Week 6: The Many ‘Firsts’

Buenas Tardes a todos, good afternoon to all. Following this brief introductory paragraph, you will find the blog of my 6th week here in Heredia, Costa Rica. As the title of this entry suggests, this week for me was filled with first-time experiences—which translates to lots of fun adventures to share with you now!

Monday opened another very busy academic week as we shared Latin American legends in class. I chose a Mexican ghost story with phantom bells, buried treasure, and a skeleton protector (interesting, considering our haunted weekend excursion). That afternoon found me writing a belated blog, skipping conversation club, and sharing cafecito with the family. I also had my first official/unofficial karate lesson—from my host brother, Josué. He taught me the basic forward progression; complete with step-placement, controlled air-punches, and turns to account for space (our kitchen isn’t quite a dojo). We had ourselves a grand time, though according to my sensei, I need more body-mass if I ever want to be a master.

our dream-catcher-makin’ group

In the afternoon on Tuesday, a group of us were scheduled visit a local kindergarten and do English-lesson-integrated activities with the children there. Unfortunately, the Kinder ended up not having class (snow day or something, I guess). But this meant we got to return to the elderly center in Miraflores and make dream-catchers with the adults there…I ended up not making a dream catcher…because I was involved in a two hour conversation with a local man about politics, immigration issues, seizing the moments in life, the importance of family, generational differences, urban development, and a slew of other topics. Incredibly interesting; and eye-opening in many aspects. I may not have a dream catcher to show for the day, but I did capture some great memories.

this tiny little bromeliad caught my eye

Wednesday’s first was pretty incredible: felt my first earthquake. It was just a little tremor, but the sensation of the floor shifting side-to-side was definitely new for me. Geographically, the tectonic plate arrangement that makes Costa Rica home to so many active volcanoes, also means it has mild, somewhat frequent earthquakes. I’m kinda looking forward to the next small one now—sort of turns your universe upside-down to feel “solid” earth moving. This was also the day we watched Pan’s Labyrinth in class. I really enjoyed the simultaneous-esk storylines and magic realism, but wow, that movie is graphic! Wednesday lunch was our new ‘SOL searching’ group picnic. We discussed the idea of individual energy and finding personal purpose. We did an activity with a triple Venn Diagram to find common points between passions, abilities, and what pays to think about possible career paths. We also talked about the power of converting ‘should’ statements to ‘could’ statements, that become ‘can’ and ‘I’m excited to…’ statements. Afterwards, I found the tiniest little bromeliad before we had a student-let Bible study/discussion circle. The name of the game that evening was homework.

We had our third partial exam Thursday morning, which was to present our idea of an ideal world. While mine had many social-justice and people-first aspects, I think my two favorites were outlawing billboards and that people would have wings (basically, real-life pop-up blockers, and a whole lot of Red Bull, haha). In aerobic dance class, I guess our teacher decided we were ready for the next level—because it was the most difficult day so far. After a much-needed lunch, it was off the history of cinema class to watch the rest of The Godfather II and parts of Japanese director Akira Kurosawa’s films (which I also gave a presentation on that day). That evening, Communications class attendance was optional, but I’m glad I went by to get an electronic copy (and some more specific instructions) of our take-home test due this coming week. I got home that evening, and called it a night fairly early after dinner…

this pic is from Google, but were definitely here

…Because Saturday brought another first: white water rafting! We left the university at 6 a.m. to drive three hours to our reunion point on the Pacuare River. This stretch of lovely blue-green water twisting through high-walled jungle valleys and rolling hills, has been classified as the third best white water rafting river in the world. Rapids classifications go from 1 to 5–with 5 being the most severe (over a waterfall during a tsunami, blind-folded, while sitting on a seven-person balloon…ok, not actually that crazy). During our nearly three-and-a-half hour float down the river, we took on classes 1 through 4. It was fantastic! We got absolutely soaked and narrowly dodged more rocks than I can count, but when we got to jump out of the raft and simply float down a tranquil part of the cool river, it was all well-worth it. Afterwards, we shared a lunch of gallo pinto, meat, plantains, and salad before celebrating the birthday of one of our group mates with two versions of the ‘Happy Birthday’ song and a delicious cake. Even with a nap on the bus ride home, my sore body slept well that night.

el Sanatorio Durán
some graffiti was slightly unnerving
the beautiful field of yellow flowers we encountered

Saturday dawned early—or at least 10:00 felt early—as we boarded a bus for San José to catch a bus to Cartago. Our destination: the Sanatorio Durán. Said to be the most haunted place in Costa Rica, this remote hospital was built in 1915 to treat Tuberculosis patients until 1963. It was then converted to an orphanage, and later a prison, before sustaining substantial structural damage during an eruption of the nearby Irazú volcano (check out my week 3 blog if you’d like to see more on the volcano). At that point, the sanatorio shut down completely…but rumor is that not all of its original residents left. There are supposedly at least three unique phantoms that still frequent the grounds of the old hospital. We spent time exploring the abandoned, graffiti-tagged rooms, checking out the nearby wooded area, and trying to make one another jumpy while keeping our eyes peeled for any signs of eerie company. My ‘firsts’ for the day stopped short of seeing an apparition…bummer? Later on, we decided to hike our way up part of the nearby mountain, and were rewarded with a spectacular view of the beautiful countryside surrounding the sanatorio. Next stop was a massive field of yellow flowers farther up the mountains where we simply relished the view, the light mist, and a stunning sunset.

This morning was a marvelous case of reassuring myself that I haven’t forgotten how to sleep-in, followed by a delicious breakfast with the family. I got to video chat with Megan (my friend currently studying in Bradford, England) for a while and swap study abroad adventure stories. Then it was publishing photos, writing what you’re now reading, and beginning an analytical essay of Pan’s Labyrinth. Still lots of homework to do this evening, but I also got to video chat with my family this afternoon—an enjoyment no amount of questionable internet connection can dampen.

This was certainly a more routine-feeling week for me, but I’m very happy to be able to look back and still see the fingerprints of small adventures and new ‘firsts’ throughout the week. Certainly a fantastic one overall, and I thank you for taking time to share in it with me. Hope this coming week is full of wonder and magnificent adventures of all sizes for you. Until next week: ¡Ten cuidado y permanence marvilloso! (Take care and stay wonderful!)

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