November 28, 2006

A Crock of Diles

Gracias al Dios, 'cause the school year's almost over. Only two more days, and one of them is teachers turning in grades and tidying up, and the other is a party. A party which will include another humiliating soccer game of teacher vs. student. Hopefully more humiliating for the students this time, and less for the teachers. Specifially me.
Anyhow, after a meeting this afternoon I was getting a ride back home from my fellow teachers Sofie and Lilly. Lilly is from Quebec and teaches French, and Sofie is Belgian, so they usually speak to each other in French. Which is fine, cause it allows me to space out in the back seat. Until Lilly yells "cocodrilo!" and points out the window. Which is not so fine, cause it´s in a little field/swamp-type-area just a few blocks from my house. Evidently she´s even seen other crocodiles there, too.
When I moved to this country, I was pretty sure that my fear of snakes would be sufficient to cover my paranoia/phobia needs, but now they had to add crocodiles to the quickly growing list:

(In order of likelihood and scariness, from least scary and least likely to most scary and most likely)
-Soccer field implosion into another dimension
-Abuela poisoning my morning rice and beans
-While in shower, slipping and falling on ironically slippery non-slip mat
-Receiving shock from electrical device connected to shower head (see photo in Sept. 14 post)
-Getting attacked by crocodiles, apparently
-Microbus crash
-Coffee overdose
-Snakes. Lots and lots of snakes.

When I was with Ángela and her niece this weekend, I was saying how I wanted to get a machete to protect myself against snakes. It seemed like a good idea, especially since everyone walking on the road to school seems to be carrying one. Somehow, me being here and owning a machete can´t be wrong, because it just seems so RIGHT. Anyhow, they said a good machete might only run me about 7 bucks, so I may even get two--one for each hand. After my Christmas bonus, I may even consider ways to attach more machetes to my legs and/or some broomsticks, in order to avoid getting close enough to look a snake in the eye before cutting it's evil head from it's demonic body. And I don´t want snake blood on my face. That alone might kill me.
But then they told me about how Ángela's grandmother had found a snake in her bed one night, and how snakes come indoors a lot during the windy season, seeking shelter. The windy season is starting right about now. Add that one to the list, I guess.

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November 21, 2006

I Wrothed Some Grapes

It´s been windy for the last 30 hours or so, and since I hate wind, I decided to read a book. When I was in Florida, I picked up John Steinbeck´s book "Travels With Charley: In Search of America." I just thought I´d mention that this book was really great, and that you should read it if you´re looking for a good travel-themed book. Although the book was written in the early 60s, it´s surprisingly not very dated, and it´s very interesting. I especially like the author´s observations while in the southern U.S., which was already beginning to erupt in racial tensions when he visited.
I´m not sure why I´d not really read much by Steinbeck before. I know that he´s considered one of the Great American Authors, but then again, so is Faulkner. And after reading about half of Faulkner´s "The Sound and the Fury," I wanted to dig him up and reanimate his corpse just to beat him with the shovel I used to dig him up.
But all joking aside, I do seriously remember reading Steinbeck´s book "The Pearl" in either elementary school or junior high and not liking it. I´m not entirely sure, but I think that the main character might have died at the end, and that´s one thing I kind of hate in books (Oh God...if only I could warn Little Elementary School Ryan Sitzman that if he was looking to avoid books with depressing endings, he should probably steer clear of studying German Literature full time in graduate school!). Plus, "The Pearl" was likely assigned reading for an English class. That pretty much condemns any book to being hated by schoolchildren, no matter how good a read it is. It also makes me wary when choosing reading for my 10th grade students, lest they trash one of my favorite books.
Hmm...what the hell was I talking about? Ah yes, Steinbeck. So, it turns out he´s a great author! I believe my friend Brad From Iowa recommended me this book around 8 or 9 years ago when we were exchange students in Germany, and I have meant to read it ever since. So if you´re looking for a good book that you can get through as quickly as something from the "Young Readers" section at Borders, check out "Travels With Charley." And post a comment on the blog telling me what you think of it.

