You know you’re living in Costa Rica when….

My friend Stephanie posted this link a while ago, and while most of it is pretty accurate, some of the teachers and I soon started adding more to the list, from our own experiences. And, especially after spending time with some traveling gringos this weekend, I felt I’d create a blog with more to the list so people at home have a better idea of my day to day life here in Costa. So without further ado…(if someone else wrote it I credit them by putting their name in parentheses).

1. You turn on your oven by throwing a lit match into a chamber and hitting the ignition switch.
2. Your bedroom inexplicably has a window, not to the outside, but to the laundry room. (Sharai)
3. (Speaking of laundry rooms…) Dryer? What dryer?
4. “Perfect beach day! Hand me a bee—-oh damn, it’s raining. Let’s pack up!” (Sharai)
5. Your conversations are interrupted and sometimes punctuated by the.loudest.motorcycles.ever.in all of existence.”
6. A woman tells you you’re getting a little fat and she thinks she’s being nice. (Sharai)
7. 2:30am: Neighbor’s rooster alarms 3 hours early. 3:00am: Neighborhood dogs begin twilight bark.
8. There’s no such thing as unscented toilet paper. (Sharai)
9. Pipa, pipa!
10. No one knows what you mean when you say you want white sauce or pesto for your pasta. (Sharai)
11. “Sausage” means hot dogs and “tacos” mean a cabbage, mustard, mayo, ketchup mess on top of taquitos
12. People on the street speak to you in English just because you’re white when in reality you could be from any country in the world, including Costa Rica. (Sharai)
13.  If you need directions…you’re fucked.
14.  Men on the street stare at passing girls and do cat calls, even though the guy she’s walking with could be her boyfriend. (Sharai)
15. You can walk into any pharmacy and immediately get most medicines so cheap you consider hoarding meds and sending some back home for friends.
16. Oh you’re 35 minutes late? That’s okay, so is everyone else. All the time. (Sharai)
17. And you’re probably late because you keep getting stuck behind the sloooowesssst walkers ever.
18. Why does this taste like ham? (Sharai)
19. Going to the bank? I hope you have no other plans today. (Sharai)
20. Your Chinese food comes with white bread….whaaaaaat? (Sharai)
21. You don’t trust the bus schedule because it’s never right.
22. You get embarrassed by hanging around gringos who are just passing through.
23. You go out with friends and, because the bars don’t close like when they do at home, you wind up staying out until 4 or 5 AM.
24. The box spring of your bed is actually just wooden planks laid across the bottom.
25. It’s also crooked because there aren’t enough boards to support the mattress at the end where you put your feet.
26. You only have a set day a month to take your recyclables to the park, and no one remembers when that day is.
27. You are friends with local restaurant owners/workers.
28. You can survive without air conditioning, a dishwasher, and a car, it turns out.
29. When there isn’t “technically” enough room on the road for two buses to pass at the same time, your bus driver will still try to make it happen, and will succeed.
30. Seeing people riding a bike while carrying their baby in their lap doesn’t phase you anymore.
31. If you want to go camping, you can just plop down on a beach for the night for free.
32. You don’t remember the last time you were cold, or even a little bit chilly.

To be continued….

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Here There Be Monsters

Hiya, gang! Sorry I haven’t written anything in a while, but most of what happens I post on Facebook anyways and I don’t have the time to write it all out in chronological order. Sorry! I’m a monster, I know!

Speaking of monsters! That’s our theme for this blog. Not like real monsters, though. Invisible monsters (though not of the Chuck Palahniuk variety)! If you ARE looking for a chronological detail of happenings, just ask and you shall receive in a personal message or e-mail. Of course it may not be as exciting as you think it will be, unfortunately. Life is great, but you also have to work hard to keep yourself afloat. So when I talk about monsters in this blog, its about the other side of living abroad. The less than glamorous details that you never read about in the brochures. That’s not to say I don’t think its worth it to take a leap and step out into the unknown. On the contrary, I’m just being realistic.

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First, I don’t want you to take away from this blog that life is hopeless and that we’re all being suffocated by the bad stuff. That’s not what I’m trying to say. I just think its important that, when you take a leap into the unknown, you are understanding that it’s not an escape from all of the bad stuff. Sure, you can leave some of it behind, but some of it will hide itself away in your suitcases and surprise you when you start unpacking. It’s normal; it’s life’s casual reminder that you’re human and, more importantly, that its okay to be a flawed human being. CELEBRATE THAT!

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In my case, I’m surrounded with beauty every day. Costa Rica, of course, is a paradise unlike I’ve ever known. But there’s beauty in the mundane, too. The students in my classes that I consider friends, the awesome teachers and staff I work with that keep me sane, the daily walk to school, going to get groceries and settling into our temporary home, my awesome roommates that have enriched my life tenfold within just three months. There’s too much to count. Life is beautiful, full of eccentricities, inspirations, heart aches, delicacies, allures, splendors, virtues, blemishes, and limitations.

WHOOOOOAAAA ADJECTIVES!!!

But in all seriousness, I left 2013 after many financial difficulties. I had completely drowned myself; I wasn’t even making enough to live off of. The fact that I got to Costa Rica in the first place is a miracle in and of itself. For months I was anxious that I wouldn’t be able to go-that something would happen and I’d have to call it off, and it almost did. I was depressed, not just because of the lack of money thing but I felt like I was drifting away from my loved ones, and that was, to some point, my own fault. I let my depression consume me and tell me I was unworthy of beautiful things. 2012 had been such an amazing year for me and 2013 felt like an A-bomb went off in my mind (ooooo, DARK, man).

For the most part I left that chunk of my life behind. I’m much happier now than I was last year, and I’m eternally grateful for that, but of course I’m still the same person I was when I left (I mean, hopefully I’m a little better! You can’t stay the same forever, right? Progress, ya, know?). I have the same fears, same anxieties. I’m still the same Lil’ Miss Introversion I was back home, except now I don’t get close to having a panic attack and passing out when I have to speak in front of a group.

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It sucks when you’ve gotten off that plane and you think you’ve left all the bad stuff behind you, but soon you realize that life is still life in another country. You can still cut your finger when slicing potatoes, you can try to do laundry and wind up with a flooded kitchen, bathroom, and dining room floor, and your debit card PIN won’t work. It won’t be the hunky dory work vacation you thought’d it be. When you get drunk, you can still get sloppy drunk. If you’re feeling anti-social you’ll still be anti-social. If you’re feeling anxious you’ll still continue to feel anxious. And that’s when the guilt starts in. Who are you to feel bad about being in a beautiful place like Costa Rica?

Who are you not to, though? Who says you have to pretend to be less human because you’re in a tropical zone? A few weeks ago I was sick and was blowing my nose rather loudly and I apologized to my roommate, Adam, and he said, very genuinely and astutely, “Kate, we live on Earth. On Earth there are humans, sometimes those humans get sick. You should never have to apologize for being a member of your species.”

So feel anxious, feel lost, feel depressed, feel like you’re languidly floating along with no purpose. Let the feelings come but don’t let them drive you. Just sit them in the passenger seat (or in the back seat if you want), and go where you want to go. There’s no use in leaving parts of you behind. We’re all a big mish-mash of space stuff, and sometimes the bad things can bring around amazing new adventures. So sure, your foibles may be back seat drivers or may turn up the radio way too loud, but, as with most road trips, one day you’ll look back on everything and realize how lucky you were to have what you had.

