mosaic mathematics

April 21, 2013 § Leave a comment

15 kilos de fragua
+ 28 kilos de bondex
+ 1/3 litro de plaster bond
+ 60 kilos de ceramica
+ 4 cucharas plasticas
+ 5 tazas plasticas
+ 15 pipas tomadas
+ 11 popis
+ 1 scotch brite
+ 4 hojas de lija
+ 1 tenaza
+ 3 espatulas
+ 1 martillo
+ 1 trapo
+ 9 idas y vueltas a Puriscal para comprar material
+ 35 días de labor
+ 3 semanas de lijar ceramica
+ 9 empanadas
+1 pedazo de espejo =

sunskysea schoolmural


the things

April 8, 2013 § 1 Comment

…i’ve done. 

helped butcher a pig.

taught handcrafts with recycled material.

started a recycling program.

picked beans.

jumped off a bridge attached to nothing except a bungee cord.

…i will miss.

coffeefields coffeefieldsII

the walk between cerbatana and mercedes norte, a rising and falling dusty road run afoul by loose rocks and flagged by cafetales to the left and right.

puppy (pronounced poopy). the neighborhood enforcer. he doesn’t like to have his photo taken.


being tantamount to a celebrity. everyone knows your name.

los pechos amarllios y los caciques. (they are birds.)

the darkness of a Costa Rican night.


…i will not miss. 

being tantamount to a celebrity. everyone knows your name.

teaching english.


washing laundry by hand.

…i have learned.

to speak spanish. finally.

i am a bad bachata and salsa dancer.

limitation breeds creativity.

cold water (and cold showers for that matter) does wonders for your skin and health.

the wonders of yoga.

don’t take seashells from the beach. they are vital to the health of the ocean.

throwing a frisbee or kicking a soccer ball in an open field are absolutely beautiful.

even at age 27, i still think myself one of the kids.

…i will never forget.

my neighbor wanting to adopt me.

the little girl in kindergarten who told her mother that i was an artist.

receiving surprise recognition from the school, and later the asociacion de desarrollo integral for my work in the community.

…i want.

a simple life.

city lights and mountain air.

a garden.

a toilet that flushes all the time.

a view of the sea.

a fresh wind and bright sky.

a clothes washing machine.

reliable public transportation.

to learn french, tagalog and mandarin.

…i will gladly sing in karaoke when i go home.


no me digas.

estos celos.

yo no se mañana.

no hay nadie como ella.

niña de me corazon.

…i’ve been.

aerobics instructor.




mural artist.


community facilitator.

sports specialist.

children’s advocate.

…i’ve seen.

a blue river.

breaking bad.

battlestar galactica.

a baby sloth clinging to it’s mother’s back.

tiny lizards copulating.

men shamelessly (shamelessly) staring at women.


pig buttcherer

…i’ve heard.

there once lived a witch named Serata in Aserri. She could turn people into animals.

the squeals of a pig being dragged to its death.

howler monkeys howling.

the guanacasteca yelp.



danza kuduro.

eleven foods i will miss

February 20, 2013 § Leave a comment

in no particular order:

1. casado con carne en salsa from soda la casita at the turrialba centro bus terminal with maitreya
an almost overwhelming serving of arroz, frijoles negros, ensalada, platano maduro, and trocitos de carne en salsa + awesome awesome low price of 1800 colones + maitreya’s amazement that we’ve eaten so much = happy allen. they do it big, and they do it right.

2. gallo pinto, 2 huevos fritos y salchichon from soda el banco in puriscal with mason
whenever mason comes into puriscal, we usually meet up for lunch at puris’ best. there’s usually a healthy supply of homemade chilero at hand.

3. enchilada con carne from panaderia barrantes in cerbatana
there is simply no equal to the weekly available enchilada con carne at my local bakery. well seasoned ground beef? check. some spice? double check. and affordable too at 450 colones. tome.

4. agua de pipa bien fria
nothing quenches thirst or staves of dehydration quite like agua de pipa straight from the coconut.

5. jugo de cas
it only ever seems to be available at sodas, and i’m not talking about that powdery replacement. get some.