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Heir Plug

I just thought I´d promote my brother Paul´s blog for a moment, now that he´s cleaned it up and it´s appropriate for the whole family (making it a healthy alternative to the fattening and profanity-laden Sitzblog). You can read his blog at:
He´s in Australia for a few years "studying," and his blog is really good. It´s only eclipsed in humor and wittiness by this very blog you´re reading now.
-The Management

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November 20, 2006

Earth-Shaking Events

From the title of this post, you might be expecting some major big news, but in reality, this posting is literally-named: Indeed, I experienced my first earthquake this weekend! I was pretty damn excited! I was eating lunch at Ángela´s house in Berlin, and all of a sudden the room started shaking a little bit. At first I assumed the washing machine was just off-balance, since the same sensation happened a few times a day in my old apartment when people would do laundry. But after a moment, it occurred to me that her family doesn´t have a washing machine, and that this must be the real deal! It was a pretty small earthquake, and Ángela immediately took the wind out of my sails by proclaiming it a "temblor" as opposed to a "terromoto." I guess that´s the difference between "The Big One!" and "An Earthquake For Pussies." Still, whether it was a tremor or an earthquake, I was pretty excited, since the closest I´d come to an earthquake before was when I was living in Regensburg. One morning while I was sleeping there, I felt rumbling in my room. However, it turned out to just be a delivery truck revving its engine outside of my frail, medieval building.
Not much else has been going on of note, though. I am still playing a bit of soccer most Monday nights, but I won´t be able to tonight because some of my damn 6th graders were cheating on their final, and now ALL of them have to retake the exam (which I, of course, need to re-write). So I decided to make it so hard that when they look at it, their eyes will start bleeding! Ha ha ha!! I guess I´m getting a bit annoyed with some of the tykes and their end-of-the-year restlessness. I was proctoring an exam for my 4th graders, and I told them if they didn´t stop talking, I´d cut off their lips and throw them to my dog...
Vacation, anyone??
Anyhow, no soccer tonight, which is sad because there was this one dude named Orlando that kind of adopted me last week. He sort of looks like Costa Rica´s answer to Iranian president Mahmoud tennis shoes. He had finally learned my name, and kept shouting, "Ryan!..." followed by some unintelligible shouting in Spanish about what I should do with the ball. Bless his heart, because even if I could have understood what he was saying, I probably wouldn´t have had the physical aptitude to actually carry out any of his suggestions. Oh well. At the end of the game, though, he said I played "excelente!" I´m still learning Spanish, but I´m pretty sure that means "Not bad at all, friend...not bad at all."
So until next time, be "excelente"!

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November 11, 2006

The 11th´s Hour

When I wrote the descriptions of my various classes the other day, I felt like I was short-changing my 11th graders. Then again, I only had them in my class for a month. They stopped coming to class because they had to take their standardized tests in order to graduate. But then the very night I neglected to mention that class, something very interesting happened involving them.
I had gone to bed at around 11 or so. For some reason I had very quickly started feeling like crap about a half an hour before I went to bed. Even before laying down, I felt a huge chill come over my whole body. I couldn’t stop shaking for around 20 minutes, so I got up to ask Abuela for another blanket. She gave me one, and I went back to bed, still shaking and feeling nauseous. I was really tired from a long day, and shaking and shivering like crazy, so I decided to pray a bit before I went to sleep. My thinking wasn’t too clear, but I believe my logic was that I should be sure to pray in case I died in the night. I admit, I probably should have DONE something to prevent dying if it was really that serious, but like I said: I was tired.
I managed to fall asleep, apparently, because after a while I began to have a really strange dream. I was hearing acoustic guitar, and a group of singers singing in Spanish. During the verses, I heard my name being shouted: “Ryaaaaannnn! Ryaaaaannnn!” That was kind of weird, but I just figured I was misunderstanding the lyrics…after all, I always thought that on “The One I Love” R.E.M. was shouting “Ryan!” when it was actually “Fire!” or “Riot!” Either way, it wasn’t Ryan. So hearing my name this time didn’t strike me as odd. But then there was a pause in the music, and I woke up. I was in my dark room, and I wasn’t sure why I had woken up. Then I heard a voice call again: “Ryaaaannnn! Wake up!” That really confused me, because I already WAS awake. In my stupid and fevered state, I was convinced for a minute that I actually had died. The fact that everything was still dark was more confusing, though: I couldn’t figure out whether I’d made it to heaven or hell. But the voices kept calling my name, and another song began.
Then the obvious, although strange truth occurred to me: the voices and singing were coming from outside my house. I got up, still very confused, and walked to the front door. The earlier shivering had led me to put on shorts and a shirt, so I wasn’t wearing just underwear, which is what I usually sleep in. This was fortunate, because when I opened the door, my nine 11th graders (plus one guitar player) were standing in front of my door singing a song in Spanish. I was majorly confused, especially since the song was a romantic ballad that talked about the need to buy a gun to protect your heart and shoot a woman if she hurts you. Very strange. Anyhow, when the song ended, I think they sensed my complete lack of comprehension, so they explained to me that when 11th graders finish classes in Costa Rica, they go door-to-door to their teachers’ houses and serenade them! I laughed and congratulated them, and left them all with a handshake or a kiss on the cheek, since I had no idea what else I was supposed to do with a group of students singing to their barefoot teacher at 1 in the morning.
They headed off on their merry way, and I went back inside, by this time not feeling sick anymore. When I passed by Abuela’s room, which is right at the front of the house, I had expected her (and the rest of the neighborhood) to be very annoyed, but I just heard her say “Que simpaticos!”—“How nice!” I told her good night and went to bed again. How nice indeed…

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More Goofy Pictures

They don´t really celebrate Halloween in Costa Rica, but for some reason Naomi still had an Incredible Hulk mask when she came to visit Abuela one day. So, we took a few pictures:

Here´s me with Ángela.

