Friday, December 24, 2010

Wishes of peace, hope, joy and love!

Holy doodle - time is flying!

I wish you so much happiness in this season! It feels, to me, at this time of year (and a few others) that important times and celebrations in the year coincide in many people's faiths. I can hear the pessimist in the back of my head commenting on the fact that conquest often involves co-opting other holidays... However, looking to the future and building new possibility, I am choosing to see it as times in the year where there is collective good will, optimism and possibility. So - blessings to you, in all that you celebrate, dream and hope for.

I cannot believe that the first term is done! I am now on a break (YAY!!) which I think I was beginning to long for. The conclusion of the Formal, non-formal and informal education course was good. My classmates presented some really interesting ideas and activities and I think we had fun doing it. My research proposal is off, awaiting approval by the department head (yikes!) and the rain has finally stopped!

Last week my Dad came to Costa Rica and helped kick start my holiday. We had a blast! It feels like we spent a bunch of time in a car (some of which I am sure is influenced by the roads we were on and some by the fact that I haven't really been in a car since getting here - just the mini-buses on the way to school) but we got to see and do a lot!

Here's my photo sneak peek! We went up to Monte Verde and Arenal. The mountains and all that lives and grows there are so beautiful. We saw birds, critters, flowers, monkeys and so much more. My photos can't come close to doing it justice, but I happily clicked away anyway. We walked through part of the cloud forest - both on land and in the canopy on bridges, we went on a night hike (so very cool!) and on a river 'cruise'.

My Dad has returned to Canada and I have moved onto Christmas putz-ing about. I have some of my classmates coming tomorrow for a feast! I have possibly the smallest oven I have ever seen - and possibly the largest turkey I have ever cooked... so we shall see how that all works out. I made both buns and pie today and they great. My mom refers to this kind of action as cooking therapy (which I think is a mix of the calm that comes with cooking and joy at feeding people!) which I love. I am sure some of it is wanting to just keep busy to not miss home too much too, but I am enjoying it here (and the warmth!) I do hope my friends come hungry, tomorrow. I have a bit of a bad habit of cooking more than is needed. Good thing I love leftovers.

Next week, the wonderful Trish is coming for a visit! I think we too will have a blast! The plan includes pineapple (and mangos -cause they just came back into season!!), a beach, lots of chatting and some geekery in the form of a bird book and binoculars (I have Tia's here and it sounds like Trish is bringing hers and the book). I hope the geekery includes tips from Trish on how to use the binoculars though, (I can't seem to get Tia's to focus) so that the birding part is a wee bit easier. Trish's one of my expert birders, although I distinctly recall her once ranting about never wanting to see another little yellow bird...).

Anyway - the fireworks marking midnight are now fading and my eyes are drooping. Time for sleep.

Blessings and peace to you!

(This is from the "christmas concert" my attempts at being a dianadeer)

Friday, December 3, 2010

Formal, Non-formal, and Informal

I have begun my new class (the last one of the term!!) which, one week in, is fantastic! My class, Formal, non-formal and informal education: Peacebuilding actions, is taught by the incredible Ana Maria Rodino and has brought us back to learning through doing! I love it. Friday we had a guest join us, to talk about the power of filmmaking, we will have visitors who work in theatre, we're doing a field trip to a Costa Rican school - on international human rights day... loads of great things! A great way to finish off the term.

This week I moved into a new house. My first house here was great, but there were things that I was longing for - and how have! Weee. My new house has a garden and a patio!

So, this morning I sit here, looking out over plants, into the sunshine (it's not raining today!!!) preparing for my day and waiting for my Saturday morning treat to come out of the oven (yep - I moved somewhere that has a functioning oven!)

My new house also comes with a new roommate, which I think is going to be great. Helga is from Portugal and super nice. She's also a great cook, which keeps with my roomie tradition (although there are few in the world, who have the roomie touch like Tia - I can't drag her all over the world with me).

The end of term is approaching, which means visitors are coming! I am quite excited. My Dad comes 11 days, and I think we're going to have a great time. Then just before new years - I get a second treat, with the arrival of Trish! One of the advantages for sure of moving somewhere warm and near to beaches is being in a destination that people want to come to. Many of the students have been chatting about whether or not they will go home for the break. Lots of people are just too far away from 'home' to make that possible and so will be staying and some of us are just hiding from the world of snow and cold. Perhaps this makes me a poor Canadian, but I am completely content to have a winter free year every so often. (Although, when I am day after day after day of rain... I start to question that - Alberta does have beautiful sunny skies, even when bloody cold!).

