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"It is the journey which makes up your life."

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

J-Walking Like a Pro

It's true! After a month of conditioning to the maniacal driving around here, I can frogger my way across freeways as well as any tico. Maybe it's a good thing they don't believe in traffic lights after all. I've died and gone to Costa Rica. The beach at Manuel Antonio wasn't really real... nothing that perfect could actually exist. White sands, warm aquamarine water, trees growing everywhere, with giant iguanas and sloths and agoutis and monkeys hanging out everywhere. Saturday morning we stumbled upon this beach-side fruit market in Quepos, so we got bread and cheese and fresh avocados, a ton of mangoes, and a pineaple and feasted all day on the beach. At Manuel Antonio we hiked to the farthest beach, where there weren't many people and a point curled around from the north to make a practically enclosed lagoon with warm, gentile water. There was this beach to the south that you could only get to by swimming. Spent the whole day lying there and swimming around the islands in the middle of the lagoon. They gave us free dinner at the hostel that night, and we spent most of the evening walking on the beach and back in the hostel. The next day hiking around the park. Vicki and Cooper both know a hell of a lot about lizards, and we managed to latch on to a lot of guided tours, so we could look at the sloths through their telescopes, and hear interesting things about the monkeys and koatamundis and such. So this weekend was incredible. I think I ended up having the best trip out of the group because the huge group that went surfing in Tamarindo came back exhausted from 7 hour bus rides and bad hotel rooms, and some of the girls had bad encounters with Tico guys in the bars and on the beach. Classes continueas usual. I'm actually procrastinating on my final essay right now... Next week off to the field in Monteverde.

Friday, February 18, 2005

I love this place!

So, I'm about to run off to the beach for the weekend, but I figured I'd say hi. This week has been awesome. Beautiful weather. Beautiful places, and amazing people. I found out I could walk home along these abandoned train tracks, and it's a really pretty way to go... it winds right through the university row of shops and restaurants, then through this park and a residential neighborhood where the flowers overflow from people's back yards and you can hear them sweeping or playing soccer or listening to music. I went to the town of Cartago yesterday.. it's the oldest city in the country, once the capital... and we visited the church of la virgen de los angeles, which has been in the same place for four centuries, built over a river because they found an idol that kept magically reappearing on a rock on the bank. The river flows right under the church, and you can still go down underneath and see the rock. In august, there's a holiday where people walk to this church from all over the country to ask miracles, and under the church where the rock is they have hundreds of little silver offerings... shapes of legs and eyes and heads and things for healing miracles, little children, houses, boats, army badges, the occasional sports trophy to give thanks to the virgin. Makes me wonder a little if WE're not the blind ones, refusing to see miracles when they happen in small ways everywhere.

I've also been hanging out with the biology group that Cooper is with at the University of Costa Rica. It's a really cool, interesting group of people. Four girls from sweden rented their own apartment here, so we went there wednesday night to hang out. They had a second story, and from their place there was a walkway along the roof of the house below to a little open air alcove with candles and a view of the city. It was gorgeous. I stayed up until two in the morning, mostly talking politics with the swedes, a canadian girl, and these two very activist americans, one of whom went to the world development conference in Rio last year, and the other one who was grilling him on what he actually, tangibly did with that knowledge. Josh, the second one, had a fidel castro beard, and went on a lot about how important it is to take tangible action against things when they know they are wrong, and they know what they should do. How much atrocity is enough? One of the things he said...In all my organizing, I've never fought conservatives, I've just fought liberals to get off their asses. We are the reason we don't have any power.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

It's the bailadora from california checking in. I've been having fun. Spanish classes and a little biology to shake it up. I'm definitely still in summer camp mode but I'm starting to have lots of homework too. Alas. The weekend was awsome. I had a tour through the language school to the town of La Fortuna, at the base of Arenal volcano, which you can see spewing lava if it
isn't cloudy. But it was. The best part, however, was going to Tabacon hotsprings. They're the best hotsprings I've ever been to. Steaming pools and jungle plants and beautiful wooden bridges everywhere. After a long bus ride and a touch of a cold, it felt fantabulous. I spent all afternoon lounging around like a mermaid in pools or on rocks when it got too hot. Mmmm. That evening a bunch of us ditched the tour and stayed in hostels at La Fortuna for the night. The one I stayed in was really cool... "Gringo Pete's" run by this old salty texan. It's painted all kinds o colores and had a kitchen and bunkbeds and books lying around all over the place. A hammock in the yard and birds in the morning. I was feeling lazy so I just ran in the morning and then sat around the hostel meeting other travelers and reading, but some other people went hiking and horseback riding yesterday. Then we hitched the public bus back to San Jose. The busses are a trip... basically like old greyhounds, and they run pretty well... but everyone who's waiting for the bus gets on the bus, one way or another, so they jammed the aisles full of people and off we went suffocating for a couple hours untill we got up into the mountains a little more and some people got off the bus. Cooper just got to San Jose too, so I managed to see him last night, and hopefully we can be hanging out a lot for the next couple weeks. I'm starting to get tired of costa rican food. I miss hummus! Chocolate chip cookies! Soup. Bread!! They only eat stale french bread. But the pineaples are hella good. So, that's life.

