Mi vida en Costa Rica (Christine)

Blog Post #3: Write a one page description of your living situation within Costa Rica and the differences between life in Maryland and life in Costa Rica.

Wow! I could write so much about this topic!  I have been writing my parents and boyfriend multiple paragraph length emails about my life here!  First off-just having my two feet in another country is a huge change and adventure!  I live with a host family in Costa Rica.  There is a mom, and her two children, and three Costa Rican students who rent rooms from the mom and attend a local university.  I am the seventh person in the house, and it’s great!  (I am getting the dorm experience I never had! ;) All of the members of the house (except for the mom) are very close to my age.  They are all very nice to me!  Unfortunately, from day one, I am really struggling with the language barrier between myself and the family members.  I am trying hard, however, they do not know much English and I don’t know a huge ton of Spanish, so it can be very stressful.  My Spanish is sort of limited, so its hard to have conversations.  However, my Spanish is improving at an INSANE rate!!  (that’s what happens when you live and breath Spanish every second you are awake).  I have my own room, and share a bathroom.  My room is nice!  Right now it’s a little weird, because I pretty much have to eat whatever is given.  That is something different than my life in Maryland.  However, I get a little more flexibility for lunch because we are at school.  Some of the food is very good, some I have not liked.  But—there are many foods I have already come to love!  Leslie, Caroline, and I have been exploring local stores, and buying various different lunches.

I could write forever about the differences of life!  You would be amazed though at the amount of similar things.   As I noted above, my Spanish has already improved dramatically.  The biggest difference from my life in Maryland is that everyone is speaking Spanish here!  And my brain is constantly challenged, all day long!  I have to speak, and try to understand everything that is said to me, in Spanish.  However, the fact that I have already used the bus system, purchased groceries, exchanged money, ordered at a restaurant, and purchased a movie ticket….by myself…in Spanish, says a lot about my improved capabilities.

I am really glad Leslie and Caroline are here with me!  They have been extremely helpful to me, because life in Costa Rica is so different.  We get to walk to school together (that is also new—I get to walk everywhere, which I actually enjoy).  We have Spanish class for 4 hours each day, and then other various school activities at ICADS, our school center.  I am going to miss them when they move to their school placements.  But-I am glad I am staying with my current host family!

Each day is a huge challenge, living life in Costa Rica.  I feel that I am learning 10,000 new facts a day.  It has been difficult to learn the route to school, and I get lost a lot.  Everything in this country is new to me.  Many people walk, and many people take the bus.  It is also different for me to take the bus  (instead of drive a car to places).  But it’s fun!  Its also different that most of my meals are just given to me.  And my family wants to do everything for me, and I am not used to being “waited on.”
Anyways, life in Costa Rica has been a challenging, very fun adventure nonetheless!  Everyday I make large gains in Spanish.  And by living life here, I get to experience a new culture, and also directly experience the process of language acquisition, and how it feels to struggle with the language that everyone around you speaks so freely and fluently.  I could write so much more, however, I know this is a blog post, not a book.  I hope what I have written has satisfied your curiosity.  If you have any questions about my life here, please feel free to e-mail! -Christine

¡Qué tranquila! – Caroline Travels to Costa Rica

The journey to a destination can set the tone for the entire stay. If there is too much confusion on the roads or chaos in the airports, it’s possible to start out in a new country on the wrong foot. However, thankfully, our experience was muy tranquila. I spent the weekend before leaving with my mom and boyfriend in Howard Country and in DC, which made for an easy ride to Reagan Monday morning. At the airport, I got some breakfast at Starbucks, said my goobyes, and got through security sin problemas (although my checked bag was half a pound over the limit–but the people checking me in were amazing and let it slide!). At the gate, I found Christine and Leslie easily, and after some excited conversation, we boarded our first plane. The flight to Miami was not very full, so I was able to move my seat to sit with Leslie and Christine. This was a wonderful chance to chat, especially since I’m in the secondary cohort and they’re in the elementary cohort, so we finally had time to swap stories and get to know each other even better! Towards the end of the flight, I took a short nap and woke up in Miami.

