Week 4: Learning In (and Out of) the Classroom

This was a bit of a slow week for me during the week days—mostly because the professors decided to get real with the homework, haha. I’m also a day late on the blog (I’ll get to ‘why’ when I talk about the weekend). Anyhow, moving right along:

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The beautiful beach we got to look forward to visiting last week

After Spanish class Monday, I took a three-and-a-half hour nap, skipped conversation club, and rounded out the night preparing for class the next day—basically just goin’ crazy.

Tuesday we visited an elderly center and spent time with the adults there. We did crafts, had cafecito, and listened to lots of stories.

We had a group dance class Wednesday; which I really enjoyed! We learned to Meringue, Salsa, Latin Swing dance, and Bachata—I think we’ll be ready for this week when we hit the dance floor.

Thursday morning was the first of our three partial-term exams in Spanish followed by aerobic dance club—still just as intense as last week. In history of cinema we watched a French film…in French, with Spanish subtitles—definitely a mental work-out to go with the physical one I’d had earlier. Later, my communications discussed contrasts of signs and symbols, how shared meaning and it’s cultural specificity function, and why meaning and significance are different—somewhat abstract concepts to try and grasp in another language. Fortunately, there are many very amicable peers in my class asking if I understood and helping  to explain more when I didn’t.

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The beach of Punta Mona

We boarded a bus Friday morning at 6:00 a.m. (yep, it felt as early as it sounds) to drive to the province of Limón. From there, we took lanchas (sea-faring motor boats) to our weekend destination: a permaculture project on the south Caribbean called Punta Mona (Monkey Point). Stephen Brooks and his wife Sarah have worked over the last 20 years to build and maintain a farm that is nearly 100% self-sufficient and focuses on producing less waste and finding more environmentally-friendly ways of dealing with the problems and challenges that come with farming (pest insects, hydration, production timetables). We spent Friday afternoon meeting the community of workers, residents, volunteers, apprentices, and interns there, enjoying the amazing biodiversity, and relaxing on the beach before an evening bonfire (which I didn’t attend for long because the ants were there first and were quite feisty).

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Learning from Alan about various plants during the farm tour

We began Saturday with a breakfast that had been picked that morning before getting to hear Stephen himself tell us some of the idea behind Punta Mona and what they’re seeking to create. We broke into smaller groups and were given a tour of the farm and an explanation of how things work. Topics like the combinations of symbiotic plants grown to simultaneously give and take nutrients from the soil, the canals they’ve dug for hydration and transportation, and the various uses they’ve found for plants from eating to building. That afternoon, we went to a creek for a natural mud bath full of minerals to soften and nourish the skin—and to just enjoy getting really muddy. 🙂 Next it was back to the beach to wash off before a candlelit dinner and relaxing ‘hammock time’ amidst new friendships and the noises of a jungle night.

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Freshly roasted and peeled Cacao for chocolate making

Sunday came far too fast. After breakfast and chocolate making (from fresh-picked Cacao), it was time to pack our things and prepare for the closing ceremony. We gathered together in the yoga hut to share what we had seen and learned that weekend and share in the home-made (and quite different) chocolate balls we had made. Then it was back on the boats to go to Manzanilla for lunch—which was fantastic. Caribbean cuisine certainly is delicious. One last dip in the ocean, and we headed home…to arrive around 8:00 p.m. This being the case, blogging last night was not going to happen, haha.

As I hope is evident in these words, it’s been another magnificently wonderful week here in Costa Rica. I’m excited for the activities we have planned this upcoming week, but I know I’ll remember the adventures of last week for a long time. Thanks for stopping by and reading. Hope you have a marvelous day, ¡Chao!

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