To those who know me in Costa Rica, be patient with me if I seem aloof, or worried, or anti-social. It’s not because I don’t want to hang out with you, I sometimes just need a reboot and have some personal time. And to those at home, I miss you and love you always, and I hope to come back to you a more loving, patient, understanding and kind person. ❤ I’m infinitely lucky to be sharing this journey with so many amazing people, and I’m thankful for you every day. 🙂

Palimpsets

This is something I wrote in Panama. It’s NOT at all autobiographical. I just started it and this is what  came from that. Thanks to Adam for the title help. You’re an awesome dude…you know…for a Canadian. 😉 PLEASE give feedback. If there are logistical fallacies, grammatical errors, etc, let me know. I won’t be offended. 🙂

————

The lawyer stepped into my bedroom, grimacing as he scratched at his limbs. “Damn mosquitos,” he muttered before directing his attention to me, “I’ve never itched so bad in my life! Look!”

His stepped his left leg closer to me and lifted his shorts to show off a cluster of red, inflamed mosquito bites running up his thigh, a perfect ring of pale skin surrounding each one as if the mosquitos were putting up signs that said, “Look at this guy! Look what we did to him! Innit funny or what?” 

“My legs are full of constellations!” he screeched. 

“Oh, yeah, I see it now…there’s ursa major!” I replied, placing my book down on the bed. He looked at me for a solid minute waiting for me to blink. Finally, after realizing I wasn’t about the back down, he replied, “You’re full of shit.”

My eyebrow raised instinctively, silently and preemptively challenging him on his next statement, which was sure to be reeking of bullshit. 

“It’s clearly Cassiopeia. Don’t they mention that in,” he replied, walking over and gingerly picking up the book I had perched on my unmade bed, “….uh….Crime and Punishment?” He peered over the book, unsure of what his next reaction should be. 

I grabbed the book, accidentally closing the book and losing my place. “No, Isaiah, I learned that from Carl Sagan. And there aren’t enough in this cluster for it the be Cassiopeia.” I picked up a pen form my bedside table and sketched a rough outline of Ursa Major on his leg. “See? Ursa Major.”

He looked down at me, still calculating a response from before, and was now showing more confusion over my decision to draw on his leg in order to prove a point.

“Well….thanks, Minnie…” he finally said, “NOW I can’t wear my new mini-skirt tomorrow night!” 

“You were going to wear it with those mosquito bites, though?” I shot back, pleased with myself. 

He raised his hands defensively. “Whoa there, Attitude McCattitude. No harm, no foul.” 

I rolled my eyes and turned my attention to finding the page in my book I had been on when I was interrupted. 

“Alright, I’ll take that as my cue to leave. I need to find some calamine lotion anyways.”

As he approached the door, he stopped. “What are you doing inside on a beautiful day like this reading that depressing drabble anyways?” 

I paused, running my fingers along the edges of the pages, listening to the musical fluttering of the aged pages. “Preparing for tomorrow,” I replied, suddenly shy and self-conscious. 

His expression softened, and a glint of pity shone in his grey eyes. I hated those glints. 

“You leave that to me, Minnie.” 

I flinched at his nickname for me; I hated that too, especially when he used it when he was trying to encourage me. It was counter productive, but I never had the heart to tell him. 

“I’ll do all the preparing and worrying for the both of us.” He paused. “Do you trust me?”

“No.”

He smiled brightly and winked. “Thatta girl.”

———————————-

The truck grumbled along the dirt road, the dim headlights providing the only light as the moon was hidden by the treetops. We raced along at an unsafe speed, the white trunks of the trees whizzing by like ghosts, their leaves in the wind like raspy, whispered laughs as they continued their perpetual game of hide and seek. 

I sat in the passenger seat, my left hand intertwined with his, the wind whipping my hair around my face. I closed my eyes and imagined we were flying far away. 

A few times I caught him looking over at me, his caribbean blue eyes piercing me, as always, as if I was seeing them for the first time every time. 

He was 20. I was 14. We had snuck away from the farm (which was hard when his truck had no muffler and a monster for an engine) in the middle of the night to escape Mama’s suspicious looks. 

Mama is the most loving person I know (except for Papa), but fiercely suspicious of any male farm hands who took an exceptional, not paternal interest in her daughter. Papa was blissful in his naiveté , but that was bound to change when he woke up in two hours to find me missing. Papa was a calm man, but if I, or my 10 year old brother Gabriel, was ever threatened with hurt or danger, he turned into someone I barely recognized. Fortunately for everyone, this was a rare occurrence and Papa was usually never anything more harmful than a reserved, peaceful man with the most extensive library in Douglas County. 

He and Mama met when they were both 20 in Fremont, Nebraska at a local pulperia. She had just come from Mexico, didn’t speak a word of English and was generally digested with the behavior of young gringos who favored her attention. Then she met Papa, shy, unassuming Papa who would wrap his favorite books in cut-up paper grocery bags and bring to them her at work in the pulperia, mopping floors. They mimed all their interactions and never said a word to each other for the whole of a year, but the attraction was clear, of that language they were both fluent. 

One day, when Papa unknowingly brought Mama her favorite book, In the Time of the Butterflies, she surprised him when she took the book and said, as if she’d been saying it her whole life, “My name is Brigia Isabelle Balboa.” 

Papa smiled, his heart sighed, and as he extended his calloused and overworked hand to shake hers, soft and delicate hand, he said, “My name is Robert Matthew Heaney, and I’m in love with you.”

I loved that story. Gabriel was still at an age where he didn’t appreciate anything beautiful and whenever I begged Paper to recount the story, Gabriel would clench his tanned hands over his throat and flail dramatically, gagging and coughing in rebellion. Despite his penchant for the dramatic, he was not inclined to romance and instead favored topics like aliens, Frankenstein’s monster, and vampires (“Real vampires,” he would clarify, “not those sparkly ones all the girls at school love”). He was a good kid. Annoying most of the time but generally a sweet kid. 

In the next seat, Paul squeezed my hand and pulled me out of my own memory. 

“Where are you?” he asked. 

“Floating above the Crab Nebula,” I replied, smiling. 

Paul smirked. 

“Where are we going?” I asked. 

He looked at me. “Do you trust me?”

“Yes.” I responded.

Paul grinned wider and squeezed my hand again. “Thatta girl.” 

——————————

It was still dark out when we left for Omaha the morning of the trial. Mama woke me sweetly and gently, with a cup of coffee just the way I  like it set on my bedside table, a back rub, and my favorite lullaby Papa used to sing when I was a fussy infant, “Toolah-Roorah.” 

“Time to wake up, amor, and get ready for the day.”

I grunted sleepily, pulling the covers over my head. Mama squeezed my arm supportingly and yanked the covers back down. “I know, mi amor…I know.”

I got up, showered and got dressed, briefly interrupted by Gabriel who uncharacteristically burst into my room to give me a tight hug and tell me “I love you, Minerva” before running out as quickly as he had rushed in. Strangely intuitive for a 10 year old boy whose best friend at home was a 9 month old calf he named Jem, he didn’t know why we were leaving for the city-he just knew I needed that hug.

I descended the stairs, my heart pounding louder with each step, rhythmically telling me to “go back up! go back up! retreat, retreat!” When I reached the last step, Isaiah reached out his hand and asked, “Well, are you ready, rockstar?” 

I swallowed, trying not to regurgitate my coffee and too scared to respond. My silence and scared expression seemed to answer his question, however, because he squeezed my hand and said, “Yeah, me too.”

