Wednesday, June 30, 2010


         Today I will be going to play soccer with a few of the teachers at the school.  I have been doing this for the past month once a week and its been great fun.  While its just a bunch of guys playing soccer, its still a higher level of soccer than I've played in years.  I need to work on making quicker decisions.  Too many times I end up staring at the other players, trying to figure out what I should be doing.
         I will hopefully play better tonight, though I've been failing to run over the past week.  I will have to work on conserving my energy, something I am not used to doing.  I'm used to ultimate frisbee, where there are unlimited subs and the goal is to go out and run as hard as you can.  Yes, you learn to take a breather in the stack, but generally you just run the entire time (or at least thats how I played).  Needless to say, this is not an intelligent way to play soccer.
      Well, if I end up sore tomorrow, I will be able to soak it off at the hot springs.  The school has organized a trip to the hot springs tomorrow night, which should be fun.  I have not been yet, so I'm excited to go see how they are. 
      Two more days until vacation! 

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Why I will never write about sports for a living

         So the main reasons I will never write about sports is I don't have a strong desire too.  I mean, I enjoy it in my blog, but as a career it does not attract me at all.  However, my latest analysis of the Argentina side was terrible.

         I said that Diego Milito should start ahead of Gonzálo Higuain, and so of course Higuain goes out and scores a hat trick against South Korea.  I'm hoping Brazil plays better or that North Korea proves to be better than everyone thought, so at least that prediction turns out better.

         Well,  I will not make any comments about the game between the US and Slovenia other than to say I am extremely excited for the game.  Also, Celtics- Lakers is tonight. Less said about game six the better, but given how the series is going tonight should hopefully be better for the Celtics.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


             (I'm now posting this at school, though I wrote it earlier. Apparently Switzerland is beating Spain now?)
            Sitting here watching the Spain- Switzerland game, I don't have much to talk about. I did a good job updating my blog every day last week, but nothing has happened particularly blog worthy the last few days.
            I'm been basically teaching and watching the World Cup. This is fun but not something I feel make multiple blog posts worth of material. This week at the school I need to give a homework assignment because in 2 weeks I have to give the exams for 5th and 6th grade for the second period.
I'm teaching energy in various forms and levels of detail to the different grades, from a basic understanding of what is wind with the second graders to the 6th graders who are learning about how wind is a renewable clean energy.
            Costa Rica is an interesting place to teach about energy since there are examples of places where Costa Rica is developing both wind and geothermal energy (from a couple of volcanoes), so it is easy to put the material in the real world.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

More World Cup

          So the next month of my life is going to be dominated by the World Cup.  Most of the time I am not teaching or preparing to teach I will be watching World Cup soccer.  The World Cup is probably my favorite sporting event and I think the US has a chance at making it beyond group play, which would be great.
           Yesterday's games were pretty boring, aside from the goal South Africa scored. I'm glad we probably won't have to see Uruguay and France play each other again, since that was an excruciating game. I hope the Mexico- Uruguay game is at least a little exciting, since I can see that being another deadly dull affair with 90 minutes of midfield passing.
           Today was much better. South Korea was impressive against Greece.  Argentina dominated their match, even though the final score was only 1-0 against Nigeria.  I prefer Diego Milito as a partner to Carlos Tevez rather than Gonzalo Higuaín. It'll be interesting to see who plays up top next to Tevez next game. Maradona's not afraid of change, considering how many players he used in qualifying. I fully admit to not knowing much about Higuaín, but Milito impressed me for Inter Milan.  Higuaín missed some chances right in front of the goal, which he needs to finish for Argentina to go far.
            It will be interesting to see if I am able to wake up tomorrow to watch Slovenia-Algeria.  I would love to, as this is the other game in the US's group, but 5:30 is awfully early for a Sunday.
            I watched the US-England game today at a restaurant which had a fair amount of both US and England fans, which was fun.  The general reaction to the US goal was amusing, even the US fans just shook their head.  I'll gladly take the point though.
            To change sports, Go Celtics!  Its odd to say, but Andrew Bynum's knee might be the most important part of this series.  The Celtics struggle so much scoring inside with both Bynum and Pau Gasol's length inside.  Glen Davis is so much more effective against Odom, who doesn't tower over him the way Gasol and Bynum do.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Hola, thank you!