The international concourse in Miami is enorme, so although we didn’t need to switch concourses once we arrived at the airport, we did have quite a hike to our gate to leave for Costa Rica. We were very relaxed, however, taking time to enjoy a huge lunch of pizza and Chinese food and to check out many of the stores along the way. When we finally arrived at our gate, most of the plane had already boarded, so we went straight to the boarding lane and hopped on the plane. My seat was separate from Christine and Leslie, and I instead sat next to a couple from Costa Rica, and we chatted for a bit about my upcoming trip before I continued reading on my iPad (a children’s book in Spanish, Jaime y el melocotón gigante). I was actually asleep when the flight attendants passed out all of the customs forms, but luckily I was familiar with the process and didn’t have many questions.

Once we landed in San José, Leslie, Christine, and I went through customs. My customs agent didn’t smile or talk to me whatsoever, which was a bit interesting but wasn’t too disconcerting. Finally, we scanned our bags one more time, finished checking in to the country, and walked right out of the airport. It was surprising how incredibly easy, efficient, and simple it was. Outside of the airport, we found our driver Don Fernando (as well as many somewhat-aggressive taxi drivers), who magically fit all of our luggage in his small Corolla and drove us all to our respective host families. Fortunately, all of our houses are quite close, so we can walk to our classes together every day!

On both legs of the trip, I knew to use specific ear plugs, called Earplanes, to prevent any pressure buildup in my ears. I had unfortunately learned that the hard way when I studied abroad in Peru; during the first three days of my stay in Cuzco, my ears were so stuffed that I could hardly understand anything, which made it even more difficult to understand my host family’s Spanish. Fortunately, I was able to avoid this problem during our journey to Costa Rica, which made for a very easy introduction to my wonderful host family.

Miss Gilman has Returned to Costa Rica!

It was a whirlwind adventure getting to Costa Rica on Monday. I went to an amazing wedding in North Carolina from Friday until Sunday and it was a late night getting everything packed just the way I wanted before heading to the airport at 4am. Once I ran into Christine at the check in, it all started to become a reality. Christine, Caroline, and I were headed to Costa Rica! WOW!

I think it’s safe to say that we were all a little uncomfortable with the ambiguity of out teaching internships, we were pretty sure that we were all going to be in different places, but hadn’t confirmed the details yet. Even in the US, the interns were pretty spread out amongst different schools and grade levels. There were two other interns with me at Carver, but I so rarely saw them because every classroom and grade level seems to have their own bubble and schedule that rarely collides with the rest of the school. The comfort was that we could always venture to the other side of the school or meet up at our seminar class to share experiences. The three and a half weeks of our internship in Costa Rica seems to be much more isolated.

Each of us were prepared with intentionally packed suitcases, open-minds, and contagious enthusiasm for the adventures that await us! I was proud of my packing skills, especially in such a short amount of time. I managed to bring clothes for hiking, cool evenings, beach/swim attire, a comfortable and casual style for attending classes, and professional dress for teaching in a humid (yet conservative) climate. On top of clothes, bug spray, sunscreen, and lots of other necessities, there were the host family gifts and teaching donations/materials. I am pretty sure that my entire 30 pound duffel bag consisted of candy, games, books, paper, markers, playdough, and other materials I am planning on leaving there. Just like any Elementary school teacher, every giant bag had it’s pre-planned purpose for educational fun! :)

Amongst our mental checklists and excited chatting, we were actually getting closer and closer to our destination. We were lucky that both of our flights, to Miami and San Jose, were right on time. We filled out the paperwork for customs and arrival to the country on our second flight. It’s always interesting deciding how to fill those forms out… how much is my computer worth? Did I bring anything of immense monetary value? Do I need to write down the candy and presents? So many questions remain unanswered in this process of “claiming” materials in customs. I haven’t had any problems with this yet, but I want it to stay that way! These thoughts all faded as we hit a little turbulance through the windy, mountainous landing on our second plane ride. Although I actually left Costa Rica from Liberia (another airport) I remember exactly how I felt… there hadn’t been enough time, I was only just getting started, and I remember making a promise to myself that I would do whatever it took to come back… And as we landed, this became the truth.

