanish, but there was a 9:30pm showing of Up in English – the last English language showing they were going to do in theaters. So what does the dedicated Pixar fan in me do? The whole day got restructured. I dropped all my non-essential afternoon plans and headed off for the mall with the theater. I arrived six hours early so as to be sure to get a ticket. Turns out my seemingly overenthusiastic action was well warranted. School is on vacation and EVERYONE was at the theater. The line for buying tickets stretched out of the theater entrance and around the food court in almost a complete circle. I estimate several hundred people in line (Era como las filas a la Best Buy en el dia despues Thanksgiving). Half the theater was sold out. At 3:oopm, you couldn’t watch Transformers, Terminator, or Ice Age until about 8:30pm. Luckily, tickets for Up were still available. So I waited. I waited in line for more than an hour. It was like Black Friday shopping, but I was so excited to have the possibility of seeing Up in theaters in English that the time flew by. After waiting in line, I finally got to the front. I was going to buy tickets for the 9:30 showing five hours later. I get up to the desk and was relieved to see that there was still space. I asked, just to double check that it was in English...

...and it wasn’t. It wasn’t in English, just Spanish. My intelligence (the staff at CPI), who are generally very reliable, gave me incorrect information. So I said “gracias” and left the mall immediately. :-/

But I hadn’t waited in line for nothing. I had supported Pixar in spirit, if not in the actual action of seeing the movie.

So, I went home, did my homework, called my family in the States, ate dinner with my tico family, went to bed early, and dreamt of balloons.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Dia Cincuenta y Dos – Eureka! I found it!

July 7, 2009

Yo estoy,

Muy feliz hoy,

Por que,

Lo encontré!

Eureka! I found it!

Today I went to HiberMas, a HUGE supermercado and they had cream of tartar! Yay! Finally, the search is over. This store was huge. I was amazed at just how much stuff they had. Think Costco size with Target density. A lot of Costco’s space is used up by storage on the big orange shelves and wide spaces for carts. This store really was huge. Anyway, I am extremely happy to have found what I was looking for. I am going to make Snickerdoodles :-)

Last night, Phantom of the Opera was on TV. My tico family started giving me strange looks when I started trying to sing along (I use the word “trying” because as bad a singer as Gerard Butler is, I can’t hit those high notes either ;-) ). My tico family is not much of a song and dance family...they are more of a sports family. Anyway, I hope I didn’t scar them for life ;-)

That’s all for today. Short note because I’m in a bit of a rush right now. Lot’s of stuff to get done before leaving this weekend for Volcan Arenal.

Hasta la vista!

P.S. Special note for Stephen and Vincent. I started LE again tonight. Claus and Lavie just got back from their first mission ;-)

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Dia Cincuenta y Uno – Week Eight Begins

6 de Julio del 2009

Two-hundred forty one. That is my new number for the week. Two-hundred and forty-one new verbs to learn. Two-hundred and forty-one new words to categorize, conjugate, and memorize. Oh, and that’s just the regular verbs. I didn’t have time to count all the new irregular verbs. I stopped last night after three hours and took a break. It will be a fun, busy week this week. :-)

We have a new professora this week who is very good. It is still a little frustrating that it seems like I can only understand Spanish in the classroom but not the calle (road). In other words, I can only understand Spanish when I am talking with my professora and other students. It seems like whenever I talk to “real people” I get lost. Partly, I think because they use slang, partly because they talk faster, but also partly I am sure that they don’t speak “correct” Spanish. I know in la casa, mi tico family no habla español correctamente todo el tiempo. Muchas veces, they slur palabras, o usan grammatica que no es correcta. Anyway, I want to be a fluent Spanish speaker one day...I feel a lot closer to that goal that I did seven weeks ago, but I still am so, so very far. :-/

I have decided to go to Volcan Arenal this weekend. I figure it is a once in a lifetime opportunity and it’s the only big trip I am taking so I still feel somewhat fiscally responsible. That means that I will have only one other weekend left with my tico family. Ahh! I have three weeks left. At the same time that is an incredibly short and an incredibly long period of time. This week I need to prepare to go to Volcan Arenal, find cream of tartar and make Snickerdoodles, start writing my essay and get it reviewed by the professors here, and even start making preparations to return to Virginia...and of course, on top of all that study my two-hundred and forty-one new verbs ;-)

Monday, July 6, 2009

Dia Cincuenta – The Countdown Begins

5 de Julio del 2009

So this week, I went to see Up. One of my fellow classmates told me that at the mall, they had one theater with English and the other with Spanish. So I took a trip to the mall, and unfortunately they only had the Spanish version. I debated it – I had taken the time to go to the mall, I had paid the bus fare, I had set aside the day, and I figured that this would be the only time in my life to see it in I went and saw it in Spanish. :-/

I’m still not sure whether I made the right decision. I enjoyed the movie, and I followed the story, but the dialogue was for the most part lost on me. The montage of Carl’s early life and marriage were absolutely amazing. After that sequence, though, I was only able to follow generally what was happening. Pixar is good enough to tell a story almost without words, but for me, it was a good movie...and I know that if I had understood the dialogue, it would probably have been a GREAT movie. I guess I’ll have to wait for the DVD to find out. I can’t wait to see it again (in English).

