Oh, how do I look forward to Sundays.
Some are lazy.
Actually, very few.
Some are BBQ filled.
actually almost all since arriving in Costa Rica
have been spent at the beach.
There is just something about sticking my head out the window.
I cannot take an aisle seat.
I just can't.
It's like holding a lollipop in front of a 5 year old.
Or bringing a box of fundip to another country and just showing the students the wrapper.
Just not fair.
Let me bring you back to where this day had started.
Alarm went off just as the sun was coming up.
Grabbed my phone to listen to my handsome's morning voice memo.
Got dressed for an early morning run in the Sabana.
A beautiful park just moments away from my home.
Back home to prepare for the day.
Backpack on my back.
Sun hat on my head.
Fresh coffee in my hand.
And this time,
an incredible feeling of no shoes on my feet.
Walked to the bus station with one of my roommates,
meet a few more amigas from work,
walked around downtown as we waited for our bus to depart.
And off we went.
Back to my head hanging out the window.
We passed by towns of all sort.
Some incredibly developed.
And many untouched,
just letting mother nature shine her beauty.
The bus stopped from time to time,
my head hanging out the window with my camera around my neck,
held just right for the next moment deemed necessary to capture.
I smiled at the people below,
as they gave notice to this person, hanging happily out the window.
Pure passion in my eyes,
a massive smile on my face
and curiosity written all over my body.
The time has come,
the realization has set in,
that many of these moments described on these lines,
just simply cannot be captured.
I am sure to process all that is around me,
capturing a mental picture
within the cells and structure of my existence.
when the time is right,
are put into this time capsule of a camera,
and making them possible to share
and for those looking on to see.
Each time my camera is taken from it's home,
I am reminded of why,
from moment to moment,
laugh to laugh,
city to country to continent
that sharing is taking place,
educating is being done.
Photography is my voice.
It's a dissection of my soul.
The vulnerability that keeps me human.
The passion that keeps me
for all this world has mapped out for me.
Each day I wake,
some how more thankful than the last
because each moment,
small and great,
is shaping me,
to not only acknowledge,
all that I am capable of being and doing.
I am honored to share,
are my realities
making up this thing called life,
thank you for reading,
Have you asked yourself lately,,,
are you simply existing or living?
What is your answer?
The above photos are a day of my travels from San Jose to Jaco Beach!
Shine your light.
Share your beauty with this world!
What sparked your interest in going to teach English abroad?
Throughout College, I always knew I wanted to teach in another country.
It was and has been extremely important to me to be a part of and give back to different communities around the world. Upon college graduation, I started a full time job working for the Los Angeles PBS station.
After years of working full time, I kept thinking about teaching abroad, specifically in Africa.
Several months of research later, an extensive application to WorldTeach and before I knew it, I was accepted to teach English in Tanzania, Africa more specifically on Mafia Island (off the coast of Tanzania).
After spending three months teaching on Mafia Island, I fell in love with teaching abroad and being a part of a community outside of my own. Immediately upon returning to the United States, I signed up with the International TEFL Academy to receive my certification! Here I am, now teaching in San Jose, Costa Rica.
Why did you decide to get TEFL certified and choose International TEFL Academy?
I decided to get TEFL certified while teaching abroad on Mafia Island, Tanzania.
While teaching and living there, I tapped into a new part of me that I had yet to discover.
Everyday I woke up so inspired and ready to inspire.
After doing research on the various TEFL certification courses, I fell in love with International TEFL Academy due to their impeccable communication, thoroughness in information, incredibly friendly staff and the amount of online classes offered.
**Mention my name when registering for International TEFL Academy and receive a $50 discount on your TEFL course. Use coupon code AlumniReferral50**
How did you like the course?
I took the online course and completed my practicum hours at a local community college in Oceanside, CA. My instructor was so amazing. She gave quick, honest feedback and had suggestions/ comments for every assignment. As part of the course requirements, we had weekly forums that enabled us to communicate with and discuss various items with other classmates around the world. The tasks were all extremely helpful and effectively prepared me to create my own lesson plans. The practicum hours were some of my favorite moments of the course. It enabled me to sit in a classroom on a regular basis, create my own lesson plans, observe, student teach and be an extra set of hands in the classroom.
