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Monthly Archives: January 2012

Pictures of Home

Today we did a little bus hopping to explore a bit more of the local routes.  Typically we get the bus right outside of our door, and head west down the hill to San Pedro for language school, the University, and San Jose.  Today we took the bus up the mountain to see where it would go.  It stopped at the mirador restaurant, built into the side of the mountain where we ate a few weeks ago.  Soon another bus arrived, taking us into new territory.  It was lovely, with views overlooking the rural landscape of mountains and valleys, leading into the town of Tres Rios, where we stayed 2 years ago.  It was fun to locate familiar parts of the town.  Today I thought I would just add a few pictures for you to enjoy.

The view from the bus stop in Tres Rios

Our local grocery store-Pali

Our House-actually not all of it.  The steps to the right lead to the top apartment.  The landlords live in the main house. One of Rod’s favorite past times is figuring out what to create with the new foods we bought.


Learn to Live in Loneliness, by Carl Sanburg

Recently I have talked about the ending of language school in another week and what life will hold when I am on my own all day.  One of the themes I have certainly noticed rising in me is that of belonging/isolation and the desire to avoid loneliness.  In the last blog I talked about coming to a more peaceful place as I open my hands and heart in a willingness to be present to whatever is in the day, and letting go of the need to “have a place”.  Five months seems like a long time to live somewhere and not belong, but really it is a short time to establish oneself anywhere.  I came across a poem this week that struck me as very relevant to my emotions and my desires, so I thought I would share it with you.

Learn to Live in Loneliness

Carl Sandburg


A man must get away
now and then
to experience loneliness.

Only those who learn how to live
in loneliness
can come to know themselves
and life.

I go out there and walk
and look at the trees and sky.
I listen to the sounds of loneliness.
I sit on a rock or stump
and say to myself,

“Who are you, Sandburg?
Where have you been,
and where are you going?”

Source: In the Stillness Is the Dancing by Mark Link SJ





















A Relaxing Saturday

It was a beautiful sunny day today after 2 chilly, cloudy ones.  Even here, it is easy to get acclimated to the weather and then come to think a chilly day is cold!  Sorry, I can see you all rolling your eyes!  I packed for summer and it really is like spring at this altitude, with some days being cool.  We eased into the day, catching a bus at 9:00 and headed for San Jose, to go to the farmers market that we discovered last week.  The city isn’t quite as bustling on the weekends which makes it more pleasant to walk around.  We stopped at a resale shop and bought ourselves a few long sleeves shirts, and then headed to the market.

The  Melico Salazar Theater in San Jose, on the way to the market

I have never seen such gigantic carrots!!!

We really enjoy grocery shopping when we can get so many fresh items. The hard part is that we buy so many fun, heavy things!  Then we lug our bags for about 10 blocks to catch our return bus.  Laying the bounty onto the counter we are grateful again for the variety of fruits and vegetables, some of which we still cannot remember their names.  I know I posted a picture previously, but I think we were more artful in the presentation this weekend!

Isn’t it pretty?

After the 4 hour trek to the market and back, we took our new camp chairs and went out among the Christmas trees and relaxed, watching the parrots flying over the park.  After awhile we roused ourselves to take the 10 minute walk to Pali, our local grocery store, to purchase our non-produce items, and later, we walked the 100 meters (that is how Ticans refer to a block) to the Panaderia to buy fresh bread for our lentil stew.  That was our day!

Yesterday I realized how much energy I was expending, trying to figure out what would come next after language school.  It wasn’t just that, causing me to feel anxious.  Sometimes the unknowns and unfamiliar in general are hard for me.  We went to dinner last night and wanted to do something afterwards, but had no idea what that would be, so we returned home.  Riding home on the bus I watched friends gathering around the local sodas (small outdoor cantinas selling simple traditional meals).  I felt like the outsider.  But a friend of mine reminded me that I would feel that if I had moved to a new place in the US.  It takes time.  I can get so focused on wanting connections, and wanting a place, that the discomfort can take over.  I heard the inner whisper telling me to stop striving so hard to have it all figured out.  Let go of the need to find a place to belong.  Be present, one day at a time.  It is true, 4 or 5 months is a short time to create a true sense of home.  It was a great reminder, to be present here, receive all that I can, and also let go of some things as well.  Today I felt peaceful, and I was more intentional to just notice what was around me.  It feels like less grasping, letting go of the need to make my place here.  Enjoy the days,  be surprised, explore with childlike wonder.  Wednesday I did that, walking around the neighborhood near our school for the 2 hours between my language class and the cooking class.  I walked down one street, and seeing an interesting church or home, I allowed curiosity to direct my path.  That is the benefit of the unfamiliar.  Life, I am discovering is filled with tension.  Both sides have something to offer.

