Monday, April 26, 2010

Homework Help Part 2!

I think I am going to make this a regular series. The antics of Tim, part DEUX!

Tim circled around me like a vulture around a beached whale (do vultures eat whale?). As a preemptive strike, I asked.

“Do you need help with your homework, Tim?”

“What, you think that’s all I talk to you for? Fine, then.”

“Well, do you?”

“No! Forget this! I’m just going to ask google dot com!”

Fine by me.

I knew I should have been a good big sister and checked up on his homework, especially after the concerning reference to google. But honestly, I didn’t have the energy to care. I had my own problems: school, work, and news editor of the college paper. So my brother’s misuse of Internet sources wasn’t high on my priority list.

The week after that little tantrum, dad had to go to Tim’s parent-teacher meetings. He dreaded them ever since the incident with the raw bacon. The meetings never really went well. Teachers just told dad that Tim was failing, but that they’d bump his grades to push him to the next level.

Dad had us when he was still a teenager, and so now he was in his late-thirties and still a good-looking guy. I could just imagine what the teachers were thinking:

“That Tim has to be held back. As a responsible teacher, I have to do the right thing. His father probably won’t like to hear it, but it’s a disservice to the other children and to my profession if…hey now. Who’s that. Hmm…no ring. Well, I guess it couldn’t hurt if I bumped Tim’s grade up. By eighteen points.”

This time, when dad went, they started with a discussion about Tim’s “wandering eyes.”

“Let’s just say that…he has trouble…focusing. So we have this cubicle for him to take tests in.”

“You put my son in a box?”

“It’s not really a box…it’s more of a shield so that he…doesn’t get distracted.”

“How do you know that he’s not just getting his notes out of his backpack while he’s in the box? I mean, you can’t see him, either.”

“Tim’s scores…lead me to believe that this is not the case.”

“OK. So he has trouble keeping his eyes on his paper. I’ll talk to him about that. What else?”

The teacher shifted. Dad could be pretty intense. He used to be on the side of the teachers until he realized that they were simply passing him and not making sure he learned anything.

“I have a question, and I hope you don’t take offense. Are you of Italian descent?”


“Is there anyone…what I mean to ask, Mr. Rios, is that do you know of any reason why Tim would speak with an Italian accent?”


“OK…then maybe you should speak with him about that as well.”

“Wooden cube and accents. Anything else?”

“One more thing. As you may know, I am your son’s health teacher.”

“Yes, my son takes your class twice instead of learning a foreign language. I’m aware of the setup.”

“All right. The students were supposed to make a little booklet on a vitamin or mineral…something the body needs. They were supposed to present it to the class. Like this…”

The teacher opened a bound and laminated booklet labeled “iron.” It was five pages long and featured pictures of a steak and beans. “They were supposed to present it to the class and turn it in. This is an example of an A project.”

“All right.”

“This is what Tim turned in…” Tim had folded two pieces of computer together and glued pink print to one side. Dad’s eyebrows came together.

“Why is it pink? And why did he cut out the writing just to glue it to more paper?”
“I really don’t know, Mr. Rios. So Tim was unable to read his report to the class, and gave it to me to read for him. I think he just copied a website…and I believe he may have misunderstood the assignment.” Instead of talking about the health benefits of potassium, there was a picture of the atom of element K and a list of how it reacted with the rest of the periodic table.

“As for the pictures, here is what he put.”

Dad pulled apart the computer paper and saw a picture of a banana on the inside. The caption read, in his scraggly handwriting in silver gel pen, “Bananas have a lot of Element K.”

“That’s good, right? At least he got that right. Bananas have potassium.”

“Look at the second picture on the back.”

Dad flipped the page.

It was the LG Chocolate phone from Verizon. The caption? “My dad won’t buy me this phone.”

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Homework Help

Please don’t say it. Please. I beg the gods and Jesus and Buddha and the spirits of voodooo. I will go to bat for any religion right now, as long as the dieties are merciful enough to spare me this pain.

But no. I see it on his face. He is going to ask. His eyes are wet and sparkling. He has a Joker grin and his head is tilted so that he is looking “up” at me with a smile.

“Layla, can you help me with my homework?”


I fold my copy of Fitzgerald’s short stories into the layers of the couch. The world of decadence and glamor and girls in love fade into this Levittown home and my fifteen-year old brother.

I sit up and plan my next words. One wrong move, and I would be doing the entire assignment for him. That’s just how it went.

