Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Passing Weeks.......

  Greetings once again from Costa Rica!!  The last week or so has gone by well, and I find that the time has been flying!  Here we are, nearly at the end of our first month here, the first month of 2013!  It seems only yesterday that we flew in......

  This week, the church we go to - Berea - had a VBS which Charlie and Lucy participated in, and Annie and I helped out with.  It's summer right now in Costa Rica, and all the kids are out of school, so the VBS was in the morning, starting on Monday (21st) and ending on Friday (the 25th).  So it was another busy week for us, in which I have seemed to be constantly tired!  The VBS was really well planned and practiced - I got to play a part in some of the fun skits and songs that did.  The whole week was themed as travelling around the world (in 5 days:), so the kids all had passports, and each time we got into our 'airplane', and went to different countries, in each place learning what the people there called God, different names for Him.  Every day, we decorated the room to look like the country we would be visiting, and the kids had a great time.   We also dressed up as natives from each country, and had a fun time trying to keep the proper accent while at the same time talking in Spanish.  :)  Try having an Chinese accent while you talk in Spanish :)  It was really fun - we went to China, France, Egypt, Australia, and Peru.
entering Peru.......

songs and games.....

Charlie and some buddies.......

  Last Friday, our dad took us on a 'field-trip' downtown.  We visited the Central Mercado, and stopped by a theater and a museum, just to have a look.  And guess what!  I finally found 10 colones on the sidewalk!  :)  Also, we popped in a bookstore and I got the book, "Los Jeugos del Hambre"  (the Hunger Games) in Spanish!  It's a really fun lesson in Spanish, and it has already been improving my Spanish! :)  So far the reading has been going slow, much slower than usual, but I am really liking it!!

  Last week, Annie and I were thankfully able to secure a time to play the piano at the Spanish Institute!  I'm happy to say that the two or three week break did not much affect us, and we are back on track.  Volleyball is still going great - we've been practicing with our dad at the park, working on different basic things we need to improve.  I'm pretty good at setting now, and after a lot of working on how to serve the ball overhand, I got it over the net in a practice game today!  It went straight down the middle of the court; I was so glad cause my work had paid off. :)

We've also been playing with our neighbors at lot.........

....if only through the fence.  :)  One of our favorite pastimes is throwing a bouncy ball back and forth over the bars that separate our two houses, trying to avoid the electrical wire that stubbornly continues to reside there, while at the same time trying to keep it from going out the narrow range, over the bars into the street (which happens half of the time).  My mom calls it the zoo.....often we wish that the bars weren't there, and the Meek and Gentry tribes could roam and play as much as they wanted, whenever they wished..........
making brownies.....mmm!

fun time.......:)

  An interesting difference between Costa Rica and Kansas is the kinds of birds.  There is a small tree outside our house that has these fuzzy red flowers that look almost like mini pom-poms!  They seem to attract hummingbirds!  We can see them from our bedroom window, and once one of them came, flew around, then actually sat down on the telephone wire and was absolutely still!  It was amazing to see it just sit still - I'd never seen that before!  Do you know the sound a hummingbird makes?  Yesterday, we saw one and it was chirping - it was the coolest thing!  Never heard that before either.

Another cool bird experience - a school day, when I was sitting upstairs at my desk doing Math or something.  I heard this sound - it was like a loud popping or scratching, then a low whistle, and finally a very weird sound that I can't even describe!  It was repeated many times, and we all crowded around the window it was coming from, but we couldn't see anything because it was too high up.  A few days later we found out from our neighbors that there are possibly some parrots living up there! the mystery of this bird solved.......or not??

Our good friends the Sears flew in from the U.S. a week ago, and are busy looking for a house.  :)  But in between that, we've gotten a couple good times with them already.

As some of you may have heard, we have experienced a couple of small earthquakes in the last week or so!  I have only felt one myself, and it was the biggest one.  In the middle of the night, I woke up for some reason.  One thing you should know - the bunk bed Annie and I share squeaks and shakes at the slightest movement.  Right then it was moving around, back and forth, and making a loud noise.  I briefly thought to myself, "It's an earthquake."  Then I pretty much just went back to sleep. big deal.....!!!!  :)  I must have been very tired, and only half awake.  It doesn't really seem real now........

