Category Archives: Staying Busy

A Busy End To Summer Break…

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I know for most of you North Americanos there’s alot of head scratching goin on with the title of this blog. The summer school break here in Costa Rica begins around the third week of November and ends next week. The time off of babysitting has flown by. I’ll be able to extend it, though, by connecting with friends who are visiting, and I’ll actually be acting as a tourist myself.

My first visit will be with friends from my last job in North America. They’re staying at the Los Suenos Marriot, located on the central pacific…

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As you can see, they won’t be suffering too much. It’s one of the premier 5 star resorts in the country.

Then, a couple of days later a friend arrives and we have a week of scheduled touristy delights to savor.. first stop: double decker bus tour of downtown San Jose…

San_Jose-Costa_Rica

I’m really looking forward to jumping on and off the bus during the day to see sights I haven’t gotten to yet, plus share those that I love… here’s one I haven’t been to: The Jade Museum, which is supposed to have the world’s largest collection of jade objects.

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The next day is devoted to the LaPaz Waterfall Gardens, where we’ll see seven different large waterfalls, butterfly gardens, hold toucans and hummingbirds, and get alot of strenuous hill climbing back up the hill.

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Third day we’ll take a 4-hour bus trip to Manuel Antonio where the beaches in the park are supposed to be the most beautiful and clean in the country:

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The park is located at a particular geographic area called The Whales Tail:

Manuel-Antonio-Park

Fourth day we’ll begin our trek back home, stopping in Jaco for one night so my friend can go out and listen to live music and hang with the locals:

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I can hardly wait to finally begin my time as a tourist in this beautiful country. So much of these past (almost) three years have been spent settling in, really. Every three months until I get my residency I’ve been on Visa Runs (leaving the country for Panama or Nicaragua) in order to receive another 3 month stamp. So, these Runs have been my opportunity to see a little bit of the country up until now…. and to get acquainted a bit with those two other countries as well (my fave is Nica land). If it weren’t for my familia here

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and the opportunity to babysit my lovely granddaughters, I wouldn’t be as grounded as I’ve become… grounded enough to allow myself to be a tourist!

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Some butterflies are gray…

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And although they are gray, they are as incredibly beautiful as those extremely colorful ones you see most often… this is a beautifully captured photo from Tom Murray I found at: http://www.pbase.com/tmurray74.

So…. haven’t been online with my blog for almost a year… and as I look back on the ‘why’s’ of that a gray butterfly came to mind. I wasn’t as vivacious, as motivated to communicate with others as I was with myself. But, it’s all good, right? Turns out that way every time… I moved three times within this last year and that plumb wore me out! And in each place I didn’t have a reliable internet connection…. but… NOW I DO!!!! Yippee, I’m Back!

I’ve been to central markets (centro mercados) where you could find almost anything you were looking for. Every mid-sized town has an indoor mercado where the fruits and veggies are enticing and endless:

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And to outdoor markets, called Ferias, where the focus on organic is paramount:

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I’ve been on Visa Runs to Grenada Nicaragua four times and let me tell you, I enjoy it there much more than Panama, although it’s just as hot, if not hotter.

So, I’ve been busy expanding my horizons, but primarily my time has been spent babysitting my youngest granddaughter who is an absolute pistol, and experiencing the elder granddaughter emerge with her hormones and all that jazz that accompanies a young lady developing… yikes galore! Still, throughout all this downtime I’ve had from you faithful friends, I continue to live in a small barrio with roads like this:

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And vistas like this everywhere:

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I continue to love this country every single day and wake up at 5:30 am, after most ticos have awakened, to watch the sun fill the valley behind my apartment, and the cows being delivered for the day to chomp down the chaff therein.

One of the reasons I think I’ve had this downtime was to discover a little knack for painting… purely whimsical representations:

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And to develop a deeper relationship and understanding of my Journey process, of which you can find more information here.

So, I’m alive and very well and living in a 3-bedroom typical tico apartment two blocks from my kids and on the main drag between barrios, with a store next door and a Cafe Britt Outlet store across the street…. room for you to stay a coupla days… so, come on down and I’ll show you around! More to come…

 

Staying Busy in Costa Rica – Coffee Coasters

There’s alot of time on your hands when you retire, so finding a hobby or an activity that not only fills up the time but can actually feel like time doesn’t exist when you are doing it is imperative. I create coffee coasters.

Finished coasters

Finished coasters

A couple of people have asked how to make them, so today I’m sharing a step by step tutorial.

Supplies: poster board, paints, brushes, straight edge, ruler and lotsa patience

I use both tempera and acrylic paints

I use both tempera and acrylic paints

You will need a straight edge, ruler, a sized template for final product

You will need a straight edge, ruler, a sized template for final product

To get started, you need to paint the poster board, deciding whether you want a plain background or a colorful one. I do a colorful one, allowing the paint to thoroughly dry between each layer. I also use sponge brushes for this initial process, doing up to six layers of different colors.

