Week 5: ‘We Dance, We Hike, We Snooze, We Carry On, We Go Home Happy…’

¡Buenas tardes y bienvenidos a otro blog de mis aventuras! Good afternoon, and welcome to another blog of my adventures! This week was fantastic, and busy, and fantastically busy, and I’m excited to share it with you now:

For as much excitement as this week had in store, I actually started it off somewhat slower on Monday with Spanish class and writing the blog from last week. That afternoon brought a torrential rainstorm that pushed Pranav and my plans to go to conversation club back by nearly an hour. When we did go, I met an amazing new friend named Rodrigo who teaches English at the university and is working toward a translation license—something I’ve considered as well; so neat to chat with him. That night was all about the homework.

Tuesday was really the first rough day I’ve had here. I woke up with some kind of nasty little stomach bug. Not exactly sure where I picked it up from, but I felt like doing nothing all day. Unfortunately, class is not an optional activity. Made it through, and had a magnificent chicken and pasta soup for lunch. Then a five-hour nap in the afternoon—fortunately that did the trick. I woke up feeling better just in time for bed, haha.

See the world differently

After our classes Wednesday, the whole SOL group (I believe it’s 33 of us now), got together for a picnic in one of the university’s outdoor courtyards. We discussed more of the previous weekend’s trip to Punta Mona and what we’d had on our minds since then—it was nice to simply be together and share. That afternoon, we rode the train to San José for a free museum walk. Six museums throughout the city had opened their doors to the public (in addition to providing a free shuttle service between them). We began at the Museo de Arte y Diseño Contemporáneo which was displaying paintings and sculptures ranging from quirky pop-art to poignant statement pieces. I was really struck by how many involved commentary on US citizens, tourism, and culture. There was a mixture of positive and negative significances, but all of them were an exercise in appreciating differences of viewpoint. We visited the Museo Nacional next to see the butterfly garden and amazing collection of indigenous art and cultural artifacts. Among the most conspicuous were the hand-carved stone spheres that ranged from something like a third of a meter to more than a full meter in diameter—geometry and stone carving make for an impressive outcome. After our very filling dinner, we visited the Museo de Jade to see the jewelry, carvings, and pottery there (more pics from the museums are up on Facebook). That basically brought us to the end of the event time, so six of us crammed in a taxi and headed home.

Part of the Jade Museum’s ceramics collection

Thursday was the second of our partial-term exams in Spanish class and there was only one question (its English translation): “analyze this story and it’s central message using all tenses of indicative and subjunctive forms correctly”— took us an hour-and-a-half to answer. For the oral part of the exam, I gave a presentation on Nicaraguan immigration to Costa Rica (a very hot topic here currently). The professor had lots of additional information to share with us as well. Zumba afterwards—again a nice time. Then home for a shower, lunch, and to read enough of a synopsis of The Godfather to sort of know what was going on when we watched the sequel in history of cinema, haha. In communication class, we discussed ‘what is culture?’ and how it forms, develops, and passes between generations. It was a really neat day of class interaction and getting to share some United States cultural norms while simultaneously learning some more Costa Rican ones. (The question of what we call ourselves came up. “American” is popularly used in the States to self-refer to citizens. But in Latin America, the understanding is that we’re all American—from continent America—and that estadounidenses are from the U.S. However, in English we have no common-use word for ‘United Statesen’ and just commandeer the word ‘American’. Interesting.) That evening, I decided to join some of the other SOL students in Heredia Centro at a casino to hang out, play around with the slot machines, and use the all-too-tiny dance floor. Taxi home and called it a night.

We had no class Friday; so I slept in until 9:30 (super late compared to the regular schedule), before a wonderfully leisurely breakfast. Then it was time to chill, spend time with Josué (we watched Big Hero 6–great movie), draw, and chat with the guys back home before getting ready for a night on the town. Friday night, one of our directors took us to a discoteca (dance club) called ‘La Rumba’ to put into practice the dance moves we learned the other week. It was a fantastic time, and I actually got to dance with a Tica woman who had some more advanced meringue and bachata steps to teach me. We finally made it home around 2:00 a.m…

The beautiful beach of Quepos
Sunset over the Pacific

…Just in time for Pranav and I to get up at 4:30 and prepare for our personal weekend excursion. We made our way to San José to board a bus for Manuel Antonio…which we missed. Fortunately, a bus for Quepos was still there and we made do. Three-hour bus rides are an excellent place to make up for a short night. In Quepos, we took some time to have lunch on the beach—and serendipitous meet up with three other SOL students also there for the weekend—before heading the rest of the way to Manuel Antonio. It took us a while to find a hostel with available space, but one turned up. 🙂 We spent the rest of the afternoon chillin’ on the public beach with all the weekend visitors and some pretty impressive iguanas. We watched the sun set over the Pacific Ocean (it’s crazy to think I was on the Caribbean last weekend and the pacific this weekend—very blessed with opportunities to travel). We had dinner on the beach before heading back to the hostel to meet the other residents. And what a group it was! One student from: Whales, Norway, Denmark, Canada, Malaysia, and Arizona in the EE.UU., three travelers from France, and Pranav and me from India and the States all in this hostel owned by a Costa Rican family. Really neat opportunity to meet a very varied group of people! To round out the night, we hung out with our SOL friends and the two Australian students they had met. What a day!

Mono de cara blanca
Playas Gemelas (the twin beaches)

We decided to stick around the hostel for breakfast Sunday before checking out to head for the park itself. Tickets for foreigners are nearly five-times the price for citizens; but, once we were in, it was well worth it. We hiked trails through the beautifully forested area and got to see monos de cara blanca (Capuchin monkeys), a lovely assortment of butterflies, lizards galore, a massive katydid, a trail of leaf-cutter ants hard at work, and an absolute menagerie of plant and fungus life. The beaches in the park were lovely as well, and there was a neat assortment of ones you could actually be on and those that only had look-out points for some amazing photo opportunities. We checked out nearly all of the trails, passed about an hour on Manuel Antonio beach itself, saw a hermit crab, a rodent I didn’t recognize, and what we think was a howler monkey before heading back to Quepos for a bus home (more pics of our adventure on Facebook). We arrived in Heredia around 10:30—which after all that hiking, felt really late. Our family had left two plates of dinner on the stove for us to enjoy before bed. A marvelous trip for sure, but not conducive to a Sunday blog entry.

One last view of Manuel Antonio park

It’s amazing how much there is to do and see in Costa Rica. I’m trying to daily reflect on what a blessing it is to be here and how many beautiful moments go into each day. I am so grateful for the opportunities, amazing friends and directors, and our beyond-marvelous host-family. Hopefully you see this attitude as I share my adventures and are enjoying this journey along with me. Thank you for reading, and until next week, espero que Dios te acompañe. ¡Chao!

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