Monday, January 08, 2007


Oh, OK.

I guess I thought more people knew more about me than they do. And yet why would they? So now they will.

Born & raised:
North eastern United States, including Pennsylvania (before age 1), Rhode Island, (7 years), Connecticut (3 years) and New York state (through high school).

Lacking any specific career goals, I decided to choose a school that had a really solid exchange program. I had always felt an affinity for Asian cultures, and was looking for a college that offered a Junior year abroad in one of them. Boy, did I find one. Friends World College was founded by Quakers and, although it was not a Quaker school, per se, it did retain many Quaker ways and values. At that time, the program had centers in eight countries (US, Costa Rica, England, Israel, Kenya, India, China, Japan) and each student was required to spend at least one semester in each of at least two centers, although in most cases the entire sophomore and junior years are spent abroad. The college offered a non-traditional approach to education that relied on experience and internships with very little formal classroom study. Learning was documented in written form for evaluation by a faculty advisor.

First year was spent in the United States, with a core curriculum in the first semester and an internship in the second. Mine was at a farm that formed part of a residential facility for emotionally disturbed children in Brewster, NY.

Knowing that I wanted to spend Junior and possibly Senior year at the Japan center, I decided to spend my first year abroad in a culture as different from that as possible. To that end, I spent my Sophomore year in Kenya (East Africa). Again, the first semester was spent on the campus of the center, and the second in an internship. My internship was spent at Bombolulu, an organization located in Mombasa, through which physically disabled adults learned to earn income by making and selling craft items.

The year in Kenya was a difficult experience due to culture shock, and without giving it a lot of conscious thought, by the end of the second semester I realized I had decided not to go on to Japan, at least not immediately. I found myself planning to spend the following year at the Latin American Center, which was physically the closest to the United States, and culturally probably more similar than any other center except London (which I think I may have viewed as something of a cop-out because it is so similar.)

So it was that I entered Costa Rica for the first time on September 8, 1989, despite never having felt any particular interest in either the Spanish language or the Latin culture. Once again, the first semester was spent covering a core curriculum and the second in independent study which, in my case, meant traveling to Nicaragua to observe the 1990 elections.

As my senior year approached, I found that I was heartily sick of moving around. Every single college semester to date had been spent in a different city; it was time to sit still. I had felt much more comfortable in both Costa Rica and Nicaragua than I had in Kenya (interestingly, one of my friends had happened to spend all three years in the same countries I did, and she had the opposite reaction to the two cultures.) Figuring that moving back to the US at that point would probably invoke return culture shock, I reasoned that I knew my way around San José, I spoke enough of the language to get by, and I knew a few of the students who were currently studying at the Latin American Center. I decided to remain in Costa Rica for my senior year.

I had taken the most basic of Spanish courses as part of my first semester in Costa Rica, but the time in Nicaragua had not included any formal language study. I asked to be placed back into the Spanish classes for the first semester of Senior year, although I was a little disappointed to find that, when they gave me a placement test, they put me in a class that emphasized phonics and pronunciation rather than, say, correct Spanish grammar.

I don't remember what (other than phonics) I studied in the first semester of Senior year, but one thing I did do was sit down with my advisor and review the credits I had earned to date. Looking at the distribution, it appeared that I was majoring in Social Sciences, so we went ahead and designed the Senior year to round out any missing requirements. My Senior Project was a study of women's literature (in English), in which I read and reviewed as wide a variety of women's writing as I had access to, and wrote a series of my own poetry and essays.

Oh! I just remembered part of what I did in that first semester. I was the student representative for that particular group of students, and participated in faculty meetings, facilitated community meetings, and such.

As graduation drew near, the faculty discussed and eventually approved the idea of hiring me as a kind of student liaison for the following year. So it was that I decided to go ahead and stay in Costa Rica beyond graduation. (Oh by the way, I met and began dating Alex just before beginning my final semester, not that that influenced my decision at all...)

OK, I'm getting a little bored of writing all this, so let's start skimming.

I returned to Costa Rica after graduation and worked with current students, translating lectures, offering a cross-cultural seminar, discussing culture shock, etc.

By the time I felt the need to move on, my Spanish was strong enough to land me a job as a translator for IPS, an international news agency based in San José. When the agency decided to move its Latin American headquarters to Montevideo, Uruguay, the translators were invited to relocate since, apparently, there are precious few native English speakers in Uruguay. Alex and I considered going, but ultimately decided not to. One result of considering the whole issue, though, was that we decided to get married.

August 6, 1994 (which we just discussed a couple of days ago.)

Once the translation job left town, I found work with a small Internet company in San José. The job involved mainly web design and installation of Internet software (which at that time meant configuring dial-up scripts on Win 3.1 machines). I knew nothing about either of these things, but learned a lot and ultimately even designed and offered a course in HTML when the company struck a deal with a local computer training school. I also did freelance translation for a client passed on to my by one of the other translators from IPS.

I left the office job when Robin was born in 1998, but continued working with my translation clients.

Big move
As Robin grew older, Alex and I decided it was time to spend some time in the States. We made a 3-month trip to see how it all looked, and then decided to move up for a longer period, which we did when Robin was 18 months old. Alex found work with a small survey company and, after a few months with my parents, we moved into our own apartment in High Point, NC.

More progeny
Julia was born in August 2001. Alex took Robin to Costa Rica for Christmas that year, while Julia and I stayed back in NC with my family.

Alex began to feel it was time to move back to Costa Rica, especially when work became slow at the (very small) company where he worked, and he was laid off for a while.

Small move
However, the new house he had designed (as you know) wasn't actually built yet so when a Costa Rican friend of Alex's offered him a short-term job in Mississippi he decided to take it. The girls and I moved in with my parents (who had moved to eastern NC by then) while he worked and construction began on the house in CR.

Another move
Three months turned into six, and by the time he left the Mississippi job he had been told about other work in other places and wanted to look into the options before leaving the country. As a result, he took a job with a survey company in Charlotte, NC and the four of us moved into an apartment there.

And another
The job wasn't bad, but the pull of Costa Rica (on Alex) was stronger and as soon as we could get out of our lease, we went ahead and moved back down in February 2004. The girls were 5 and 2.5 years old.

We all lived together in the new house for one year before Alex got a phone call from someone offering him another job in North Carolina. We discussed it and ultimately decided he should go, at least for a month, and see how it went. It went fine (for both of us) and he stayed for what turned out to be a year and a half, with one month-long visit from us and several shorter visits by him. He returned in September 2006.

And that is all.


Love Bears All Things January 09, 2007 11:05 AM  

Jennifer, thank you for clearing up the details for me. I enjoyed hearing about it all.

I am quite a lot older and it would take forever to give my history but I will let things slip into my blog from time to time.

About the quilt, I am at least looking at the patterns. That's a beginning. Next, templates.

A click a day for good causes

The Hunger Site The Breast Cancer Site The Child Health Site The Literacy Site The Rainforest Site The Animal Rescue Site

Added 6/12/06

  © Blogger template 'Personal Blog' by 2008

Back to TOP