Following, are some pictures from the last two weeks, that kind of illustrate what we've been up to on a daily basis.  :)  

At the feria again.......

a view from the upstairs window..........

Charlie and Lucy at the park :)

At a Costa Rican dance we saw at the Spanish Institute.

 Lucy with her friend at church :)

The track we go to almost everyday......... :)

Lucy with her teacher, Ms. Monica, at Sojourn.

Lunch at Monica's house with the Sears.........

With Monica :)

We grilled out with our neighbors one night!!  Yummy cheeesburger!!  - with advocado too!

~Caroline M.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

First Week: Colones, Sore Feet, Old and New Friends, and More Memories Resurfacing! Also Ink and Paper. A lot of it.

Hi again!  The first week here in Costa Rica has gone by super quickly.  A blur of many different things.  Many times, when I walk past a store, or see a certain room at the Spanish School, my mind still gropes around, and for an instance there is a flashback from 10 years ago that I can't place.  We've seen some of our old amigos lately, and made some new ones.  :)  Our dad has us running two miles every day at the nearby track, except for weekends, so we are getting back into shape.  It doesn't come quickly though!!  That, added to the fact that we walk everywhere (I've only been in a vehicle once in the last week, and that was a bus!) has made for a week of very sore legs that protest at even small exertion.  I love the routine here.  Here's what a typical school day looks like for the Meek kids and their Principal.  :)

6:30 - Wake up, and make breakfast
7:45  - School begins
10:00 - Snack time - usually bread from the bakery :) Mmmm.
12:00 - Work out!!  2 miles at the Track
12:45 - Lunch Time

The rest of the afternoon is mainly resting, visiting, doing homework or shopping, if there is nothing else planned.  :)

I feel like it's been a major change in schedule, one that has been really good for me.  The weather has also been beautiful, no rain, and not too hot.  One of the things that I have been doing a lot in my free time is writing.  All kinds of stuff.  Most of it connected with the book I'm writing, whether actually writing it, or just spending time writing out pages and pages of ideas and brainstorms.  I had an dream the other night (borderline nightmare) and woke up at 6.  I spent 45 minutes writing the whole dream out - it was super complex and sounded like the perfect base for a short story.  It dealt with time, past, present, and future, and going between the three - it was so complicated that I look back at it now and wonder what I was writing.  The concept of changing the time, interfering between two different times, and being able to see both happening at the same time is hard to grasp - it made so much more sense in my dream though!!  But many things have been the subject of my writing here, and when it comes, it does so in large quantities, periods of fast scribbling to try to keep up with my line of thought.  I never can seem to write fast enough.  The novel I'm writing with my friend is going better than I dreamed - we're starting chapter 10, and all is going well.  There is that slight problem of the large vague spot fast approaching after the next few chapters, involving the main flesh of our story, but I'm sure we'll get that thought though soon enough.  It's just a matter of sitting down and conquering it.  :)
The last week has been a mix of peace, fun and activity.  Here are some of the highlights of the past few days:

Saturday, January 5:
Today we went to the Ferria - the market place that is held in a park every Saturday.  A path through the middle of two rows of temporary stalls that hold everything from tomatoes and pineapple to ginger root and cacti.  We had been given a long list of items to acquire by my mom, and Team Meek set out to track down some fresh produce.  Charlie and Lucy quickly deserted ship to play up at the playground with our neighbors, but Annie and I and our Coach started to fill up our cart with food.  Mangoes, potatoes, ginger, plantains, onions, pineapple, tomatoes, beans, and more.  Also limes.  We bought 20 of the little guys for under two dollars.  Later, when we got home and cut one open, we found they weren't exactly limes: the insides were as orange as any orange.  Zeidy later told us that they were like limes, but slightly sweeter.  We ended up using the whole batch to make a sort of limeade drink that was so good!   After a while of shopping, we rounded up the kids and headed back home.  After lying everything out on the table for mom's approval, we did the math and the whole day's pickings came out at just over 20 dollars!