My other adventure this weekend was trying to find cream of tartar in this country. NOBODY has it. I’ve been to five supermercados and no one had it. A few had tartar sauce, but for snickerdoodles you really can’t use that ;-) I talked to my mama tica about it and she was surprised that that one of the supermercados did not have it, she suggested I try another one. I’ll try to go there soon because I have a Snickerdoodle craving.

Tomorrow, we get a new professor. Adonis (my classmate) left this weekend and so now I have been at the school longer than any other student. Steven got replaced and now there are two students from the Bahamas in the two houses across the driveway. David and Roxanne actually speak a lot of Spanish already so I can speak to them in Spanish, which is good because I am trying to avoid speaking English. (Yes, I do feel a twinge of guilt as I write that sentence in English.) We will start in Book 2 next week as well, so it will be interesting. Supposedly Book 2 is mostly a review of Book 1 in terms of concepts but now applying those grammatical concepts to new words and using them in new ways. I look forward to it.

For the fourth of July, I watched Apollo 13 since it was the most American movie I had available to me. That is such a good movie. As it happens, I am now in a countdown of sorts myself. I am here for twenty more days in Costa Rica. Twenty short days. Twenty long days. Twenty days left to learn, to explore, to be in Costa Rica. I am thinking of going to Volcan Arenal either this next weekend or the weekend after. We'll see. :-)

That’s all I have for today! See y’all tomorrow.

God Bless,


Friday, July 3, 2009

Dia Cuarenta y Ocho – More Random Ramblings

July 3, 2009

Today we finished the last day of my seventh week of classes. Next Monday, I will have three weeks remaining, a short twenty-one days. Wow, time seems to have flown. I got an email today about Chorale next year and how that needs to start gearing up soon. I’ve been receiving Google News Alerts on “Trucking” for the transportation resolution NFA is going to have this year. I read a screenplay last night that could very well be a movie a a few months. The world of reality is beginning to pull me back from this hidden corner of the globe. I need to start writing my final essay in Spanish. I need to start looking for a gift to give my tico family when I leave. I need to start thinking about any trips I may want to go on in my remaining weekends.

I am not ready for this. Tomorrow, I am going to celebrate the fourth of July; the day that marks the anniversary of our Declaration of Independence from Great Britain. We’ve been talking in classes about the difference between the United States and Costa Rica – the education system, the healthcare system, even demographic trends. America is truly messed up in a lot of ways but it is also truly special. We may live in a country with a broken education system, a secular culture, and a overbearing government, but we also live in a country with an active populace, a free press to scrutinize government corruption, and a responsibility to use our gifts and blessings for causes of righteousness. I love my country. I hate certain aspects of its culture, but I can’t say there is any other place I’d rather live.

Yeah...this is another random rambling. I am kinda just letting my mind wander at this point and writing whatever pops into my head. Sorry. Hope y’all have a wonderful fourth of July celebration!

God Bless,


Thursday, July 2, 2009

Dia Cuarenta y siete – An Atrocity against Civilization

July 2, 2009

So, ladies and gentleman, have I told you about my affront to truth, beauty, and my attack on civilization?

I didn’t want to do it, in fact I waited five minutes after I knew it had to be done, just sitting there, contemplating the atrocity I was about to commit. In the end though, necessity triumphed over idealism and wishful thinking. But it needed to be done, so I did it: I put...

...duct tape...

...on... Mac :’(

Yes, the angelic beauty of the humming machinery is now scourged by the horrific blotch of stickiness. If you think Wesley had it bad contemplating destroying stained glass windows and artists like Inigo, just think the pain I went through taping my Mac up.

...but it had to be done. It was falling apart and without treatment, dust and dirt would have infiltrated my poor Mac’s innards, and that would have been an even truer tragedy.

I feel I need to do penance and read some pro-Mac articles on

(Yes, this was a random post. Yes/No/Maybe I am running out of ideas on what to write on. Yes, you should feel sorry for my poor Mac. Although I think only other Mac lovers will truly understand the emotional pain I am experiencing.) ;-)

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Dia Cuarenta y Seis – We are so blessed

July 1, 2009

I am happy to say I am really feeling better this week. Much, much better. Thank you Lord for allowing me to live in an age where doctors and medicines are readily available. We are really lucky to live in the age that we do, ya know? Can you imagine life without computers? Without cars? Without fast food? Without daily news? Without microwaves? I sure we could live, and we’d get used to it. But I am so glad we live today and not 100 years ago. (Although I wonder if people 100 years from now will say the same thing.) I think that right now, I am going to unplug my computer from the electric plug in the wall, put my computer in my bag that was made with materials all over the world and shipped to my local store on an airplane that can fly and traverse the globe, walk out of this lighted room with internet access, and go down the street and get some lunch that will have been heated and prepared by manipulating electrons to create magnetic and electric force that releases energy that can be utilized by machines that make life easier for everyone. The wonder of the incredible world God has let humans build is overwhelming. I thank God that he gave humans the gift of innovation and creativity. Heaven is going to be pretty awesome.