6. chifrijo from alberto’s bar in puriscal
when you live in the city that produces the best chicharron in all of costa rica, i suppose it follows that you’ll also have access to the best chifrijo, and alberto’s bar in puriscal is where to get it. cuvasos (large type of bean), chimichurri (pico de gallo to you and me), and chicharron on a bed of rice. sounds like a bite of heaven, no? throw in some slices of aguacate. you won’t regret it.

7. pati
i once ate 24 pati in a 2-3 week stretch. no, i do not regret it. for the longest time, i was convinced that the street vendors in siquirres had the best pati, until i met the infamous pati lady in cahuita. it’s a caribbean style pastry in the form of an empanada, filled with ground beef, chile peppers and seasonings. simple yet addicting. can i get a bump? (breaking bad reference. sorry if you don’t understand.) 

8. trenza de canela from pasteleria merayo in turrialba
pasteleria merayo is a chain bakery located in san jose, cartago and turrialba (as far as i know). but not all chains are created equal. head and shoulders above the fray is the turrialba branch, or the real pasteleria merayo as i call it. there you will find the best trenza de canela ever. hyperbole well deserved.

9. rice and beans
still haven’t had enough caribbean food? then get some rice and beans, and ask for it in english. what separates rice and beans from arroz y frijoles is coconut milk, that simple delicacy permeating the rice and the sauce in which the chicken (oh yeah, rice and beans comes with chicken) is cooked. if victory had a flavor, it would rice and beans.

10. sopa de verduras y salchicha de chorizo
get salchicha de chorizo from a carniceria in turrialba, cook it separately from the verduras which could include any combination of malanga, platano verde, papas, chile dulce, and yuca, before adding it all together in the end to make a soup that just feels like being loved by your parents when you’re sick.

11. frijoles from dona isabel’s kitchen in cerbatana
the softest and tastiest frijoles i’ve ever eaten come from a home in cerbatana. why are they so transcedent? well, dona isa cooks with firewood, and  with beans that come from don alvaro’s little farm which means they’re fresh, unlike that sabemas (read: sabefeo) stuff you get in pali. she also cooks the beans with something, whether it’s banano verde, chayote, or oreja de cerdo. que rico!

feasts fit for a volunteer

April 23, 2012 § 2 Comments


Rice with sriracha hot sauce
I first tried this delicacy when I was broke in Oakland. It seems as though I was training to be a Peace Corps volunteer before I became one. Sadly, sriracha hot sauce is a bit expensive so use sparingly.

Rice with minced garlic
Oh garlic, how delicious you are! Fry that left over rice with some salt and pepper then brown some minced garlic separately before mixing it in with your rice. For added pop, substitute the salt for some garlic salt. The rice can be substituted for pasta. And if you’re feeling especially rich, throw in a fried egg. Maybe even 2. On second thoughts, 1 will do. We’re on a budget after all.

Rice and egg
Egg. Not eggs.

Rice with chimichurri (essentially, pico de gallo)
A timeless favorite, this dish requires a bit more preparation. With diced tomatoes, chopped onions and minced cilantro, you better have a sharp knife! Add olive oil, salt, and pepper to taste. Include cabbage or chile dulce for a textural revelation. Admittedly meant for the kind-of-broke volunteer.

Tortilla Chips and Frijoles Molidos con Salsa Lizano
Portable and delicious, “the allen meal” won’t fail to disappoint. Get the cheapest tortilla chips, the Salsa Lizano brand of frijoles molidos, and you’re all set! If you have the time, prepare your own beans (red or black) and tortilla chips. Simply smash up your beans and add Salsa Lizano. Cut up tortillas into squares and fry them. Rico, you say? Why, yes it is.


a morning bus ride

February 21, 2012 § Leave a comment

two suggested playlists.