It also gave me the opportunity to see what TEFL courses look like in my own country!
How has your TEFL training helped you in your current teaching position?
My TEFL training helped me with my current position in a number of ways.
Firstly, it taught me how to create effective lesson plans.
Secondly, gave me the opportunity to put those lesson plans into practice in an actual classroom.
Finally, if it wasn't for my TEFL certification and the incredible help of the International TEFL Academy staff, I wouldn't have known where to start with looking for a teaching job abroad.
I was provided with so many tools, setting me up for complete success!
How did you secure your English teaching job?
Two months prior to the peak hiring season in Costa Rica, I sent emails to my top choice schools that included my resume, cover letter, my availability for an in-person interview, my skype availability
and two letters of recommendation.
What school, company, or program are you working for?
I am currently working for Idioma Internacional in San Jose, Costa Rica.
How did you get your work visa?
I am working in the country without a work visa.
Every 90 days I have to leave the country for 72 hours.
With this, I am legally able to work as long as my visa status is current and I register for a tax id number and pay taxes. I am fortunate in that the company I work for handles a lot of the logistics for this process,
but it is my responsibility to keep my passport status up the date.
Tell us about your English teaching job!
· My title is Profesora de Ingles.
· Training lasted two weeks, which included grammar, jams, company logistics, policies and procedures, lesson planning, observing class, etc.
· After training I received a schedule teaching 8 classes a week at around 22 hours.
· I receive $8 an hour for regular classes, $10 for one-on-one classes and $10 for our high school courses.
· At this point, I am not able to save as I've been without a paycheck for quite some time with the transition abroad.
· Here, people typically just make enough to cover expenses with little room to save.
· I am working for a school that provides "Corporate English Communication Solutions."
· Teachers at Idioma travel to corporate clients around the San Jose area providing six different levels of English instruction to groups of anywhere from one to eight students.
· In addition, on weekends, I teach a high-school class with around 13 students.
· With signing a year contract, I receive 10 un-paid vacation days.
How did you find somewhere to live and what is it like? Do you have roommates?
I was extremely fortunate with my living situation.
One requirement with moving abroad again was to live with a local family,
as it was really important for me to see what it's really like to live locally.
I expressed this desire to my current employer during the interview process.
Upon receiving the job offer, they communicated a couple living options.
After a few emails, I was prepared to rent a room out of a local families house.
It worked out so well that I was able to come directly from the airport straight to my new home.
I live with six people right now - the husband and wife who own the house and three other roommates (two of which are teaching English and one graphic designer). Oh yea, I cannot forget our two incredible dogs!
I have my own bedroom and share a common living space, kitchen and bathroom with the other housemates.
It's such a beautifully positive and respectful home!
Information about my country, Costa Rica:
To start, this country is absolutely BEAUTIFUL! It's filled with so many colors and tropical flowers.
There are plants growing out of the concrete, birds chirping outside my window, butterflies colors I couldn't have imagined, smiling faces and extremely fast drivers!
Public transportation is great!
At least what I've experienced. I can take a bus to pretty much anywhere in Costa Rica.
There isn't one central website or bus station, but after asking locals which bus to take where,
one can quickly learn how to get around!
I'm not much of a nightlife kind of person.
I did go out my first Saturday in San Jose to an incredible reggae bar.
The music was amazing, the people were so nice and the local beer grew on me quickly.
Seeing as I'm living in the city and just a bus ride away from the rest of the country, there is so much to do.
During the mornings I go for a run in the local parks. If I have time in-between classes, I skate around.
The city has so many statues, monuments, historical buildings and parks to discover.
There is always a market to go adventure in or an event happening around the corner.
The food is simple, but good.
Rice and beans are cheap and easy to cook.
I haven't eaten out much as it's so much more expensive than to eat at home.
I do splurge on cappuccinos and chocolate croissants at the Saturday organic farmers market.
