Costa Rica

Take Two – a.k.a. “The First 2 Weeks @ a Bi-lingual Private School

Well HELLO!! Long time no SEE! Sorry about the technical difficulties. Let’s give this another try! Take Two . . .

Hopefully by now you have seen the last post I “tried” to post all by myself. The words came across crystal clear, but not the photos. It was MORE than frustrating for me and I knew with school starting that I needed to put the blog on hold and focus in on my kiddos. I am so grateful for everyone’s patience and understanding as I had to make this difficult choice. I had no idea how liberating it was to blog and express my emotions, memories and feelings with those that I love. It was a lonely two weeks but I am grateful for today. Let’s hope that things turn out better this time around.

I think I will do us all a favor (since a HUGE part of this blog is for posterity’s sake) and just cover the first 2 weeks at our foreign bi-lingual private school. There was SO MUCH going on that week. No matter how much the staff at the school spoke to us, we were constantly behind in one way or another. But after 2 VERY BUSY weeks, I am hopeful that the school shopping lists are almost all checked off and the kids will be fully stocked for their first full year of private school in Costa Rica.

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This is the First Day of School that all 4 kiddos attended school together; it was actually taken on Wednesday, February 11, 2015. Our school, among several other schools in Costa Rica, slowly bring children back to a new school year. They start with the youngest levels (preschool up to Prepa school) on Monday, elementary on Tuesday, and Junior/High School on Wednesday. L should have been our first to attend school but she mysteriously came down with a pretty high fever (102 degrees). Poor kid. The other kiddos were actually excited to have a full day without their little sister around, but the stars did not align in their favor. So, they danced in the rain instead.

IMG_6599  –  Check out the kiddos having fun!

They actually had just gotten dressed to go swimming when the clouds came out and it started to rain. The locals were actually shocked because it NEVER rains at this time of year. We weren’t stressed about it, so we decided to dance instead of sulk. Littlest got to watch from the door. Poor kid.

The next day, Tuesday February 10, 2015, K and G headed off to school. L was sick to her stomach with fear and refused to eat any breakfast. Her fever had left but she insisted she was still sick. Hubby and I prayed about it and felt she needed to at least try and go to school. Fortunately, the staggered starting dates worked out in our favor. Since E didn’t start school until Wednesday, both Paul and I were able to take the 3 kiddos to their First Day of School together. (everyone give me a big “AHHHHHHH!”)

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L was TERRIFIED!! So, we played it off as if we were just taking G and K to their classes. We just happened to walk by L’s class on the way and her teacher called out to her. She couldn’t help but be curious and wanted to only look in and see what the kids looked like, but she refused to let either of us leave her. That was when our sweet principal came into the classroom to greet the children (she is literally an angel!) She noticed that L was crying and clinging onto her mother. So, she reached out to L and said in English, “I am looking for a helper and I choose you. Would you please come help me in my office?” L couldn’t refuse and off she went.

Paul and I had some details to finish up with the secretary, so we took the opportunity to leave. Unfortunately, we met up with L at the main entrance of the school where she was standing with the principal, greeting all of the students for their first day. She looked timid but well enough that we left her with the principal. Next thing we knew, she was gone. So we went on with our day.

I spent the rest of the day doing what would become my “new schedule.” I drove Paul to work, came home and got the housework done, looked over the school lists to see what needed to be purchased (YIKES!!!) and tried to spend some time alone with E on his last day of summer break. He is such a great kid! I love him to pieces. We had a great talk, made a few tuna melts and the next thing we knew, it was time to pick up L from school.

I think E was just as excited as I was to see how L’s first day of school went. L was first in line, holding her teacher’s hand. She was shy, but gave her teacher a smile good-bye. We were so excited for her. We did however have a bit of a shock for the first day of school. Paul had called me right before we left, informing me that we needed to pay for a hot lunch for L? I was surprised. I had made her a lunch and she hadn’t forgotten it. But, I didn’t worry about it and felt I should just approach the situation as a new experience.

