Saturday, July 24, 2010

My Girls' Weekend in Jaco!

Me, Kate and Cameron.

Last weekend, I went away on a girls' weekend with my friends Kate and Cameron to Jaco, a local beach town about an hour away from San Jose (well, it's longer on a 'doing the rounds' colectivo bus!). It was my friend Cameron's birthday and she just wanted to get out of the city, but what she didn't know is that we had booked a gorgeous resort to hang out in!

We had a fab weekend at Hotel Club del Mar in Jaco, with it's tropical rooms and pretty pool area. Cameron was just happy to have a comfortable bed and a hot shower, as she has neither in their apartment in San Pedro (on the other side of town)! We didn't do a whole lot. Kate and I got pedicures at the hotel spa whilst Cameron caught up on sleep in the sun. The weather was pretty humid, so we didn't really move from the side of the pool for very long!

On the Saturday, we had dinner at Lemon Zest - a well-known and popular restaurant near the beach in Jaco centre. We had an amazing meal. Hands down, the best food that I've had the whole time that I've been in Costa Rica. I can't even tell you how good it was, partially because I had consumed quite a lot of sangria prior to entering the restaurant, and partially because there are no words. I had duck in a blackberry jus, Cameron had filet mignon on garlic mash and a red wine reduction and Kate opted for Madeira Chicken with roast vegetables. This is our little vegan from Chicago, chowing down on poultry and licking her lips! haha. It's very difficult to be vegetarian in Costa Rica, let alone vegan. Especially when you are staying with a local family, which is where she was during the TEFL course.

At Lemon Zest

On Sunday, we couldn't get a bus back to San Jose until 6.30pm so we were thrilled ot be allowed to hnag out at the hotel until we had to leave. The sun came out for us and we just worked on our tans all day. All in all, a fab end to a fab weekend with two fab girls! I can't wait for the next adventure!

Stef x

PS. I know that Mark hasn't been blogging much and I'm going to get him on
here as soon as possible! It's just that at the moment, we have no internet in
our house and he works very long hours, so he doesn't always want to sit down
and start writing when he walks in!

A place to call home...

Our balcony sunset one evening

It just occurred to me that I haven't given you all a tour of our fabulous new pad here in Costa Rica. We are living in Santa Ana, one of the more exclusive areas of San Jose. It is very americanised, which can be annoying but also quite nice in terms of home comforts in the supermarkets! Obviously, we still can't get baked beans, as said home comforts are from the USA, but I do come across Cadbury's Fruit and Nut every now and then (and have stopped myself buying it each time that I do!).

So, here it is for you:

Our room is here:

Stef x

Friday, July 16, 2010

Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

A few weeks ago, I went to Manuel Antonio, a lovely beach town on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica. I went with a few friends from my TEFL course. We had a 3day weekend, so we took advantage and caught the bus to the beach after class on the Friday, returning on the Sunday. The bus trip takes about 3 hours or 2 if, like me, you neglect to buy a return ticket and have to get some strange car taxi service on its way north from Panama! This is not as dodgy as it sounds, by the way!

The beach was absolutely beautiful, as was Manuel Antonio National Park, which we attempted to hike through, but unfortunately were not appropriately dressed to do so! There are more pictures on my facebook profile to prove this!

We stayed at Backpackers Hostel, a simple place with stunning surroundings for $12 a night. A far cry from my Santa Ana mansion I must admit, but I had a great time! It was like summer camp. We actually stayed up all night whispering and giggling whilst trying not to wake up the other fifteen people in the dorm! And check out the view from the pool area! Costa Rica is beautiful, even though we may not always see this side of it when we're in San Jose! I definitely recommend this place for a cheap place to stay - you won't spend much time there anyway and it's really social if you do! The only drawbacks were a lack of clean sheets and hot water in the hostel and it is a little far from the beach, but it's a very cheap taxi or bus ride down the hill, so not a huge issue.

We managed quite a few cocktails throughout the weekend too - who can resist a mango daiquiri being brought to you whilst sitting in the sun on a tropical beach?!

And Kate and Kara got naughty with a Tico Tiki after a couple of tequilas! Nice ladies!

All in all, a fabulous trip, but I'd love to go back and take the poker boys to show them the real Costa Rica!
Stef xx

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Work hard and play hard: My TEFL course!

The reason that this blog has been so neglected of late is due to the hours involved in my TEFL course. I recently completed a 4week intensive course to get certified to teach English. When I decided to move to Costa Rica with Mark, I knew that I needed something with which I could to fill my days, so completing a TEFL seemed like a good idea. And actually, it was. Not just because I now have another qualification (which we all know means diddly squat in the current economic climate) but because I had so much fun doing it and met some amazing people along the way! They were all Americans (which can be frustrating when learning how to teach people English, but only very slightly. Mainly because Costa Rica is so americanised, so I tend to be the one in the wrong...). I found myself at times saying that I was just 'gonna run to the store' and used the word 'like' about 100 times in a sentence. The day I say "I'm just gonna go ahead and do something..." is the day I give up completely on my British heritage. But anyway, I digress...

Whilst completing the TEFL, I woke up most mornings at around 6.30-7am ( a shock to the system, believe me after a year of doing almost nothing!) and attempted to work out the bus system, which is more confusing than the address system in this country. Buses come often (just not at the times that they say) and cost very little (about 40p). However, I needed 3 buses which would have taken over an hour to complete a 20min drive, had I managed to work out the bus system, which I did not. My first week involved walking aimlessly around downtown San Jose, getting on a circular route bus and ending up exactly where I started and getting on the right bus but in the wrong direction, oh and hanging around with the prostitutes downtown. Remind me to ask which the direction the bus is going in future! Anyone who knows me well knows that I do not do buses, for the reasons mentioned above and so many more! So, when given the option of a bus+taxi every day, I happily took it. However, my bank account did not! Time-wise it was much better as the course hours were pretty long anyway and I had quite a bit of homework in the second half of the course, so the idea of a 2-3hour daily commute time just did not appeal to me.

The course involved the basics from classroom management and lesson planning to hardcore grammar and practical teaching week. This is the week when, after 3 weeks of lessons and beach-going, you are presented with a class looking at you like you know what you're doing. AND the most shocking thing of all is that you actually do! The highlight of my week was a game of Alibi, where students made me cry laughing pretending to be 'detectives' interviewing the 'suspects'. "Hey man! I ask the questions around here, man!" Well, at least they seem to be watching TV in English!

My TEFL classmates were also hilarious, they helped me to celebrate my birthday which fell bang in the middle of the course and we had a great time just hanging out in the classrooms planning and also took a great trip to the beach (More on that later!). We also all got together for the England vs USA game, where we suffered a terrible draw, so they loved that! I did not.

However, I am now a fully qualified (and employed!) English teacher. And my new job is considerably closer than my course was. In fact, I can usually get a lift from somebody to the place to taxi costs have gone down considerably! I'm enjoying teaching. In fact I've just completed extra training to teach little kids, so I'll be the one singing "Put your finger on your nose, on your nose" to the tune of "If you're happy and you know it, clap your hands..." if you are ever passing through Berlitz offices in Santa Ana...! Not the most strenuous job, I'll admit!
Stef x