Archive for June, 2010

10 Things I Learned By Working With Kids

.:{My 3 year old teachers}:.

1) It’s important to have a routine with youngsters. When they are accustomed to a certain schedule, everything goes so much smoother and they don’t misbehave (as much).

2) If a kid is acting up, instead of punishing them, first try to see if something is actually wrong or is frustrating the kid. So many times at Casa Luz I simply watched the kids, to try to understand what was going through their heads, and realized that a lot of the times it was something simple that they were mad about but didn’t know how to communicate it other than crying and screaming. The mother’s didn’t realize this and would get mad at the kid for screaming, which would frustrate the kid more, cause more screaming, and the cycle continues.

3) Kids are so much smarter than you think.

4) They  love to learn and are super curious. The more you incorporate knowledge into your time with them, the more interested they will be.

5) Kids absolutely love love LOVE music and dancing. We as human innately love rhythm. If you need to get a room of children to pay attention, put on a song or just sounds in general (like a cd of noises-water running, glass breaking, a dog barking, a phone ringing), they love it.

6) Instead of just saying no- explain why you are saying no.

7) You are their example. They are constantly observing you. What you do and say, they WILL repeat.

.8) Remember, if they are 3 and under, that toy you are giving them, will inevitably end up in their mouth and the mouths of every other kid in the vicinity.

9) Life is beautiful

10) Bubbles are awesome


June 14, 2010 at 7:08 pm 1 comment

How To Achieve Happiness

.:{Joy, Smiles, Glee, Elation, Sprinkles, Bliss}:.

Wanting a little bit more happiness in your life? Ooh yay, me too. Please do read on.

In my last blog post, The One Thing That Really Matters, I use what I’ve experienced in the US and Costa Rica to explain my take on the priorities in life—matters that will ultimately provide a happier life. And, sorry money. Although you’ve seduced the US, you’re flirtations are just not cutting it in other countries.

This morning, my mom sent me the link to John de Graaf’s article, The Progressive Politics of Happiness, featured in Gary Null’s Guide to Natural Living. This article is the more spruced up, wordy, fact friendly, snazzy and verifiable version of my recent blog post.

Please take 5 minutes to read the article—perhaps accompanied by an aromatic cup ‘o joe or jazzy cup of tea…mmmm…

Don’t believe Mr. de Graff? Well, considering Costa Rica follows these guidelines and is the happiest country in the world by several happiness-measuring scales (for more specifics, read here), I think his article may have some truth to it.

Pura Vida = Happiness

June 14, 2010 at 5:22 am Leave a comment

The One Thing That Really Matters

.:{Hint Hint: It’s Not Money}:.

Tonight was very interesting for me. My host mom’s family that lives in the states, in Florida, is here visiting for the week. They are very nice people, but they embody the “American Stereotype” ie: only like to eat fast food—and a lot of it— like to have a lot of money, and enjoy quantity over quality.

I was talking with the dad, who used to live in Costa Rica, about if he would ever move back here or what his thoughts were about the two countries. His answer was very interesting. He immediately started talking about money. And his job. And more about money. And how he does not like his job at all, but it’s good money. And how life would be better if he didn’t have to work as much. But at least he can go to nice restaurants and has a big house and can buy a lot of stuff right?

It was in that moment, when our conversation straddled my two worlds, that I realized the main thing that I love about Costa Rica.

People here, at least where I live, don’t have a lot of money. I mean they have money, but not in grandiose amounts by any means. They have simple houses, enjoy simple but, delicious, fresh food, if they buy something they take care of it so that it lasts, they reuse most things (ie: almost all the soap in bathrooms here is in old water bottles instead of buying a new bottle of soap every time), they appreciate their health, and they don’t have a lot, but what they do have is plenty. Not once, here, have I heard someone talking about their job as though it is the worst thing ever, as though it encompasses their lives, as though it is the primary reason for living. Not once. Ever. Coming from the states where almost everyone complains about their job on a daily basis, and often center their lives around their career, it’s pretty remarkable. Here they just seem to have their priorities in line, ya know? It’s like, yeah, maybe I don’t earn crazy amounts of money, but that’s not the most important thing in life.