Papa stood by the door in his best suit, wringing his hands nervously while Mama fussed over Gabriel’s shirt and trying to stop him from untucking it from his khaki pants. 

“Why am I wearing my church clothes when we’re not going to church?” he asked, his 10 year old brain still not developed enough to filter out questions that had glaringly-and in this case, painfully-obvious answers to everyone else. 

“Well, excuse me for not having the foresight to buy you fancy new court clothes,” Mama replied exasperatedly, before looking up and seeing I had come downstairs. Her cheeks flushed with embarrassment, “Sorry, mija, that was wrong of me.”

“That’s okay, mama.” I tugged uncomfortably at my dress-the only one I owned. There aren’t many opportunities for dress wearing when you’re husking corn. 

“Don’t tug,” Mama reprimanded as Papa simultaneously said, “You look beautiful.”

“She’s always beautiful,” Mama supported. Gabriel rolled his eyes and pretended to gag, already fed up with everyone’s behavior. 

“What the kid said,” Isaiah chirped before clearing his throat when Mama glared at him reproachfully at him. “We better go now before I’m the one put on trial.” 

————————————-

Paul came to work for us six months before the night we snuck off into the woods surrounding the farm. He was ganglier then, having never even seen a farm in his life. For six months everyday, Paul would say he as just passing through; we were just a pit stop. 

“Passing through to where?” I always asked, even though I knew the answer. Paul would give me a lopsided grin. His teeth were pearly white but one of his front teeth was missing due to “unfortunate circumstances” as he would say. 

“Onward to life’s biggest adventure, dear Minerva.”

“Which is?”

“I don’t know yet,” he winked. 

It was our only exchange every day, beginning with Paul exclaiming how beautiful the day was and that he was pained he wouldn’t be around the next day to see how beautiful it was. He would even exclaim this on grim, grey winter days. 

“Why?” I’d always ask. 

“Why, because I’m just passing through sweet Minerva.” 

One day during this exchange, Paul asked me to come with him.

“What?” I asked, flabbergasted. 

“You heard me, darling Minerva.” 

I blushed, walking away quickly. He had violated our unspoken agreement to not say more to each other and made me to look like a fool. I didn’t like it. 

That night, before dinner, as I was on the porch swing reading by what little sunlight was left in the day, Paul walked up the creaking stairs and waited for me to lower my gaze from my book. I was re-reading Mama’s favorite book, In The Time of the Butterflies. After reaching a stopping point in the book and realizing Paul was still waiting for my attention, I lowered the book to my lap and saw he was holding an orangey pink rose from Papa’s garden, the best rose garden in the county. 

He held the rose out to me, a peace offering. The colors from the sunset bounced off the velvet petals, which had already started to brown from the touch of Paul’s skin and from its longing of its previous life with stem and thorn. 

I silently refused to take the rose by returning to my book. 

“I want to show you something,” he whispered. 

“Is it the rose? Because I can see that,” I replied curtly, proud of myself for remaining firm in my apathy towards him. 

He chuckled, not one to be easily thrown by a teenage girl’s supposedly unending flair for the dramatic pout. 

“No, Minerva. Its a secret, magical place only I know about, where you can see every star God made. Would you like to see it?” 

I stepped down to where he stood and although he was taller, I still stood above him. This made me feel powerful. Taking the rose defiantly, I told him, “Tonight.”

He smiled softly, knowing he had won.

————————————————

The courthouse in Omaha was old, and near the top, with the aging gargoyles, an aged, mesh, red brown net was strung along the building. I had read online that when the top floor of the courthouse had housed some prisoners, the net had been put in place to keep the inmates from trying to jump out of the building. 

We entered into the marble rotunda via the paltry security booth at the front of the building. If you stood in the lobby of the courthouse and looked up, you could still see gun holes from a race riot that had occurred in the early 1900s. Gabriel was enamored with this marble wounds immediately. 

I passed through the metal detector with no problem, but Gabriel had been detained because his iPod had shown up on the Xray screen as a box cutter knife. Papa laughed as Mama cursed in Spanish and Gabriel fought the decrepit security guard for his iPod. 

Isaiah, on the other hand, was able to completely bypass the metal detector by the flash of a badge. He walked up to the muscular security guard past the metal detector. 

“Steve-o!” Isaiah exclaimed, patting Steve on the back. “Still hitting the gym, I see?” Isaiah grabbed his hand and winced in pain. 

Steve laughed. “Not hitting the gym enough, I see?”

Isaiah laughed heartedly and as I walked sheepishly over to the pair he motioned to me, “Steve, this is my client, Minn-“ he stopped himself. “Uh…Minerva.” He was unusually reverent today. It made me nervous. 

Steve extended his hand and his grip nearly crushed mine in our handshake. “Hi Minn-Minerva, I’ve heard all about your case in the news.” He cocked his head at Isaiah. “Cocky as he may seem, it’s all a front. He’s damn near the best there is but still don’t see it.”

“Because he sees himself as the best?” I postulated. 

Steve and Isaiah laughed loudly. “What’d I tell you? She’s smart as a whip!” Isaiah beamed proudly. I blushed but it felt good to know that I made him proud, especially in front of Steve. 

We said goodbye to Steve and I was grateful that he hadn’t treated me like I was fragile. That’s why Isaiah and I had hit it off so well-we could banter for hours without him stopping to apologize. I always wondered why he wasn’t married. Sometimes when we would be talking about the case he would get silent and stare off and not be able to hear anything. I imagined he had had a great love once, but through some kind of bullshit that only nice people are put through for some reason, they had grown apart. I hoped he found his love of his again; he deserved it. 

We stepped into the elevator and Isaiah hit the button for the top floor, where our courtroom was. As the doors closed, Isaiah nudged my elbow with his and in his best “solemn for the occasion” impression, he said, “Time for justice.”

I was the only one who laughed.

—————————————————

I got back to the house late. Too late. Papa was already out working in the barn, so I thought, as I crept up the porch stairs, that I could make it back in without anyone noticing I had been gone for four hours. Paul’s car pulled away quietly down the dirt road that led to the highway, the engine as tired as I was. I snuck in the front door, safe so far, and closed it softly before quietly ascending the stairs. I had just about gotten by without anyone noticing (my hand was on the door knob to my bedroom) when Mama stepped outside of her and Papa’s room, a laundry basket full of clothes balanced on her hip. She looked like she hadn’t slept. 

“Minerva,” she said. 

I expected the worst. Mama and Papa weren’t the strictest, but it was a sign of respect to give them a heads up if we were going to be gone for a while. If we showed them respect, they’d say, they showed us respect. 

Nothing happened. 

I panicked. “I’m just going to the bathroom, Mama.”

“Oh? You didn’t go when you were at wherever you’ve been for the past four hours?”

“Mama,” I pleaded. 

“What do you have to say for yourself young lady?”

I stood still, facing my door. 

“Look at me, Minerva,” Mama said with more patience in her voice than what I deserved for putting her through the agony of worrying about her daughter’s well-being for four hours. 

Still, I didn’t move. 

“Minerva,” she said more sternly. 

I sighed. Turning around, tears streaming down my eyes, I looked at my mother and winced when I saw her eyes express the pain she felt when she saw the state I was in. The basket of clothes she was carrying fell out of her grip and as she ran towards me, she rolled over the clean clothes as if they were air. “Por dios!” she cried.

