I don't even know where to begin because since I arrived this past Sunday I have been muchas busy. It feels like I have been here for a week. I have definitely been feeling homesick (atleast for the people I miss, you know who you are), but I am holding up well. I am having an excellent time and enjoying almost every minute of being here.
First off, the staff and other students are amazing. Everything is so strategically planned and each student is interesting and friendly. I expect my perception to change from time to time, but for right now, I am impressed.
I will go in order:
10 Feb. 2008
I arrived in San Jose, Costa Rica after a long night of travel and restless sleep. It instantly felt great to be here after all the built up anxiety of getting ready and saying my goodbyes. I was greeted at the airport by a friendly lady named Kathy whom plans and organizes all the logistics for the program. Let me just say now, that is not a job I envy and I would be completely overwhelmed by it. Therefore, I was immediately impressed by her. After a 1 hour wait 4 other students had arrived and we were off to our hotel, Hotel Balmoral. As in Ecuador, driving is somehow an organized chaos with swirming in and out of lanes without warning and ignoring any sort of indication of a stop sign. Our hotel is nice. I share a room with two others, Katelynn and Lena (aka awesome people). It is a nice room with clean beds and a bathroom.
After arriving at the hotel, Pablo, our TA took the 5 of us out to lunch where I indulged in honeyed plantanes and a passion fruit juice. Dinner was not so good as it was "mexican" food impersinating chinese food. Ick! However, the company was great and I laughed at all the people under 21 excited to be able to get a beer. It is always the little things, isn't it? Meanwhile, Britney Spears and Michael Jackson played on the jukebox. What is it with Latin American countries and really old pop music?
11 Feb 2008
This day was known as fruit day. After a lengthy orientation, our proffesors, Alan and Karen Masters, sent us to the Mercado Central. There, we were assigned a fruit to find, purchase, and learn about via the spanish language. For those of you who know, I don't know spanish all that well. Therefore I made a fool of myself, which wasn't a bad thing because I learned that the passion fruit (maranja) is cut, pulped, ground, and added with water to make juice. I also learned that is grows mainly on the Atlantic side of the country. Yes, a little nonverbal communication helped me understand this. After the fruit expedition groups of us went out to eat and walked around San Jose.
Later that afternoon we all went to an antivenom lecture so that we can all be prepared when we encounter any poisonous snakes. I was hoping for live snakes, but instead we were given a very interested lecture about the types of snakes to look out for and how different snake bites are treated. It was great.
Upon returning from the antivenom lecture we all brought our fruits and shared with one another what we had learned. Then we got into groups, put them into taxinomic groups, and ate them. Guaynabana, pinapple, melon, passion fruit, star fruite, papaya, etc, etc. It was wonderfully delicious.
That evening we went out to eat at a much better restaurant than the night before. It was a girl named Rachel's birthday so there were two surprise cakes and a mariachi band.
12 Feb 2008
Today was a long day. The morning was filled with lectures about urbanization in San Jose. I guess San Jose has had a horrible time with urban planning. There are 50 different plans that go with different municipals, however because of a corrupt government that can't make decisions, none of these plans are being put into action. Therefore, a city with so much potential is seeing no action in smart urban planning. It is really sad as the streets of San Jose are dirtier than any big city I have been in and there is no open or green spaces. It just seems worn down and not taken care of.
After lecture we all went to the Natural and Cultural History Museum. There I walked through a butterfly garden and Alan gave us a tour about the history of San Jose. A few things I learned: the northwestern Guanecaste region has Mayan influence while the southern region has more Incan influence (historically); Today most people are heavily European or a mix and only 1% of the population remains indigenous; Coffee created a country with fairness and peace, but after the introduction of bananas the difference between the poor and wealthly has increased dramatically. There is so much more, but this is probably a bit dry for some of you (probably not John).
After the Museum we were sent out on another mission. We divided into groups of three and had to go to three different places in town and ask locals to fill out a survey that would allow us to calculate their ecological footprint. We took the bus to Mercado Central, the mall, and the University where we would ask people to fill out the survey, in spanish. I was terrified at first, but it was truely a great activity for getting to know San Jose better and seeing that many Costa Ricans are very friendly. After collecting data we compared their ecological footprints to our own only to reveal the inevitable...they need 1 world/person to live while many of my American classmates need about 10-19 worlds/person. Talk about a very LARGE ecological footprint by Americans. I already knew this, but it was great to have a practical activity for it.
This evening we went to an Italian restaurant and everyone is getting ready to leave on our field trip tomorrow. We will be gone for about 2 1/2 weeks (check out the itinerary on the front page) without internet, phone, or people. We are really going to be in the wilderness which is incredibly exciting. We will be pretty much exploring the whole pacific coast and "roughing" it except for the chef they hire to make us food at camp. What a treat! I can't wait to see all the wonderful wildlife!
Well, it is time for bed, but I will write when I return from my incredible field trip.
Hope all is well with everyone!
p.s. molly, there is someone here that looks and sounds like Christian Bale (sp?).