In progress, this medium sized poster board has 4 layers of colors, but more to come.

In progress, this medium sized poster board has 4 layers of colors, but more to come.

Once the paint gets to where you want the background to be and it is totally dry, you’ll cut the poster board into strips, and then into individual coasters.

Here I'm showing you how a finished coaster is used to line up the ruler to cut a strip of painted poster board. Since these are handmade there are going to be some differences in final sizes.

Here I’m showing you how a finished coaster is used to line up the ruler to cut a strip of painted poster board. Since these are handmade there are going to be some differences in final sizes.

Use your primary template to line up your ruler, then very intentionally and with great concentration use the straight edge to cut a strip of poster board from the main painted piece. You then cut each individual coaster from that strip.

Use your primary template to line up your ruler, then very intentionally and with great concentration use the straight edge to cut a strip of poster board from the main painted piece. You then cut each individual coaster from that strip.

Determine now if you are ready to waterproof each coaster, or go onto the next step, which is drawing/tracing images onto each one.

Trace the outline of your image onto the backside of a cold cereal box and then cut it out and use a permanent marker around the edges.

Trace the outline of your image onto the backside of a cold cereal box and then cut it out and use a permanent marker around the edges on the coaster.

Use carbon paper to trace the images onto your coaster if your background is light enough or just one color.

Or use carbon paper to trace the images onto your coaster if your background is light enough or just one color.

Use your cardboard cutout and a permanent marker to outline the image.

Use your cardboard cutout and a permanent marker to outline the image.

This is your traced butterfly ready for decorating.

This is your traced butterfly ready for decorating.

Decorating the traced object is fun for me – and just like decorating Christmas Cookies, there are never two that turn out the same.

To finish the coasters I use the sponge brush again to paint around the coaster to give the illusion of a frame. Then I use a large brush to cover one side and then the other with polyurethane to waterproof them. Be sure and let them really, really dry at this point. You’re done! Be sure and look for my coasters in the Tico Pod Art Store when you’re next in Jaco!

Dawn…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADawn from my front porch … the Central Valley below is a glittering pink panorama.

Dawn’s a special time when the Oropendas call to signal it’s time to get to work, the rest of the birds are chirping or yelling – depending… all adjusting to what the weather has presented them with as the sun is rising.  Usually the farm cats or squirrels are crawling over the tin roof, and at one point all the dogs on the mountainside break into the most amazing caterwauling I’ve ever heard – a special kind of dog concert. … I’m sure they’re talking to one another, maybe checking in to let one another know their status? I don’t know, but they do it at dawn and again at around dusk.

Don’t know why I’ve awoken at 1 am the past couple of mornings. The only downside to it, really, is missing dawn… when I wake up this early I usually sleep through dawn, which for me is a disappointment.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is my favorite spot at dawn, after standing at the window overlooking the Central Valley sparkling lights while filling the coffee machine, I settle down in my overstuffed chair with a cup of coffee and watch the sun come up on the jungle behind my casita… comfortably ensconced with the smell of Cafe Britt coffee wafting around me, contemplating my day and what I’d like to make of it.

Lately my life has changed. I’m beginning my second year here in Costa Rica. I’ve gone through the honeymoon stage and am now really feeling settled. Retaining the love for this country and the initial delights that captured my heart to begin with a year ago, has offered me a new depth of feeling I haven’t experienced before. To use an analogy: it feels like the flirting/crush stage I’ve had with Costa Rica has now evolved into love – there’s so much more to discover, and there’s all the time in the world to do it. I’m really here to stay and it feels as if  the country is loving me back.

So is my new granddaughter… she’s experiencing a dawn of a different type. And this is how my life has changed recently.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAObserving her discoveries has shifted me into a … what can I call it? A state of grace? I don’t know, but after an afternoon of watching her blossom, I feel a new sense of community with everything around me… and I think that must be part of what she is experiencing. When I get home from babysitting I have this marvelous hangover of that unconditional love we all read and talk about, but rarely hold onto long enough to feel the attendant bliss it provides.

