Tourist in My Own Country

Ah, last minute trips. A few weeks ago I was at work thinking I wanted to go somewhere for Spring Break. Unfortunately, I had a few unexpected expenses and whatever plans I had went down the drain. Then one Friday I decided I needed to make this happen and as soon as I got home I booked a plane ticket to Costa Rica.

It was totally against my nature since I usually plan for a while before jumping in, but I knew this was something I needed. A lot of stressful things had been happening at work and I desperately needed a break and a change of scenery. Although I grew up in Costa Rica it had been 18 years since last time I had been there. It was about time I went back.

Whenever anyone asked me where I was from I always said that I had been born in Honduras and raised in Costa Rica. Since I spent my whole childhood in Costa Rica I always claimed it as my country. It’s the country I identified with. However, that all changed during this trip. In a way I had a bit of an identity crisis.

I’m an American citizen but since I was living there when growing up no one ever asked to see my passport and everywhere I went I was a “local”. But now things are different. Things started to sink in when I realized that because I don’t have a Costarican ID there was a big chance that I would be charged as a foreigner and not a local at tourist attractions. Then there was the issue of my accent. I no longer sound like a “Tica” so even if I could get away with not showing ID, the second I opened my mouth to speak someone would know my “secret”. And then there were the many infrastructure changes all around “my” city that happened over the past 18 years. Not only was I considered a tourist, I felt like a tourist.

I had fun, I saw familiar faces and places. I ate foods that brought me back to my childhood. But at the end of the day I realized that I really couldn’t claim Costa Rica as my country any more. I am American like my passport says. I’ve lived here most of my life. Sometimes I have a better handle of English than Spanish. I celebrate American holidays and I’m no longer familiar with a lot of Costa Rican ones.

It hit me hard, to be honest. I actually cried. But I’m, mostly, past it now. Costa Rica is where my parents went to college, it’s where they met during their Senior year, it’s where I spent my childhood and made lifelong friends. I might be more American than Tica now, but Costa Rica will always have a special place in my heart.

January Joy

It has been a while since the last time I wrote a post, life can definitely get in the way but I really want to get back in “journaling”. I thought there was no better way than to do the January Joy challenge. Unfortunately, when I went to the Florence Finds  I found out that she’s taking a break from blogging so there’s no challenge this year! So what to do? Well, go back and do one of her previous January Joy challenges. So, I’m going to be doing the challenge she posted back in 2013. Here it goes! (if you click on the links it’ll take you back to her original posts).

#JANUARYJOY – MAKE SOME RESOLUTIONS
#JANUARYJOY – DRY JANUARY
#JANUARYJOY – PLAN A DATE
#JANUARYJOY – TAKE A WALK
#JANUARYJOY – OVERHAUL YOUR SKINCARE
#JANUARYJOY – TRY SOME NEW MUSIC
#JANUARYJOY – TRY A NEW EXERCISE CLASS
#JANUARYJOY – PLAN A TRIP
#JANUARYJOY – GO TO THE CINEMA
#JANUARYJOY – MANICURE MONDAY
#JANUARYJOY – READ A NEW BOOK
#JANUARYJOY – MAKE A BUDGET OR SAVINGS PLAN.
#JANUARYJOY – HAVE A GOOD HAIR DAY
#JANUARYJOY – FAMILY PLANNING
#JANUARYJOY – TRY A VEGGIE DAY
#JANUARYJOY – MAKE SOMETHING CRAFTY
#JANUARYJOY – MAKE SOME MEMORIES
#JANUARYJOY – HAVE A CLEAR OUT
#JANUARYJOY – DO SOMETHING/GO SOMEWHERE YOU HAVE NEVER BEEN BEFORE
#JANUARYJOY – YOUR DAILY BREAD
#JANUARYJOY – HOME SPA
#JANUARYJOY – MAKE SOMETHING NAUGHTY [TO EAT]
#JANUARYJOY – REFLECT

Volcanoes, and convents, and Mayans… OH MY!

Last summer on my way to Holland I was offered a ticket voucher by my airline to give up my seat and fly out later on. Said voucher was due to expire this month… and so was my passport! What is a girl in that situation to do? BOOK A TRIP OF COURSE!