When we got off the plane, the change in climate was just so relaxing. The warm humid air was a great welcome to the tropical Costa Rica. First we waited in line to get our Passports stamped and turn in our first form. It’s always stressful to have this conversation, just like like being at the DMV or MVA, smiles are hard to come by. Luckily for me, I remembered to say “turismo” instead of the complicated explanation of being a student and teaching and not making money, but hoping to work there one day… it’s much easier to say that I’m a tourist. Of course, I know that I’m much more than a tourist on this journey. My purpose is to learn, grow, and further hone my craft as both a teacher and a lifelong learner. The simplicity of saying “turismo” was just something I learned from my first visit. Thankfully, there were no problems through the passport stamping process. Then we got our checked bags and went through customs. To do this, we waited in a line, handed them our form, and put all of our bags (including carry on items) through a scanner. Then we walked outside of the airport and found Don Fernando with an ICADS sign and our names on it. He magically fit our suitcases into his taxi and then we were off! The city of San Jose is about an hour from the airport, so we quickly tried to call the parents and check in. Then it was off to our host families for our first night in Costa Rica!! :) Pura Vida!!!

Estamos aqui! (en Costa Rica)

Write a one page description of your travel experiences to get to the country.

Its Christine, here!  My first blog post is about getting to the country.  I haven’t flown a ton in the past–so every flight feels like a big adventure to me.  I have had some bad experiences, so planes usually make me nervous.  The flights here were in general not too bad.  Everything proceeded as expected.  It was fun presenting my passport to various staff members.  When we boarded our first flight to Miami, I couldn’t believe how excited I was!  I thought I would be more sad, but I was just super excited.  I am so glad Leslie, Caroline, and I could all go on the same flight.  And we got to sit together in the same row on the first plane.  It was a long flight to Miami.  I have motion sickness, so my head and stomach did not really appreciate the 6 hours on a plane, but that’s okay.  The flights were both pretty uneventful.  However, when we got to Miami, I realized I left my connecting boarding pass on the plane!  (typical Christine losing/forgetting everything!) So after some tears, I found out they could easily reprint it, and I still got to go to Costa Rica.  Yay! On the second plane we had to fill out a couple of forms for entry, so that was new.  When we got off the plane, we got to go through customs which was interesting.  And then suddenly—I was completely immersed in a Spanish speaking world!  Wow!!  The ICADS person picked us up, and then we had to take a long car ride to our host families.  It was very warm, and I was listening to lots of Spanish!  When we got to my new house, I was a little scared of leaving my companions, Leslie and Caroline.  However, I have managed!  My new family seems very nice!  Its very overwhelming that they only speak Spanish to me, but just a huge learning experience.

Living Situations and School Notes… (Day 3)

I already described my living situation at length in my last blog post. Although my house at school has gotten me used to living without many of the luxuries of life at times (i.e. heat), there is still nothing like being able to cook your own meals. Unfortunately, the Dom Vic does not have that accommodation. Despite the fact that the Slovenia trip appeared to be the cheapest on paper, the food costs of this trip are going to be brutal, considering the amount of Euros that will be spent eating out. However, eating out does seem to be the norm around here, so I guess it’s another cultural adjustment.

We also met the head honcho of the international department of the Danila Kumar School. She led us around on a tour, and explains the school’s philosophy, which is a philosophy that is increasing in social studies for America with the implementation of the CCSS standards. The Danila Kumar functions on the idea of inquiry, or the teacher more as the facilitator or guide rather than the source of knowledge. I do like inquiry and discovery learning, though I don’t believe it is the method that is best used for every important lesson in social studies. While deep, critical thinking is important, background knowledge is often important to engage in critical thinking. Therefore, sometimes a teacher must inevitably build background to promote deeper understanding of concepts that will be studied. One very positive attribute of the Slovenian education system though: the lack of concern for standardized testing. Authentic assessment is preferable to standardized testing at Danila Kumar.

I met my mentor teacher day, Klemen. I do not know his last name, but I believe we will get along quite well. He is a highly energetic young man, who’s age is probably not far off from my own. Another weird observation I have in regard to Danila Kumar is the difference in what can be considered “work attire.” Teachers can come in dressed essentially however they want, which perhaps contributes to the more relaxed, less stringent feel within the school. However, I would not necessarily suggest that America adopt this style; many teacher’s professionalism comes under fire enough as it is. I will observe Klemen this week, and then begin teaching next week (although I need to get my bearings on what exactly I am teaching.