She enveloped me and cried, kissing my tears and my swollen, red wrists and cried over my bloodied shorts and the cuts and scrapes all over my body. Some were already starting to bruise, yellow and blue pigments rising to the surface as another painful reminder of what I’d been through.

“Robert!” she cried, though neither of us expected him to hear; the barn was too far and we could hear the screech of the power saw as it worked away; he was probably working on my new bookshelf. A new wave of guilt crashed over me. I didn’t want him to come, I couldn’t bear for him to see me this way. 

Mama and I stood in the hallway crying for what seemed like forever, but when I finally looked up and saw Papa, terror written all over his saw-dust encrusted face, standing at the top of the stairs, I reached out and cried, “Papa…” before falling and letting the exhaustion overpower me. 

———————————————

Now, Mama and Papa were hugging and crying and kissing, with Gabriel sitting behind them on a bench, his arms crossed over his chest, visibly disgusted by our parents’ very public display. I was crushed in an embrace with Isaiah, who I couldn’t tell was crying or not. I wasn’t even sure if I was crying, to be honest, and if I was crying, I didn’t know if it was from fear or relief. 

Then I saw Paul. Expressionless Paul. His apathy is what hurt the most. He showed no signs of guilt or shame or remorse. He almost looked rather pleased with himself. When the trial was over and he was being led away, shackles on his wrists and ankles, a shudder ran down my spine as he stared at me coldly. 

He stared until he was escorted into a hallway and could no longer look at me. The hallway he’d walk down was just a pit stop on his way to 117 months in prison with no eligibility for parole or early release. 

I broke away from Isaiah, who was crying (and rather freely, to his embarrassment upon discovering this). He wiped away a tear that was streaming down my red cheek. Turns out I was crying as well. 

Isaiah sniffled. “Well, kid. What shall we do to celebrate?” he asked.

I looked at Mama, Papa and Gabriel, who looked much more animated at the thought of going home. I smiled and imagined the next great adventure that lay before me. 

Life was waiting. 

An Open Letter to John Green Re: The Fault in Our Stars, and other stuff

Dear Mr. Green

My name is Kate, I’m 25 and I am currently teaching English in Costa Rica. I just wanted to write in order to say that you, sir, are a magnificent bastard. You’ve achieved what cannot even be said for my favorite books and authors. In fact, even in all my years of devouring and relishing in the amazing books the world has to offer, what your book, The Fault in Our Stars, achieved was a first. I started the book last night around 9pm, and finished around 5am-the fastest I’ve ever read a book (I’m not a slow reader but I’m not a fast reader either). I didn’t even grant that privilege to the Harry Potter books, and I willingly went to every midnight book release as a teen. Even more, for the first time I cried reading a book. Like…REALLY cried. I’ve read so many books that have drop kicked my heart and soul before picking them back up and throwing them down on the ground, but I never felt the urge to cry while reading them. It’s not like I’m not a crier, either. I’ve cried lots of times, when I’ve lost someone I love, when I was heartbroken, when there was no reason to cry, when I was watching a sad movie, when I saw a loved one crying (I’m an empathetic crier…if I see someone crying I am usually right behind them). I’ve tried crying while reading sad books, trying to talk myself through it, “Man, this is awfully sad…ok, Kate…its ok to cry, this is sad stuff, start crying….now……aaaand now…..fucking robot.” I was once “successful” when reading My Sister’s Keeper, but that was just my eyes watering up, and it didn’t even feel like a genuine cry to me.

But while reading The Fault in Our Stars, I found myself hiccuping back the oncoming sobs that were welling up in my chest. My nose was sniffling and my vision was getting blurry. All of a sudden I was full on sobbing, the sobs shaking my bed and my tears and falling onto my iPad screen. It made me glad that it was 3AM and my roommates were asleep, because, let me tell you, it was not pretty. You played a pretty heavy hand, sir. The amount of books I’ve read is not nearly as high as I would like, but I’ve read enough to know that your book will be imprinted on my heart forever, and not imprinted in the super creepy Twilight way, but like someone held my heart under a 3D printer, flipped a switch, and all of the emotional vulnerabilities, all of the hope, laughter, and positivity I felt while reading were book was as real as if I had lived it myself. I’m fortunate enough to not know anyone who’s had cancer and I’m even more fortunate to have never had cancer myself, and in that sense I feel like I am an intruder in the community of those whose lives have been torn apart by cancer (by the way, my super cool Canadian roommate was reading The Emperor of Maladies before I started this book, and both you and he have convinced me I need to read it).

I guess I should stop and apologize right about now for my stream of consciousness style of writing. It’s a bad habit, and it makes me look like a pretentious wanna be when I say I like to write and then this is the kind of stuff I produce. I really need to work on that. Ok, back to the letter.

Would you believe that I have never written a fan letter (or any other kind of letter) to an author before? It’s not that I’m bad at letters (except I just told you that I’m basically kind of horrible at them, so nevermind), because I’ve kept a pen pal for 10 years, and you’d think that Hazel’s experience writing to and then meeting her favorite author might dissuade me from writing this letter, but I can’t knock this feeling like my life has just shifted exponentially just by reading your book. It feels like up until this point my literary past has been a fuzzy, faded TV screen that only straightens out the picture when you hit the side of the TV. The only person that’s come close to that kind of feeling is Steve Kluger, and if you haven’t read his stuff, I would highly recommend it. I don’t even know what my end goal with this letter is. I’m not looking for an “in” to the writing world (do people who are writers write to you expecting you to help them become successful? I don’t know why I think they do but I imagine its happened to some authors and I can imagine it’s frustrating) or a response or anything of the kind. 

I think what I want to say is this: Holy fuck.

Ok, that felt good.

Keep being the magnificent bastard you are.

 

Sincerely,

Kate Dowd

——————-

Ok, so LIFE! Life has been awesome. And busy. I promise I’m trying to write more, I really am. March was great-we went to places like Playa Conchal and Manuel Antonio, and I found out I was going to be Teacher of the Month for March and April. My roomies are fucking awesome people and they put up with my weirdness, which is also a plus. Now that I’m settled in more I am trying to get back to focusing on my health by working out more. I had a session with my friend Sharai and she kicked my butt, haha. I was definitely hurting afterwards. I’m also working on practicing Spanish more-one of my students wants to start running with me, and Gabby, one of the receptionists at the school and I are going to do an intercambio, so she can practice her English and I can practice my Spanish. It’s actually funny because I’ve felt so defeated going into stores and trying to speak in Spanish and automatically being directed to the English speaking employee, but this Saturday we went out to eat and the waiter approached us and sheepishly asked us if we spoke Spanish. I was, more or less, jubilant. And slightly in love with this waiter. That same night I also learned a valuable phrase: Tira la camisa, batistero! Which means, “Take off your shirt, drummer!” Yup. That’s a keeper.

Wednesday I am headed down to Panama. Well, technically San Jose first to break up the trip a little bit and then I am going down to Bocas del Toro where I will relax on the beach for a few days, reading and soaking up the sun and eating good foods and drinking good….drinks. 😉 But mostly relaxing. It will also be a good test of how I do traveling alone for my future endeavors (Europe? Cross country trip around America? All possibilities), so I am excited. Anyways, I should end it here otherwise I will never finish this blog, even though I didn’t write all I wanted to say, I don’t have the time for that, nor do I have the attention span, so see ya on the flip side.