Thank heavens I did! The teacher explained that L had eaten her entire lunch during their morning “snack time.” The teacher didn’t know how we sent food, since most Costa Rican’s have a bowl of cereal or a sandwich for a morning snack (Paul says even the adults do it at work) and then they have a bigger, hot lunch at noon. Even the children bring a meal that is sent to be heated up in a microwave at the school. They actually pay someone to gather all the children’s lunches and heat them up for them. VERY DIFFERENT! But K LOVES IT! She begs for dinner leftovers for her school lunch every night. It is an easy way to try to fit in with the culture here. We have entered a new twilight zone . . . hot lunch from home zone. VERY DIFFERENT indeed!

Come to find out, G had done the same thing. He ate his lunch for snack and his teacher bought him a hot lunch too. Sweet G actually ate his hot lunch, where L said, “It looked weird!” and didn’t eat but a few bites. Hot lunch is 1300 colones (almost $3.00 a lunch). Sounds expensive but they get a hot meal of rice, beans, meat, veggies and a drink. Paul eats that same meal at work. It isn’t bad but if your kid won’t eat any of it, it is a HUGE waste of money!

I didn’t find out about G until I went to pay for L at the office. The secretary and I haven’t gotten along so well. She has refused to try to speak English and I have NO IDEA what she is trying to say. She won’t use an app I have on my phone to help us speak. She is a pain to work with right now, but I will work on her. You’ll see, I’ll win her over just yet!!! (She has no idea who she is dealing with – Mwah, Ha, Ha!!)

After school, we picked up G and K who described school as WEIRD, TOO MUCH SPANISH and WHERE IS MY PERSONAL SPACE (Latins are very friendly, touchy people). I had to laugh and just let them vent. We came home and relaxed by taking a dip in the pool. Not bad for a first day.

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The next day, E was off to his first day of school. Paul couldn’t join us, since there wasn’t any room for him in the car. So I ran him to work first. Paul did take E to his early morning Seminary class at 5 am though.

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E’s Seminary Group of The Valiant 7

The kids were so excited to see where E got to go to school. His grade has the entire upper floor. It is so cool and so off limits to the younger kids. But we broke the rules and escorted Elijah to find his locker. One of the administrative staff came out to greet us. She wanted to make sure we knew where to go and what to do. Even though she was there to help us, we didn’t really know what she was saying.

Instead of getting upset, I decided to just let things fall where they may and see what would happen. I couldn’t help but take a few snap shots of Elijah meeting some of the students at the school. I must admit, it was hard to leave my oldest baby there to fend for himself. He will have the MOST expectations to learn out of all 4 kids. I am so proud of the choices he has made for himself, obviously being prompted to take Spanish the last 2 1/2 years. He even faced his ego and retook Spanish 2 in 9th grade so he could further understand what he hadn’t understood in 8th grade. This kid’s humility and meekness truly do make life sweet for him and for his parents! You ROCK E!!

I completely forgot about something that happened on the first day of school. It is a must tell! After I got home from taking Paul to work, I decided to be brave and call the school to ask them about some of the items on the class lists that the children needed.

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Here are ALL 4 lists, G and K shared the second list, so just double all purchases on that one.  E’s list is the blue one.  His was FILLED with notebooks (cuadernos – I definitely learned that word this week!) The last 2 “white lists” are my translations, front and back, of what I needed to go purchase.  It was a BEAST to complete, but I did it!!  

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This is L’s list. Her list alone was the biggest pain.  All of the little things I had to purchase and NOT in the way we do it in Utah.  I tried to price match  –  HA!!  It is quality and discounts here and they aren’t advertised, so you must drive from store to store and they are NOT close together.  Okay, off my soapbox. 

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Here is L’s “translated” list.  I LOVED using my permanent black marker on this list and CROSSING OUT the items I had finally found and delivered to the school.  It was  a satisfying feeling, one I will hopefully enjoy more next year, now that I know better.

Just take a look at these things. Paul had his secretary compile the lists for him but they literally made NO SENSE to me. It didn’t help that the lists were in Spanish. So I sat down to translate the original lists and then compile a new list for myself. As I was doing so, I thought I could try calling the school. BIG FAT FAIL!!

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Look at the pretty flowers Wendi!  Just look at the pretty flowers!  BREATH!!