My timer is about to ring, telling me to take out my treat so here's your homework, if you choose to do it... I have been craving cinnamon buns for awhile - and moving somewhere with an oven seemed like the perfect time to make them... but I don't have a recipe here. I know that there are many on the internet - but somehow recipes coming from people you know - are almost always better (plus - if you do a quick google of cinnamon bun recipes the majority of them call for either a breadmaker or frozen dough - both of which seem like cheating). So - do you have a recipe you love? Do you want to share it with me? My 'plan' with this request is to test out a few and figure out which I like best.

Anyway - I should go pull the first attempt out of the oven.
Peace to you!

thanks to Owen for recipe #1 - right now, they smell great.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Telling Tales

I am still working on my research proposal for my final project. I thought I might explain it a bit - in case anyone had suggestions or ideas. The process is both fun and a bit terrifying. My graduation requirement is a Independent Research Project, pertaining to something in Peace Education. Totally broad - and I am trying to assure that my project doesn't get too big. Right now it is titled, "Telling Tales: A Culture of Peace through Language Arts in Grade 6 Classrooms".

Anyway - I have been in research methods working on my proposal and topic (maybe working isn't quite the right term... perhaps slogging? drooping? struggling?). I am hoping to build off of some of the work of Circling Our World, a literature project I did with ACGC and grade 6 classes for a couple years. My core question - in its present manifestation (it keeps changing) is how, through human rights education and developing solidarity, does elementary fiction and storytelling encourage a culture of peace? It's still likely to shift a bit.. but that's the general framework.

My hope is interview to a gr 6 teacher and a librarian about the kinds of books and stories are used in their classroom/school which promote peace, solidarity, global understanding, etc... I am hoping to see how the stories we read and tell, influence how we tell stories our own stories. In my head - (where everything works out how I dream - which I realize is challenging) I would do two interviews as well as work with the teacher doing a novel study of a book that looks at Human Rights, or Justice or global understanding... something like that and then create an assignment with the teacher where the students write a peace story, in the way they see it - perhaps it is about their community or school, or about sharing, or about justice in someway.... I am hoping I could get permission to receive a copy of the student's stories. Looking at the curriculum learning objectives, specifically for grade 6, I believe it all fits within the general learning objectives, specifically looking at how 'we' respect others and strengthen community, as well as the goals of learning to write with plot, character...

So - what do you think? Do you remember the stories that shaped your life? That changed the way you see the world? What are the stories you tell?

peace to you,

Saturday, November 20, 2010


It's been a busy couple of weeks. School continues to be busy - but on top of that - it's been a festivity filled chunk of time! Last week we celebrated the "North American Festival".

We had a great time. I am still amazed at all the food we prepared. We made:

50 chickens
150 lbs mashed potatoes
28 batches of mac 'n' cheese
30 stuffed squash (for our vegetarian friends)
a mountain of stuffing
fantastic green bean and spinach salad
a lake of gravy
and 42 pies

See - crazy!

The amazing Sara created a "thanksgiving pageant" which I am sure is unlike any other. It started as a conversation between two people from the USA and Canada (as the Canadian students kept saying, throughout our planning, "you do WHAT??") talking about what they love about Thanksgiving, and then some of differences. The pageant was two fold. A "traditional" pageant as you would find in your average American elementary school... and then a bit of new take with a deconstruction of what is missing in that story... Grad school is great fun at times. Sara totally outdid herself - costumes and all, it was great!

The lovely Maham

Just before the "first" encounter.

Haru and crew sang a song by Sarah McLachlan which was beautiful and we were treated to a group dancing a hiphop number.

HipHop wonder!

There was an incredible playlist created - and then we danced and danced and danced! A great time!

This week celebrated Asia Week. There are 44 students, representing 15 countries from Asia studying at UPeace. Last night was the main event - and it was incredible. The food was amazing! Perhaps my next adventure needs to be somewhere in Asia... :)

Throughout the evening students from many different parts of Asia presented some traditional arts, music and dance. I am forever amazed at the astounding talents this student body holds. I thought I would share a couple photos of that too!

Chinese Lion Dance

Some of the women from Korea did a fan dance, representing flowers blooming.

Bollywood came to Upeace!

And so so much more! I don't know if any of them read this - but my many thanks to everyone who participated in creating Asia night - it was wonderful!