Our friends Edwardo and Paola came over for dinner.  Their two children, Andres and Jacob are getting to be so old!  They are the cutest.  At ages 6 and 1 and a half, we had a fun time playing with them.  It was also great to catch up with them.  I am beginning to feel that my Spanish is reviving;  speech is starting to come easier, and I am slowly getting more comfortable with just talking even if I'm not sure if what I'm saying is correct.

 Our friends Andres and Jacob

Sunday, January 6:
  Sunday, we went to church today.  Visited the church we had belonged to when we were here almost 11 years ago - the church Berea.  The worship time was amazing, just being there was so good.  My mind again tried to recall and recognize the church without too much success.  I did remember some though.  Annie and I went up to a youth group for 13-15 or-something-year-olds.  I met some girls there - I can't wait to get to know some of them!  Monica and her family came over for lunch, and just hung out for the rest of the afternoon.  We had a Blitz tournament with us girls, while the men went out for a bit.  It was really fun to just hang out with them for a while.  :)

Monday, January 7:
  Another day at the track...and the first official day of school!  I am keeping up with my classes at Brighton, (Biology, World History, and Writing) as well as the usual home subjects (Math, Reading, and Geography).  Everything is going very well with that.  Later in the day we went to the Central Mercado with Zeidy and Monica.  We had to catch bus to get there to rendezvous with them.  First time this trip, and we got a double-decker!  Those are pretty rare around here, you hardly ever get one.  It was amazing, driving along, almost even with the roofs of the one-story buildings.  When we got off, we walked a while to meet them.  There were so many people there, all so unique too.  In Costa Rica, I have really loved how the people are so friendly.  At least two of three times while we were on our way, someone helped us, by giving us directions, or walking with us some of the way.  I really like that.  The Central is a large, crowded place where there are a ton of people selling different things.  Hammocks, tee-shirts, coffee, and fresh fruit, you name it!  We got a few things, then went to a different market.  After shopping for a while, we stopped by the ice cream store Pops, and got a treat! My favorite is the Brownie Dynamite - So. Good.  We sat down at the edge of the the big square of downtown.  There are a ton of pigeons here, so of course Charlie was occupied immediately after finishing his ice cream.  He seemed to find it extremely amusing to make a game out of chasing them....... as for the pigeons...I don't know.   I doubt they had such a fun time of it.

I also took this picture of a palm tree with the sun directly behind it.  So beautifully bright.

Wednesday, January 9:
   At the Sojourn Academy that is connected to the Spanish Institute, there are a couple of after school activities you can do, even if you don't attend the school.  Annie and I got signed up to do volleyball!  It is a group of boys and girls grades 7+.  I have never officially played volleyball, unless you count out in the backyard with a beach ball.......  It was really fun!  I have wanted to play a sport for a long time, and I think I am really going to enjoy this one.  Everyone there was really nice, and I met some girls too that seem really fun.  :)  Our team has 17 total...13 girls and 4 boys.  A great day!


One more note:  Charlie found two more coins on the street in the last few days!!  Lucky!  He's going to get rich if he makes a habit of this!!

At Monica's house

              ~Caroline M.     

P.S.  All ye take good note of what happens when children are left to themselves un-monitored for thirty minutes with duck tape.  Just for future notice.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Greetings from Costa Rica - Fireworks, Palm Trees, and a Happy New Year!

January 1st, 2013  
around 1 a.m.

  I am writing this in Costa Rica, at the beginning of the New Year, while fireworks explode all around the apartment we are temporarily staying in.  (We'll later move to a permanent house that we'll stay in for the rest of the time.)  Music is playing loudly across the street, and people are dancing.  A few minutes ago, we watched the firework display that surrounded us from a balcony connected to our apartment with our Costa Rican friends, Edwin, Zeidy, and Monica.  It was hard to know where to look, with constant fireworks that went off in all directions, demanding your attention!  It was a perfect night to arrive, and it was almost like they were putting a welcome show for us! :)  Some neighbors across the narrow street were setting off some big ones, and a few went off so close to us that some of us screamed (mainly the kids:) and ducked down; we could actually feel some of it falling on us!  It was amazing to be so close to them.  Also, you could see near the horizon, and even nearer to us, little glowing lights that seemed to float up into the sky and disappear.  These were actually floating lanterns, like in the movie 'Tangled', and it was so cool to see them; they were beautiful!!  And there were a lot of them too, you could see them rising up from the horizon.  