The secretary didn’t even try to speak English with me and all the Spanish I knew was lost on deaf ears. I was SO EMBARRASSED and SO FRUSTRATED that I finally just said, “Chao! Chao! Esposo habla. Lo siento!” (Good-bye, good-bye! Husband speak Spanish. I’m sorry!) She actually said, “Paul?!?” I died! She actually KNEW who was trying to call the school and who was making the BIGGEST FOOL of themselves. I wanted to crawl under a rock and hide there, until I could speak Spanish properly.

I said, “Si! Lo siento,” (Yes, I’m sorry!) and hung up. All I could do to keep myself calm from the embarrassment was to imagine one of my foreign friends trying to make their way in the U.S. I wouldn’t laugh at her or even dare think she was dumb. I would be proud of her for trying and think of ways I could better communicate with her. I honestly thought, “Shame on the school for not having a way for English speaking parents to contact the school.” I then called Paul to ask him to do what I couldn’t do. He suggested I write an email and tell the school how I felt. Really? Is that such a good idea on the first day? Well, what day would be better? So I did it.

The first email was far too emotional. I deleted most of it and decided to take a more appreciative approach to the school and then plead my case. All I needed was an English speaking liaison at the school, someone I could ask stupid questions to and receive the help that my kiddos and myself needed. The school can’t just rely on Paul. I’m the mama who handles the schooling in the family, Papa goes to work. We must find a working relationship so all parties are happy. Well, the principal got the email ASAP and called me into her office, right after I picked L up from her teacher.

Fortunately E was there to watch L for me and I went in to see the principal. Like I said, she is a sweetheart! She was so kind and she SPEAKS ENGLISH!! She said I could talk to her ANYTIME and you know what, SHE MEANT IT!! She has been there for me EVERY DAY SINCE! She has introduced me to everyone she has bummed into that speaks English. She even introduced me to a gentleman who has been a HUGE help in giving me the “background” on the culture and politics of the school. I truly felt blessed each day the first two weeks of school.

Fortunately I was blessed with great help because those LISTS tried to do me in. Look at them!! They are literally 3 feet tall, end to end, and came to over $500 to purchase, if not more. Shopping over 15 times to find each of the items and buying things that are out of the 50’s, that came as a real surprise to even myself. One tradition that they have here in Latin America is to cover each of their books with plastic contact paper. It has been a real trick to learn how to wrap over 100 notebooks, text books, workbooks, and paper folders. Boy is this stuff expensive! Not to mention, the notebooks these kids need. Each child (except L) needs a college, sewn notebook for each subject. K and G needed 10 each and E needed 15. Each notebook was at least $2 or $3 a piece here. Love import taxes!

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Seriously LOOK at the prices of these folders!!  The white folder is 3,590 colones = “$7.00″ in the U.S.  Would YOU pay that price for a white 1” binder?  I wouldn’t either.  So I went with the “chipper chicken” (love Father of the Bride) and purchased the orange binder.  I guess orange is cheaper to make or import or unpopular?  I don’t care, it was only 2,200 colones = “$4.00.”  What makes me the MOST sick about all of this shopping, do you know HOW MANY of these binders I either gave away, donated or stored somewhere in Utah?!?  Makes me SICK to think about it.  .  . so I don’t!







I tried to shop frugally but when push came to shove, I went to the store that our landlady’s sister-in-law suggested, Universal. It was like shopping at TJ Max for school supplies, STRANGE! I loaded my cart so full that I was stopped by a tourist who said, “You MUST be a teacher!” I said, “No, I’m a mother. (pause) Of 4 children.” Her jaw dropped and she proceeded to praise me for living in such an expensive country, while raising 4 (FOUR!!!) children. I guess 4 is the new 12? I laughed and got back to my shopping. Fortunately the sweetest employee helped me, happily I might add, find EVERYTHING I needed on my list. Unfortunately, I didn’t take the time to have fun spending that kind of money. Next time I WILL!!! Paul met me right at check out. I was grateful he arrived, it helped lower the amount of stares I was receiving.

As for the school levels each of the kiddos are in: L is in Prepa (a class for 5 1/2 – 6 year olds that includes going to lunch. It is a “preparatory” class that helps the kiddos get used to being in school all day. She attends school from 7:20 – 1:10), G is in the 2nd grade and K is in the 5th grade (7:20 – 3:10), E is in the 9th grade (7:20 – 3:15). All of the children have L’s schedule on Friday.