After school, I explored Lljubljana’s city streets some more (I started yesterday). Although I have a negative view of cities overall, Lljubljana has changed my opinion somewhat. It is far and away the most relaxed, least scary city I have ever been in. While I certainly love America and most of the ideals I believe it stands for, the country’s citizens have a few more things to learn about respect and reciprocity with one another. I am hoping Lljubljana continues to help swing my opinion more favorably toward cities during this transformative time.

While I will not profess to love this country more than my nation of birth, I cannot deny that I love it already. I am hopeful to continue enjoying my time in Slovenia and get started on working in the classroom.

Post 3: Write a one page description of your living situation within the country and the differences between life in Maryland and life in the country you are visiting.

So…my living condition.

Well…It’s decent. It’s livable. And I’m alive!

The dorm (it’s more of a dorm than a hostel) is decent. It’s not incredible, but given the price cut that we are given, and the service we receive, it is worth it. The main guy here (whom we will call George) is exceptional. He is willing to do anything for you, as long as you’re respectful and polite. Actually, the whole staff is phenomenal. The food is good. Cheap, but good. Breakfast options today were: cereal, milk, tea, juice, ham/swiss sandwich, and rolls/butter–I haven’t had a chance to try anything else yet. Riding the bus isn’t a big deal. in fact, I enjoy it. Today, for instance, I met a woman and had a 15 minute conversation about traveling, America, school, and life in general. It was really nice. I suppose I should interject here and say that most people here are nice, especially if you attempt to be respectful and use their language.

As for comparing this to Maryland….Well..my house in Maryland is decrepit and should not be allowed to be lived in. The heating oil constantly runs out. However, the placement right on the water is kind of hard to beat. The people in St. Mary’s are generally nice, but there are the few “eh” people down there. I would say that I miss my car, but I don’t. I would say that I miss the food, but I don’t. I would say that I think America is the best thing since sliced bread, but I don’t. So, as for living conditions, I’d say I’m okay with this.

I would, however, suggest that the next group of students that come here bring their own TP on the plane, and then buy more when you get here. And that’s all I have to say about that.

Blog Post #2 (Posted on behalf of Shelby Mullennix)

The hardest part of traveling to Slovenia was the goodbye at the airport. Every time I travel, I inevitably have a moment of hesitation just before I commit to leaving my family behind. The baggage check and security check at Dulles were easy and quick—I even made friends with a TSA agent and a cutie in line heading home to LA. Of course, I went through the line that does not require shoe removal and my boots went off in the scanner anyway.

The flight was a seven hour piece of cake. I had the window seat and was surrounded by all the other interns so it was perfect. The flight attendants on the flight to Frankfurt were friendly and pretty pushy with the wine, which was fine. There bathrooms were out of commission for a while in the middle of the flight and an attendant came over the speaker and asked for any passenger who was a doctor to identify themselves and help another passenger. I still don’t know what happened, but that seems like something that usually happens in movies. I hope the rest of the trip is movie-worthy.

There was only one hour scheduled between the landing of the first flight and the transfer flight in Frankfurt, Germany. Luckily, the flight to Frankfurt landed early so we were able to run through customs and security and find out gate. That last bit turned out to be a small obstacle since most of us had different gates on our pre-printed boarding passes. No one wanted to follow anyone else so most we kind of split into two groups. We found a board with the gate assignments and it turned out that no one was right the first time. We just barely caught the last shuttle to the little Adria plane that would take us to Ljuljana.

The flight to Ljubljana was a much different experience. The seats were much roomier and more comfortable and there was no little television in the headrest. I don’t think I would have even watched it had it been there since half the flight was over the Alps and my eyes were glued to the window.  After only an hour and a half, we finally landed in Slovenia. There was a man from the cooperating travel company waiting for us at the airport with our names on a sign. I literally never thought that would happen to me—also another thing I only see in movies.

The van ride to Djaski Dom Vic was less than an hour and perfectly scenic. The snowy Alps casually rolled by in the skyline along the road and it was great. Except for leaving my laptop in the security check bin and having to sprint back to get it, the trip was fairly painless, even enjoyable.