 

Thoughts on Teaching About the USA, Kids, and Teaching in General Post #1

All of my students lately have been very curious about life in the United States, and I have tried to be as honest as possible without completely trashing my native land, which has proven to be…difficult, to say the least. For such a big country, and with such a small history, we still have a long road ahead of us. About a month ago, while drinking Toña on a Nicaraguan beach, two of my companions got into a discussion about which country has the best quality of life. One guy adamantly upheld that the United States has the best quality of life, and his adversary argued that European countries had a better quality of life. I won’t bore you with all of the argument specifics (although I did take notes so I do in fact have said specifics), but at one point, the defender of the great American (USA) lifestyle postulated that because the US Dollar is on reserve and recognized all over the world, the USA has the best quality of life. Which is basically like saying that McDonald’s is the best restaurant in the world, despite the amount of grease and the severe lack of…you know…real food, because its everywhere in the world.

Either you have money or you don’t-you don’t have ‘better’ money because its green and made of paper. Is life easier if you have US$2 for lunch, as opposed to C1.000 colones or £1.20? The shape, color, nationality of your money doesn’t mean you come from a better quality of life. The criteria for a good quality of life doesn’t stop at currency, but that’s not what this blog is about so, shut up, Kate.

One thing my students have asked me a few times is if I find it offensive to be called gringa. I try, as best as I can to explain (elicit) that some people might, but I’m not. “Why, teacher?” they ask. Well, I’ll tell ya, kids (this next part is paraphrased and more specific than what I tell them-its not verbatim what I say). I was born with this inherent, tricky little thing called privilege. More specifically: white privilege. I didn’t earn it. I got it because I was born with white skin. As someone who is white, particularly a white USA’n, I don’t have to worry about being watched/followed in stores, getting stopped on the street to check my citizen status, or face other ridiculous hurdles just to live my life in the supposed, self-proclaimed “melting pot” that is the United States of America. My right to vote (at least for the past 90 years-not too long ago if you think about it), to drive, to go to college, to have a career, and to live a good life in the country are not impeded by the color of my skin.

I much prefer being called gringa/white girl when walking down the street to “baby girl/honey/sweetie/etc.” If you are a stranger, I am not your baby girl, et al, and I think its safe to say that you only have one thing on your mind. I am, however, unfailingly white and if you are shouting “White girl!” at me, you could just be warning me about that open manhole I’m about to fall into. So, go right ahead.

Sometimes I’ll ask my students if it bothers them that most people in the USA call themselves Americans, as if “America” doesn’t expand across both North and South Hemispheres and the majority of the Western Hemisphere. The USA is just one part of North America, and then there’s Central and South America to take into account as well. If I’m lucky I’ll generally get a blank stare from my students when I pose this question to them, and it usually sustains itself long enough for me to clap my hands together and say, “Alrighty, back to page 28.”

Some people will humor me enough to wave their hands midair in a “so-so” kind of fashion. Sometimes, if these people seem interested enough in hearing more, I’ll slowly talk/act out how most people in the USA think (*points to head*) they are better (*thumbs up*) than any other place in the world (*waves arms around in a circular motion*). These students are sometimes surprised to hear that, which makes me wish I could snap my fingers and say softly, “You didn’t hear that.” One student that works in the airport says every one from the USA she encounters in her job is usually happy. “That’s because they’re in Costa Rica now,” I told her.

It’s not that I’m trying to make the USA look so bad (we do that quite well on our own without trying anyways), but if anyone really believes the USA is perfect as is, I have some sloths I can sell you for $1million dollars.

And then there’s the kids.

I love teaching. I love kids. After teaching kids, I love alcohol. The kids are adorable, and I love when I can tell they’re having fun in class. Unfortunately that is usually about as long as their attention spans last…which is about 2 minutes.At any given moment, you might also hear me say the following statements:

“Stop pretending to slam your nuts against the chair.”

“Get out of the hammock.”

“Stop pretending the table is a drum and your cup is a drumstick.”

“Get out of the hammock.”

“Don’t swing on the pole.”

“Get out of the hammock.”

“Don’t stand on the table.”

“Get out of the hammock.”

“Stop pretending to die.”

“Get. Out. Of. The. Hammock.”

I have about 7-9 kids in each class, and my second class has about 4 four year olds, who participate but also contentedly hum and draw swirls and shapes in their school notebooks. Sometimes my second class gives me hope that they are absorbing information when they all count to ten (in English) when I elicit it from them. But when I ask them how old they are, ALL of my students will think for a bit, as if they’re drawing the English I’ve taught them out of the depths of sugar induced ADD, and answer, “cuatro.”

In a game of identifying colors, most of the students are able to identify the colors in English, but there are still moments when a few students who, when its their turn, will proudly shout, “rojo!”

Last week I very quickly went from good teacher to “mala maestra” because I vetoed football. It’s not that I’m against them having fun. In fact, I figure the more they’re playing games and running around the more tired they’ll be for the lesson, so I can get more English into their lesson. Well, with ten minutes left and no one cooperating in the Bingo game they had just expressed excitement about, and with one girl just humming along doodling in her notebook as I pleaded desperately with her to make the bingo chart her classmates had made, walking around and helping other students complete their charts. Slowly, as they realized that there would be no football, they started to unravel. Eventually I got them lined up (while they shouted “mala maestra” over and over) and outside to their parents, that much closer to sleep and booze.

During my second kids class, after snack time and with one hour left in my day, one little girl dropped a cheeto-like snack on the floor. Looking up at me before getting out of her chair, she looked like she was about to pick it up. Nope. Instead she stepped on it, afterwards looking up at me with a proud smile, like she was saying, “Look what I made.”

Last night, one student passed me a “note” in class asking me out to lunch. It was on a small whiteboard that I had used for team races at the beginning of class. The note even had a box for me to check Yes or No. He’s made other comments like “you are beautiful”/”I love you”/”you are intelligent” but he’s always looking for cheap laughs at other people’s expense, so I usually murmur “thank you” before moving on. The note, however, took me back-I’ve always seen it as a joke at my expense, but do you really think you’ve given me good reasons to go out with you even if it were appropriate and not against the rules? Yeah, I’m just chomping at the bits to delight even further in your clearly stellar listening skills….now open your book to page 40.”

As frustrating as it all seems, these guys make me laugh, and I enjoy teaching them. It’s all pura vida, after all, isn’t it?

And You “Coyol” Yourself Irish?!?!?!

A new blog? ALREADY?!? Wait….how long has it been since my last post? I forget. I do that sometimes.

Anyways…I got a lot done today, and I’m feeling silly, plus there’s a few more recent happenings in my life, so I thought I’d….wait for it….write a blog!

So I don’t quite know were I left off in my last blog and I don’t quite feel like going back to look sooooo. Here we are.

I’m officially all settled into my new apartment with my new Canadian roomies Emily and Adam. Woo! We’ve had a few run ins with cockroaches, had some issues with light fixtures, and have definitely identified ourselves as the gringos by our use of the air-conditioning units provided in each apartment (though we can’t quite figure out why no one else uses theirs). One of my students from my Saturday classes (the one with the 5-7 year olds) apparently lives across from me, so I am still waiting for the impending barrage of young children pressing their faces against our screen door screaming, “Hola profe!” We also met a fellow apartment “dweller” (he works in the apartment complex, but lives a few blocks away) on our way back home from getting Raid (we were currently under attack from a cockroach Adam named Harold). Our new apartment buddy, named Jim, is apparently from Lincoln, NE. He was probably confused by my reaction:

“No you’re not.”