1. for a morning bus ride through the mountains, from puriscal to san jose with the morning sunlight bursting through the windows. the bus is moving along at a safe and easy pace.

yawny at the apocalypse – andrew bird
blessa – toro y moi
what would i want? sky – animal collective
looks just like the sun – broken social scene
sun it rises – fleet foxes
northern lights – bowerbirds
the sounds are always begging – bonnie prince billy and the cairo gang
wordless chorus – my morning jacket
love and some verses – iron and wine
one sunday morning – wilco
2. for a morning bus ride through the mountains, from puriscal to san jose with the morning sunlight bursting through the windows. the bus is moving along, hellbent.

ephemeral artery – neon indian
time to get away – lcd soundsystem
beam me up – yacht
red dress – tv on the radio
torture – king khan and the shrines
adventure – be your own pet
four kicks – kings of leon
young hearts spark fire – japandroids
sun hands – local natives


February 18, 2012 § Leave a comment

Mile warm up jog
4x100m @ 50% effort
15-30 pushups + 75-100 situps

2x40m grapevines (50% effort)
2x40m slides low(50% effort)
2x40m high knees(50% effort)
2x40m butt kickers(50% effort)
2x40m exaggerated skips(50% effort)

15-30 pushups + 75-100 situps

4×15 ground jumps –> 40m spring after 15
4×15 jump tucks –> 40m spring after 15

15-30 pushups + 75-100 situps

2×40 lunge and twists
2x40frog jumps (standing broad jumps)

15-30 pushups + 75-100 situps
10–>5-10-5 shuttle/cone runs
10x40yd explosions
4×100 yd @ 50%

mile cool down

memories of the first week

May 21, 2011 § 2 Comments

domingo, 15th: packed my bags and looked into another empty room. felt like leaving (oakland, buena park) again. said goodbye to some neighbors and friends. rode the bus to puriscal and sat down in a pizzeria. pizza was tasty, the bottom soggy. you’re always missing something.

lunes: slept nearly ten hours and still awake by 6:30. wicked. tuve un reuion con mi contraparte de PANI. while running errands with my host mom, ana grace, we also ran into a number of people she knew. 5km away from site isn’t far at all. sign of things to come.

martes: nearly another ten. i’m sensing a pattern here. awoke to a cacophony of street dogs howls and the five-year old human bullhorn that is sofia. had lunch with other pcvs in puriscal centro. purchased boots, hangers and un apartado postal. finally got around to studying spanish. three days in and i’m struggling to keep up with the rapidity of the local speech. ran the hills to set my head right.

miercoles: the nightly ten, the morning noise. visited the ministerio de salud in puriscal and looked around the cen-cinai, a government program that feeds young children and pregnant mothers while promoting healthy living practices and nutrition. killed time at soda el banco (small restaurants that serve comida tipica are called “sodas”) with a strong cup of coffee, then headed over to a monthly “think-tank” meeting in the ministerio de salud, followed by another meeting/introduction to iafa, an organization that promotes drug awareness and prevention. patterns, patterns everywhere. my. brain. is. fried.

jueves: adventure day. an hour long discussion with ana grace about the problems in cerbatana. my hands are still greasy from the delicious tortilla and fried egg i had just eaten for breakfast. enrique, my pani counterpart picks me up along with his colleague and two other peace corps volunteers (pcvs). we travel to lanas, home to 60 ppl and the location of a telesecundaria. telesecundarias are schools that often have no teacher. learning materials are almost entirely restricted to videos or broadcasted lesson plans. afterward, we head to another town only to encounter badly eroded section of the dirt mountain road. we backtrack on our indiana jones-like excursion.

viernes: my first day working on the farm. grab the fresh eggs, throw in some feed. fill large rice bags with compost, then restock the compost area with semi-decomposed pig droppings. clean out the pig stalls and “water” the pigs. this is not glamorous work. i like it. ana grace milks mocha the cow in the lecheria. she leads mocha and her calf out into the pasture, allowing us to clean the stall. this area also serves as the carniceria. don carlos, my host dad, is going to kill one of the pigs tomorrow morning. the rest of the day is spent walking to and from puriscal centro, 1 hr. 4o min. round trip.

sabado: i accompany tony and patty to the albergue, a shelter for children. over three hours, we lead several activities, including a brief english class, art and individual presentations, jump rope, and paper airplanes. hay un monton de cosas hacer. UPDATE: we ate the pig that don carlos killed earlier that morning. ana grace joked about the matter, feigning tears while visibly enjoying the flavor of the meat. jaja, qué bárbara.

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