“I have to write an essay on why the Roman Empire fell.” He handed me a piece of paper. “We started it in class.”

My eyes met half of a paragraph written in light pencil. Tim liked to write finely so he could erase his work and reuse the paper. His theory was that teachers and paper companies worked together, and that was why school made you waste so much paper, and he wasn’t going to participate in that.

I sighed. I knew how this went. Every year, Tim’s teachers passed him on to the next grade level. If he didn’t pass, they fudged the numbers. If he didn’t get it, they said he didn’t have to. Instead of a foreign language, Simon took an extra gym class. He still couldn’t do long division and thought England was a man.

the “roman empire” colapsed because the people in the government “were” taking money called bribes and i think that maybe it is like today with everyone saying the “government” is taking our money with taxes it is like a bribe and maybe it will be different because when obama was elected everyone was happy except for the “arrest in africa” because there had to be a reason why

I held my breath. Oh, Fitzgerald, oh my lovely ladies, and the diamond as big as the Ritz! Wait for me, I want to bob my hair and join you, and I swear I’ll only be a minute…

Who was I kidding. This would take hours.

“So, you started out all right, but you seemed to get…distracted.”

“She said we would get extra credit if we compared the Roman Empire to modern times.”

“First, let’s start with punctuation. Commas, periods, you know, capitalizing things. And why the random quotation marks?”

“The what? Oh, you mean the high-up commas? The teacher said we had to use them.”

There is no god.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Cured anger issues.

I had a friend who was a real badass, a runaway, didn't take crap from anybody...and now she is a shadow of her former self. Maybe she's better off this way, but I can't help but feel that something is lost in therapy. I wrote this for her:

She told me about the steps she was taking in a prayer drone. Some therapist had told her something she liked but couldn’t believe, and then said therapist had convinced her that liking something was enough to make it true.

Thinking positive…learning about different countries…wow that president of Africa needs to get his shit together…oh, it’s not one country? And I want to learn more languages, like Spanish, maybe French…and I want to learn about dentistry. Maybe I can become a dentist. Anyway, I wanted to talk to everyone in my past and say that I’m sorry and talk about my new plan…

How could she be like this? We shared suicidal thoughts together. We created a language. For human beings, that was like tinkering with the fabric of existence.

I had to get her back on my side, away from the chants and solemn penance of recovery. I considered her feelings the way a rapist considers the weather: as an obstacle.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Video update and LIMITED TIME paper discount...

Posted a new update; there's some footage of a local tope in Atenas, Costa Rica...I hope you enjoy.


New York Magazine mentioned Kickstarter in an article. I hope it boosts views of the site..there's a movie trying to make 20 K that right now has 2 K. It's dangerous; If I had more money, I could easily go broke with this website. But hey, I'm already broke (NYU tuition has that effect...)



So tell any students you know, freaking for finals!

By the way, I edit college papers for money now. Hopefully things will pick up in that department since Finals are coming around. If you're interested, email I'm good. I swear.

- The expat with the iPod.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Flash fiction from my iPod to you...

I'm on my little machine right now, just brainstorming, listening to crickets, eating a mango, thinking about anger and babies, and how the two do not mix well.

Here it goes:

She learned through a series of family arguments right before her college graduation that she'd been put into foster care as a baby. She had been put up for adoption and then returned to her biological family like a rejected Christmas present.

No one really guessed whether or not she was in pain. Her grandmother was too busy trying to convince her mom to feel lifelong guilt ("You weren't there for your own daughter, only I was!"), and her mom was too busy defending herself ("I was so young, I just wanted a better life for her!").

But she wasn't in pain; she was numb. It was like they told her something she already knew. In her earliest memories, she remembered shadows and screaming and a dark brown carpet and pressing herself against a cool, white wall, hoping to fall into it, be a part of it.

that's all, folks. Now to read your blogs.

What I've Learned Traveling in Costa Rica

Trial and error can be the best way to do things, but it can also be terrifying. If you are traveling through Costa Rica by bus, here are a few tips to get you started. This article should serve as a beginner's guide to traveling near San Jose, the capital city.

Thanks to the new highway that opened in January 2010, commuting from San Jose to the towns of Escazu, Santa Ana, Cuidad Colon and Puriscal is much. much easier (yes, buses are allowed on the highway). But do not go expecting a transportation system like the one in your city. There are no maps, there are not many clear signs, and, in some cases, there is no bus stop. People simply "know" where the bus stop is. Buses in Costa Rica are owned by different companies, and so they look different. They usually vary in color based on the towns they serve.