Come Back, Be Here (posted on behalf of Shea Rust)

Getting over to Slovenia was easier than I thought that it would have been, thank goodness! I got to Dulles around 4:00 pm for our 6:10 flight. Getting through security was a breeze, and then I just spent about 15 minutes waiting to board. I’m not the best flyer in the world; not only do I worry about plane crashes but I also get quite motion sick. So I really wasn’t too happy about our 8 hour flight to Frankfurt International Airport. However, I was much happier about the outcome than I thought that I would be! I didn’t get too sick and my worries disappeared after take-off (as they usually do). And I got to watch The Hunger Games: Catching Fire which was just excellent, as usual. I sat next to Tory and Shelby during the flight and about 5 minutes in we realized that we each brought Winter’s Tale to read! It was pretty magical.

After a couple cups of wine (the stewardess forced one on me) the plane ride was finally over! We had about 45 minutes to catch our connecting flight from Frankfurt to Ljubljana. It seemed to be going alright but then 6 of the 7 of us got man (or woman) handled in security. Reaching 2nd base with the TSA agent was something I don’t think I’ll ever be able to forget. Now I feel even more for the people I see getting pulled aside during security! I feel ya. We finally got to our gate and after Tory asked to use the restroom before boarding and the airport lady said, “No bathroom if you want to catch your flight” we jumped onto a bus to transfer us to our airplane.

During the flight to Slovenia I napped most of the time, until Shelby poked me in the arm and pointed to the window. Outside were snow-covered mountain peaks peeking out of the clouds-The Alps. It was so beautiful and made me feel like we were entering a very magical land-one straight out of the fairy tales!

We got our bags and found our driver all very quickly and pain-free which was a very nice feeling after being so out-of-it ourselves, I’m glad our bags weren’t at least! Driving through Slovenia to Ljubljana (the Capitol city) was beautiful. Again, straight out of a fairy tale! Now I know why so many Fantasy novels and books come out of Europe; gorgeous, gorgeous vistas. We arrived at our hostel and were assigned rooms (again nice and stress free, we’ve been lucky) and took some well-deserved showers!

Can’t wait to see what the next 5 or so weeks have in store! Below is the view from our hostel, Djaska Dom Vic.



The Alps

Tory Davis: Meeting the Magic

Getting to the airport was a terror. Traffic was crazy and the drivers were aggressive, but my mom (with a few deep breathes and panicked moments) delivered me to Dulles unscathed. The St. Mary’s crew and I boarded the plane and with a hop, skip, and a take-off we were in the air leaving America to look like a tiny model country.

Our plane was about to take off! :)

After 8 hours of restless napping, eating, reading, and watching movies, we landed in Frankfurt for our flight transfer. 

We were prepared to rush to make our next flight–we had an hour to exit our current plane, go through customs, complete an inspection, and board our next flight. However, the bus that took us from our plane to Terminal B took forever, so we were feeling the pressure.

Customs was a snap. We were in-and-out with no issues, but alas, inspections was where things got a little “friendly”.

We all seemed to have some type of issue passing through inspections. All of us got pulled aside and separately frisked. I passed through the metal detector and the alarm went off. The woman told me to take off my boots and try again…it went off again. She had me stand on a special mat and frisked me in front of everyone while running a metal scanner over me. She discovered that what was setting off the alarm was my belly button ring, but she discovered this by lifting up my shirt halfway and touching it with her hand…so that was an interesting experience.

We ran to the plane, but discovered that we had time to spare. We all got comfortable, and I was sitting next to an elderly German man. I asked him if he was born in Germany, and he said yes, but then he asked me if I was Slovenian. I know it’s probably not something to brag about, but I was so proud that I looked like I belonged. The man allowed me to lean over and peak out his window when we were approaching Slovenia, and I was speechless…a real feat.

The mountains rose to meet us with snowy peaks for hats. The clouds hung suspended by invisible strings above The Alps. Scattered villages decorated the green grid below, and sunshine filtered in through the window (no more Maryland weather for us!). I felt as if I was entering a fairy tale; the magic of Slovenia was already rubbing off on me, and we hadn’t even landed yet.

 The Alps