Teaching is Hard

Published: November 10th 2011
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On the planeOn the planeOn the plane

Happy and excited en route to Costa Rica!
Finally some photos! These pics don't have a whole lot of relevance to this blog post, but they give you a little taste of what we've been up to - enjoy!

Rio Azul - November 8th

Yesterday we woke bright and early (before 5:30!) in order to make it to our school by 7am. Escuela Francisco Gamboa is in a poorer area called Rio Azul (blue river), and we take 3 different buses to get there and it takes about an hour. The bus system here is good, but there is no such thing as transfers! We arrived only a few minutes late (had to wait for 2 of the busses) but it wasn't a problem - Costa Ricans are (we're told) notorious for their tardiness! We met Gabriella (Gabby) the English teacher and introduced ourselves to our first class. The classes are only 40 mintues long and we had 6 of them, with a couple of short breaks in between. There is a "soda" (small convenience store or, sometimes, restaurant) at this school and during breaks the kids crowd around it in a mob to buy freezies, candies, and other goodies.

We are teaching grade 4 and
Chris and GersonChris and GersonChris and Gerson

Enjoying coffee and "relajalo" at the Maximo Nivel office - our home away from our home away from home!
5 students. As it was our first day, we mainly spent our time introducing ourselves to each class and letting them ask us a few questions (to learn more about us as well as practice their English). We received many "ooooh"s when we explained that we're married, and they wanted to know things such as whether or not we'd visited Niagara Falls, if there is snow in Canada (most have only seen snow in movies), how many kids we have (and then, why don't we have any kids), our favourite sports, etc. There is a specific curriculum for each grade and they are currently learning about the national parks in Costa Rica. So, after the introductions, we each took small groups aside to help them work on their pronounciation, reading, etc.

The kids have a ton of energy and every class we were in seemed extremely loud and a bit chaotic! As expected discipline is somewhat lacking so of the 40 minutes of class time, the actual amount of time the kids spend learning English is less than desireable but of course that is part of the reason we are here! Gabby has about 16 classes to teach and

Un mojito y una cerveza after a long day
has to rely on limited resources and assistance, so hopefully as we get more comfortable we will actually start sharing some of the load and making a difference in these kids' education.

Carpio - November 9th

There were no English classes at our escuela today because of a teachers' conference, so we went to help out at a different project instead. Again, we took 3 buses to get there, but in the opposite direction from Rio Azul (we think). The 1.5 hour journey took us into San Jose, where we got off and walked the length of the main pedestrian mall, which gave us a chance to take in some of the downtown sights before picking up our final bus to Carpio on the other side of the city. Carpio seems to be much poorer than Rio Azul - it is a shanty town that is built on what was once a dump. The history (as we understand it) is that homeless people came and started building shacks... from there more and more people came to the area and just kept on building, and now there are about 4,000 people there. There is only one narrow road to
@ the bus stop@ the bus stop@ the bus stop

The view from our street on a beautiful morning!
access the town and it drives past a quarry so there are constantly trucks going in and out, making the area extremely dusty. This section goes down and then uphill and the bus goes very fast - it feels like a roller coaster!

This project is a church that essentially functions as a daycare with some English lessons provided by volunteers like us. On Wednesdays they run a soup kitchen for the local kids (and their caregivers, provided there is enough food)so today we were fortunate enough to assist with this. We played with the kids (colouring, drawing pictures, piggy-back rides, etc.), washed dishes, helped serve the meals, and cleaned up afterwards. The day of course would not have been complete without the discovery of a large (thumb-sized, I swear) beetle in the sink, and the local mums checking for lice (and, when found, eating it!) on the little girls.

Some final thoughts:
- Teaching is hard! We were exhausted at the end of the day yesterday and we really didn't do very much. To all of our friends and family who do this every day for a living: much respect.
- We are so unbelievably blessed in our lives. Today was the type of day that we expected to have before coming here - the kind that truly opens your eyes to the types of difficulties that people have. The kind of day that we want to remember so that when something trivial happens we can keep things in perspective and realize that usually, our problems are "high quality problems".
- We are so very blessed. It bears repeating.

All our love,
Liz & Chris


10th November 2011

Wow. I am struck by the fullness of your day.... between all the bus travel and then the day itself, you must have been utterly exhausted by night. It certainly is a different world.... though I think children are much the same all over and can imagine similar aged kids at say, William Berczy, being equally impressed to learn you are married! Love reading your blog, but have little to say because you say it all in your recounting of your days. Just keep it up because you paint a very vivid picture! Thanks, guys.
11th November 2011

Hey - where is the post for today (Nov 10th)? First week at school and already slacking. As they say on Cherry Street - doooo it ps - miss you guys! pps - Mom just FYI these posts are public

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