This is not always true, but usually:

1. Blue buses with white lettering on top - Service to Santa Ana or Escazu
2. Red and white buses with TUASA written on the side - Service to Alajuela via the OLD highway.
3. Yellow and red - Service to Heredia via the OLD highway (this is a very modern bus company).
4. Yellow and purple - Service from La Sabana (the large, beautiful park near the new highway) to the heart of San Jose (these buses are usually very cheap, like twenty cents).
5. Orange and white - to Puriscal or Ciudad Colon

Local buses in small towns are usually old schoolbuses.

Buses that say "servicios especiales" will not stop for you.

The Pista (the new highway)
Stopping along the new highway can be dangerous because there are not always bus stops or bridges to cross the road. Running across the highway is very common. If you are not comfortable running across the highway, there are pedestrian bridges by the Hipermas (the large supermarket with the whale icon) CIMA (the hospital) and before Puente Pozos (Pozos bridge). Hopefully they will build more.

If you wish to catch a pista bus, you can wait at the Northern end of La Sabana instead of waiting in the Coca Cola. The Coca Cola is a major bus hub, but it is also known for its high levels of crime and pick-pocketers. If you are traveling along the new pista, it is easy to avoid. Wait for your bus along the Nothern end of La Sabana or the Western end of the city near a restaurant called Soda Tapia. The pista buses to Santa Ana and Ciudad Colon pass by there.

Remember to always ask, and if a bus says "calle vieja" on it, that means "old road." It means it does not follow the new highway.


To avoid the Coca Cola, wait along the Southern end of La Sabana in front of the Burger King. All of the buses to Pavas pass by there. Always ask before you climb on, because the Pavas buses all have their own routes.


Escazu buses all pass by the Northern end of La Sabana. They will have the destinations (Chimba, Corazon, etc.) written in front. If you are not sure, ask.

Into the Heart of San Jose

Taking a bus from La Sabana into the city is a good way to save time and avoid the sketchy Coca-Cola. These buses take you right to the museums, best shops, and the national theatre. Also, from the heart of San Jose you can easily reach the buses to the University of Costa Rica in San Pedro. That area is a typical college town and is fun to visit (and safe!)

La Coca Cola

Or simply known as "La Coca." It is near the two main public hospitals (San Juan de Dios and the children's hospital). Buses to Escazu, Atenas, Jaco beach, Quepos, Puntarenas, Santa Ana, Ciudad Colon and Pavas all start here.

El Caribe

Aside from the Coca-Cola, there is a major bus hub called "El Caribe." These buses go to Limon and to the Carribean side. Buses to National Park Braulio Carillo are also there. To get to El Caribe, I highly recommend taking a cab from the center of San Jose. While the bus hub itself is safe, you must go through an unsafe neighborhood to get there. If you are alone, this would not be a good walk. If you wish to walk, follow the large yellow building, and ask policemen for directions. They will probably not tell you in street names, but in meters. 50 meters = one block. So, "go straight 100 meters" really means, "go straight for two blocks."

Main Street

Near the Coca-Cola on Main Street (also known as Paseo Colon) you will find buses to Alajuela, Belen, and San Rafael de Abajo. Continue going up main street towards the heart of San Jose and you will run into the Heredia buses and the buses to La Sabana. Continue past the National Theatre and you will find buses to San Pedro and the University of Costa Rica.

What does 'el centro' mean?

You may get directions to change at "el centro." What does this mean? Every town has its own "center," which is where all the buses from that town will meet up. The "centro" literally refers to the middle of town. It is usually close to where the church and the main plaza are. Santa Ana has its own centro that you can recognize from a "Piedades Brasilia" sign. Escazu's "centro" is right in front of the cream-colored church, near the Musmanni. If you are not sure, ask!

I hope this helps your journey to Costa Rica!

Since graduating from NYU, I have been teaching English in Costa Rica...and learning the hard way.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Sex, drugs, rock n' roll...none of these describe my life

But still, a lot has happened since my last post.

I succeeded in finishing the book (55,000 words!!) under time.

I finished school, moved to Costa Rica, and decided to try to "Kickstart" my project.

I teach's something I know.

I'm at my grandma's place right now. She is sweet. Her goal is to own a butterfly farm:

and, of course, my project hopefully come to life!