In fact, the other day, my host sister’s husband was talking about this exact thing. He said, “The only that really matters in life is your health. If you are healthy and happy that’s all you need. If you have a lot of money, but have some terrible disease, the money doesn’t matter. Taking care of yourself is what matters”

But why are we so disconnected from this in the states? I mean, it’s not like I have traveled the world or anything, but I have been to a decent number of places and this seems to be the consensus everywhere but the US.

QUALITY over quantity.

The basics of life come first, and are the priority.

It’s an understanding about what really matters in life.

For that, Costa Rica, I am grateful for you.

Muchas Gracias

June 10, 2010 at 9:19 pm 1 comment

Casa Luz : Part 2

.:{Sin Palabras}:.

There aren’t words for my volunteer experience in Costa Rica. I guess that’s why I haven’t written much on my blog about Casa Luz. It’s an experience. Something I feel like a blog can’t really capture.

  • It’s the hugs and “Kelsey!” screams I am greeted with by the little kids everyday.
  • It’s the craziness that is Fanny who I work with in the kitchen.
  • It’s the moments when the moms actually open up and talk to me after months of being guarded.
  • It’s the feeling of being completely out of my comfort zone when I walked into Casa Luz the first day, and now walking in feeling confident and relaxed.
  • It’s the ability to be able to carry on a conversation with the workers when I couldn’t even understand them at first.
  • It’s connecting with the girls.
  • It’s having a terror-child actually calm down and listen to you when you talk to them (or at least pretend to).
  • It’s the skills I have learned when it comes to dealing with children.
  • It’s dancing with the kids at the end of the day, and seeing their faces light up with the first note of the “Hi-Five” song.
  • It’s the feeling of feeling needed.
  • It’s the smiles.
  • It’s the tears.
  • It’s the daily “hola’s” and “hasta luego’s.”
  • It’s a moment when you feel like what you are doing is worth while.

Although my experience at Casa Luz is completely different from anything I thought it would be, I am so happy that I have had the opportunity to work there for the last 4 months. It’s these moments that I am going to remember forever.

June 8, 2010 at 8:44 pm Leave a comment

My Host Dad Makes Me Smile

.:{Life Lessons}:.

Like I said in my post about my mom’s visit to Costa Rica, and the trip to Puerto Viejo, my experience in Costa Rica has been magical. I can’t believe how everything manages to perfectly fall into place. Whenever I’m feeling down, a random event happens to occur that same day that relates to exactly how I was feeling and enlightens my perspective. In addition, I can’t believe how lucky I am, or how Kelsey-tailored my experience continues to be.

A perfect example of this is my host dad. He is fantastic, and it’s remarkable how similar he is to my real dad, which would explain the fantastic-ness. It really is eerie how similar they are (for example, as I’m writing this my host dad fell asleep at the kitchen table and when we woke him up said, “I was just resting my eyes”). This is what I mean by Kelsey-tailored. What are the odds that I would find a Costa Rican replica of my dad thousands of miles away?

And like my real dad, although my host dad is usually goofy and making some kind of joke, when he is serious or does offer up life advice it is just a random simple phrase here or there that happens to be exactly what I needed to hear in that moment.

For example, recently I have been having a bit of a quarter-life-crisis (as I like to call it) about the future, my career, life, etc. and have been distracted but my life-crisis when I know that I should be living in the moment here in Costa Rica. Well, the other day I walk into the house and Manuel (my host dad whose fast and slurred-spanish I have made a mission to understand because, to do so, would be to do the impossible) greets me with a determined fist in the air, stops me and says, “Para adelante, nada para atrás.” Which doesn’t exactly translate, but means more or less “Only continue forward, and leave the past behind.” He then continues on, talking about how life is about living in the moment and we shouldn’t worry about the past, to which he states another brilliant line, “Hoy es la película de la vida” roughly translating to “Today, is the movie of your life.” And then goes on his way laughing to himself and asking me if I would like some whiskey (mind you it’s 10am).

These are the moments to remember.