I hadn’t planned on going anywhere this summer. I was just going to finish up summer camp and spend the rest of my vacation at home. But I didn’t want my passport to expire without one more stamp or for my voucher to go to waste so I decided to go to Guatemala. Although my uncle and his family have been living there for 21 years I had never been there and I figured it would be a nice place to visit. Not to mention, Mayan ruins! I’m usually the type to plan abroad trips for some time and have a good idea of what’s going to happen. Case in point, Holland; it took me years to plan and save for it. But it was just a matter of days between deciding I was going on vacation, deciding on Guatemala and then buying the ticket.

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Agua Volcano in Antigua Guatemala

I started to panic a little bit after buying the ticket because some countries don’t allow you to enter if your passport has less then 6 months left before expiring, and mine had less than a month left! Luckily I checked the US Department of State website and I was assured that Guatemala only required my passport to be valid during the duration of my trip. I had already planned on coming back a few days before my passport’s expiration date so I was good to go! I was still nervous though, what if they gave me trouble at the airport? I had so many “what ifs?”. And to be completely honest I was also a little nervous about traveling to a third world country with an American passport. After being there for two weeks I realized my fears were biased, I felt completely safe there.

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Santa Catalina Arch

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This used to be the center of power for all of Central America during Spaniard rule

I had wanted my arrival to be a surprise to most of the family there. However, once my uncle found out about it he wanted to make it a family thing and told everyone. They live about 8 hours away from Guatemala City (the capital) where the airport is and made a trip out of it. It was definitely a great feeling to walk out of the airport and see my uncle, aunt, cousins and their kids waiting for me! Last time I had seen most of them was 3 years ago. My cousins and I have such a great relationship and I miss them greatly.

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It takes them about 6 months of weaving to complete each project

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Had the privilege of having a Mayan woman dress me up in traditional clothing.

One of the advantages of visiting a place where you have family is that they know exactly where to take you in order for you to truly enjoy your stay. Our first stop was Antigua Guatemala, 45 minutes away from the now capital city of the country Guatemala City. My uncle hired a tour guide and for the next two hours we taken back in time to an age where the Spaniards ruled and the Capuchin nuns were some serious business! On Sunday we headed to where they live and stopped by Rio Dulce for some fresh fish by the river! YUM!

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The next few days I spent them at their house relaxing and detoxing my lungs with the super clear mountain air. Nights were interesting since I couldn’t hear a single sound related with civilization! It was crickets and bugs all night long! Our next outing was to Tikal National Park to see some Mayan ruins. It was by far my favorite day of doing touristy things! I got to see some temples, cities, and lots of incredible things. This trip made me have a new respect for that culture.

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Gran Jaguar and Plaza Central

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Temple IV

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View from top of Temple IV

This was a last minute trip, and a bit risky considering how close I was cutting it with my return date and my passport expiring. But I can honestly say that it has been the best trip I’ve taken in a long time. It was so good to spend time with family I don’t get to see often. We had lots of laughs, ate tons of yummy food and I came back totally rested. By the time my trip in Holland came to an end I was more than ready to come back home. I can honestly say I cried when my aunt and uncle were driving me to the airport, two weeks with them was not enough.

Once I started working I made the decision to visit a different place every year. But I have a feeling Guatemala might see a repeat sooner rather than later!

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Sunset at Isla de Flores

Lessons Learned

It has been a while since last time I wrote a post. It has been that type of year… It’s crazy to think that the school year (and summer camp) is over. I have to admit that at some point I didn’t think I would ever see the light at the end of the tunnel. There were some really hard times that left me wondering if given the option I would renew my contract for next year. There was also a point where I wondered if me having that option would actually BE an option! Hard times indeed. But I’m glad I stuck with it because along the way I learned (or was reminded) a lot of lessons and became (I hope) a better teacher and person.

What are those lessons? Well, I’m glad you asked! Here they are:

  1. Working with children all day every day can be hard, but working with the adults attached to the children (teachers, parents, etc) can prove to be harder. There are five of us in a team. Each with our own personalities and views on how to do things. However, no matter how hard it is you *have* to find that common ground… after all, we have to put our egos aside in order to do what’s best for the children.
  2. Nothing you do goes unnoticed. Whether is the children, your team members, administration, parents, or other teachers, someone is always watching. Even if you think no one is noticing how hard you’re working, or the sacrifices you’re making, or even the tough times you’re having, someone knows… someone is noticing. Do your best, always. And just as they’re noticing the good, they’re also noticing the bad.
  3. Bounce back like a child. They are so forgiving, and non-judgmental. When they forgive, they forget. If they fall they get back up. If they can’t figure something out they keep trying till they do. They see the world with awe and wonder.
  4. Never give up. It took me two years to finally get an interview at this school. Two years of getting rejection emails and phone calls. And like I mentioned at the beginning of the post, there were some rocky moments along the way. But I have the first year and summer under my belt now (with renewed contracts for both!) and I can honestly say I’m glad I didn’t give up. This is where I belong. When you set your mind and heart to something don’t let anything distract you from where you want to be!

