Week 9: Appreciating the ‘Close to Home’

Buenas días, faithful/new/somewhere-in-between reader. Espero que todo está bien en su mundo ahorita |Hope all is well in your world. This week was both eventful and enchantingly close to home. Many of the amazing places I’ve seen here in Costa Rica have involved a several-hour bus ride to reach. This week, it was neat to realize more of what’s here nearby home-base.

Monday started strong in our Civilization and Culture with discussion of conquest of the Aztec and Inca empires. It’s an interesting history of discovery, but also a sad tale of how things proceeded from that encounter. That afternoon, I actually went to conversation club…for the first time in three weeks. It was a fantastic time! Our co-director, Jessenia, led several games and cultural exchange activities for both a fun time and lots of learning. (Also, I have a long way to go with my Spanish slang vocab).

one of the doggies at the shelter

On Tuesday after class, a small group of us returned to the animal shelter from week 2 to volunteer. There were fewer dogs there than our first visit—hopefully many have been adopted. What this meant was less time needed for cleaning out cages and more time bathing and playing with the dogs! It was amazing to see their attitudes from when we got there to when it was time for us to leave—many were more lively and friendlier! Afterwards, I joined up with other students to play a little fútbol…which naturally led to getting blizzards across the street. Pretty great way to spend a Tuesday.

the Costa Rican Art Museum
2 panels of a 22 panel work called “Segunda República”

Wednesday our professor decided we needed to take a field trip to the Museum of Costa Rican Art outside San Jose. It’s one of the few museums I didn’t see the night of the free exhibition—so I was thrilled to visit. Art here in Costa Rica covers an impressive slew of topics. This relatively small museum houses an abstract painting collection, a metal-sculpture-guilded room recounting the national history, a sculpture garden, and various historic and modern social commentary pieces. Very beautiful to view, but also very much of a thought-provoking venture. Afterwards, our SOL mates met up for our weekly SOL searching picnic. We discussed the U.S. food production:  where what we eat comes from and how the industry behind it works. This was an interesting follow-up to the clothing and conscious-consumer talk of a few weeks ago. Lots of new information and perspectives to consider. Not long after that, we went to a local indoor fútbol field for some 6 v. 6 scrimmage. Very humid in the building, but a fantastic time regardless! I’m still not much of a fútbol-er, but I did score a couple goals and felt decently integral to the team. That evening found me writing an essay and preparing a presentation for the next day.

Thursday in C & C, we talked about Latin American dictators over the years and all the things (some good—but a lot atrocious) that they did while in power. We were supposed to have another partial-term exam, but time ran out—so it became a take-home quiz. After class, I was planning to go to Zumba, but it was cancelled again, so I took a run with Zoe (the family dog) instead. When we got back from out 30-minute jaunt in the mid-day sun, I took a shower and Zoe took a nap, haha. That afternoon in History of Cinema, we watched a Brazilian ‘Road Movie’ that was literally filmed in the street (and buildings and busses and stuff) so the set cost was basically zero—neat concept to use what’s already there. Afterwards in Communications and Semiotics class, we talked about the psychology of colors and got our tests back; I did pretty well. I did one part in the wrong format, necessitating a re-do to hand in this week. But interestingly, there were Tico students in my class who also had the format wrong—actually kind of encouraging to know it wasn’t a lack of Spanish skills that made the instructions confusing. While my classmate and I were waiting in the hall for the professor to call us in, we discussed education and grading system differences between here and the U.S. (the +/- system sounds kind of ridiculous when you try to explain it aloud). Also on Thursday afternoon the Turrialba volcano decided to erupt—four times! Yep, a volcano erupted. In the Cartago province. Basically next-door to Heredia. The wind carried the sand to the surrounding areas, including us. At first, I thought it was just cloudy and about to rain—but turns out it was fine volcanic ash and dust from what was the biggest eruption in about 20 years. Pretty neat thing to have experienced. After class, I left the university with four flattened cardboard boxes in hand…those of you who know me probably know where this is going. That evening, I had an hour-and-a-half Skype meeting about MLS for this summer to get more of the programming solidified—something exciting to look forward to. : )

Josué’s rooster mask–we later worked together to paint it

Pranav and some other students decided to visit the Corcovado national park this weekend, and they had left Thursday afternoon, so the house felt a bit emptier this weekend. I decided that with Nicaragua and Panama both coming up, a weekend at home saving some money might be a good idea—also a neat chance to connect more with my lovely host family. But, Friday morning was for sculpture. Yep, those cardboard boxes didn’t stand a chance. Inspired by the masks of the native Brunka tribe (and probably our trip to the art museum), I decided to start a design of my own. That day for lunch we had company! Four education professionals from Texas were visiting to check out SOL, and Janiva chose our house to represent the host families and the program. It was neat to share some of the experiences I’ve had here in hopes of bringing more students next year. That afternoon, I worked more on my mask–and on a rooster mask for my host brother, Josué, for a presentation he’s giving Monday at school. That evening, Karla and I went together to pick Josué up from Karate and watch for a little while—that is one discipline-based activity.

Early Saturday morning, Karla, Patricia, and I went to the Heredia farmers market. It was amazing! An entire street downtown filled with vendor stalls as far as the eye could see glistening in the bright morning sun. We bought many fruits and veggies I knew—but also several new ones that I hadn’t even seen here yet. An experience in buying the freshest local produce for sure. Back home, we shared a delicious breakfast of some of the foods we had just bought, before I worked more on the mask while listening to online documentaries over string theory, the idea of a multi-verse, and new technologies in improving human longevity. After lunch, Josué and I hung out, chatted about my accent, co-coached a virtual fútbol team to seven consecutive victories, watched some of his favorite shows, and debated whether or not I was allowed to take a nap (I won the argument by falling asleep). I woke up just in time to have cafecito and an afternoon shower before watching The Croods with Patricia—a fun and very colorful movie. We had pizza for dinner—which was more than ok with Josué, haha. Later, Karla’s brother and sister-in-law arrived to stay the night with us.  A phone call with the MO family about what’s happening stateside was a fantastic way to close out the evening—I’m really looking forward to seeing them all when I get home (but the time here doesn’t need to be in any kind of rush).

my finished mask

Today has been another chill day here at home. After breakfast, I chatted with Karla’s brother about traveling being an excellent way to experience your home country (and how silly it seems when traveling abroad if knowledge of your home country isn’t up-to-snuff). We discussed how tourism is managed in Costa Rica, and the benefits of having a global mentality. Later, I finished up painting my ‘mask-er piece’ and, with help from Josué, we painted his rooster mask as well. I’m really pleased with how both of them came out. Over lunch, we conversed about the benefits of wearing a smile. Then Josué introduced me to a puzzle-based battle game until a very early-arriving Pranav surprised us. (It sounds like he and the Corcovado group had a fantastic weekend). For dinner we went to a restaurant in Alajuela called “Fiesta del Maiz,” which translates to ‘Corn Party.’ It certainly was a time as great as the food! Then a nice drive home singing to the radio and discussing the fastest way to the beach. After all this, here I am putting the finishing touches on a blog of another fantabulous week.

Looking back through this blog, I realize just how many little things I got to do this week. It wasn’t one of grand, far-off adventures to spectacular destinations, but it was one of appreciation for all the wonderful things to be found close to home. For me, it was a week of connecting more deeply with my host family and the culture here—which really is the idea of study away rather than just touristic visiting. I’m very grateful for the fulfilling simplicity of this week, and know that it’s one more fantastic chapter to set up for another in the tale of adventure I’m living here. Thanks for reading and sharing in this magnificence—I hope you have a blessed week. ¡Nos vemos!

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