Welcome to the Adventure

Living in Mexico is often indescribable...you just have to live here. I have been journaling experiences for a while, and I hope you can get a feel for stupid-ass gringos trying to get it. But I am still here, and that says a lot for those of us sticking it out, as the payback is what makes life so good here.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Costa Rica

Our morning wake up call.

We came home the other night to crickets, frogs and ocean waves under a starry, warm night. As we settled down for a nice cold beer, a 4.7 earthquake double whammed us just to let us know, we are home.

Costa Rica was a lot of fun. We hung out in Alajuela or a couple of days and had baptism by fire. Costa Rican's don’t put numbers on their homes or business, and they don’t name streets. Oh, there are names and numbers on maps, bless them, but it isn’t public, so to speak. Directions were ALWAYS “go down two blocks past the soccer field, turn left at the Rollo Pollo and stop across from the Chinese Restaurant and you are there". Aaagh! But we did find our way to the casino down the street from where we stayed. You have no idea what country you are in when in a casino. We heard every language. Disco. Hamburgers and Buffalo wings, and cheap mojitos, and more disco. It was weird though, weird vibes. But this is a country with legalized prostitution (and on the Jaco side, it is slightly less than obvious), so who is to judge what is weird, I suppose.

The Caribbean side is far different (with one exception to the whole country, Puerto Limon, which appears to have earned it’s arm pit of Central America reputation, it’s pretty bad there, but it is a major Central American port, soooo). It’s a long very political/racist/United Fruit type story, how this Costa Rica came to be. But really, there are two countries in one, and listening to feedback from people who live there, I don’t think they’d care to change that too much. But everyone must go to the Caribbean for what might have been, because it is slated soon to start being developed. All the more to go while you can.

Anyway, we headed out to Jaco side of the country on that first Friday after hitting the only “non Ron and Helen event”, the Butterfly farm. Seemingly thousands of colorful, other worldly, butterflies flew around us, and as we were the only two on the 3 PM tour it was awesome. Our tour guide graduated in Tourism, (what else, even in Costa Rica), and loved her job. We are now experts on the life of a butterfly. Who knew they live up to a year or more. Well that Monarch thing should have tipped me off.

We went through coffee plantations, much different from our coffee plants; it is harvest right now there. We hung out at the Ramada time share for a couple of days crusin’ the “town” supermarkets, because they get a lot of US food items that we hadn’t seen in a long time. Helen and Ron asked what we had seen when they showed up on Sunday, and we laughed and described all local food markets in depth. Obviously we have no life, but we saw other stuff too, including the beach. We found a store that was like going to Nob Hill in the city. I swear to G**. They had Butterball turkeys, Ocean Spray Fresh Cranberries, Thai Kitchen, and Snickers. This will give you a clue as to who hangs in Costa Rica for the “season”, due to start end of December. And they aren't poor. We sunk to the lowest level, of course, and scored some brats (Johnsonville!!!). It’s genetic. Retirement does affect brain cells.

Ron and Helen showed up just in time, Larry had already lined up a guide tour for Monday. We were going, no matter what. It was so great to see Ron and Helen, helping them celebrate Ron’s 65th birthday. They had just come off their week building a Habit for Humanity home in Grano de Oro, Cartago. They will write their own accounts of that experience, but the stories they told us were moving, funny, and hopeful. They obviously get so much more out of it than they think they give. But the best thing was just to travel the same road for while, and it was so much fun. We had some great laughs, and adventures!

to be cont.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Ramona, Beezus and Keith Richards

It is probably sacrilegious to mention Ramona, Beezus and Keith Richards in the same sentence, but these are the books that are taking up a bit of my time this week. Keith Richard’s Life is addicting, just like his heroin habit. Can’t put it down, except when my student and I read Beezus and Ramona, the first of a still funny series of books, even after having read them countless times when I taught elementary school. That Ramona. And in a lot of ways she is at some levels an early Keith Richards (whose antics and insights will make you laugh as well as shake your head and make you wonder how he survived). Humor.

Actually, Life is the first “rock and roll” - type book I have ever read. It is a fascinating look at the cultural history of the 60’s through to the 2000’s. The Stones, for a lot of us, was the sound track of our youth. The first time I saw the Stones in ’65... as an impressionable 18 year old, my friends and I drove down to San Jose Civic Auditorium, from Berkeley, to see Mick and Keith and the rest of them blow through and stun our sensibilities. Richards talks a lot of music in his book as well, making me wish I had paid more attention during my “I want to be a folk singer with my cheap-ass guitar phase” around this time. Especially the chords and riff stuff. It is heartening to read how much respect Richards had for other, musicians, including Ry Cooder (a favorite, and Gram Parsons) and how much they taught him.

Beezus and Ramona, by Beverly Cleary, takes me way, way back to a kinder, gentler, time in the United States. For kids here, they can readily identify with a Ramona and Beezus of 50+ years ago, as they see themselves in these books. It is very strange to be reading this book with my student. I am home-schooling a 5th grader this year, and we had just finished Sign of the Beaver, and she wanted to read a “fun” book before we go on to tackle Sing Down the Moon, and Number the Stars. Can’t wait to read The Giver again though. One of my former students is teaching in China this year, and commented on how does anyone teach the same lesson 15 times and not go nuts. I had to laugh, because in actuality it is 15 different experiences. But I am sympathetic. I had a student once, Dillon, who came to me in the 4th grade, and begged me not to read anymore dead dog books. I’ve kept that promise. And there are books I do not ever want to teach much less read again, including Lord of the Flies ; after the first two or three times I taught that book, I still can’t stand it! That Beezus and Ramona still strikes the fancy of a 10 year old girl is endearing. Ramona would definitely grow up and be a Stones’ fan, I’m sure.

I am having fun though. I have said before once a teacher, always a teacher, even when you retire. This time though, it is a load of fun. And one to one ratio definitely tilts the odds in my direction...classroom management is a breeze. In the case of our English class, though, we let it rip, and have a blast every week. Maybe they would like a dose of Beezus and Ramona, although Miguel, our musician student, would be more likely to enjoy Keith Richard’s Life, I’m thinking.

We are off to Costa Rica next week, need a vacation from retirement. Is that even possible? Later.