Happiness and Spring

It’s been so long, sooo long since last time I wrote a post. It hasn’t been because of a lack of things to write about, or because I didn’t have the time. I just never took the time to actually sit down and write down what was on my mind. But considering that today is the first day of Spring AND it’s also International Happiness Day I figured today would be a good time to come back to my blog.

Happiness and Spring… It feels as if I’ve been waiting for both for a long time now. How different things are this Spring (even though it just started) than they were last. Around this time last year I was feeling pretty unhappy with my life and circumstances. I was also still pretty convinced I wanted to leave New York and move to the Netherlands. I had been back in New York for a few years already and I still didn’t feel at home here, I greatly disliked almost everything this city had to offer. I hated the long commute to my Sub-Teaching job. I hated how crowded NYC is. I hated that I didn’t really have friends. I hated that I felt as if my personal life and professional life were going nowhere. I think that’s why I romanticized Holland so much. The idea of a personal and professional “Spring”. The beginning of something new. The prospect of happiness.

Then Summer came and things changed. I got a job at the school I had been trying to get in for years. And it was perfect fit for me in every sense of the word. I now had friends, I didn’t mind the “long” commute because I enjoyed my job, and for the first time in a while I felt like my professional life was finally on track. We’re now on Spring Break and once we go back to school we’ll only have a couple of months left till the end of the school year.

It has been a great year and I can honestly say I no longer feel the need to leave New York. Sure, there are things I still don’t like about “The Big Apple”, but I’ve finally found my place and purpose here. I am happy. I’m ready for Spring.

Awards!

The lovely Amanda from Poppies and Ice-Cream has nominated me for the Liesbter blog award! I’ve always liked these awards and have a lot of fun answering the questions, so here it goes:

1. If you could live anywhere in the World, where would that be?

Somewhere tropical. These past couple of weeks have been horrible weather-wise with so much snow, coldness and rain. I *really* don’t like the cold, it makes my whole body hurt.

2. Have you ever felt any city in the world pull you, even though you did not know it before or had any ties with said city before?

For a long time I felt a very strong pull to Amsterdam for some reason. Luckily when I visited I felt right at home, I guess because I’m used to the “big city” feel and being surrounded by lots of people. The fact that it has so much water it made it better. Back then I used to think I could move there in a heart beat, but I’m not so sure anymore. Perhaps I have to do a redo of the trip.

3. Which is your favourite book or author?

Dan Brown. I also liked the Hunger Games series.

4. Do you have a pet?

Not yet. I want to get a Red Labradoodle or a Portuguese Water Dog

5. What would be an ideal day for you? What would you do on such a day?

A sunny day, not too hot… brunch with good company, an interesting book

6. What do you do? Study? Work? Raise pandas?

I’m a pre-school teacher at a language immersion school

7. Tell me where you ate the best ice-cream in your life.

I’m actually not a huge ice cream fan. I eat it very sporadically. I *really* like Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia and a long time ago I used to go banana’s over Breyers Peach ice cream!

8. What is your favourite museum (or sight)?

Although it’s not a museum I’m going to go with the New York Aquarium

9. What has been your favourite trip / place you have ever visited?

Palau

10. What is your favourite animal?

Sea turtles and red pandas

11. Just for fun, if  you could choose your looks, what would you look like? ( I would love to have emerald eyes and orange hair).

Blue eyes and a shapelier butt

I now nominate Kaitlin from A Georgia Peach Abroad, Mik from Miks Musings, Sakei from Sakizzle, Sheryl from Unexpected Moments, and Eleny from The Adventures of a New Yorker in Palau. (Once nominated, if you choose to participate link back to this post, answer the questions I’m posting next, nominate some blogs and write questions for them to answer🙂 )

1. If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would it be?

2. Are there any languages you wish you spoke?

3. Best meal you’ve eaten in your life?

4. Where do you want to be in five years?

5. What is the most embarrassing thing you’re willing to admit?

6. What is your favorite color? Is there a reason for that?

7. What is your favorite movie?

8. What is your guilty pleasure?

9. Tea or coffee?

10. Do you like candles? What’s your favorite scent?

11. What is your favorite type of exercise?