Tuesday, January 18, 2011

¡Feliz Cumpleaños!

Yesterday when I got home, a birthday party for José Pablo (turning 2) was in full swing. His brother & sister, cousins, neighbor kids and some of their parents were sitting on our newly (mostly) finished back patio, listening to music, eating arroz con pollo, and watching the toddler of the hour dance. He was kind enough to dance with me when I arrived until a plate of food was prepared for me. Once everyone had eaten, it was time for the piñata. Starting with José Pablo and then passing on from younger to older kids an effigy of Sponge Bob Squarepants was beaten with a broomstick. As the kids got older and the beating more brutal and the shouts of "¡Dura! ¡Dura!" got louder and louder, SBSp's giant smile seemed more and more inappropriate and the exercise verged on the macabre. Finally, José Pablo's dad decided the frenzy had gone on long enough and ripped open the back of the piñata, spilling from its guts a shower of hard candies and peanuts in the shell. The kids scooped goodies into little sacks with impressive speed and when they were finished, it was time for cake. A fine time was had by all and I even got a few candies to take home.

Much love and gratitude to my landfamily for including me in the celebration and once again filling me with food.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Worst Sentence Ever (so far)

"Challenges to development are multiplying, often in dialectical relation to the fragmentary attempts at control inherent in post-Fordist regimes of representation and accumulation." Arturo Escobar, from Encountering Development: The Making and Unmaking of the Third World.

A semester later and Escobar still stands out to me as the worst perpetrator of offenses against clarity in academia. This particular sentence was where I drew the line and chose to stop enabling bad writing. Why on earth do I need to hack my way through the obfuscations of a writer who clearly doesn't care about being understood? This is what I love about being a student as a grown up- having a sense of perspective that allows me to choose not to finish a reading assignment. If you can't hold the attention of a willing and gifted reader such as myself, you clearly don't deserve that attention.

This post in honor of my return to reading assignments. I'm halfway through the reading for tomorrow's first day of class (Curricular Design for Peace and Conflict Studies) and Escobar remains the man to beat.

Thursday, January 6, 2011


The thing is, I'm a cat person. I'm so much a cat person I probably have that cat parasite disease that some suspect is the cause of people really, really liking cats.

Costa Rica, however, is for dog people. People who like small, constantly barking, entirely undisciplined dogs. Most of the dogs I see have no collars and apart from having a tendency to sleep in the same patch of the middle of road don't necessarily seem to belong somewhere. I've been told that my street is somewhat of an anomaly but I've seen plenty of dogs wandering the other streets of CC too. There are also many strays(?), wanderers(?), out for a stroll(?) dogs up at school. They mostly like to hang out on the cafeteria patio, for obvious reasons but there's one in particular (we're told his name is Jorge) who also enjoys attempting to come to class. I think Victor Valle's is my favorite professor response so far. He looks at Jorge, gestures to the door and says, "It is not time yet for dogs to go to school."

Why, why, why are there so many dogs and why does no one seem to care how much or how loudly or how long they bark? My theory is that they are meant to be cheap burglar alarms and that their owners, if they have them, are willing to put up with a lot of crying wolf! (or person! or car! or thing in the street!) on the off chance that one day they'll cry burglar! But I still don't understand how they stand it, especially when it's that small dog, yippy kind of barking. Many times as I've sat trying to study or lain in bed trying to sleep I've had extremely unQuakerly thoughts of smacking some dog on the snout.

And someone must be doing something like that because I've noticed if some well intentioned (usually American- and yes I mean Canadian too) person sees a dog on campus, picks up and throws a stick for him, instead of falling over itself with rapture and running after the stick the dog will instead run away with its tail between its legs and a submissive look over its shoulder that says, "I'm going, I'm going, you don't have to throw that stick at me."

There are cats here too, and on campus. I just don't see them as often or as many of them, probably because of all the stupid yappy dogs.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

I get asked this a lot

Here's what's funny to me- when I was a stage manager I met a lot of people who didn't know what a stage manager is, what they do, or that such a job even exists. And now when I say I'm studying peace education, a lot of people tell me they don't know what that means or what a peace educator does.

Here's a video from the Teachers Without Borders website (a UPEACE Ed alum works there) that gives a brief overview:

I Got Mail Today!

Ian & Mele, a thousand thanks for your Christmas wishes and the addition to my room decor. I super swear I'm going to stop being a postal hypocrite and send out the postcards I've been accumulating. I just need to learn the word for stamp.