Closing in on Week 3

I have had a hard time thinking about writing a blog this week because it has felt very routine.  Then I thought, wow, that is something to write about!  We have been in Costa Rica for 3 1/2 weeks, and we are completing our 3rd week of Spanish classes tomorrow.  The newness of the language school has dissipated.  We are the old timers, with only a few of the original students who started with us.  We have befriended a French Canadian named John-Pierre.  How french is that!!  I love his accent!  He is turning 60 this year, and although he travels every winter to get away from the cold, this year he added the challenge of learning a language while he is traveling.  Rod still has the same folks in his class, young women from France, The Bahamas, another from Switzerland, and a young man from NY.  Today I was no longer solo in my class.  Cute Elena, from Switzerland was switched into my class.  She has a lovely accent as well.

I find myself thinking a lot about the end of this chapter, language school.  One week to go.  What will it feel like without the structure, the input of grammar, the interesting people from all over the world to share lunch with?  Learning Spanish has been the focus for this first month.  Letting go is both exciting and scarey.  Currently,  I have someone to talk to every morning.  I have someone with whom to practice my Spanish.  I have a sense of family.  Letting go of that creates some fear- of isolation, not practicing my Spanish and forgetting all that I have learned, boredom with the space.    Yet, it also stirs excitement.  What can be birthed from space?  What will I see without distractions?  In the last few years I have read a lot about the writer’s life.  It is attractive to me.  Yet I shy away from it because there is little outside structure.  It requires one to be alone, and although I love solitude, I fear isolation.  So right now I feel this pull going on inside of me.  One part says open to the space, feel it, be present in it.  The other part says, you will go crazy, find a place to volunteer and use your Spanish.  There may be a balance between the 2.  But I don’t think I have allowed myself to really explore the creativity found in space.  It feels too unproductive, empty.  And it hits a core struggle in me-identity.  In our culture you are asked 2 questions upon meeting someone-what is your name and what do you do.  I have the gift of space and time, and still the  familiar struggle with identity.  I have a week to go, to continue listening to desire, to explore possibilities, and then choose.  And even then, nothing is ever set in stone.  Change is also an option.

3 hours away from home-Paradise!

Rod and I did our first overnight getaway since we have been here.  On Saturday morning we took a bus ($14.00 round trip per person, with cushy seats!) to the beach.  We arrived at Manuel Antonio around noon, dropped off right at the beach.  Since there are no addresses here, we walked around for awhile trying to find our lodge.  It was just up the path from the beach, and a very short walk to the entrance of the national park. (That was pretty much the address that we were given).  What a perfect location!  The main road along the beach was lined with restaurants and shops. Another road looped back into a very peaceful area with a few restaurants, hostels and small lodges.  We stayed at Tico Lodge, 6 rooms with private bathrooms, spartan but very adequate.  Hospitality once again was experienced when, after checking out, they allowed us to store our backpacks in the office, and upon returning from the beach,  the owner opened a room that had not yet been cleaned in order for me to shower and change.  Over and over I am amazed by the care shown to people rather than overdone policies!

The loop where our lodge was located

Tico Lodge

Manuel Antonio is a national park that joins the beach.  This is probably one of the more touristy beaches, but the vistas are beautiful.  Although the free beach outside of the park is more popular, the crowds don’t come close to the NJ beaches that I am use to on a summer Sunday afternoon.  There are also beaches within the national park where there are very few people.  Our first day we spent on the free beach.  On Sunday we got an early start at the Park and did some hiking and swimming.  We saw iguanas, lizards, beautiful butterflies, birds, and best of all, plenty of Capuchin monkeys!!  They like to hang out around the beach- free food!  In one location, several monkeys seemed well acquainted with the coconut vender.  The man would cut the top off of the coconut with his machete for customers to enjoy the drink, and when they were finished, he would lay the empty coconut under the tree for the monkeys.

Nothing like NJ beaches in the summer!

I was proud of myself for rock climbing!

They are much cuter when they don’t show their teeth!

Mama and baby

We had this strange experience, as if we were at some tropical paradise, yet a day later we returned to our apartment in the mountains.  It is amazing to be only hours away from such a variety of topographies.  We never had such an exotic overnight in Chicago!

There is always a beautiful sunset to close out the Paradise stories!

Hitting the Dance Floor!