I am coming near to the end of my research methods class. I would say that so far, this has been the most challenging course I have taken here, not in content, but in trying to determine my final project. The 'intensive' program they spoke of - seems closer to insane when in the midst of it. I have classes until the end of May and my final project is due on the 27th of June, with graduation on the 15th of July! Wowza! I am trying to contain my project into something small enough to be manageable. Cross your fingers!

Anyway - I should get back to work. :)
Peace to you!

Thursday, November 11, 2010


Tomorrow is the "North American Festival" at Upeace. If I were to ask you what are the cultural aspects of North America you would like to celebrate with other students from around the world - what would you pick? Apparently the tradition here is 'thanksgiving'. Here is my caution - if anyone ever suggests you want to do this...

ANY recipe made for 300 people is crazy. DO NOT ATTEMPT while also enrolled in something else super busy - like grad school... :)

Today I learned (or at least confirmed) that I NEVER want to be a caterer. I was in charge of coordinating pie - for 300! My pie-bee partners were amazing - and we cranked out 40 pies in 8 hours... Not bad! I am super proud of my team of people who pretty well had never made pie before! We did decide that if we were to open a bakery... we would name it How We Roll. We're ready, just in case the insanity is permanent. :) My eternal gratitude for their help! Tomorrow we will have 20 pumpkin - and 20 apple pies, joyfully made to end off our feast. Tonight however - I feel like I could go without pie for quite some time. :)

Anyway - are you feeling inspired? Do you want to make some pie? I love how recipes get passed with people's names on them - so I won't change them... Here's what we did (with a few small modifications for what is available in Costa Rica):

Most delicious pie crust - (makes 5 pies) (aka Lorraine Vermeulen's pastry)
1 lb shorting
1 tsp salt
5 cups flour
1 egg
2 Tbsp vinegaar
Water to fill to 1 cup

Cut lard into flour and salt.
Slightly beat egg in a measuring cup.
Add the vinegar. then water to filll to 1 cup level.
This pastry is very moist so lots of flour needed for rolling. Rolls better when it is cold (impossible here - we just used extra flour... and some patience, although when warm - old wine bottles are a great substitute for a rolling pin - they glide!).

Clara's apple filling - makes 3 pies
15 c. apple chunks (peeled and diced)
2 cups sugar - add more if people like it sweeter
2 tsp cinnamon (I put in more... but I love cinnamon)
4 Tbsp. flour
325F for 50 minutes (or until everything is a lovely light brown and perfectly bubbly)

Pumpkin Filling
1 cup cooked pumpkin (you can substitute yellow squash, sweet potato or carrots. We didn't have pumpkin -so carrot it was! shhhh - don't tell).
1/2 cup sugar
1 t. cinnamon
1/4 t. each of ginger, nutmeg and cloves
1 t. vanilla
1 cup milk or cream
2 egg yolks.
Mix; then beat the egg whites until still and fold into mixture.

Pour into unbaked shells and bake at 425 for 10 minutes.
Reduce heat to 375 and bake 30 minutes or until filling is set.

Anyway - time for bed.
Peace to you!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Oh ya - some of the good stuff too!

So it must seem that I live in a giant wet pile of mud by now - which isn't always true. There are times when the sun comes out - and lots of life giving and exciting things also happening along with the puddles and goo. Today I am back in my house, I have both water and electricity - at least for the moment - and the sun is shining. Another landslide has closed the road between here and school though, so it still remains to be seen if we will have class tomorrow or not.

A short while ago - one of the Japanese students had organized a tree planting event. The little trees planted will, in a few years, blossom yellow flowers - which are similar to cherry blossoms. We planted 50 trees at the event - which was great (and yes! the sun came out to join us too!).

My friend Colette - showing off her little tree - prior to being planted.

The event had speeches, singing, drumming and lots of great snacks. I look forward to seeing just how much a tree can grow in a year in this kind of climate!

The last few days of our last class, we were presented on educational changes happening in our home countries. How cool to be a class with 11 other country representatives - great things are happening in the world. I have pretty fantastic classmates! Don't they look like they're educating for something amazing?

Mercedes - Argentina

Rosemary and Ignatius - from Zambia

Maham - Canada/Pakistan

Chisato - Japan

Maricelly - Puerto Rico

Just a few of my fabulous classmates. We have now started our Research Methods class (as I mentioned a couple days ago). I should probably go and do my homework, just in case the road is indeed cleared tomorrow!
Peace to you!

