Classes this week continued as normal, 9-2 every day and then reading in the afternoons. However one of the guys in the class had his wife over here with him for 2 weeks and she left this weekend so we had a party in the hotel for her going away.
On Wednesday we met with the woman who runs the InterAmerican institute for Human Rights in Costa Rica. She is absolutely amazing. Before she had this job she was the first woman justice on the interamerican human rights court, she was the Costa Rican diplomat to the US and she was offered numerous positions in the Costa Rican government but her husband turned them all down for her! She has fought discrimination since she was born, growing up in Latin America was not easy and she has emerged so strong and has done so many amazing things, it was a reminder to us young women that just a few generations ago women didn't have the same rights we so take for granted today. We now outnumber men in many universities but there was a time, not that long ago where women were not allowed to attend law school. I guess she was trying to show us that there is still so much discrimination today against women and we have to take a stand against it. It was a very interesting talk.
Myself and a couple of other girls from the class met with one of the lecturers to discuss job paths in international development. He does a lot of work on transitional justice in places like Afghanistan and Iraq and has seen a lot of people move through different career paths. He was very positive about working in this area and gave us a lot of tips and ideason how to get into the UN or Amnesty International or any other major NGO's or smaller, local human rights charities.
This weekend I headed off solo. Most of the others were heading to the major volcanoes or beaches, places that I will be going on my tour when I finish and since there are so many amazing places to see in Costa Rica, I hopped on a very very very tiny plane (think 8 seaters with a propeller) and flew to Tamarindo which is in the Guanacaste region of Costa Rica, on the Pacific coast, around 45 minutes flight, or 6.5 hrs bus ride from San Jose. The air strip at Tamarindo was tiny, one of those strips of grass covered in gravel with the same potholes that are present everywhere in Costa Rica, so it was a little nerve racking, but I got there in one piece, with all my baggage. I was staying in a nice budget hotel with my own bathroom and hot water - a real luxury in Costa Rica, most of us on the trip do not have consistent hot water. There was even a swimming pool!!
Tamarindo is pretty touristy and built up, and you are constantly being hassled by locals selling necklaces and ceramic pots, I am sure I had to glare at atleast 15 in the space of one hour while I was sitting on the beach to get them to leave me along - single white females are probably seen as easy prey! However the advantage of the buildup is that there are a lot of tour operators and surf lessons available and I took advantage.
On Saturday I was up early and had a surf lesson with a very attractive Costa Rican instructor, who spoke very little English but managed to impart the important information to me. However no one told me how hard surfing was, how many muscles it used or the impact it has on your skin. Today I can barely walk, my knees have completely lost all the skin on them, my hands are raw and blistered and my face is bright red from sunburn, all from 2 hours of surfing. However I did manage to stand up on about 5 waves and the feeling when I did stand up made the pain completely worth it! However I decided I was too sore to surf again on Sunday! On Saturday Afternoon I booked myself on a sunset snorkel tour on a big catarmaran. It was a fantastic trip. They took us from the pretty commercial Tamarindo beach, to a private cove we could only reach by swimming to the beach. On the way to the beach we spotted a massive turtle swimming in the sea, it was so cool! One of the crew took us on a snorkel tour and found starfish, and octopus (who squirted us with ink!) and a puffer fish which we all got to hold. The sucker cups on an octopus really do stick to you and it was the strangest feeling! We also saw numerous colored fish and crabs as we snorkeled around the rocky reef
The beach we ended up at was amazing, one of the stripy black and white sand beaches bordered by beautiful rainforest and basically untouched. It was just beautiful and we had lots of fun playing in the sand! The people on the cruise were all American or European and spoke English and a few of them were also on study abroad programs in Heredia. As we swam back to the boat, I even spotted a ray swimming along underneath us. I have never seen one outside of an Aquarium.
When we got back to the boat the crew laid out a fantastic dinner and we relaxed in the afternoon sun before a massive storm moved in and we had to race back to port, over a pretty rough sea and try to find any dry space on the boat to keep out of the rain. However by the time we made it back to the port, the rain had stopped and the storm was moving inland so the captain allowed us to stay on the boat and get our sunset, even if we were moored at the time. The Sunset was amazing, especially as it lit up all the storm clouds around us, making it even more spectacular. (so yes this means there are probably like 200 sunset pictures I will upload tomorrow!!)
After getting off the boat I headed to one of the beachside restaurants and sat right beside the beach and ate Red Snapper that was literally still swimming about 4 hours earlier and was grilled to perfection - I have never had such fresh tasting fish aside from the ones we used to catch in Donegal, nothing beats fresh fish.
On Sunday I had a lazy start and then took a wander around some of the massively overpriced touristy shops before renting myself a lounger and parasol to watch the world go by on the beach. It is really funny to watch all the beginners learning to surf and how ungainly they look in comparison to the much more experienced people who make it look so effortless. But as you watch people go by you see all the bumbs, bruises, cuts and scrapes that people have gotten in their activities in Costa Rica, it really is such an outside, adventurous country!
The plane ride was by far the scariest thing I have ever done. As we took off the thunder clouds were rolling in and it was so threatening. It was probably the bumpiest plane ride I have ever taken, and there were only 2 other passengers on the plane and it literally felt as if we were being tossed around in the sky. I have never been so glad to touch down in my life!!
My Spanish has also really improved, or at least my pronunciation has, most people don't immediately start talking to me in Spanish and a few people complimented me on my pronunciation over the weekend. I also managed to order pizza over a telephone, as opposed to my usual point and ask in the cafeteria, and I also managed to direct a taxi driver who only spoke Spanish from the airport back to the hotel. It makes life much easier now I am starting to understand more!