Although my schedule is quite busy with teaching classes and preparing for them, there is still time to travel.
Sundays I spend the mornings on a bus to Jaco (the closest beach) or exploring the city and local gardens!
How would you describe your standard of living?
Costa Rica is interesting in that Tico's (locals) live on very little money per month (around $400),
yet everything but food is really expensive.
In your opinion, how much does someone need to earn in order to live comfortably?
At 30 hours per week and $8 an hour, it is sufficient for rent, utilities and food with no money left to save.
What advice would you give someone planning or considering teaching abroad?
Would you recommend teaching in your country?
Do you research, do your research and do your research.
Connect with people and schools before coming.
Have an impeccable resume and cover letter.
Save enough money to not have an income for the first couple months of arriving in the country.
Pack a few items that really help you feel at home (special fabrics, blankets, etc.).
Make sure you have a support system and that you can be away from them physically for a long period of time.
Study, learn and practice the local language.
Be open, flexible and understanding to change and the unknown.
Have confidence in yourself.
Be open to asking for and receiving help.
Continue to do activities outside of teaching that make you happy.
Utilize your resources.
For more information, please check out San Jose, Costa Rica English Teaching Q&A with Ashley Strong on INternational TEFL Academy's website!
There I was.
Sitting at the edge of my seat again.
Saturday in a car with my head hanging out the window.
Just like a curious new pup on her way home.
This time, I hung out the back seat of the car window,
headed towards the Jardin Botanico Else Kientzler.
Believe it or not,
we only went something like 10 km,
but it took close to an hour as the roads
are shaped with one s after the next,
swirling through the small towns and tropical plant covered roads.
From the back seat,
I called to Laura and Gustavo,
“Are you used to seeing this beauty of the country you live in, or are you still in awe of it.”
Their answer, “It’s beautiful, but we’re used to it.”
I for one,
am not used to it.
Although my time here has been a little over a month,
I am constantly distracted by my tasks at hand
as I look around to see one incredibly vibrant working of mother nature after the next.
On this morning,
we arrived at the Jardin Botanico Else Kientzler
camera in hand,
anxious to see what lies within these gardens routes
because if you’ve followed my photography,
you know how much I just love botanical gardens.
We spent several hours walking the man made paths of this paradise.
Looking at exotic flowers,
after waterfalls in the middle of path ways,
paintings on the trees resembling that of local creatures,
photo shoots occurring in the garden beds of who knows what vibrant yellow flowers,
took more photos,
scouted out locations for what could one day be a yoga festival,
walked around a maze made of veins and bees pollinating next-door flowers.
the amazement and wonderment deepening
and before I knew it,
we were exiting,
heading back to the car and
on our way back into the city!
This I did not mind,
as I knew when I work Sunday morning,
another adventure awaited.
I sat on the bus in complete awe.
you could imagine,
my head hanging out the window,
but now that of a bus window,
wind blowin’ my hat and hair all around.
Starting in town at the coca-cola station,
heading towards the coast.
Cars, cars, buildings, buildings.
Shortly, open land.
An erected horse,
a sharp turn,
more open fields and land,
trees of all lengths and greens imaginable,
breezes of the wind hitting the bus as it speed down the highway,
birds flying above,
with the sun,
just glistening over their feathers.
it doesn’t seem real,
these environments are those that I dreamt about.
They bring me back to the immediate nostalgia of Mafia Island,
to the trees as green as green can get
and the sky as blue and crisp as imaginable.
is my guide,
I don’t want to feel like a tourist,
because this place is where I’m working,
but I can’t help pull it from my bag.
I want to share.
Photos can only begin to tell the story,
but reality is,
these moments can’t be recreated.
Time comes to arrive at the beach,
fresh juice in hand,
toes squirming around in the hot, hot sand.
We find a place to make our home for the day.
I take a seat
on my Jamaican colored towel.
With my hands on my head,
I look out at the ocean
and although there is a calmness present,
a part just feels missing,
my heart pulses to a different tune these days
as I have a constant yearning to hold the hand
of the man
that as I told you before,
now shares my heart.
and a few others at that
have been spent soaking up the sun,
getting to know new beings I now call my friends.