Then… after a stimulating couple of hours…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt’s time to rest in the hammock for a short, but profound nap…

At this point I’ve been awake for about three hours and it’s about time for me to hit the snore slab for an hour or two before the cacophony of nature welcomes me with a new dawn, and a new opportunity for bliss… night night…

 

 

 

 

Plantains, Conversations and Falling Leaves, among other things

Delicious Fried Plantains

Fried plantains are now my go-to munchy treat. They’re sweet and satisfying when fried in a combination of olive oil and what they call here in Costa Rica Numar margarine (which is I think a combo of oils used extensively in most cooking here). Plantains are similar to bananas but much larger. I like them cooked when they’re yellow and starting to get brown spots because they’re becoming sweeter at that point. They are used when green as a starch here in stews, like potatoes. Yumyumyum, give ’em a try as a snack or side dish. They’re not going to get crispy, so be warned they’re not chips, just a creamy sweet textural addition to eat instead of a cookie, which I happen to be weaning myself off of…

I’ve now facilitated two English Language Conversation classes at the UTN college campus in Alajuela. Not only has it been a fun experience and really satisfying in terms of ‘giving back’ or community service, but it’s gotten me out of the house and to a new major city here in Costa Rica. I’m still lost but I find myself interested in the city itself as a great place to wander and explore, much more so than Heredia which is a larger city and perhaps therein is the difference in my attitude. Both classes were small with interesting folks participating. With only 4 or 5 people, an hour of facilitated conversation is a bit difficult…. you really have to be prepared with many topics… and I have to admit I floundered a bit until I realized that the students wanted to know as much about life in the US as much as I wanted to know about Costa Rica. Another realization occurred when I suddenly realized that I was there to have conversations, not forced responses to topics chosen to discuss one by one around the little circle of chairs. A much more vibrant response was had by all this time around!

On my walk to the University I realized the leaves were falling off the trees! My initial thought was – perfect timing because it’s November after all – then immediately followed by ‘ Wait!! It’s not fall in Costa Rica, it’s Spring bordering on Summer!’ The leaves fall here because it’s warming up and the trees don’t have enough moisture to support the continued greening of their leaves. Kinda the opposite of what I’m used to in the US in a strangely wonderful twist.

The city of Alajuela is warm bordering on hot right now. I’m sure as the weeks progress into Summer it will be a bit excruciating. Thank God I haven’t tried to wean myself off potato chips yet… my rationalization is that the salt of the chips will stave off dehydration, especially if coupled with Fanta Orange Soda.

A Busy Time in a Relaxed State of Mind…

 

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Here’s the story of what happened this week: It’s Wednesday, right? Okay, I’ve had three conversations about a potential volunteer position in the school system, rode my living room chair during an earthquake, been invited to an Expate Conversational Spanish Coffee Clutch, gone to the Central Market in Heredia with a new friend for an incredible lunch,  and walked up the hill home from Santa Barbara twice! I can now step out of my slacks at the end of the day without unzipping them! WooHoo!!

I was told by The Women’s Club that there was an opportunity to assist English Teachers at the preschool level by having scripted conversations with their students.

When I went to meet the man who oversees English Teaching in the province of Heredia, he told me that the volunteer position entailed actually teaching English to first graders and following them through sixth grade. No syllabus, no rules… just go and play for an hour with a class of four students. What he meant was that I needed to create the class goals and assignments, plus the plans for each class, on my own, but that I had total latitude about how I wanted to approach the task. He would be willing to help, if I needed it.

This gentleman is a very persuasive and enthusiastic individual. I told him that his idea was different than that given to me originally and that it sounded intriguing but that I’d have to think about it. I asked about supporting tools, books, flash cards, etc. He gave me a couple of procedural handbooks to read and we made an appointment to meet this morning to go out to the school and meet the principal and the English teacher (who he told me he’s not to happy about) along with the woman who referred me from The Women’s Club.

After the earthquake yesterday Senor called to see if I was alright and how I was feeling about the opportunity to teach. I told him that I was not feeling that I had the experience or willingness to be the volunteer he needed for this project. That I was feeling overwhelmed with the amount of work it would entail to do the job correctly for the kids.

Last night he texted saying I was going to love the kids and I’d be a great addition to their experience with English. I replied that I remained concerned about my ability to be as effective as his need for this volunteer position, and that perhaps it would be better to consider me for other options that weren’t so difficult from my perspective.

So, we met this morning and now I’m his personal assistant for 2 mornings a week in his office instead of the teacher he was most insistent I should be. Whew, you might ask… how the heck did that happen? Well, he wants me to go with him to proctor English teachers and give him feedback on their ability to connect with the children and to determine how well they understand the language itself. Also, since I’m proficient on the computer, to do research for him on the web and whatever else he comes up with that’s office assistant related.

So, there you have it. It’s only Wednesday and now I have a volunteer job with the School District. Jeesh. And the woman from The Women’s Club offered to have me join a discussion group she’s been going to for the past 12 years where Expates speak Spanish over coffee once a week. I have to learn basic conversational Spanish before I go, so that’ll happen in a couple of months.

So, it all turned out great! I’m happy! And I’ve made sure to have my afternoons available for babysitting cuz that’s my primary goal here.

I just have to add that I found myself coming up to the property after my uphill trek this morning, realizing that I’ve become one of the seniors that simply stroll for the unabashed pleasure of it…. because I can. I’ve slowed down so much that I’m shocking myself. I am totally into the not doing much of anything mode.