Pura Vida!

Because I am a Spanish teacher, my friends tend to always let me know when they plan to travel to a Spanish-speaking country, I think, in hopes that I have some good advice for them. While I’ve only been to 5 up til now (someday I hope to hit all 22), I still feel like I can always give some type of helpful advice. If it’s a country I haven’t been to, it’s usually one I really want to go to, so I usually have something to offer up. (I did purchase 3 Lonely Planet guidebooks without actually having any immediate plans to travel to them.)

I recently had a few friends tell me they plan to travel to Costa Rica this summer. This is a place I can talk forever about because I’ve been there AND I really want to go there (again). I went to CR with 2 of my good friends in 2010. I planned the short spring-break trip really well (if I do say so myself) and I remember it like it was yesterday. Talking about this trip made me reminisce the experiences I had there. Costa Rica is definitely a place that everyone should cross off their list. There is something for everyone. If you are adventurous but traveling with somebody who is not; while that somebody is relaxing on on the beach all day, you could be zip-lining in the rainforest less than an hour away. It’s a great place to go with a group. Some may choose to hike around the active volcano while others rest on hammocks outside your hostel with the volcano in the background. Or maybe chillin’ in the hostel’s pool with a swim-up bar. Only in CR can you find a pool with a swim-up bar at a hostel that sleeps guests for 10 bucks a night. It’s great.

Costa Rica is just such a happy place. You can tell that Ticos (Costa Ricans use this term to refer to themselves) genuinely love life. They even say so at least once per conversation. Instead of hola it’s “Pura vida!” In response to gracias it’s “Pura vida!” Even to say goodbye, if not used as a greeting, it’s “Pura vida!” They say that Latin Americans generally are happier, but in Costa Rica you can really see it all around you. You will have an amazing time here – mark my word. Just don’t make the same mistake I did – go for longer than a week.

This first photo is during a pit stop on the ride from the airport in San Jose to our hostel in La Fortuna. Our personal driver (works for the hostel) stopped to buy a machete, then took us into the rainforest. Scared us a little until he started cutting a watermelon and telling us that the hostel likes to give its guests a cultural experience on the way to it…


First waterfall visit in CR.


Hammocks in front of the hostel with a view of Volcan Arenal.


No need to go 5-star resort. This sweet “resort hostel” had it all.


Can you find the toucan?


La Colina villas, Manuel Antonio. If monkeys running on top of your roof bother you at night,  this might not be the place for you. Otherwise, it was awesome.


You can get up close and personal with some of the animals. I watched this one steal a granola bar out of someone’s sac on the beach.





Canopy Tour – halfway through. Do not leave CR without zip-lining! If you are in Manuel Antonio, check out La Selvita. They were awesome!


Downpour mid-zip. Coolest feeling ever.





Fund For Teachers

About two weeks ago I was chosen to receive a grant of $5,000 to travel anywhere in the world. I had to write an extensive grant proposal explaining why my choice would enhance my teaching practice and how I plan to bring my experiences abroad back into the classroom. Because I have always wanted to go to the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador, I chose to focus on biology and creating a Spanish curriculum with biology content.  This way students can learn and reinforce their knowledge of science while picking up Spanish at the same time. Unfortunately, I never did very well in biology in high school, so I need to build some major background knowledge before I attempt this feat.  I figured that the Galapagos Islands would be the best place for me to do this: learning about biology in a place where Charles Darwin did research for his theory of evolution AND practicing my Spanish.  It’s a win-win.

When I found out the news that I had been awarded the grant, I felt like I had just won the lottery. Free money is always great – but a free trip to the country of my choice is almost better! As a teacher of world languages and cultures, I try to use my summers to travel, but unfortunately on a teacher’s salary, this is not always possible. So, I am excited that there is an organization out there that recognizes the impact that international travel can have in the classroom. I owe a big thank-you to Fund For Teachers and Expeditionary Learning for granting me with what I think will be one of the coolest fellowships I’ve ever been a part of.

In addition to traveling to Ecuador for the first time (2nd to South America), I have also starting keeping a blog which is another big first for me.  Ever since college, I’ve usually done what I can to avoid writing as much as possible – but I’m turning over a new leaf and challenging myself to express my thoughts, concerns and life experiences in a new way. I plan to blog about my travel experiences in Ecuador, but also about life as a foreign language teacher and lover of world cultures. I will probably blog in Spanish while I am there – so for those of you that always ask me what you can read to practice your Spanish – this is for you! Suerte! Fund for Teachers