“Yeah, I’m from Lincoln.”

“…..Nah, man. No you’re not.”

“I was born in Omaha, but live in Lincoln.”

“OMG FELLOW NEBRASKAN!”

Meanwhile, while Emily and I were chatting with Jim and getting some tips from him, Adam was still stationed on a chair outside the bathroom, where Harold was last seen on our shower curtain. In his hand was a can of rose-scented Glade spray, should the moment for a delightful smelling attack present itself.

Since the introduction of Raid into our new home (and the spraying of-literally-everything a cockroach might crawl out of), we haven’t seen anything appear….but just in case we’re still prepared. And by ‘we’, I mean Adam. You’ll find Emily and I perched on some kind of chair/counter/bed/table/etc shrieking and pointing wildly at whatever bug has come out of hiding.

I forget if I’ve mentioned this but I’ve also started teaching kids classes on Saturdays (there are always kids classes on Saturdays but I just started last weekend (the 16th). I teach 5-7 year olds beginners English, which is basically a sure fire way to start drinking heavily. There are hammocks outside in one of the yards, and anytime we go outside to play a game, the kids are drawn automatically to the hammocks, and it takes about 15 minutes to get them off. There are two hammocks, so when I get kids off one hammock I turn around and they’ve migrated to the hammock next to the now empty hammock, and it becomes a vicious cycle of “No, stop, no hammock. Vamos a jugar. Stand up. Vamos,” with my voice getting increasingly more desperate as time goes on.

I’ve also had a few girls who are super shy and overwhelmed in my class. All of my students are brand new, so they don’t really know anyone, and, naturally, this can be upsetting if you are shy. I understand this fear well. So when I’ve had little girls sit in the corner crying silently (and man does it break your heart….big puppy dog brown eyes watering up and lower lip quivering and a language barrier making it hard to comfort them), its been a lot of “No lloras….esta bien…..esta bien….esta bien….” The more I say it the more I feel like its more for my sake than theirs, but eventually one of the little boys in my class has done something (like falling or dropping something) that’s made them smile (nothing makes a child laugh like seeing someone hurt themselves….getting them started early with Schaudenfraude…) to make them laugh, making me relax a bit more.

Each kids class lasts two hours and an hour in there is a 10 minute snack time. This past Saturday my kids were getting restless waiting for snack time and kept saying, “Tengo hambre” (I am hungry). It was harmless at first but before I knew it they were all chanting “hambre! hambre! hambre! hambre!” When I quieted them down, finally, I heard the class next to me had started chanting “hambre!”, but luckily their teacher had the wherewithall to take away the money they were playing with if they kept chanting. When it came time for snack time, all but one of my kids grabbed their snacks and headed outside with the rest of the quicks. When I asked the boy who stayed behind if he had food and he said no. Well, no way in hell was I going to go through another hour of “hambre! hambre! hambre!” so I went into the school kitchen and grabbed some tortilla chips I had bought a few days prior, handed them to him and said, “No mas hambre.”

So those are the kids. Here’s hoping some English sticks eventually with them. Some still don’t have books yet because the shippers who are sending more to the school don’t know when they will arrive, so yay.

Otherwise, the other thing that’s happened (and continues to happen) is the Liberia fiestas. They started Friday, with very loud, bomb like fireworks at 5AM and a 12pm parade (“trope”) along the main road past the school. These fireworks happen everyday for two weeks (yes, even at 5AM) as do the parades (which apparently get bigger as each day passes). The fiestas are a BFD here. People apparently go into debt over these parties buying new clothes and beer (so much beer) or they will quit their jobs if their bosses don’t give them time off. A bunch of the teachers went Saturday and we had a ton of fun. A big seasonal drink here is coyol, which is made by cutting down a tree and collecting the sap from within the tree and letting it sit in the sun for a bit (a natural fermentation process). It’s extremely potent. Like…so potent that if you drink just a little bit and then go out into the sun the next day you will feel its effects all over again. You’re also not supposed to mix it with any other alcohol, but I thought those famous last words, “Meh, I’ll be fine” and with a shrug of my shoulders I was riding the waves into drunk gringa land.

I went back home at one point (before it was…ahem…bad), dodging horses and horse poop and men peeing in the street. I thought to myself as I was walking, “Man, it would suck to be a gringo here….” thinking of people who come to vacation here for a week or weekend and are suddenly faced with these 5AM fireworks and streets laden with horse-shit. One man even congratulated me as I passed him. “You’re damn right, felicidades,” I replied, with a tip of my invisible cowboy hat.

I should mention that I had also imbibed quite a bit of rum before sipping on some coyol, among other things, so the coyol did not help matters. A few hours later I had to peace out and go pass out at home. Quite the experience. But here’s to memories (that I remember thanks to Facebook!), laughter, and friends!

Okay, I’m going to go read now. Pura vida! 🙂

Con Gusto

I haven’t posted since the New Year, and since today is the 3 month-a-versary of my arrival to Costa Rica, I wanted to do an update blog. For over a month I’ve been telling myself, “Write a blog. Write a blog. Write a blog. Dammit write a mother trucking blog, Kathleen.” So here I am! Hopefully I can remember everything I wanted to update you folks about. I’m obviously tired, because I just used “folks” in a sentence. Like a boss.

Anyways, it’s been crazy. Crazy, crazy, crazy. But amaziiiiing. Shortly after posting my NYE post, my remaining TEFL friends, Kate and Chyann, decided to go on another trip to escape the anxieties of finding a job in a country that isn’t our home. We went to Manuel Antonio because I had never been and they were up for returning (each had taken separate trips at different points within our TEFL program). We got to MA with no troubles, and as soon as we got off the bus (which dropped us off in front of our hostel-convenience, yo) I started sweating because it’s HOT. San Jose is chilly compared to the cities on the coast, mae (CR slang for ‘dude’). But man, was it gorgeous. Even just the view from our hostel was amazing. MA is super hilly (as is most of CR, but the views were just breathtaking here), so it made for some great photos. 🙂

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We left early from San Jose so we still have plenty of time to get to the beach and spend the afternoon there and watch the amazing sunset. Then we had dinner at the.best.Mexican.restaurant. I hadn’t had Mexican food that amazing in a long time, so it was great, especially after a long day at the beach. I almost died because I kept shoving guacamole and chips in my mouth.

When we got to our hostel that night Kate discovered she had a job back in San Jose, and had to leave for SanJo the next day. One of our fellow TEFLers had mentioned a “secret” beach (I put secret in quotes because we asked our hostel receptionist how to get to the “secret” beach and he laughed and gave us instructions. So we all knew it was down a hill, past Shana hotel, but as soon as we started walking down I was thanking the lord I had brought along 2.000 colones because I knew that with my asthma (I don’t know about the other girls) I was never going to make it back up, especially in the heat. We never did make it back up (I’m writing to you now from the depths of the Costa Rican jungle…jk, mom). At least by walking. We got 15 minutes up (there were at least 45 minutes of walking left…if you were walking fast…which we weren’t) and had to stop to catch our breath. With the heat and the exertion and oh yeah, the heat, I had some very hazy life-flashing-before-my-eyes moments and wound up whipping out my 2.000 colones and flagging down a cab, which charged us 2.000 colones exactly to get to the top.