             I just found out today that one of the preschoolers thinks my name is "thank you". The preschoolers eat at the same time as I do, so they sort of know who I am. One of them came in to the lunch room saw me, and say in Spanish, "I know his name! I know his name. It's "thank you"!" He said thank you in English.
            I was not really paying attention to him so I was unsure if I had heard correctly what he had said. The preschoolers all got their food and then they sat down at the same table I was at. Once again, the preschooler started talking about how he knew what my name was. This time, there was no doubt that he thought my name was "thank you". I tried to explain to him that thank you meant gracias in Spanish, but I'm not sure he understood.
            I was trying to think how he could have thought that was my name. My best guess is that one lunch he heard me talking to someone and they said thank you to me and he thought they were saying my name. I can't think of anything else that makes even a little sense. Still, I've been called much worse names than thank you, so I'll take it. Frankly, remembering back to my days in 5th and 6th grade, I'd love to know what my 5th and 6th graders call me.

Thursday, June 10, 2010


"Ya viene La Liga!!!"

        So the students kept yelling today, as they waited for La Liga de Alajuela. Liga is one of the best soccer teams in the first division in Costa Rica. The team visited for maybe a half hour today and the entire school was extremely excited, before, during, and after. I had a number of my students drawing black and red flags on their arms during class in preparation.
        The big question about soccer at this school is if someone is a Liguista or Saprissista. Liga and Saprissa are the two major soccer teams in this area. I consistently answer with Liguista, since that is the team my host family supports. Though really, my favorite Liga team is Liga de Quito, which I saw play live twice when I was Quito and still follow a little.
       Still, it was pretty cool having Liga come visit the school. As one of the teachers pointed out to me, it was like if the Celtics visited a school in the Boston area. Especially funny and fitting was when one of the janitors was flipping out over meeting the coach, who was one of the best players on the 1990 Costa Rican World Cup team.
       I did not get any autographs from either the players or the coaches. There were already hundreds of students and teachers running around trying to get autographs, so I just sort of hung out. I spent the time trying to figure out who the players were, which was interesting, since I have seen Liga play a couple of times.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

La Copa Mundial

           Only two days until the World Cup. I am becoming more and more excited.. I have class until 8:20, but then not again until 10:10, so I will be able to watch most of the first game, which starts at 8. I don't think I'll be able to watch the second game, but that's ok, since the game I'm really waiting for is England vs. USA on Saturday.
           One of the other Costa Rican English teachers here is a huge soccer fan. I've been having some really interesting discussions with him. Two days ago he was telling me about how much he dislikes Jonathan Bornstein, which is something I should have realized but never thought about.
           For those who don't know, the final qualifying game for the World Cup in the CONCACEF division, which is the group the US, Costa Rica, and Honduras all play in, was played between the US and Costa Rica. The US had already qualified for the World Cup. Costa Rica needed to win outright to qualify, whereas if the US won or if the game ended in a tie, Honduras would qualify for the World Cup. Bryan Ruiz, the best player for Costa Rica who starred this past season for FC Twente, the champions of Dutch Eridivisie, scored two first half goals. The US then scored one goal in the second half.
         Costa Rica looked to have the game in hand, but in extra time with only 2 minutes left in the game, Jonathan Bornstein scored the game tying goal. Here's the call of the game from the Honduras announcers, which is amazing. With that one goal, Bornstein became a hero in Honduras and a villain in Costa Rica. I find that really amusing, since the game had relatively little impact on the US men's national team.
         My friend also really dislikes the Mexican team, way more than he does the US. I wish I knew more Costa Rican fans, since I always figured the US was the most hated team in the CONCACEF.  I wonder whether thats true or simply me assuming the US is the center of everything, especially in North America, Central America, and the Caribbean, which constitute the CONCACEF
         We're both going to be rooting for South Africa on Friday, though I will be rooting for Mexico against most of its other opponents. I tend to root against the established powers, particularly the European teams and Brazil.
        My pick to win it all is Brazil. I think Spain's injuries will catch up to it.  I like Dunga's counterattacking style. Brazil can win ugly, in ways which is more difficult with juego bonito. I'm also skeptical that we will not see any jogo bonito, since although the players Brazil has picked may not be as skilled as Ronaldinho, they still bring plenty of skill to the table.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