Each venture to Jaco
brings about a new clarity,
separation from the chaos of the city
and connection to my deeper self.
I spend as much time as possible doing handstands along the coastline,
reminding myself of the strength
that resides deep within this skin,
Jaco is a beach of less beauty,
They all want to know why we would go to that beach
as they say there are so many other beautiful beaches.
I am happy with Jaco.
It’s a two-hour bus ride away,
a treat of an iced vanilla latté,
soaking up rays
and taking time to go within
and reflect on the weeks busyness of lesson planning and teaching
all to realize the lasting effects on my inner beings.
Thanks for letting me share!
Sending so much love.
Until next time.
“You need more photos in the city, not just of nature.”
The incredible woman behind my Costa Rican home and owner of Innova Adventure Travel!
So here it was.
We left the house at two.
Took the bus downtown.
Walked onto the brick laid streets.
Crowded with people.
Locals’ selling items in the middle of the walkways
And families on their daily missions.
Before I knew it,
We were arriving in the middle of the city
A beautiful, pristine hotel.
I was in the lobby of Hotel Presidente.
Laura exchanged some words,
we both handed the gentleman our business cards.
To the third floor we went,
getting a tour of the different suites offered.
In awe taking photos,
opening windows to hang out and take photos of the busy streets below.
Up to the 7th floor,
a gym with glass windows over looking the city.
Back down to the third floor,
freshly made sweet cappuccinos.
Sitting at the table,
a conversation fully in Spanish.
Me in silence.
Trying to pick out words or phrases I understood.
A few more words exchanged,
in both English and Spanish.
Then Laura and I were back on our way.
Down into the lobby
Out the door
and onto the crowded streets of downtown San Jose.
a political rally for the upcoming elections.
The central market,
fruits, vegetables, fish for days.
Bright colors everywhere.
Fruits never before seen by the actual eye,
normally just seen on some kind of screen.
Laura patiently described our environment,
a statue here,
what was happening there,
people to look out for.
This is my home for now,
these are the surroundings I see directly in front of me,
as they are my current reality.
And on we went.
Out of the cathedral,
back onto the bus.
This time headed towards home.
A few moments of traffic later,
a bus stop or two,
and a few more,
we were being dropped off just down out street from our home.
I walked into my room
immediately uploaded my photos to my hard drive.
A smile was brightly painted on my face.
was one where I captured that just walking distance from my current home.
At one moment,
I stopped and paused.
There I was with the cathedral doors in front of me,
I walked through,
and found a young man kneeled at the back of the room.
the sun was so gracefully shinning onto the right side of his shoulder.
and then took a few more.
Remaining in complete awe of the moment directly in front of me,
a walking human
is so blessed to witness and see.
I woke the next morning,
went for an early run,
home to freshin’
and back out of the house.
on my way to the local Saturday morning organic farmers market, Feria Verde..
My, oh my.
The stuff you can find there.
This very morning,
I indulged in a warm vanilla cappuccino,
tostada con huevos,
and of course a bag of three chocolate croissants.
(Yes, I ate all three by time I walked by to my front door)
I am not too sure if I love looking at what the vendors are selling
looking at the people and the environment.
Conversations all around,
both in English and Spanish.
Coffee made of flowers.
Lipstick made of cacao.
25 ingredient empanadas.
I took photos.
We walked about
and met new friends.
So, it was.
Time to wonder again.
This time through a few new community parks,
back through downtown.
One park had youth slack-lining, juggling and holla-hoopin’
The other had a man stopping from his bicycle adventure to take a photo in front of a national monument.
Abby and I sat and talked to him for a few minutes,
both in English and Spanish,
where he expressed the importance of taking off sunglasses while talking to people
as it shows signs of intelligence and respect.
We exchanged names,
and my day continued.
I went home again yet humbled
at the days adventures,
I am thankful.
I am proud.
These are photos from my two days of adventuring around downtown Costa Rica!
As always, enjoy and MANY blessings!