Does anyone remember that PSA for drug awareness where the narrator would say “this is your brain” as he holds up an egg? Then, as he cracks it into a frying pan, he says “this is your brain on drugs.” Well, this was my brain after Thursday’s class on indirect pronouns in Spanish grammar. I really thought I was understanding the teacher until I started doing the homework and realized I was completely off. I wasn’t the only one struggling and our teacher told us later that it is the hardest topic she teaches in our level. Between figuring out grammar homework and having an exam in language class on Friday, you can imagine my brain was pretty much spent once I left school in the afternoon. Since I really needed a break, I was happy that I had an R&R day planned for Saturday! Kathy and I got up at 5:30am to catch an early bus to a little beach town called Jaco on the Pacific side of Costa Rica. We met up with friends from school (Kayla, Mandy & Jared) who had traveled to Jaco the night before and we hung out for the day with them before all returning to San Jose in the evening. We spent the afternoon in the water – swimming, surfing and playing with some cheap inner tubes we picked up in the supermarket. It was fantastic!
Jared, Mandy & Kayla had never surfed before so it was super fun to play on long boards with them. We rented two 9′ boards to share between the 5 of us. Kathy is a seasoned surfer, so she took one board with a student. Although I am not a surfer, I have been on long boards before and knew enough of the basic mechanics to teach on the other board. We kept taking turns and everyone caught on quickly and seemed to really enjoy themselves.
We were beat by the end of the day, but it was the perfect break for me and I am so happy that I went (and now I really want to go back!)
Another cool thing I am doing here in Costa Rica is helping out at the AMCA House on Wednesday evenings. A couple from the US (Chris and Cynthia) have been running an English as a Second Language (ESL) class for the past 11 years. They utilize students from ILE (my school) to help teach ESL classes. Kathy and I are both helpers in different classes. I am working with the “advanced beginners” so they know some English which is helpful for me considering my Spanish is still at a beginner level. I helped out with ESL for a couple months while I was in Guatemala back in 2009 and really enjoyed it. I feel like I am better at it now that I have been taking Spanish because I can relate to the frustrations the students have when struggling to understand a new language structure. I am more careful of the tense (present) that I talk in and the way I form my sentences so it is as easy as possible for the students to follow. I use examples and material from my Spanish classes and just present it in English to make it applicable to students. I am really interested in continuing to help with ESL classes in the States during the times that I am not working abroad, so helping here at AMCA is a great learning experience.
Tickets have been purchased for my next project – Panama, here we come! I will be taking 4 engineering students from Rowan University to drill in Bastimentos (about a 20 min water taxi from Bocas). We will land in Panama City on March 15 and then take an overnight bus ride to get to Bocas on the 16th. From there we will meet our hosts (The Wood family!) and head to their house in Bastimentos. We are going to test the students procession drill as an addition to the EXP-50 drill kit. Our plan is to test it first around the Wood’s property and then to take it into a nearby village to drill a community well. The students have also been building a simple PVC hand pump that will be used to retrieve the water from the borehole. I am really looking forward to this project and hope it is the first of many future projects where I can introduce students to volunteering abroad.
Lastly, a couple fun photos from parks around my neighborhood. I LOVE parks!