I was able to pick up my mail because I was back on campus for the first time (while it was open) since classes ended. I was meeting w/some folks from DAA to help out with the Orientation for the new students from American University. All of which means I've reached that crucial turning point in a long break when my perception of said break shifts from, "What a long break stretching out before me. There will be time to do everything I want to do in a relaxed and leisurely fashion" to "I can see the end of this break coming at me like a freight train! I have accomplished nothing! Time to buckle down."

Buckling down has commenced. To Do List spreadsheets have been made. The alarm clock has been reinstated. Helpful Post-it note flags have been purchased (Here's what I asked for at the office supply store- a shy person's nightmare where virtually everything is behind the counter and must be requested, in Spanish- "the small things with many colors, like a 'Post-it', (gesture showing putting a flag in the margin of a book)"). I apologize for that punctuation.

In further news on the learning Spanish front, traveling w/Rebecca to Monteverde and La Fortuna provided great opportunities to practice. Before I've always traveled with someone who spoke Spanish much better than I do. This time, I was the go-to Spanish speaker. I think we did all right. In the four days we were traveling, only twice did a Spanish speaker give up on me and switch to English. I still struggle mightily, a lot because I want to have my vocabulary, to say things the way I would say them but instead am trapped in the vocabulary of a 5 year old. A five year old with pronoun agreement problems. (Sigh, I just said, "They want to walk" when I meant "We want to walk.")

Monday, January 3, 2011

RIP, Canon Coolpix 2000

(Christmas 2002-December 2010)

I would like to say a few words.
Coolpix 2K was my first digital camera. If memory serves, the first picture I took with it was of my dad, sitting at the desk in my apartment on Glenwood, loading the drivers for my new camera onto my computer. It traveled with me across the US- Maine, NYC, MN, Colorado, Joshua Tree, San Francisco and Seattle to name just a few. It has been to England, Scotland, Burundi and Costa Rica. With it, I have taken photos I deemed worthy of color printing and taping to the walls of tour apartments.

Subject to an indifferent owner, its full potential was never realized; many of its settings including Party Favor and Snowman, were never used and it was often forgotten, left hanging in its case on the closet door handle while Meaningful Events went unrecorded except by memory.

In its final months it suffered the indignity of taunts from other photographers, because in our ever slendering Age of Planned Obsolescence, it was more than 3 years old and did not fit in my pocket. We may never know if the humid climate here in Costa Rica hastened its end or if its time had simply come. Over the last two months there were a few warning signs that all was not well- the occasional striped, pixelated view screen, an error message, a few photos unable to be read after importation. Finally, in the middle of a hanging bridge in the cloud forests of Monteverde, it was used to take it's last photo.

It is survived by a carrying case, four batteries and two memory cards, which may or may not contain retrievable data.

To honor its passing, I post a few of my favorite photos, not previously published on this blog.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Feliz Año Nuevo!

Having just celebrated the New Year Costa Rican style, I wanted to take a moment to say to my friends and family all over the world: Happy New Year! I hope your 2011 is wonderful, adventurous, fulfilling and, of course, peaceful.

I had a splendid evening. I popped in to the party my landlord's family was having in the newly finished barbecue area behind the house and then walked over to Diana's house where she was entertaining her newly arrived friend Trish. On the way I passed dozens of other houses , spilling party lights and sounds out of windows and patios. At Diana's we had homemade sushi and chocolate ice cream and then went for a stroll in time to hear Ciudad Colón wishing each other "Feliz Año Nuevo!" with cheers and fireworks. Some of the house parties moved into the streets to light or watch fireworks and we paused here and there to watch too. It's a lovely, mild and clear evening and it reminded me of walking back to my house after watching the Foster Beach fireworks for the 4th of July, scouting the individual fireworks lit from backyards. I can hear tons of kids are still up and why not? It's the beginning of their 'summer'- no school again until February.

Thinking back on my New Year's declarations from last year, I feel mostly satisfied. I only had three:
  1. Start grad school. Check.
  2. Write a play. I'm giving myself a 1/2 check for this one. I wrote 2 drafts of an adaptation of a play.
  3. Bike 100 miles in a day. 3/5 check- I think 60 miles was the most I managed in a day before leaving for Costa Rica.
For 2011, I'll go w/three again.
  1. Finish grad school.
  2. Get a job. Preferable one that involves peace and education.
  3. Write a play. But this time the one I was actually thinking of when I made declaration #2 last year.
And sure it would be great to reach my 100 mile biking goal and my fluency in Spanish goal and my take a picture of a monkey pretending to be me while I pretend to be a monkey for Griffin goal, but I think focus is helpful.

Love & Peace to all and sundry on this beautiful New Year's Day.