Friday, December 27, 2013

Cori's Update: No More Teachers, No More Books...

It's summer vacation!!! Cailene and Cornelio wrapped up their school year on December 21st by hosting an end of the year party/presentation for the school. Of the 70 students who attend the school, approximately 25 came and participated. We baked yummy cinnamon rolls, cheese bread, and sugar cookies (very colorfully decorated by Meredith and Jesus, a niece and nephew) and had a great time. The kids had learned a couple Christmas songs in English, and sang them for their parents at the presentation, and got certificates for course completions as well. We weren't bummed by the low attendance...public schools finished up in early December, and lots of families have already started their vacation plans. Additionally, it is hard to get commitment from people for such events, and they almost never come on time. Example: one student arrived just as the entire program was finishing. She was very disappointed to not get to perform her song for her mother, since she had been practicing hard at home, so we set her up for a lil' mini performance on her own, which filled that gap at least a little bit. But all was well, and vacation is now in full swing.
Students receiving their course completion certificates.
Cailene, Bonnie, and I took a day and went to San Jose to go shopping with one of Cailene's classmates from the university, Amelia. We took the bus to avoid the cost of gas and parking issues, which should have taken about an hour or a lil' more than. Well, for those who don't know me, I get carsick. And here in Costa Rica, I'm getting more carsick than I pretty much ever have before. The roads are really twisty, it's usually hot, and drivers aren't exactly slow and steady. By the time we got halfway, I was like, "Um, I need to get off this bus..." So we took a break...for about 40 minutes. We watched 2 buses go by before I finally felt solid enough to get back on. The rest of the trip is luckily the straighter half, and I made a stronger point of being FRONT and CENTER where I can see the road and the airflow is good. Once we made it to San Jose, we had a great time shopping at a huge second-hand store and enjoyed lunch at Mercado Central, which is a big market with food and gifts and restaurants and basically everything you could imagine. It was a good day and I'm feeling better and better about getting around places on my own.

View down and into the property from the back door.

Construction got underway at Cailene and Cornelio's house shortly after my last update. In the last 2 weeks, the porch was taken apart and stacked beside the house, a backhoe came and dug out somewhere around 30 cubic meters of dirt, and some supplies have been delivered to start construction on the 2 walls that we are going to build. The original plan was to put a garage and an apartment for Bonnie in that space, but, in typical Costa Rican fashion, it's taking longer than expected, and plans for the apartment aren't set in stone. Space at the house here feels much smaller and more limited, especially with the dining table in the garage, right beside the weight set and the disassembled porch, but we're surviving. The dogs aren't thrilled with it either, since their space was cut in half, but Eros had no problem dashing THROUGH the house (they're not allowed inside) and LEAPING right out the back door into oblivion in pursuit of a dog they particularly hate. It's probably a 12-foot drop from the door down to the newly excavated dirt, but he hit the ground running without so much as a stumble or a yip and off he went. Much to our surprise, he didn't attack the hated dog, just sniffed it and then came running when Cailene called. What a good boy!
View from the bottom corner of the driveway to the back door.
Christmas was a fabulous day for us. We drove to Rio Laguna (the river), which is about an hour from here, and spent most of the day there. It is a beautiful spot, and the water runs nice and clear. There is a good sized (50x50ft) swimming hole that's probably 12-14ft deep, and it's clear and cool and has a lil' waterfall flowing into it, as well as a couple lil' hot-tub sized pools and small falls above it. We brought a big inner tube, and spent the day getting tan and playing in the water. Logan and Cornelio went on an iguana hunt, but their pursuit was futile and they came back empty-handed. Luckily, us girls packed a lunch as a backup plan. :-)

Cailene and Cornelio
managed to both stand up on the tube for a few precious seconds.