That was when Kate departed and Chyann and I took off for a place in the jungle called El Salto, which is deep in the jungle and is a spot where you can jump off into a fresh lagoon type pool of water. It’s about a 20ft jump so it’s not bad but it’s no picnic either. So, off we went, and lo and behold, 75% of the trek to the jump is all water, and we’re regrettably wearing flip flops to make things worse. It took maybe 45 minutes to get there with all the treading water, checking to see how deep some spots were, and trying not to lose our flip flops in the current. Chyann took some video so I will have to get those videos from her. There was one moment I was slowly lowering myself down to check how deep a spot was when I dropped suddenly and was about waist deep in the water. Unfortunately that moment was not caught on camera. We finally got to the jump and there were some middle aged American dudes complaining about how they didn’t bring beer and kept asking if I had brought any. Because that’s what I bring on a 45 minute hike through a tropical forest…beer. They hadn’t jumped, and the advised me to wait until a local came around to see how they jumped in. They left Chyann and I to survey the area and eventually I decided that if I wanted to jump I was just going to jump because it could have been hours before the next local showed up. I jumped in the stupidest way (sat down on the rocks the waterfall was running over…as soon as I put pressure on my foot to stand up I was sliding away over the edge), and about halfway down into the water I emitted a genuine “Holy fuck what have I done?!” scream and plummeted into the water.

The way back up was worse than the fall. There is only a rope you have to climb that goes straight up to the top. Awful gym class flashbacks and zero rock climbing experience be damned, I climbed that rope like a boss. Knowing that under the rope was shallow water and jagged rocks helped me to keep going, but I remember that part shaking me up more than the “jump”. Chyann didn’t jump in (and honestly I didn’t really make it look all that fun) and her flip flop broke so we decided to head back and spend some hours back at the beach. That journey convinced me that if there ever was a real life Hunger Games, I would want Chyann as an ally, and when it came down to it, she would kick my ass. Not only did she walk the way back barefoot, but when we were back on the main road, she took a piece of reed and tied her flip flop back together like it was nothing. Meanwhile I’m taking deep breaths and trying not to have a panic attack while stepping over a branch in the jungle because my legs are still shaking from my previous “jump”.

Me before the jump:

Screen Shot 2014-02-17 at 9.50.35 PM

The flip flop:

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That night we went to El Avion, a restaurant where the bulk is an old WWII fighter jet (the body of the plane is the bar of the restaurant, and you can climb into the cockpit). We had dinner on the balcony and enjoyed another amazing Manuel Antonio sunset and some amazing cuisine.

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We got back to SanJo the next day and threw ourselves back into the job search. Unfortunately Chyann eventually flew back home to NY, and while I miss her and selfishly want her to come back, she’s kicking butt at the non-profit she worked at before coming to Costa Rica. A few days after I had an interview with a bilingual school in Liberia (took place on a Saturday) and was offered the job by the end of the interview, so as you can all deduct, it is indeed where I am currently working. She even hired me without checking with my references first, which is a huge compliment. She needed someone to start immediately (read: that Tuesday) so it was an insane couple of days as I packed up and made my way to Liberia. I got there and moved in with an extraordinary Tica family. 🙂

It’s been a whirlwind so far, and I’ve been super busy, so I apologize for not posting sooner. I  love the school, though, and my students. 🙂 The school is on the historic Calle Real in Liberia in a historic house. I am teaching ALL beginners, which I thought would be hard, considering for our mini-lessons during TEFL we had “alto basico” which is not quite intermediate but is higher than basic basic, and I thought that was a challenge. But all my students are amazing, and they make me laugh, and we’re still able to communicate. One day I overheard one of my students tell the student to her right that she loved my class. I had to work really hard not to cry. A few of my students have even brought me gifts-one brought me a Costa Rican guidebook (he works at the airport) and another student’s mom made me this really handy bag that even has a K embroidered on it for Kate. 🙂 I almost cried again when I got this (it was from the same student that said she loved my class). I am using it every day, too, especially since my grey purse broke. I have had two beginner classes for about a month now, and just helped one intermediate class finish their level, and since then I’ve also started tutoring a 5 year old once or twice a week. This Saturday I started another beginners class and two new classes for 5-7 year olds that are also beginners. I’ll probably have another beginner class starting soon (maybe), but also have some private classes popping up more and more, so it’s a great gig, and there’s a lot of really helpful mentoring from my boss. I’m still learning, and I imagine teaching, like most careers, is something where you’re continuously learning about your craft as well as yourself. I’m excited for that journey. 🙂

I’ll start to wrap things up since its getting late and I’m rambling again (ramble, ramble). The other big things that have happened are my border run to Nicaragua and my move into an apartment with the new  teacher at Estelar and his GF. Nicaragua was fun! I wound up going through the border by myself because of conflicting schedules, and was so fed up with all the taxi drivers trying to sell me a ride to San Juan del Sur that when I stepped into a restaurant to get water I almost bit one’s head off when they asked, “‘ey ladey where you goin?” TO GET SOME AGUA CAN I DO THAT PLEASE?! They backed off after that. 😉  I got to SJDS and found a hostel for $5 a night. Boss. Walked around a bit until I found my friends (SJDS is super tiny…found them pretty quick once I knew where I was going…lol) and we had dinner on the beach and played some card games. It was different to hear ‘De nada’ all the time when I’m so used to ‘con gusto’ in Costa Rica. It didn’t feel right at all. 😉 At first I thought, “Wow, everyone’s throwing down some shade in Nicara-oh wait, no…they just don’t say ‘con gusto’ like ticos do.”

And yeah, found an apartment. It’s three bedrooms but only two are in use, so if you WANT TO VISIT WINK WINK HINT HINT, there’s space. Oh and there’s also a pool. 😉 It’s great, though. I felt bad leaving my amazing Tico family, but I still plan on spending time with them and seeing them. The apartment is also closer to the school, so that’s helpful. Sorry this last part is so…”and then this….and this….this happened too….” but its nearing the end of the night and I’ve had a busy day/weekend. I will also update tomorrow with pictures when my WIFI isn’t being a little bitch. 🙂 😉

Buenas noches, amigos. With love, Kate. 🙂 ❤

I won’t ask you to believe that life won’t hurt at all (Bye bye 2013!)

Another title for this blog could be: Don’t Let the Door Hit You on the Way Out, 2013
For your listening pleasure while reading/making sense of the lyrics scattered throughout the post: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r2GfsjVJZEA

—————————————————–

The sun is setting in your quiet eyes
You take for granted what we’ve always seen inside
You run in circles
And you don’t know how
You got to this place
But you sure do live there now

So here we are! Another year! Thank freaking god. This year took its sweet time. It wasn’t all bad, of course, but it was definitely full of challenges. I started the year off in January with my VBMasters (which feels so long ago!) celebrating the second inauguration of President Obama, which we helped achieve. Felt so great. It was my first time in the capitol and while there wasn’t much time for sight seeing (gotta check out them job fairs and balls, yo), I had a blast seeing my Iowa team.

Come back home was a wake up call, though. After the election in November I spent a lot of time catching up on sleep and becoming one with my bed and Netflix. Then, amidst the joy of the inauguration in January, I was also feeling tugged around and lost, and was starting to feel depressed, probably from the whiplash of coming off a campaign and then suddenly having a whole bunch of time with nothing to do. The subsequent months were filled with unnecessary drama, some of it self-inflicted, and looking back now, I feel like a ridiculous moron and like a idiot for being so bitter about something so stupid. Life goes on, Kate. And it really, really does.