On Thursday, Rod left the lab early and came back to the language school so that we could participate in a dance class.  We were rocking!  Or is it salsa-ing.  Actually I think it was merengue.  Some of the moves reminded me of the game, twister-right hand over, turn her around, then he goes under her arm…We may remember 20% of it and fake the rest.  I think if you just move the hips while the tops stays still, it looks good!  Since the class was over at 5:00, the worst time to try to get home, we found a little restaurant located in a hostel, that served good, inexpensive food.  It is not hard to find places that fit a budget because the country caters to backpackers and other travelers.  It is possible to find hostels in the prettiest locations, and that is what makes this a unique place, at least compared to the US.

This weekend we are going to Manuel Antonio National Park, on the Pacific Ocean.  At one time the coast was lined with rainforest. Now this park of 1680 acres is all that remains in this area.  It is home to many endangered species, like squirrel monkeys.  We will be staying at a quaint hotel where one path leads to the beach and the other to the National Forest.  This information is what I have read and heard from others.  Next week I will get to tell about it from experience!

At the end of another week, here in Costa Rica, I feel a great contentment.  Little things feel like major successes.  Today I went to 2 shops, buying M&Ms at one, and bread at the other, alone, with colones.  It’s small, but a good start!  I am still having a bit of trouble with the conversions.  Another first was going to an ATM to withdraw money.  I was excited to do this alone as well.  The machine gives you the option of English, so I selected that.  I was whipping through the transaction, plugged in my desired amount, when suddenly a message in Spanish appeared, saying something about needing to put in different denominations.  Then I realized I had put in dollars and it needed the amount in colones!  Thank goodness for the cell phones we bought.  A quick call to Rod and I had the conversion and completed the transaction!  Also this week I took another cooking class and understood more than last week.  We made another yuca dish, little pastries filled with cheese and deep fried.  Yum, nothing low cal about it!  So other than the issue in class this week, it was a happy week.  Yet even in the tears, it brought about good change in me, and in the relationship with my teacher.

Voicing Expectations

In some ways this could sound like a repeat of a previous blog entry title, Changing The Attitude.  But this is about something deeper for me.  I am very surprised how a Spanish class can be such fertile ground for self-discovery and growth.  I am sure I am also picking up some Spanish along the way!  After I changed my attitude last week I was feeling more relaxed and enjoying the class.  I was having a sense of success, talking more and and being myself.  Then, wham!  My teacher talks to me after class and tells me that I need to practice, practice, practice!  I need to have a Costa Rican friend with whom I will only speak Spanish.  I must think in Spanish, not translating word for word in my head.  Well, yes, that would be great!  I would love to do that!  But…So once again, I crashed and burned, feeling the familiar feelings of needing to be more than I am, working harder to keep up the pace.  At lunch I was in tears.  Then the anger came, pushing away the other feelings that I didn’t want to feel.  I am so grateful for skype and e-mail, for friends who can help me sort out the longings of my heart, what my desires are for these classes, and to validate what is going well.  Learning the language comes faster if you talk more.  But, as one friend pointed out, I am an introverted contemplative!  She nailed it!  I don’t like talking for 3 hours in English!  Talking in Spanish for that length of time is more than enough.  Then I am being encouraged to go talk more!!  She discouraged me from seeking out English speaking friends here.  NO, NO, NO!  Only Spanish!  Yet I need someone with whom I can have a deeper conversation than the words in my Spanish vocabulary!  So what I heard is, “Your desires will not get you where you need to be to be successful at what I think is most important for you.  Set them aside.”  The tears were the pain of setting myself aside.  I need to be something else.  Writing this honestly is difficult because I expect others have no problem with this.  They would just ignore the teacher.  Or say, “Who is she to put such demands on you!” But for me, it wasn’t that easy.   I had to face my pattern of invalidating myself and my objectives when they are different from others, even if the teacher is almost half my age!  Choosing not to work as hard as she thinks I need to feels lazy, settling for less, under-achieving.  At any rate, it is filled with judgments.  Letting those go, validating my own expectations- that I be able to function here, and honoring my need for solitude, gave me a strength to name what I wanted rather than agree to live by the expectations of another.  In that grounded place, my teacher and I had a wonderfully tender conversation today.  I shared my feelings, my expectations and how I was perceiving her expectations.  I had decided that next week I would be fine with a lower level class and not feel any less for it.  But I was welcomed to stay, to be where I am, and to recognize that each student, including me, has different strengths and weaknesses in the class.  She stepped out of her enthusiastic teacher role, empathizing with me by sharing a story of when she was in an English class and it brought her to tears.  I laughed and said, “Yes, that was me yesterday!”  Suddenly everything felt different, as she spoke in slow Spanish and I spoke in English so that we expressed ourselves in the best way we could.  I gave voice to what I wanted and needed, and it was good.  I sensed a softening in the second half of class, when she even let me glance at my notes when it was my turn to talk about an article I read in Spanish! Connection, in two different languages.