There were valiant
attempts made by others (my head, the
feet belong to Cailene and Bonnie).
This was Cornelio standing on the tube and diving/jumping off of it.
Bonnie is currently on a 3-day tour to Panama with her friend, Lidiette. American 'tourists' in Costa Rica don't need a visa, but you can only stay in the country for 90 days at a time, then you have to leave the country for 72 hours before you get another 90 days. Her time was about up, so she and Lidiette found a bus tour to a beach area in Panama just across the border. There's snorkeling and a nice hotel and other tourist activities, so I'm sure they're having a great time. Logan and I will be out of the country February 1st-6th, but we are going to San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua. More on that in Feb, of course. :-)

Things we're thankful for: Cailene finished her classes at the university, and is all set to graduate in February. It's been a long road for her, and she's pretty excited to not have to drive the 30 min to Puriscal two or three times a week anymore. The construction here has gone smoothly thus far, with all the resources needed being accessible and provided. The weather has also been great for the project. We are loving our lap swims at the pool in San Bosco. Great exercise and great fun. Colter (Logan's brother) arrives for a 2-week visit on January 1st, and then my parents arrive for their week in Costa Rica on January 25th.

We live way down in the valley behind us that's all misty.
Can't believe we've been here for just a few days shy of 2 months already! Only 4 months left! While I can easily communicate with people and get around on my own, the reality of only 4 more months makes me want to STUDY Spanish a little more so I can be more fluent before we leave. Logan's Spanish is, well, there...he's mastered the use of 'Que Mob!', which is the equivalent of "Hey dude!!!" :-) And lastly, we took a lil' jaunty ride to the wind turbines that we can see from our house. It's a nice drive up a very smooth, well-maintained (do you hear the sarcasm here???) dirt road, and there are fabulous views of both our side of the mountain, as well as the entire San Jose valley. Of course, as soon as we got there, the clouds rolled in and blocked the view, but it was still a fun, refreshing ride. The car only over-heated once, and we only got sprinkled on for a few minutes. And yes, it was chilly (hence, the blanket)!!!!

<----Aren't they so cute???


<----The 'Trusty Tracker' cooling down at the top of the mountains. We took the top off cuz' it was SUPER hot when we were getting ready to go. Then it got cloudy and chilly, but at least Cailene and I didn't hit our heads in the back going over bumps! Plus the extra airflow really helps the carsick issue!!!

That's about it. Thanks for all the thoughts and prayers. Hope everyone had a very merry Christmas, and has a fabulous New Year's!!!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Cori's Update: Nature, Dairy Products, and Sweat

Do you like how two of us are updating the blog on the same day lately? No, we don't plan it that way, but yes, we know we're cool because of it. :-) December rolled in uneventfully. While our friends and family in WA are freezing with temperatures in the teens and single digits, summer is in full swing here, and we sweat profusely on a daily basis. It's beautiful. Only 2 more weeks of school before Cailene and Cornelio's 'summer' break starts (yes, they are counting down the days), so this past week Cailene started Christmas crafts with her students. This week they are continuing crafts, as well as learning a couple of Christmas songs to sing at the end of the year celebration.

We spent a morning last week at Nacientes Palmichal, a rural tourism 'hotel' about 20 minutes away. It is operated by Hernan and Florita, a wonderful couple from the church. They have lodging, meals, and several activities guests can participate in, from nature walks and butterfly gardens to tours of the coffee farms/processing plant and local artisan crafts. It is a beautiful location; a place where it's impossible to overlook the beauty of God's creation and His omniscient presence in the world. Check out their website:  Don't worry, it's in English.
Me, Bonnie, and Hernan on one of the trails.
Bonnie on our nature walk.
The river, which we drank out from. It was deliciously sweet and pure!

