Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Buying school supplies in Costa Rica, 91/2 months pregnant with 2 small children at Walmart!

Max and Sara start school this year in Atenas, Costa Rica on February 1st. This is Sara's first time at school at age 2 1/2 and Max is returning for his 2nd year, both attending Atenas Preschool Escuela Colina Azul, rough translation, preschool in the blue hills, which is understated since the school has nicer views than we do at home. The school sits on the side of the ridge, high above the central valley with spectacular views and open air classrooms.
They teach 1 hour of curriculum in English each day, which means for small children, sitting in a circle with an English teacher, usually with books, cards, alphabets & numbers. We have been working on Spanish and English at home, but admittedly, we are so excited for them to go to school, especially with the new baby almost here. Our first order of business is purchasing school supplies, and the school was gracious enough to provide us with a list of items needed for both children, in Spanish, of course and using "Tico terms" for many of the items listed. We often use an app called SpanishDict on our Iphones for translation, but some words are not a direct translation since they are "ticoisms" for example: paletas de madera translated to small shovel of wood. We thought this might be for Max to begin gardening since the school does offer several programs immersing the children in nature including Roots & Shoots and Binoculars for Birds. A small wooden shovel didn't seem too crazy. We analyzed the list of supplies and noted a few items that we could not translate and the rest were easy enough to figure out, so we thought. After discussing our timeline, we knew that many Costa Ricans tend to wait until the last minute to do things and, since we have a baby coming in about 1 week, we decided to go ahead and be the early Gringos we are and head to Walmart. Now, back in Texas, Walmart was not my favorite place to shop since the parking lots were always packed and dirty with no shade and with different school years, we were usually getting school supplies in August in Texas, this meant a sweltering  100+ degree parking. There is also no assistance in the Walmarts in Texas, plenty of employees, just none willing to actually help. This is not the case in Costa Rica. We have been to 3 different Walmarts in the Central Valley and all were equal, boasting clean, underground parking garages, plenty of assistance and spectacular, open air views.
So we park in the cool, clean parking garage, right by the escalator and give the kids the typical speech - "Hands on the cart at all times, no running off, no fighting, no biting, no crying. If you are good, you will get a prize at the end!" Max and Sara repeat their instructions, perfectly memorized by now and we begin our expedition. As they race for the escalators, I waddle behind, since I am 9 1/2 months preggers, lists ready. Matt, my husband already has that look on his face like he is about to spend every dollar in his wallet and more. You know the look! Back to shopping, yippee, we agree that he will take the kids to the toy section and I will fumble through the lists for supplies. To my delight, upon walking into the entrance, the entire front, left section has been redesigned for school supplies and there were 3 assistants waiting with smiles to help. Hallelujah lyrics were singing in my mind and I quickly partnered with a friendly associate who spoke a little English, but due to my horrible case of pregnesia, I can't remember her name. My helpful new amiga began filling the cart with supplies as I learned a few new words in Spanish and she enjoyed learning the English translations. Like goma grande translated to rubber, which we thought might be rubber band or rubber eraser, but it means large glue, since glue is goma. As we quickly worked down the list, we came upon the final item, paletas de madera, which I told her little wooden shovel, and she shook her head looking at me with a funny look and handed me popsicle sticks. Imagine my perplexion and slight embarrassment when I realized I did not need a shovel for my 4 year old for his school supplies...duh. Oh well, this was a learning experience for us both and now she knows how to say popsicle stick. I completed both lists of 47 items total in less than 1 hour and Matt was happy with the bill, right around $100 US, or 50 mil colones, not bad for 2 children. 

As we walked out of Walmart, we were hit with a refreshing breeze and a beautiful, tropical mountain view to ride the escalator down to the parking garage. The truck was cool and the kids got their prizes. It was a successful shopping trip and, while I always encourage support for the local stores, mom & pop shops & fresh markets, Walmart exceeded my expectations. Pura Vida!

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