Happy valentines day all you cute couples! You know who you are... don't do anything I wouldn't do!

And eat all the chocolate chip cookies you want for me.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Salsa like there's no tomorrow!

I had quite a weekend! Our last day at La Selva we went out dancing at this bar in the little town. It was a little harrowing when we first got there... Karaoke night(shudder), but I asked them to play dance music, so eventually we got just about everyone in the bar out on the dance floor. We had just had a salsa lesson, so we managed to pull off all kinds of spins and things with a little style... and its a lot of fun!

After that we headed back to San Jose, got shown around the language school, and met our host families. I have a room in this colorful house with lots of skylights and only one bathroom. I still haven't figured out exactly who lives there because so many people are in and out all the time. It's very exciting. My host mother Ana Maria is the matriarch of it all... and there's her husband, two daughters that I know of and another couple of girls about my age who arrived last night and are related somehow, the boyfriends of the daughters, and two of their kids, the maid in the mornings, another spanish student from germany, and various friends and cousins and things all drift in and out of the house. Ricardo, the four-year old is the cutest thing ever. I read his little picture books with him, and he thinks I'm stupid because I'll be trying to learn the names of things while he's making up all kinds of stories about what the rollerskating dinosaurs are having for breakfast. It's fun. The family is very warm. They took me right in as soon as I arrived. To say hello and goodbye to friends here they put their cheeks together and make airkisses... it was a little startling to me at first, but I'm getting to like it. My first night my tica sister took me out with her and her boyfriend and another friend to the Jazz Cafe for a live concert. "Roc Classica" is popular here, so this Costa Rican band called the Tortugas was playing Floyd and the Beatles and singing in english. I spent a lot of the night explaining songs because they had no idea what they were about. I got to play trucks with Ricardo, explore around downtown SJ a little better and snagged myself a most delightful sunburn(should have known, Loren) with the rest of my weekend. Today is my second day of Spanish classes. The language school is pretty awesome. It's big and filled with people all the time. They have salsa and cooking classes on the side, and some organized activities. The other big event... the Costa Rica/Mexico soccer game, which is supposed to be jam-packed and crazy with a huge party after whether they win or not. I'm in a lit class with only three students in it.. we're reading a lot of magical realist short stories and getting an overview of literary history. I love it so far! So that's life so far. I'm making my family lasagna tonight for a much-needed reprieve from rice and beans. Ciao!

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Hello From the Jungle!

I'm in Costa Rica!!! I've been here since Monday and I'm already having adventures. Right now I'm at La Selva station, which is a preserve owned by OTS on the Caribbean side - lowland forests. There are all kinds of enormous trees dripping with vines and birds and snakes and THE COOLEST bugs EVER!!

It's incredibly dense and kinda intimidating but beautiful in minute ways. Hanging out with thirty other biologists is fantastic because it makes you notice everything. Everyone here is really enthusiastic, and it's infectious. We have four profs who travel around with us, eat with us, hike with us, and just teach as they go. It's like having friends who know EVERYTHING! The other students know a lot too, and they're all cool. I'm impressed.

So right now I'm hanging out and having a few classes at the field station. I actually just got back from a 6 hour hike... they took us halfway around the preserve in small groups pointing out trees and birds and frogs as we came across them. Then for the afternoon we have a class on geology, soccer for the brave, the willing and the muddy, dinner and another night hike. Tomorrow I think we go rafting... So it's been very active so far. I am hungry all the time because of that, but the food is pretty good. I have to learn to make rice and beans like this!
This weekend I go back to San Jose and meet my host family and start my spanish lit classes. San Jose is alright for a city. Very smoggy and the driving is crazy. On the way from the airport, people J-walked across the freeways, motorcycles zoomed around cars and into oncoming traffic. There are barely any signs, much less traffic lights, and if you survive something as harrowing as an intersection you might turn a corner and find a tree growing out of the middle of the street. Except for the cars, though, the city is pretty friendly. Lots of little parks and plazas and things. The day I arrived was national poetry day, so I stumbled upon a little festival with live music and tables selling Costa Rican poetry. I also walked through some kind of labor demonstration. There was a van with loudspeakers parked in the middle of the street outside some old castle-looking building, which might have been the parliament, and the street was filled with people carrying orange flags. A guy was giving a speech from the van about how the people would rise up, and would not tolerate this oppression, and would lift their voices and so on, but I couldn't figure out what it was about. Peaceful - though. Democracy on the move, I guess. The graffiti here is pretty interesting too. Except for the occasional "Mauricio te amo" it was all political. Stuff like "No TLC" (the US/Central America Free Trade agreement), "Bush is a murderer" "the word of government is the word of god" and all kinds of things like "so-and-so is a (pinche) neoliberal!" I think I have a lot to learn about it. I'll quiz my host family.

So.. what else? Salsa dancing is fun. The University of Costa Rica is right next to my language school. It's much bigger and much prettier than I expected... like a lot of the city, I guess. The nice neighborhoods have sleek modern buildings and very old beautiful houses, and the rest is a mix of the old majesty, trees, and corrugated metal shacks painted in bright colors. Not bad, in all. And they have the best pineapples ever!