Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Name Game

Since we arrived last year, we’ve been referring to our project as “Petit Paradis,” or in English, “Little Paradise.” As time has gone by, we’ve realized that name doesn’t quite convey what we want to say about our place. While we do believe that we’re sitting on a slice of paradise, we want a name that’s more subtle, creative and evocative (and is easy to say when answering the phone). We are now in the process of finding that perfect name, and we need help!!

One theme that we’re exploring is transformation. Both Patrick and I would like for our guests to feel transformed after spending time with us here. Our hope is that the Gringos who stay with us will detach from their hectic lifestyles and be able to relax and reconnect with nature. For the Costa Ricans who visit our restaurant, we hope they will enjoy being exposed to new cuisine and architecture, and also have a chance to spend time in the forest in a part of the country where much of the land has been converted into fields and pastures. An obvious symbol of transformation is the butterfly, and we have some of the most beautiful butterflies flittering all around our property. One possible name we are therefore considering is Morphose, which is French for morphosis. Since the beautiful blue Morpho butterfly is one of the species found on our property, there is an appealing double entendre to this name. Along the same line, Crysálida (Spanish for chrysalis) has a nice ring to it. Another more obscure possibility is Ovidio (or Ovidio’s), which is Spanish for Ovid, the Greek author of Metamorphoses.

Another theme we find intriguing is the idea of interconnectedness, which our rainforest ecosystem demonstrates so well. Unfortunately, the name Symbiosis was already taken by a restaurant down the street from us, but we’re still looking for other possibilities. It would be great if we could find a more elegant expression of Food Chain, which would be quite a clever name for a restaurant in the wilderness!

We’re also exploring names that reflect the idea that our forest contains different spiritual forces. In Greek mythology, Meliai were nymphs who inhabited the trees, and Kodama is the name for similar Japanese tree spirits. Ambrosia (or Ambroisie in French), the name of one of the Hyades nymphs who are said to bring rain, would be an apt name for a rainforest restaurant. Calling our restaurant Ambrosia might be seen as pretentious, however, and we wouldn’t want to create expectations that we might not be able to meet! Finally, the Chinese belief in ch’i, or “the life force that flows through water, earth and all living things”, appeals to Patrick and me. Harmonizing ch’i energy is the purpose of feng shui, and we have (unintentionally) incorporated some elements of feng shui into our Asian~style building designs. The name Sheng ch’i, meaning “vibrant strong energy,” is a possibility, although answering the phone, “Bon soir, Sheng ch’i” might sound a bit too bizarre !

We would like to solicit as many comments and suggestions on this matter from anyone and EVERYONE reading this blog. We need your help finding a big name for our little piece of paradise. Thanks in advance!

P.S. As a sidebar to this post about names, Lucas seems to have acquired a new nickname at school: “Lucas Peluca,” which in Spanish means something like “Lucas the Wig~Head.” The irony is that when choosing Luc’s name, we consciously selected one that (we thought) would work well in English, Spanish and French. Let’s hope we do better this time around!

Friday, April 10, 2009

School Days

Last month, both Lucas and I went back to school. Luc began nursery school, or “materno”, in the little school at the center of our village (800 meters from our house, according to our postal address). All we needed to show was a copy of Luc’s birth certificate showing that he was at least four and four months old ; his passport; and a record of his immunizations for him to be allowed to attend. I’d be surprised if it’s that easy for immigrant children to enroll in American schools!

We had originally intended for him to go to a larger school in a nearby town, which is closer to our future home. That school is well~equipped with computers, a music room, and foreign language instruction, but the one thing it lacked was a teacher for Luc’s class! Apparently, the teacher from last year is on maternity leave, and rather than replacing her, the central administrators in San Jose decided just to let the kids wait ~ for three months or more! We decided that wasn’t going to work for us, so we enrolled him in the small school down the road. He’s very happy to be with all his friends from the neighborhood, and we’re happy his teacher has the patience of a saint! School has greatly improved his Spanish, and he has already learned a whole repertoire of adorable children’s songs.

If I were a typical Costa Rican mom, I’d walk a mile back and forth to bring Luc to school every morning at 6:30 (school starts at 7:00), and then back again to be there when school gets out at 10:30. But, since I’m a lazy Gringa with a car (and don’t particularly enjoying tromping down a muddy road at the crack of dawn), my Mitsubishi has become San Gabriel’s new school bus. On our route, we manage to pick up nine crisply uniformed neighborhood kids. It’s a tight squeeze, but I don’t have the heart to pass anyone by.

Now that I have a few hours to myself each day, I decided to use some of that time volunteering at the local high school. I presented my teaching qualifications at a meeting of the English Department and suggested several ways that I could help. After promising that I wouldn’t bail out on them halfway through the school year, the teachers agreed to take me up on my offer. Now I’m teaching two mornings a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The high school has the same problem as the elementary school, with teachers not having been hired yet, so I actually have four of my own classes until the “real” teacher shows up. Most of my students are happy to have the chance to practice with a native English speaker, and I love feeling like I’m back in my element. Just a few hours in front of a classroom has made all the difference.

In addition to adding structure to our lives, school has helped both Luc and me feel more a part of our little community. It’s hard to be an outsider when you’re attending parent meetings and schlepping half the class home. The other day, we joined in a pick up soccer game for the first time since we moved here. We knew the kids and they knew us, and we laughed and played and acted like our own, true, silly selves. Finally!

First Day of School

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