And I won’t blame you if you fall
And I won’t ask you to believe that life won’t hurt at all
When the tears stream down your face
And you’ve given all your light away
I’d like to be the safest place
Your hideaway

Spring brought with it a great opportunity on a City Council race, and I had a blast with always awesome Zack and Team Gernandt. And of course, we kicked ass. The spring also brought with it a fantastic opportunity with Planned Parenthood helping to pilot a new program that really took off. A lot of great changes happened at Planned Parenthood this year, congrats to Shauna and Brandon! The Omaha Dream Team! I miss y’all.

July I turned 25, which is pretty freaking scary. As a result, I sat down and made a list of things I want to do before I turn 30, which is scary close now. I’ve got some stuff done, but man, watch out world! (I’m not running on much sleep so the sentences will probably start getting shorter from here on out until I get to my point).

Since I arrived in Costa Rica, life has been amazing. Sure there have been ups and downs, there’s had to be a lot of re-evaluating, a lot of soul searching, not as many Skype sessions as I would like, but so much laughter, learning, and memory making. Even bad memories, but that’s what builds character. This past month and a half has been so great that I just don’t even consider it a part of 2013, because its so different from the rest of the year.

The fear keeps coming back to you in waves
When you catch the wrong side of the same mistakes you’ve made
You’re tuning out because it hurts too much to try
You’re giving up before you’ve had your chance to fly

I want to forget 2013 ever happened. I want to take the bad things that happened, shake them off, remember what I learned, and move on with my life. I want to remember the humility in being threatened with eviction numerous times, and I want to make sure I’m never in that position again. I want to remember that my relationships with the people I love are important, and I never want to hurt anyone ever again. I want to remember that my life and my worth is not determined by how much money is in my bank account, and I never want to forget that things can change in an instant and jobs and money aren’t guaranteed in life, but I can choose to live with love and flourish in that aspect. I want to remember the bitter stings of rejection, the back stabbing after years of loyalty, the misunderstandings of my personality and character, and I want to move forward knowing how to say, “You don’t deserve me, anyways.” I want to know that people are never really gone as long as we honor their memory, and I never want to lax in living in love for everyone, not just people in my life and those I care about.

When you’ve given all your light away I’d like to be the safest place
I will close the doors and lock the gates
And give to you my safest place
Your hideaway
Your hideaway
So here are my resolutions for 2014:
Read a book a week (at the very least!)
Have no more than one drink a night
Run 4x a week, in conjunction with weight lifting and ab work
Have more patience with yourself, and forgive yourself more often
Eat more fruit…you ARE in Costa Rica, for crying out loud.
Drink more water!
“I’m a damsel and I’m in distress and I got this.”
Write more (daily if you can)
Collect moments, not things
Cook more, especially breakfast
Learn and memorize the metric system
“Be like the bird that/pausing in her flight a while/ on boughs too slight/ feels them give way beneath her/ and sings and sings and sings/ knowing she has wings.”-Victor Hugo
After all….”Times change and so must I. We all change. When you think about it, we’re all different people all through our lives and that’s okay. That’s good. Gotta keep it moving, so long as you remember all the people that you used to be. I will not forget one line of this, not one day, I swear.”
Happy New Year, everyone. 🙂

Don’t Sweat It

So one night I was lying in bed and commiserating about my sweat glands, and I decided to start writing about it, which is where this all came from. I don’t know exactly what to call it or what the point of it is, but hopefully it makes sense. There’s a lot of random parts thrown together since it was written stream of consciously (oh yes, I just made that an adverb). My goal is to start writing more, so with any luck the stories will improve from here on out. 

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Don’t Sweat It

I sweat like a nun in a cucumber field. I’m fresh for about a good 5-30 minutes after a shower, depending on if I want to put on make-up before I go out, and then its over, a distant memory floating away on a breeze of my body odor. I can work up a sweat just form sitting, as if my ass is producing some massive amount of heat that triggers my body’s anti-cooling software (and if you’ve seen my but, you know that it’s not even capable of filling out a pair of jeans, always producing a little denim wrinkle of air beneath my tuckus). Sometimes I honestly don’t care, especially if I feel uncomfortable (most camp showers) or annoyed (don’t hook two different shower curtains on the same hook if you don’t want me to die…mom) about where I shower. 

 

So, sorry world, sometimes you’re just stuck with me and my stinky squiggly green lines. Sometimes (most of the time), I do try, but it’s all in vain because usually as soon as I move after showering, drying, and dressing, I’m already starting to work up a sweat, even in the dead of winter. I hate bundling up because the act of bundling up and then sitting in a warm car, or sitting inside waiting for someone else to get ready, makes me get overheated and start to sweat. I’m even sweating as I write this. And after years of deliberation, I’ve figured out that if I could have a super power, it would be to be able to control my own body temperature. Nothing hotter or cooler than a brisk 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Perpetual spring in Katetown. Of course, telling people why I want that particular super power is gross, so I usually stick to time travel as an answer. 

 

While I usually stray towards warmer temperatures, the constancy of sticky skin and lethargic limbs becomes frustrating just after a few minutes, especially if there’s a lack of a breeze. Everything all of a sudden finds your skin as a new home: sand, dirt, tiny particles of fabric, dirt, stray hairs, more dirt, and worst of all, bugs. There is no relief from the stick of sweat unless you live in a shower, and unfortunately, that’s not always a probable lifestyle (one day…). There have been a few times recently where I’ve drenched myself in sweat just from standing in a certain place (with love from Jaco) and couldn’t believe that I had any more water left in my body. No amount of water could replenish me, and not even the coolest fresh spring in a tropical rain forest could soothe my dehydrated skin. I’ve tried resigning myself to a life of excess sweat, but every time I feel a bead of sweat form on my hairline, I contemplate either not going outside at all or taking another shower (although that has the potential to start a vicious sweat/shower cycle). 

 

What’s worse is that when I shower after a hot day, I still delight in a warm shower. The only time I ever looked forward to and annoyed a cold shower was when I was doing volunteer Katrina relief work in New Orleans. It was May and I was delegated, along with another volunteer, Micah, to building styrofoam “houses” to put in the attic (they would go around the electrical circuits so that when the attic was ready for insulation, the use of the lights wouldn’t set the new house ablaze). So recap: May in New Orleans, in an attic of an unfinished house, with construction lights bearing down on us so we could actually see what we were working on. I would be drenched in sweat within five minutes of work, but luckily we took water breaks every hour to stay replenished. Still, at lunch we were barely comprehensible and by dinner we were practically catatonic, barely able to spit out cave-man style grunts. 

 

We were passed out as early as 7:30 (or at least I was) and slept through the night as if we were temporarily dead, and then, like philanthropical zombies, we woke up the next morning to do it all again. Although the cold showers were intense at first, I soon realized they were the only thing that could make my skin breathe again and that could lower my body temperature to a tolerable level (it was still May in New Orleans after all). Now that I’m in Costa Rica, I’ve started enjoying cold showers again, especially after the beach. I gladly will scuffle into the hostel room, enduring sand in places I don’t want it to be, if I can just stand under the stream (and it IS just one, heavy stream) and let the water cool my fried body. I could live there…but maybe not for $10 a night. These instances are probably one of the few reasons why I love New Orleans and Costa Rica so much, because in the end they pushed me out of my comfort zone (and my rigid aversion to cold showers). They have taken a lot out of me, but they always give back.