Oh the Feelings!

Part of being an ESL teacher is having to say goodbye. We watch students learn, grow, and become more and more fluent in English. It is a beautiful thing to see so many students progress and get ready to make the next steps in their lives. However, it is also, always a mixed bag of emotions. The only way for me to describe it properly is to tell the story of three of my classes that graduated our program and are moving towards their new phases in life.

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In order to put this in the correct context, I will start from when I first met my classes. All three classes that I had were taken over from other teachers who had to leave because their contracts ended, or they were assigned other classes that conflicted with the schedule of these. I had observed two out of the three classes. During the observations, I was able to see how wonderful these students really are.

Once I was given the classes, I truly connected with the students and found my initial reaction to be absolutely correct. Each student was individually brilliant, and as a whole they made class time incredibly fun. I worked for them for three and a half months. It is not a long time in the grand dance of life, but it was sufficient to understand what kinds of people they are. If every teacher had students like mine, this profession would be saturated with applicants.

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Anyway, after working with them for that time, the end had come near. I only had one last week with them. As the final class for each group approached, I began to feel melancholy. I knew they were excited to be finished. I would have been also, in their shoes. I prepared the lesson with a sinking feeling in my chest. I knew I would miss them, but I didn’t think it would actually affect me this heavily.

I kept the lessons light and fun on the last days. All the students wanted pictures of the entire group, including myself. It was very special to me. I felt more like a part of something than I had in a long time. We took many group photos, made sure that we all looked happy and then finished the class with some good group discussions.

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It was the end of the final class. I had all the students packing and preparing to leave. I had my bag organized again, the whiteboard cleared, the chairs put up. Then we all stood there looking at each other. I could tell this was going to be the hard part. I could sense the emotions like a bird senses the dawn. I told them that they could leave, class was over. Then, almost in a resounding chorus, they replied, “but teacher, we don’t want to leave.” I could have cried right then. My heart swelled with admiration and a massive sense of appreciation. These students, who were going to school for 7-9 hours a day, and then more class on Saturdays had just told me they didn’t want to leave! I did cry. It was so meaningful to me.

We left together since we couldn’t leave one by one. We got towards the exit and exchanged our cordial goodbyes (I wasn’t crying anymore). I know that they will go on to accomplish great things. I know that they need to be finished and out of the program. I know that they taught me more than I could ever teach them.

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Día de las Madres

Mother’s Day is celebrated in many countries throughout the world. In the US it is typically on the first Sunday of May. Although there are many shared holidays between the US and Costa Rica, Mother’s Day is not one of them. Here in Costa Rica, Mother’s Day is celebrated on August 15th. This corresponds with the Roman Catholic feast day of The Assumption of Mary. “The Assumption of Mary is a feast day recognizing the selfless and earthly life of Mary and the divinity associated with her heavenly soul,” according to http://www.prosoftnearshore.com/mothers-day-in-costa-rica-august-15/. Unlike the US, Mother’s Day in Costa Rica is National Holiday. The entire day is dedicated to celebrating our mothers.

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Although it is important everywhere, the dual purpose of the holiday here in Costa Rica shows how much respect and honor we have for our mothers. There are many ways that people celebrate this very special day. Some of which include buying all types of gifts, taking mothers out for special meals, and making sure they don’t have to do any work. Mainly, the mothers that I spoke with on this day just wanted to be surrounded by family and loved ones. It is most important to make sure they know how much you love them.

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“Ma! You get to celebrate twice a year while I live in Costa Rica,” I told my mother when I called in May. She loved the idea. Even though I wouldn’t be able to fly home and visit, we were able to speak on the phone for a few hours. We digitally cheers-ed each other, and drank some wine. Even though this article is a little after the fact, every day could be Mother’s Day. So please don’t forget to tell your mothers that you love and respect them. Every day would be ideal, but we know that’s not always possible.

On that note, I love you MA!

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Annexation of Nicoya to Costa Rica (Guanacaste Day)

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Although Costa Rica celebrates many national holidays, there are few as vibrant and culturally inclusive as the Annexation of Nicoya to Costa Rica (Guanacaste Day), which takes place on July 25th. Unlike most annexations throughout the world, the annexation of Nicoya, and thus the province of Guanacaste, was made possible by the request of the inhabitants, not some militant coup, uprising, or any such violence.

Prior to annexation in 1824, the province of Guanacaste (including the incredibly beautiful Nicoya Peninsula) was part of Nicaragua. At the time, Nicaragua was struggling with unrest and civil war which led the inhabitants of this region to request to be annexed to Costa Rica. The Central American Federation approved the request and the region became part of Costa Rica. Being that the inhabitants were the catalyst to annexation, the saying “de la patria por nuestra voluntad” (literal translation: of the country by our will) became an illustration of Costa Rican democratic values. *

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Here in San Jose, I couldn’t participate in a full-scale celebration. However, by the invitation of my students, I was able to gain access to a sample of the cultural festivities. Their colegio, or high school, held a small festival that celebrated by showcasing the cultural diversity of the entire nation.

I took the bus out to the colegio and was met with open arms. The students, as well as the administrative staff, led me to a seat in the front row to watch the final dance number. (I was there before other members of the public were allowed to visit, but missed some of the other presentations). I felt so welcome with my smile stretching from ear to ear. The dance number concluded and I began to mingle with the students and faculty. A band listlessly played classical Costa Rican music, booths were being manned by the student presenters, and the food was quickly prepared.

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Some of my students quickly found me and began to show me around. Each class represented a different province and gave historical presentations, offered typical food, played music, and adorned decorations. Before I knew what was really happening I had a plate of corn tortillas with natilla (similar to sour cream), corn on the cob, and arroz con leche (sweet cream with rice). I tried to pay, but my students refused to allow that. I felt so incredibly welcome. After I conversed with a few more students, I made the rounds to see each of the provinces represented, listened to the histories in Spanish, and ate or drank something from each booth. The experience was incredible. I will forever be grateful to my students for inviting me to such a wonderful cultural learning experience, and for showing me an amazing time.

Not only is this National Holiday a symbol of the democratic values of Costa Rica, but it is truly a time to celebrate all of the cultures that make Costa Rica the rich and diverse country that it is today. Without seeing something like this first hand, I would have never known the importance that Costa Rica places on its very core. The people will always come first and especially their individual values and traditions.

*http://www.costaricaguides.com/guanacastes-annexation-to-costa-rica/

*http://www.guachipelin.com/blog/nicoya-annexation-to-costa-rica-july-25-1824/