  Thankfully, the trip here was possibly the smoothest one I can remember, as we seem to have a large record of mishaps associated with flying. :)  Our passports were all in order (thanks goodness!!) and we had no major delays!  As our flight took off from KC this morning, it was just starting to snow.  In Dallas, it had recently stopped raining.  Then, when we got out of the airport here, it kinda like Spring, slightly humid, warm with a beautiful breeze.  That's one of the things I love about Costa Rica: the weather.  I love Spring, and here it almost always feels like that!  And also the smell of the air, (when it's not polluted) is the best.  The fact that I'm here is still kind of sinking in - driving back from the airport, in some parts of the city, I could imagine for a moment that I was still in Kansas City, or something like that.  Except for the weather, all the signs and stuff in Spanish, and the palm trees that lined almost every street.  Hahaha. All the trees are different here....more on that later. 

   Annie and I rode with Edwin, Zeidy, and Monica while the rest of the family rode in the van that had came to pick us up.  It felt kind of like being dumped into a different world, suddenly surrounded by only Spanish. (Except for Monica some, who is 16, she knows a lot of English.  But we mainly spoke Spanish with her too.)  I just had to listen, and force my mind into all my Spanish that had been pushed back or forgotten.  I feel like in just a short time I have begun to feel more comfortable with Spanish, improving and remembering.  

I want to wish everyone a Happy New Year!!  Welcome 2013!  Costa Rica.  What a great way to start the New Year.

Here's a video of the fireworks we saw from the balcony........

Here is the view from the plane window......

and the sunset....
my two sleepy cabin mates.....


January 1st  
around 9:30 a.m.

  This morning I awoke to light from the window, then the amazing breeze and fresh air.  I look out my window and the first thing I see is a large palm tree right outside!  Also, a big rose bush with beautiful yellow roses. It's actually real!  I'm still in Costa Rica!  For a quick snack for breakfast I had some delicious mango juice, and one of my favorite CR chocolate bars called a "Yipy".  Yippee!!  I took these out to the walled-in patio that is our backyard, with my book, and read for a good while in the morning air.  There's a palm tree out here too :)  And a lot of flowers.  The backyard is really only about 15 ft. by 15 ft., but it is so nice.  

Later today........

 Today we visited the park, which is right down the street, only like 100 feet away. :)  Edwin drove us over to their house and we had breakfast and spent a lot of the day with them.  We also walked up to see the house we will be staying in for the rest of the time.  

Some notable events of the day......

 - Charlie found 50 colones on the street, which is worth about a dime.   

 - Annie, Monica, and I played an exhilarating game of volleyball laying down on our beds with a green balloon, in which Monica fell off the bed twice. :)  

January 2nd

  We got to move into our house today!  It's a pretty nice size, and once we got used to it, we love it!!  I love the feeling of the open windows that let the air run through the whole house. We went to the park for a bit, but the whole day was mostly spent settling in, and unpacking.  For dinner we went to a Brazilian pizza place called Paulista's. It was great!  On the way home we got some groceries and bread for the next day.  It was fun getting to walk everywhere!

January 3rd

  Papaya for breakfast.  Interesting, but not too bad. :)  Also eggs and some delicious bread from the bread shop.  They were like apple cinnamon rolls!  My mom went to ILE (the Spanish learning Institute) for her first orientation, which lasted for the whole day.  Her classes start on Monday.  Us kids plus our dad went on a walk through the city, to two different parks, which were beautiful!  One of the parks has a running track that goes around it, and we are planning to use that a lot.  :)  Around lunch time we came back home.  We have two neighbors, one on each side, that both go to the Institute.  One of the families has four children, two girls and two boys:  Tayler, almost 13, Tori, 8, Clayton, 11, and Cody, 7.  So we swapped Charlie for Tayler and Tori, and got to know them for the whole afternoon!  They are really fun, and we taught them how to play Dutch Blitz :)  It will be really fun to have neighbors with kids our age!

  These first few days have been wonderful, so peaceful.  I love the lifestyle, and can't wait to keep exploring and getting to know the neighborhood.  More posts soon!

~ Caroline Meek :)