Friday, November 5, 2010


day two -
Costa Rica has declared a state of emergency as the rain keeps on coming down. All the rain is being caused by hurricane Tomas - which is on its way to Haiti. I hope that it is gentler with Haiti, I feel that country could really use a break.

Today we actually went back to school - which was a bit surprising. The road up to the campus keeps suffering landslides, but it was mostly clear this morning. We travel by caravan - and there are all sorts of UPeace staff along the way - monitoring the road and giving updates.

Class ended - and we were sent on home. No lingering. The rain continues to pour down leading to my daily adventure. They keep clearing the road, although many other places near here have suffered much worse impacts of landslides. About 20 minutes from here landslides have killed many people, and others are still missing.

My adventure for the evenings begins as I have now been evacuated. Houses which are near to the river in Ciudad Colon (my town) have been asked to vacate as there is a threat that the damn upstream will not withstand this much rain. It is just a precaution and my friend Colette has generously taken me in. I am hoping that the rain will stop this evening sometime and I will be able to return home tomorrow. I feel very thankful that I am somewhere safe and dry - and send my prayers to those who are not yet.

I hope this finds you also safe, dry and happy.
Peace to you.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Rain, mud and moving mountains!

I have been complaining a fair bit about the rain, the constant downpour. I am sorry. However, the clouds that enclose the town and are beginning to feel like a giant weight. I know there is sky out there, even if it isn’t visible from here. I know shouldn’t complain.

I think I have just hit, what is likely to be the most challenging part of my year here. I am trying to determine the question for my research project. It seems like something that should be exciting, enlivening - identifiable; not confusing and frustrating. Today I was supposed to present two potential ideas in class, which I was feeling kind of freaked out about, but the rain, which I have been bemoaning, interceded. Last night after two days of a non-stop downpour, the lights went out. Se fue la luz! I found out this morning, there was no electricity or water that there has been a landslide and school has been cordoned off - by mud, rock and rain, so, no school today. The rain, in its dreary dripping has given me one more day to sort out my thoughts. For those of you monitoring news, about Costa Rica, don't worry about me. While the landslides and rain are definitely causing problems - I am fine. I imagine school will be closed again tomorrow - although I am hoping they sort out the electricity issues before then. All the media here is about the different rescue work happening. My prayers go out to the families of those who have lost family members or whose family members are missing.

When I was living in Nebaj, Guatemala it was pretty common for the power to go out, especially during rainy season. It was easy, or so it seemed at the time, to learn to live without it. The power would usually go out around 6ish, as the sun was setting - light a few candles – and all was fine. Cooking by candlelight was kind of nice. I have sorted out the primary difference here. My house here is much more dependent on electricity – as I need it for my stove to work. There are so many reasons to love a gas stove – and power outages are certainly one of them. The solution for the day was to run away to a mall in San Jose – where they are almost always certain to have power and warm food, at least for a bit. I guess it is good to know that there are times when malls are good places – not always somewhere that needs to be avoided.

Peace to you!


Thursday, October 21, 2010

Weekend wandering

This week - I saw the sun! It was here for a full morning and part of an afternoon! Oh rainy season - I have confidence that you will end! It was SO nice. Some of my classmates are concerned about it getting too warm... but so far - I am not worried about that. :)

Last weekend, I went on an adventure! Many of my classmates have been going on trips at each and every break, but this was my first. Sara (also a peace ed-er) and I headed off north to La Fortuna and Arenal. Arenal is a large and very active volcano. After being dormant for a good chunk of time - she spit off her top in '68, totally changing the region. A few years ago there was another really active phase - which you can see, anytime you look at a postcard or ad from the area. Sara and I had planned to go to the hot springs and do some hiking.

We didn't actually get to see Arenal as the clouds were thick, apart from a glimpse our second day there, but it might just mean I need to go back!

Saturday morning we got on a bus at 6:30 (for those who know my morning skills - be impressed!!) to San Jose, wandered for a bit before we found the terminal for the next bus, waited in line for a ticket, then waited in line to get on the bus - and we were off! We arrived in La Fortuna (a town near to the volcano) around 1 and found a hostel on our way to find lunch!

I am beginning to wonder if my desire for budget is eventually going to get squashed by my desire for comfort. We saw the hostel sign and wandered in. I am not sure, after being welcomed and taught a theology lesson (Did you know that all people around the world are the same, we look different and some "talk funny" but we are all the same and will unite in Israel? If you stay at this hostel - you can get the full how to lesson! Go unity!) - how you can see a room and decide that the musty smell might be more than you can take and go somewhere else. Apparently my assertive tendencies fear seeming rude in a culture that I am still navigating with caution... so we dropped off our bags and went for lunch.