Here´s Naomi looking like the Incredible Sulk.

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Goofy Pictures

Here are a few random pictures taken a week or two ago. I took them when Naomi, Abuela´s great-granddaughter, came by the house. She is a fun little girl, and comes over a few times a week. Anyhow, this evening she was putting yarn on our heads and calling it a wig, so I took a few pictures because I thought it was funny. Plus it looks like spaghetti.

Here´s one of Naomi.

Here´s one of me and Abuela.

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November 9, 2006


Not that anyone asked, but I figured I´d mention a bit about my teaching job here. It´s a really good gig, and it´s one of the major reasons that I´m staying here in Coast Tasty another year. As you may know, I´m teaching English to 4th, 6th, and 10th graders. For a month or so I was teaching 11th graders, also, but then they graduated. I generally like all my classes, especially on an individual-student basis, although they all have their occasional pain-in-the-ass moments.
The 6th grade class is especially interesting. Apparently, some time between the end of 5th grade and the start of 6th grade, all the students´ minds melt and they are rendered nearly incapable of functioning as normal human beings. They can only communicate in shouts, punches, and taunts (preferrably in the form of an "oooooooh!" that the whole class can take part in). The kids turn into concentrated balls of confusion and budding hormones. This gives them the instinct to try to be cool, which is directly countered by the latent nerdiness of their earlier years. At least that seems to be my observation of my class. Plus, they are really moody. At first I had thought that my 6th graders hated the shit out of me, since they always were whining, distracting, and talking in class, and doing their damnedest to not do anything, if at all possible. For the first week or two, I´d come home in the afternoon and have a ringing in my ears that was strangely reminiscent of the shrill cries of this class.
However, after a while, it ocurred to me that all my students were really nice to me in the halls, and the class itself as an entity was just a pain in the ass. That´s when there was some sort of transformation. I guess you could almost say I stopped caring, but more accurately, I just stopped taking their crap personally, and now we seem to get along grandly. The girls like to taunt me with giggles and a thumbs-up when they see me with Ángela, and the boys laugh when I frown and tell them not to drink beer. I have no idea why, but these two approaches to communication seem to work with them.
As for my 10th graders...well, they´re just a great class. They´re all really smart, and their English is pretty great all around. This is a problem for teachers that don´t speak English, apparently, since they use it as a "secret" language that their other teachers can´t understand. But with me, they always participate in discussions, and they like talking about stupid crap like celebrities, too, so we can discuss things like Good kids, and I´m hoping to teach them next year when they´re in their 11th and final year.
Finally, you´ve got the 4th graders. The teacher who I replaced resigned due in a large part to this group, and when she did so, her re-cap to me of the status of the 4th grade was simply, "Good luck with them. Ha ha!" Well, somehow, this group is my favorite. It´s a group of 24 inattentive spazzes that really doesn´t like to speak English that much, but for some reason, they seem to like me, and I like them. They are the ones that run up to me in the hall and try to talk to me in English, or else try to hang on my arms or push me over. Of course, this group can still bitch and moan with the rest of them. Yesterday, their desks were covered in varnish in the middle of the day (a long and boring story in and of itself), so I had to find a different room to teach in. Which left the dining room. Class was after lunch, so we went into the now-empty room. There was still a lingering smell of plantains and rice, but the kids made a huge deal about the "stench," saying it was going to make them throw up. I got really annoyed because it was the same room that many of them had been eating in just 10 minutes before, and it´s not like it was even a bad smell, either. But still, they were covering their noses and making as much of a scene as if Professor Hitler had moved that day´s Torture Seminar to a rotting horse carcass filled with dog shit. Basically, they managed to whine about that for a good 15 minutes, so class started incredibly late. Which, if I think about it, was a pretty commendable move in the history of Stalling the Teacher. Well played, my little fourth graders...well played. I´m really excited to teach them next year.
Anyhow, that´s about all there is to report about my job. But in case some of you were wondering what exactly I was doing here, now you know. Teacher Ryan out.

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