Each of the children actually rotate through several different teachers. I think it is a fun way to teach school. It allows the teacher’s to see into the lives of each of the students because they get to know their siblings as well. Well, at least it is a benefit for our kiddos. We are THE LARGEST family at the school. Most Ticos (Costa Ricans) only have one, maybe two children. Raising children is EXPENSIVE and only the rich can afford to have more.

One more feature I love about the kid’s school is after school on Friday’s! Each child in the school has the opportunity to be called in by one of their teacher’s for a private 40 minute, one on one, to work on a subject they might be struggling with. E has got to work with his math teacher last Friday, not on math but what math words sound like in Spanish – more of a vocabulary lesson of sorts. K has been with the Spanish teacher the past two weeks working on her Spanish. She may not like it very much but I truly appreciate the service the teachers and school provide our kiddos. It is at no extra charge, which is a blessing for our family.

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While some of my children are working with their teachers, I play with the youngest 2 at the playground, until the “office children” (children of the staff/teachers at the school) start to play a game of soccer. Then my children are called in to join the game. I LOVE THIS! The kids, especially E, LOVE to do this after a long, tiring week at school. It leaves the week on a positive note and has helped the kids want to go back on Monday. I hope the school continues to allow us to do this.

This last Friday, we had a different experience occur. The teachers have started a Zumba class after the private one-on-ones are over. They meet in the gym to dance away their stress and worries. The music is fun and vivacious and the man teaching the class came in the brightest neon green I have ever seen. He had fun written all over him!

G couldn’t help himself. The music called to him. The kids needed him to play soccer and he felt too embarrassed to join in the Zumba class (the teachers invited our family to join them – I LOVE Latin hospitatlity!), so he combined the two. He has never played a better game of soccer. Check him out . . .

  Check out G on my facebook page, he is HILARIOUS!

All in all, school hasn’t been a good thing for our family. It hasn’t been that way in the past, so I’m hopeful that things are looking better in that area for us. I LOVE the opportunity our kids are receiving and I LOVE that they have been prepared for this experience. Even though the kids are being forced to learn Spanish through an educational experience, most of what they are teaching the children, our children have already learned in Utah. It is a review of sorts, but a grace period for our kids. I am so grateful for the tender mercies from heaven!

Well, I guess I should end with my usual UP and DOWN of living in Costa Rica.

UP: I truly feel our family has been preparing for YEARS to live here. I see little decisions I need to make, or my kids need to make, every day and I we just KNOW the answer. I try to figure out how we know the answers so easily, so quickly? And then I am reminded of past experiences that we ALLOWED to happen that truly have prepared us for the experiences we are having now. We aren’t going through quite the dose of shock that we could be going through, because of these previous experiences. Lesson – always be open to new experiences, especially when you DON’T want to experience them. They are happening to bless your life!

DOWN: I’m not a tourist or visitor anymore, I am now a resident. Visiting Costa Rica 3 times before we moved here was a true joy. But living here is a different experience all together. I am finding the people to be rude, not as friendly or helpful, and they hold back speaking in English with me. I am been so perplexed and even, dare I say, offended the last few weeks because of this change in behavior of the Ticos. But that couldn’t be right? I’m pretty sure the Costa Rican government didn’t send out a mass text telling all of Costa Rica to act this way with me. So it must be me! What is it that is SO different about me that I am having this kind of response from the locals?

I LIVE here now and I act like it. I don’t walk on egg shells, like I am only visiting and want to leave the place better than I found it. I act like I belong and there are things that could be better here and the locals are intimidated by my attitude and the way I am carrying myself. My own ward didn’t speak to me until after the ward Valentine’s Day party (to come in a future post). It was a lonely, hard first 4 weeks, but things are looking up and just when I think I truly AM ALL ALONE, Heavenly Father sends someone to remind me that I’m not and things WILL get better.

Well, I hate to end but otherwise, I might lose your attention all together. Thank you for taking the time to read about the AMAZING Adventures of the Whitchurch Family.

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My view every morning that I take E to Seminary – not a bad “paycheck”

All our Love,


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