Cailene and I both ordered two 2.5-liter bottles of fresh, raw milk from a local farmer last week. She had been getting one bottle a week, but we decided to put our cheese-making skills to use (thank you, Dawn Courtney!), so we upped the order and off we went. Since Logan and I are snobby and enjoy real butter, I skimmed the cream off my milk and made butter in my blender. If you've never tried it (besides the elementary school 'shake the baby-food jar until your arm falls off' method), you really should. It works like this: place cream in blender, blend for several minutes until the butter fat separates (ie: nasty-looking yellow chunks clump together and float to the top when you stop the blender), scoop off the butter fat and reserve the liquid (this is the original buttermilk, by the way), press the butter w/a spatula until most of the liquid is removed, then place the butter into ice water, and continue to press liquid out of it (called 'washing' the butter). Drain the ice water, and repeat until the ice water stays clear (or as close to clear as you feel like getting it). Remove the butter and add 1/4 tsp of salt (word of caution, a lil' salt goes a llllloooonnnnnggggg way) and mash it in good. Voila. Butter.
The buttermilk (left on Cailene's counter to get nice and tangy for baking treats!) and the butter. Delicious!
We made two batches of mozzarella cheese as well, one for each of our households, and they came out fabulously. In Logan's words, "Ah, finally. Cheese that melts and tastes normal." :-) Poor guy. Did I mention he's planning to have Colter (his brother) bring some cheddar when he comes to visit in January??? True story. Anyway, the main byproduct of cheese is whey (think 'Little Miss Muffet'). From a gallon of milk, you get a small, softball-sized ball of cheese, and about 2 liters of whey. Since our consciences won't allow us to merely pour this down the drain, we googled 'uses for whey'. Aside from a good feed for animals or a way to lower the pH of your garden, you can use it basically like milk. Drink it straight, pour it on cereal, add it to smoothies, use it in baked we made potato soup. Lots of potato soup. It didn't thicken like milk does, but it had pretty good flavor. (Sidenote: pork chop in potato soup is good. It's not bacon, but it works. And when you ask for bacon at a country meat store, they show you literally a giant hunk of fat w/no meat...that's how we ended up w/pork chop). Also, whey tenderizes pork. It's often used as a marinade for pork, or even a liquid to cook pork in. Whey cool!!! (Logan's idea...he's punny). :-)

Cailene w/her cheese and me pouring the milk for mine.
Stretching the cheese. The whey is the liquid in the pot.
Cornelio's birthday was yesterday, and we started our celebration by running a 10k race in Puriscal (20-25 minutes away). I've run many a 10k in my day, and let me tell you, this was by far the HARDEST course I've ever run. It was 2k course that you lapped 5 times. Nice for spectators cuz' they get to see the runners a lot. Bad for runners like me because everyone gets to watch the progression from 'I feel great' to 'Holy cow, will this race ever end?' I don't run so much as I waddle, and on a course with lots of hills and at some 3600ft above sea level, I wanted to die. Oh, and it was probably 85 degrees out with decent humidity. Barf. But Cornelio did great, and his friend Pablo won his age group, so we had a good time. I got my finisher medal and my free (or not so free?) t-shirt, so I was happy.
The group from Tabarcia/Palmichal: me, Cornelio, Andres, Pablo, Oscar, Reyner
Seconds before the start. The guys are intense. Me? Not so much...
Cornelio and a few of his siblings took lunch to their dad's house one day, and we spent a few hours playing some cards, shooting a couple guns, and just hanging out. It was good family time, and we got to hear some stories about Cornelio's childhood. Ever seen bamboo plants? Yeah, they used to climb them and, according to Cornelio, launch themselves from 'limb to limb'. I don't quite believe that part, but Logan and Cornelio shimmied right on up and gave us a great demo of human monkeys. Apparently it's hard on the arms, since there's nowhere to brace your feet. Wish I was strong enough to climb bamboo!
Climbing up. Notice Cornelio in the background?
Swinging down out of the bamboo, and almost clunking me on the head w/the piece in his hands. Luckily, I slipped and fell at the exact right moment to avoid getting hit!
Probably 20-30ft up in the air!
Logan and Cornelio started deconstructing the porch today in preparation for 'home addition part 1'. Rather than put Bonnie's apartment over the garage, it's going to go below the porch, along with an additional parking/garage space. Thus the porch is getting taken apart, tons of dirt will be dug out, retaining walls will be built, etc, etc, etc. Hopefully it can be a timely process, and not drag on for months.

That's pretty much it. Cailene and I have conquered the butterfly stroke at the pool. It's not perfect yet, but we can pretty easily go an entire length of the pool, and we're looking and feeling smoother every day. So great to be swimming again regularly, especially in a beautiful outdoor pool (that happens to be right next to a large cow/horse pasture). And here's a picture of Cailene's banana tree. They should be ripe in a few weeks, and I find it interesting that the bananas grow with the bottom up. Who knew? Also, bananas in a clump are called a 'mano', or 'hand'. So you can buy a hand of bananas, which usually has at least 10 bananas on it. And the smaller the 'nana, the sweeter it is. Bananas 101. :-)
The red part is the flower, which will fall off. These will be 4-5" long when fully ripe.

That's all she wrote, folks! Nos vemos!!! (See you later!)