June 7, 2010 at 11:19 pm Leave a comment

Advice From A Tree

.:{Leaves of Wisdom}:.

Saw this poster in the restaurant, “Bread and Chocolate,” in Puerto Viejo and loved it.

The Poster says:

*Stand tall and proud * Sink your roots into the Earth  * Be content with your natural beauty * Go out on a limb * Drink plenty of water * Remember your roots * Enjoy the view!


June 7, 2010 at 11:13 pm Leave a comment

Puerto Viejo

.:{Jah Bless}:.

As if I haven’t been lucky enough to be in Costa Rica, have gone to the beach for the week during Semana Santa, travel for a week with my mom, and have a weekend back in the states, I also spent a week (a few weeks ago) in Puerto Viejo with Ray, Jen, and Jen’s two friends from college.

We had been planning this trip for what seemed like forever, actually before I even left for Costa Rica. In fact, Puerto Viejo was the only vacation I intended on taking while here, which just makes it even more awesome that I had the opportunity to go on the other trips.

What is so awesome about having these different trips is that I have been able to experience so much of Costa Rica (who knows when I’m going to be here next, so I might as well see as much as I can right?). Because the country is small (the size of New Hampshire and Vermont put together), you would think that by visiting one part of the country you would have a good understanding of most of CR, but that is not the case at all. Every part of Costa Rica is so different from the next, and I have loved been able to experience the extreme differences.

Most different from them all is Puerto Viejo. From what I have seen, Puerto Viejo is nothing like anything else I have encountered in Costa Rica—and I am absolutely in love with it. When I think about my other trips, the things that really stand out to me are the events: the snorkeling, the hikes, the waterfalls, just the activities in general. But, when I think of Puerto Viejo, the thing that stands out is the feel of the Caribbean. The vibe of Puerto Viejo is very relaxing, earth friendly, bohemian, quirky, and laid-back. I could absolutely live there.

Our trip to Puerto Viejo started out with some bad luck. A passport was missing, I was recovering from my sickness and such from the States, and the day before everyone was suppose to come to Costa Rica the road to get to Puerto Viejo was closed because of flooding. I mean, it is the rainy season here, but Puerto Viejo is supposed to be dryer than the rest of the country. A flood? Really?

Luckily, everything worked out, everyone made it to Costa Rica, AND we got to the road just in time before it was going to close again. Seriously, Costa Rica is magical. On top of it all, our shuttle driver was amazing and so nice (although we all believe he definitely got lost trying to find our place in Puerto Viejo as the drive there took waay longer than the drive back with other people). After a nice ride with him, a stop for some local food, driving up to the wrong place, and reversing, we had made it. We, thanks to Ray’s research, found an awesome and cheap place to stay for the week right outside the main town of Puerto Viejo on Playa Negra. Although the lady that we were renting it from was really nice, she definitely needs to work on her welcome speeches.

“Hey Everyone! Welcome! So, what can I tell you? Well, theft is rampant here. It can be dangerous, which is why we put the new bars on the windows…”

Umm what?

I mean my host family had told me to be careful at night in Puerto Viejo, not walk alone, especially if you’re a girl, to lock the doors, ya know basically just use common sense. But this lady was making it seem like we were living right next to an unsecured prison. However, everything turned out all right and we didn’t have any problems, so no worries there. In fact, that night we even walked into town (about a 10 min walk that we first made on a sidewalk-less street, dodging cars, and from then on out, walked to and from town on the beach—much safer and prettier) to get some essentials, ie: Imperial beer and snacks, and returned back home to celebrate our first night in Puerto Viejo.

[I am realizing that this blog is becoming absurdly long, so from here on out, I will do my best to summarize the week.]

The next day was absolutely beautiful, nice and sunny (which could explain why everyone woke up freakishly early for a vacation, ie: 5am) and we spent that day lounging on the beach, busting out the Kan Jam game Ray somehow managed to stuff into his suitcase (if you’ve never heard of Kan Jam, you’re missing out), and exploring around town. That night we went to our first of the many excellent restaurants for some Costa Rican food with a Caribbean flare. It was absolutely delicious. At that restaurant we saw a perfect example of the kind of hospitality and attitude people have in Costa Rica. We were the only people at the restaurant and after taking our orders the owner made a special trip out on her bike to pick up ingredients for our food and the type of beers we ordered (instead of just saying they were out). Gotta love Costa Rica.

