Tuesday, September 15, 2009

15 septiembre 2009

!Feliz Día de Independencia! :) Today is Costa Rica’s independence day. The best part is that that means no classes today! The celebrations started last night at 6:00 pm, when everyone sings the national anthem together from wherever they live in the country. Ileana and I went to my little brother (her son) Juan’s school, in downtown San José, to see their assembly. All the students had decorated “faroles,” which are like lanterns that can be in any number of traditional designs. (yes, there were really over 100 lit paper lanterns in the wood-floor school gymnasium; apparently fire codes don’t exist here!) After some singing and other little acts, everyone sang together at 6:00 sharp; there was a band, fireworks outside, the whole works. I think they may know how to celebrate here even better than we do in the States!

Then today, after an unusually good night’s sleep, I spent the morning in downtown San José with my family to experience the parades and festivities. All the schools in San José participate in the parade – with bands, dance teams, etc. Apparently it’s traditional for little kids to dress up to go watch the parade, so mi hermanita, Sofía, dressed up as a “campesina” – wearing the traditional dress, with braids and make up and all. She looked absolutely adorable! Anyway, not sure what the rest of the day holds, but it’s been fun so far!

As for the rest of my life….I can’t believe another week has already passed, but…it has. This week seemed to fly by! I had my first little taste of the stress that normally accompanies a college semester – a reminder that I’m not just on vacation here! Ha! This past Thursday I had a Spanish presentation (which our prof gave us 2 nights to prepare for), as well as a due date for the first step of my major project of the semester for the core seminar portion, on top of a mound of reading…but, in the end all went well. And the best part was that we didn’t have classes on Friday because we had our first trip outside of San José –to the province of Limón. Limón is on the eastern coast of the country and has a very strong Caribbean influence. It was a really neat trip, because the culture there is different from here in the Central Valley.

On the way to Limón, we stopped at 3 different plantations – coffee, pineapple, and banana. All were very interesting. Fun fact of the day: did you know pineapples don't grow in palm trees, but actually grow out of the ground?? Who knew?! We also got to see a banana processing/export plant. It was interesting to actually see all the work that goes on before they slap the “Del Monte” sticker on the bananas I consume (daily) in the States. Check out your banana next time! If it’s Del Monte, good chance it passed through the plant I visited. :)

We spent Friday evening downtown in Puerto Limón, the capital city of the province. We had to conduct some interviews for a paper we have to write this week on poverty and racial/ethnic discrimination here in Costa Rica. I ate dinner with some friends in a little “soda” – the name for small, local, family owned restaurants here – and ate some of the most delicious soup I’ve had in my life. No clue what was in it but…hey, I didn’t’ get sick, so I guess it was all good! (That’s the attitude I’ve assumed here about most things…it’s worth a try, and if I get sick, I get sick. Life goes on. And so far, it’s worked out great – I haven’t been sick once!)

Saturday we got to visit an indigenous reservation, and a woman leader in the tribe talked to us about what all goes on there. They have actually started to raise iguanas in a nature preservation effort. So…I saw lots of HUGE iguanas. Some turkeys too – hadn’t seen those yet in this country! It was an interesting experience. After that, we spent the rest of the morning/afternoon at the beach in Cahuitas, a national park. It was gorgeous. My two favorite parts were that the water was warm enough to swim in, and that the beach is basically bordered by jungle! Slightly different from Galveston. :)

Saturday night we had a typical Limón dinner – a mix of Costa Rican and Caribbean flavors – complete with a live Caribbean band! It was a very fun time. And to end the trip, I got to attend an ENGLISH Methodist church service Sunday morning. They even sang familiar songs like To God Be the Glory, Lord I Lift Your Name on High, Sanctuary and yes, even Kum-ba-ya. It was so fun to worship with Christians here in Costa Rica in my own language. Needless to say, it was a great end to the weekend.

And now…I have to go get to work on the 2 papers I have due this week, as well as the mound of Spanish homework my prof gave us last night! I hope you are all doing well at home! I leave for Nicaragua this coming Monday, but I will try to post one more time before I leave. If not – I’m sure I’ll have plenty to write about after 2 weeks in Nicarargua. Hasta luego!

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