Our first day we decided hots were the entirety of the goal. We went to Baldi Hot Springs on the recommendation of our hostel and some friends from school. This place is huge. There are apparently 25 different pools of different temperatures, a water slide and more. We were on plan lazy and certainly didn't see them all. Some of the pictures look a bit out of focus - but that is from the steam off the water. These springs are HOT. We found one - that I couldn't even stick a toe into. We spent the day moving from pool to pool, reading, chatting and playing banagrams! Near the end of the day - we discovered that 9 of our schoolmates were there too! It was a great day.

While we were waiting for our taxi home, we noticed the sculpture in the front of the hotel ...

We also noticed her back...

The next morning we planned to go on a hike. However, the hiking didn't work out so well. When we got up - the sky had opened up and it was POURING. When it rains - it certainly rains. We had planned to hike to a waterfall. While those tend to be extra spectacular with a lot of rain - getting there seemed beyond daunting. Alas - we must return to the hot water (hee hee). Our second day the hostel recommended a different hot spring.

Baldi is fancy, it's a spa and you could spend a fortune on fancy drinks, beautiful food, and all other spa kinds of treatment. Our second day however, we headed to Termales Los Laureles. Sara and I were certainly the only non-ticos there. Again there are a variety of pools at different temperatures, but this time the pools are all surrounded by picnic tables with little shelters over them. Families were set up! They had rice cookers, coffee pots, little TVs, grills... you name it! Part of the reason we had gone on the trip was it was a long weekend in Costa Rica - and we found out where they all went.

The sun sets early here - and then all sorts of beautiful lights came on and you could hang out listening to bugs, birds and people - still surrounded by great warm water!

So while it rained we sat in lovely pools my highlight however was the sign...

hee hee.

Transitioning from lovely holiday back into school has felt a bit trying. I keep thinking of pools of warm water and fiction. Sigh. I got a treat today though - a package in the mail! I LOVE post. My mother at times teases me about my love of post... anyway - in it was some a "little box of peace word magnets" so I thought I would send you some peace...

Peace to you

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Whew! Class two done! It is amazing how much we smoosh into 3 weeks! I am certainly in the right class for me though - we are having a great time learning. Meet my classmates!

There are 19 of us (20 for the last class as we had someone joining us from another program) representing 12 countries (13 if you count our instructors). Pretty cool.
From the front left we are: - (Me), Celine (Rwanda), Sara (US), Gobina (Cameroon), Rose (US), Destiny (US), Mackenzie (US), Marianne (Costa Rica).
2nd row from left. Rosemary (Zambia), Virginia (Philippines), Mercedes (Argentina), Camila (Colombia), Chisato (Japan), Ignatius (Zambia), Niina (Finland), Jessica (US), Maham (Pakistan/Canada), Carolyn (Costa Rica), Myo (Myanmar), Maricelly (Puerto Rico), Haru (Canada/Japan).

Our last two days of class we were presenting the curriculum resources we created for the different themes of creating a culture of peace. It was a blast. Sculpture, drama, paint, markers... Apparently some of the other classes have heard us singing and think we're a bit nuts. I feel similarly to their program - a program broken into 15 minute increments for the 15 days of class sounds like something I would hate.

I had wanted to share some of the photos from the International Day of Peace. We sang, shared silence, stood for our peace actions, and sent our wishes to the future. It was a great event.

The time capsule containing the completed mural was buried in the rain - and will be uncovered in 202o.

At the end of the event students were given paper cranes to write their action items on - what they will do to promote peace through the coming year.

The weather has been keeping us on our toes lately. People from home keep asking me if I am enjoying paradise. While I acknowledge that I don't anticipate snow here... it's not quite bliss yet. Tropical storm Matthew has been bringing a LOT of rain. I have an audio recording of the sheer noise of it that I will post once I figure out how. It's loud. We had about 10 days where it hardly stopped. Then, on Friday in the midsts of writing my final paper we got an earthquake! There have been a few tremors since I have been here - but this is the first time I have experienced something that big. We even made international news measuring at 5.9! It was so loud. Thankfully no one was hurt.

I hope that everyone in Canada had a great Thanksgiving! A group of us celebrated gratitude with Sushi this year. Lots of fun, but not quite the same. :)

This week I started a new class, "Change in Educational Systems". So - back to reading!

Peace to you!