Oh geez, I feel like I have so much to say about Puerto Viejo, but this is going to take forever. So… basically

Every single restaurant that we went to in Puerto Viejo was amazing. Everyone seemed to have their favorites too. Whether it was Pan Pay with the good atmosphere and delicious Tortilla Espanola, Ali Baba’s for some A-MAZ-ING tasting falafel, pita’s and Mediterranean food, Bread and Chocolate for some all natural, homemade (including the bread and jams) food, delicious french press coffee, and veggie friendly breakfast, or Salsa Brava for great Tapa’s, drinks, and sitting right next to the ocean, we were all happily satisfied with the Puerto Viejo’s food.

The group at Ali Baba's

Delicious french press coffee at "Bread and Chocolate"

AWESOME cinnamon and oatmeal pancakes in the shape of a sun at Bread and Chocolate- yum

The amazing tapas at Salsa Brava restaurant

We were also able to go on two awesome tours while we were in Puerto Viejo. The first was a combination tour of an animal sanctuary, indigenous chocolate making, and a waterfall hike and the second one was a fantastic zip-lining tour. I think pictures explain better than words for these so, please note the photos below.

At the animal sanctuary : Here's lookin' at you monkey

Ray with one of the monkeys at the animal sanctuary - cute!

Baby sloth!

The cutest two-toed baby sloth ever

Baby three-toed can you not love that face?!

At the animal sanctuary with the littlest of the monkeys : Brad Pitt

The girls at the indigenous chocolate-making tour with "lipstick" put on directly from a berry

Beautiful waterfall that we hiked to and swam under after the animal reserve and chocolate tour

On the way to the ziplining, our transportation broke down and we were told to walk to "the zipline place right up the road." Well, about 30 min later and one never-ending incline climb, we made it.

The girls and our ziplining gear

The beautiful view of the rainforest

We did it!

Along with the tours, another moment that stood out specifically for me was one night when we were walking home from town. Not only was it already beautiful because, I mean, our entire walk home is along the beach, but this night was especially beautiful. As I was walking with Ray, we looked up to notice that the stars were exceptionally bright. EXCEPTIONALLY bright. I have never seen anything like it before. I felt like I was in a movie or like Jen said, on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at DisneyLand where there are fake stars above you. The stars were not only remarkably bright but actually twinkling. TWINKLING. Every single one. We all stopped just to stare up at the stars. It was something so simple, but it’s the simple moments that matter the most.

And really I think that is what I loved the most about Puerto Viejo. The simplicity. Life is relaxed. Life is good. Quality is more important than quantity. The priorities are all that they need to be: good food, good company, happiness, awareness of the world that we live in, love, peace… it sounds very hippy-ish, but hey maybe the flower children had it right.

There is so much more that happened in Puerto Viejo, but I’m not going to bore you all with it. Basically to sum it up. Puerto Viejo = Happiness. I was so so so happy to see my friends and see Ray (but that definitely is making these last few weeks without them very difficult). I was so happy to be on the beach. I was so happy that I was lucky enough to be in Costa Rica, I was so happy with the food. I was so happy with people. I was so happy with the activities. I was, simply, so happy. And am still so happy.

Big thanks to everyone that helped me or encouraged me to come out to Costa Rica. Seriously. It’s thanks to you that I am surrounded by such happiness.

Muchas Gracias
Pura Vida

[continue on to see more photos!]

Our fantastic place next to the Playa Negra beach in Puerto Viejo

Our beautiful view walking every day

I just loved this house in Puerto Viejo

Love Puerto Viejo

Typical Puerto Viejo

Please note the third line down

Attempting to make local food for breakfast

Beautiful sunrise on Playa Negra

June 7, 2010 at 11:04 pm Leave a comment


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