            Today's excitement is a peace march. Every week the school focuses on a different value which the school is trying to instill in their students. This week the theme is peace, hence the peace march. There are signs around the school declaring this week the week of peace.
            Costa Rica is an unique country in the Americas in that it does not have a military. The military was abolished in 1948. Costa Rica takes great pride in this and it features prominently in many of there teachings at the school. They do have their military history which they celebrate, notably the defeat of William Walker in 1856, but overall they talk about having more teachers than police officers.
           That last bit may be changing, since a main issue in the recent presidential election was security. The perception of many Costa Ricans is that Costa Rica is becoming more less safe. The two main culprits are increases in drug trafficking or greater inequality, depending on you ask. However, Costa Rica still prides itself on being a country at peace.
           This is particularly noticeable at the school I am teaching at because of the amount of students who are Nicaraguan. For many of them their parents and grandparents lived through the civil wars in Nicaragua. The wars still resonates today even in Costa Rica, where Oscar Arias just finished his second term as president. During his first term, he won the Nobel Peace Prize for working to end the violence in Nicaragua and El Salvador.
           Back to the march at the school. The students all had white balloons with slogans such as "I love peace" in Spanish on them. The entire school then walked around the neighborhood up behind the school where many of the students come from. The students had large banners with slogans about the importance of peace on them. Parents took pictures from the fronts of their houses and everyone enjoyed the sunshine.
         Not the most exciting peace march, but it was still interesting to walk along with the students.  I have trouble imagining something similar happening in the US.

Monday, June 7, 2010


         My host family calls me Pedro. This is fine with me, since that was what my host family in Ecuador called me. I even have friends in the US who call me Pedro. I'm used to answering to it. Its only an issue when someone from WorldTeach calls my house looking for Peter. The first time it happened, my host brother told the caller that nobody with that name lived at the house.

        While Pedro is fine, the baby (well by now he's a toddler) has begun to call me another nickname, which while far more amusing is also much more confusing. He alternatively calls me either tio (uncle) or tia (aunt). This has only started in the past week and is quite odd. I was confused when he was standing outside my door at 7am yelling for tia (aunt). I had no idea he was calling for me.

       The reason he calls me aunt at times is that he has not quite figured out the difference between aunt and uncle in Spanish. For a couple of months every time he sees my host brother, his uncle, he says, "Tia!" and everyone in the room goes, "Tio!" back at him. The last week or so he has seemed to have figured out the difference. Now I'd say half the time he says Tia and half Tio.

      I also just added pictures to my picasa account for anyone who is interested. They are from Easter Week so they're pretty old, but still some of them came out pretty well.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Living in the shadow of a volcano

             The last couple of weeks or so here in Z-13 have been interesting because Volcano Arenal has been more active. The volcano is not doing much more than sending some more smoke up than usual and making some more noise, but it still adds a new dynamic to living here.
             A few nights ago was especially surreal. I fell asleep early just before 10:00. All of a sudden I woke up to a large booming noise.  As I lay in bed, I was discombobulated and unsure of whether I had imagined the volcano making noise or not. It sounded almost like thunder but without the rumbling and it was not raining, so I figured it had to be the volcano.
            The next day, I asked my host family and they confirmed that I had in fact been woken up by the volcano the night before. They asked me if I had told my parents about the volcano. I think they wondered whether I would tell my family for fear of worrying them. I did debate whether or not to write of the volcano, but it is too much a part of my experience here for me to leave it out. 
              Not to mention the fact that the top of my blog is a picture of lava flowing out of the volcano, so its not exactly a secret.  The entire city is built around tourists who want to see the volcano.  There's some other stuff to do, zip lining and canyoning, but for the most part this town is built around the volcano, jobs-wise if not literally.
             My other experience with the volcano came two days ago at about 5:45. I heard what I thought was thunder and then heard my host brother yelling for me to come look at the volcano. A good sized cloud of smoke was billowing out of the top of the volcano. The smoke was a light gray and was mushrooming out of the top of the volcano.
            When the volcano starts acting up I am particularly grateful to have a host family. There are times when I would prefer to be living alone, but the fact that my host family is taking the volcano's actions for granted is comforting. They have lived in its shadow for years, so they obviously have a better sense of whats normal for the volcano to be doing. I would be way more worried if I had no one to ask whether this is normal.
             I wanted new experiences when I came to Costa Rica and being woken up by a volcano is definitely one of them.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Mental Health Day

