Saturday, April 9, 2011

Once Again Legal

Red Frog Beach, Panama
Wow, so much has happened since our last blog! Life has definitely been exciting for us the last couple of weeks with several changes and new experiences under our belts.

Biggest event? We moved to Cahuita! We LOVE our new place. It truly feels like home, something we haven’t had in awhile, and it holds the record of the biggest place we lived in since being married. Bonus: It’s all on one floor and we have a couch! We’re clearly moving up in the world… :)

Our new home!
So a little about our place: It’s a bungalow in the jungle that our landlord, Sebastian, built after building his own home when he moved here with his family from Canada. It’s only about 1 ½ years old and constructed with beautiful wood. When we saw the place and the surroundings of God’s beautiful rainforest, we eventually decided that it was the place for us, despite the fact that it adds about an hour commute to school each way. Contrary to when we were in the States, time is something we have here. So, a week later we’re adjusting to the monkey’s echoing and quite terrifying howling at about 4am and our pet gecko that chirps from somewhere in the rafters.
The stillness of this place is so rejuvenating and the sound of the rain on our tin roof lulls us to sleep. Yes, we are so pleased with our new home.
Our lovely deck
Technicalities. It hardly seems like 3 months have gone by since we’ve been in Costa Rica, but we have another 90-day visa after spending a weekend on the island of Bocas del Toro, Panama. The trip there began with a 2-hour bus ride to the border town of Sixaola. Once there, we went through customs in Costa Rica and walked across the border river on a super sketch, wood-plank bridge with many dangerous gaps.
Treacherous Bridge

On the other side we went through customs in Panama, which involved paying ridiculous tourism taxes and buying proof that we were leaving soon, and squishing into a crammed van. We were then transferred to a speed boat for the 30-min ride to get to the islands. It was there that I snorkeled for the first time and saw the world Christopher loves so much. He enjoyed educating me on all of the fish and coral I was seeing, and we even saw a lobster! If we’d had a net, we would’ve taken him home with us for dinner.

While it was the prettiest water I’d ever seen, we were thankful to leave the stifling hot room that we rented for $15 without A/C ($25 with A/C) and the high tourist prices. We had to repeat the above process to then leave Panama and re-enter Costa Rica. All that to say, at least we have more stamps in our passports!

Mobile. We’re now the proud owners of 2 mountain bikes! I say proud because it was quite the feat getting the bikes from Limon to Cahuita AND because I’m so proud that Chris handled it all in Spanish while I was off tutoring. He’s learned so much! One of the few ways to transport things here is by bus and only a few have space beneath to haul items as large as bikes. After talking with a nice security guard at the bus station and the unwilling bus driver, Chris managed to successfully load the bikes into the back seats…all it took was a quick slip of 2 mil ($4) to the bus driver and presto, more willing!

Also, along the lines of being mobile we were searching for a more economical way to get to and from Limon 3 days a week. The bus is relatively cheap, but it adds up after 8 months. So, our friend Roy connected us with a van that takes students from Puerto Viejo and Cahuita up to Limon for school everyday and had 2 empty seats. Since he goes that way already, we were able to settle on a price that was a little cheaper than the bus. However, after the first day he said he’d been thinking more and wanted to charge us more, about the same as the bus fare. We believed that he was trying to milk us (not literally Chris adds), which is a common attempt towards “rich” Americans, so on principal we called and told him that we were going to take the bus after all, unless he’d honor the price we originally agreed on. He quickly decided that he’d still take us even though he would be “losing money.” Most of the people we’ve met have been kind and helpful, but there are definitely those who see us as dollar signs. Which, as you all know, is quite far from the truth in our current state. :)

Teaching. Most recently Chris has done some experiments with the 6th graders, including making sugar crystals from super-saturated sugar water and tin-can telephones to teach the nature of sound as vibrations. He’s also taught the 2nd graders about amphibians and reptiles by replicating scaly skin and proving the worth of camouflage by tossing colored noodles into the grass. They refer to Thursdays as the “fun day” because that’s when Mr. Savage teaches science. In English class they’ve been learning food vocab, many of the fruits and other typical dishes, and using more sentences. “I like…apples/I don’t like…watermelon.” I’ve found that using sentences gets them speaking more so that’s been a productive approach. Also, when they use English in class they receive points, and at the end of the week I give out an English award (including suckers of course). They’re so competitive that they’re always super eager to answer questions or offer responses just to have the most points for the day. At least it’s a great motivator!

I’ve also begun tutoring a 6-year old in reading. She’s the granddaughter of a woman who attends the New Hope Baptist Church in Limon, and it’s been fun to have yet another experience connected to the field of teaching.

New Hobbies. Chris has discovered a love of gardening (yes Jeff, be proud). We decided that since we’ll be here for a while, we might as well try to grow some of the produce that we readily consume, and hopefully even save some money. We’ll see how the seeds survive after the constant rain the last 2 days. Also, we don’t have easy access to a washing machine, so I did my first load of wash by hand and in the sink, which is not exactly what I would call a hobby, but a new experience for sure. I now understand the advice to avoid wearing jeans…it’s likely they’ll take all week to dry at the rate things are going on the deck.

Internet. Unfortunately we no longer have unlimited internet access. We’ve only had access once this past week, so that’s why we haven’t responded to messages and haven’t been able to talk on Skype. Please know that we love you all and we wish we could communicate more, but since the move it’s been a little trickier and we’re working on figuring something out.

Other random tidbits:
* It’s been steadily raining all night and morning…we may be welcoming the rainy season!
* We’ve moved on to powdered milk. No more warm, spoiling stuff sold in the stores for us.
* We’ve actually been “cold” several times and for the first time since moving to the Caribbean, we slept with a light blanket in addition to our sheet. This is clearly a sign of adjusting.
Bedroom-Note the blanket?

* Fans are super expensive here. Go figure, as they’re a definite necessity.
* Just as I got used to cooking solely with a rice cooker and electric griddle in Limon, we now have 4 burners, a toaster, no rice cooker, and no microwave.
Kitchen view

* People use the busses to preach or sell things and as the passengers can’t exactly go anywhere, they’re guaranteed a decent-sized audience.

My view from the sink- See Chris' cacao seeds
fermenting on the clothes line?
* Going without an oven makes you do pretty desperate things. For example, last night I made cookie dough (without chocolate chips as I haven’t seen any in months) and we tried cooking them on the stove…The few we tried ended up somewhere between a pancake and a pretty tasty cookie!

* We will never have to buy bananas as long as we are here because there are tons of un-owned banana trees around us with hundreds of bananas on each, so all we have to do is cut down the tree. They are quite delicious!

* If we ever master chocolate making, we’ll be able to rival the Wonka chocolate factory in production with how many cacao trees there are out here.

Thanks so much to those of you who continue to support us and for all who are praying for us. We are encouraged to know there are so many who care about us and keep up with us via the blog.

Dios te bendiga!