            I could use another mental health day like the one I had a week ago. Last week on Wednesday, the school day ended at 10:00 and all of the teachers went to have lunch at a local hotel.  Then we all took part in a few activities intended to improve our mental health.
             The social worker showed a slide show about the negative aspects of stress and how it can affect a person. The slide show said that the three most stressful jobs are firefighter, nurse, and elementary school teacher, so it was important for us to work on lessening our stress levels. The slideshow also listed a bunch of medical issues which can arise from too much stress, including cancer. That struck me since I knew some of the other ones like hypertension, but not cancer. I'll admit to some skepticism at that, but still, lessening stress is importantt.
             Then we did a little bit of yoga, once again confirming that I do not enjoy yoga. After, the psychologist led all of the teachers in a meditation style activity. She asked us all to close our eyes and then she narrated a trip we were to take in our minds. We walked towards a river, then we all turned into birds and flew across the river. We ended up seeing a cavern from the air.
              We turned back into people and opened the door to this cavern underneath a mountain. Inside the cavern was a room which we were all supposed to imagine in whatever way we wanted. The psychologist then gave us all markers, colored pencils, and paint for us to draw our room. Everyone then spent maybe 15 minutes drawing what they had seen.
              The most amusing part for me of the experience was that the trip I just described might not have been the trip the psychologist described at all. While I knew 95% of the words which the psychologist was using, the fact that the entire narration was in Spanish meant that it is quite possible that I ended up somewhere completely different from the other people in the group.
              My suspicion of this only increased when I saw what other people had drawn. I drew a room with all sorts of things I would want in an ideal room, such as a computer, frisbee, bookshelves, basketball, my running sneakers, etc. Other people drew the beach or a river in the middle of a forest. One lady drew her house.
              I considered asking one of the other English teachers where the story had taken them, but I figured that would defeat the purpose of the exercise. Since I enjoyed the place I ended up, I figured it all worked out.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Random happenings

          I don't have much time to write full blog posts today, but here are a few snapshots of the past week or so here in La Fortuna.
         My running has been cut short by the fact that the time when I used to run is now the time every day when it pours. While I can run in rain, the lightning and thunder makes me much less willing to go run. Hopefully I will figure out a way around this. The most obvious solution is for me to wake up earlier in the morning, so I'll see if I can pull do that.
        Today, I taught static electricity to my 5th graders. For this I brought in some balloons and showed them how the balloons will become attracted to each other if they are rubbed together. I also did the trick of sticking my hair up using the balloons.
        About forty-five minutes before the class started I was in the English classroom with the balloons rubbing them together and on my shirt. I needed to make sure that I could actually pull off the experiments I had planned for the class. Thankfully the only person who walked through the office was one of the fifth grade teachers, so she immediately understood why I was rubbing balloons on my head and did not think I was being really strange.

        Kinder has been interesting the last couple of days. We have played duck, duck goose for a while every day. While I enjoy playing it with them, at the same time I'm not exactly teaching them much English when they only learn those three words. At least they know the same game in Spanish, so hopefully they can connect duck, duck, goose, with pato, pato, ganzo.
       I've figured out that if I have them stand in a circle and throw a ball to them, I can convince them to talk. That's helped my teaching. I still am not particularly adept at teaching Kinder, but at least they can now say good afternoon, how are you, and I'm fine. We'll start working on "I'm 5 years old," today.