Costa Rica

Trip Start Jun 24, 2008
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Costa Rica  , Province of Limon,
Saturday, January 31, 2009

First day in San Jose and in Costa Rrrrrica!  The hotel staff was very friendly and spoke English.  I woke up to a beautiful sight of colorful flowers.  There was a lot of fruit for breakfast, which I ate with people from my program.  Then we had some orientation with our program directors. 

We left in the afternoon for Monteverde, where we're staying for the week.  Total there are around 12 people in the program.  I was surprised because this is MUCH smaller than my group to Spain, which was like 40 students.

We arrived in Monteverde around 6pm.  I met my host family: the dad is 50 yrs old, the mom is 27, one daughter is 4, and the other daughter is 1 yr old.  I thought it was strange that the dad was 50 and the mom 27, but I've been told that this is more common in Latin America than in the US.  Either way, they are both very friendly and attentive to their children.

My first night, I ate soup that had chicken, chick peas, and rice.  It was very good.
Note: Costa Ricans call themselves "Ticos," so that's how I will refer to them
Day 2 (Tuesday):
-Breakfast was toast and mango
-I walked to the Monteverde Institute with 2 girls from my program, it was a 20 minute walk
-Monteverde is absolutely beautiful, nature there is so untouched and hermosa
-The morning was just a lot of orientation]to the program.   We had a break and at fruit and pastries.
-We had lunch and the rest of the afternoon was orientation
-Some interesting things I learned during orientation about Costa Rica was:
----The official religion is Catholicism, but a lot of people are not religious.   And other religions do exist here.  Buddhists have their own organization of Costa Rican Buddhists (a lot of Chinese have immigrated here).   And there is one big Mosque in San Jose.  Also, the city of Monteverde was actually founded by American Quakers in the 1950s.For us as students, having an official religion essentially means that the professor is not obligated to provide us with information for classes we missed due to non-Catholic religious absences.
----Homosexuality is not accepted here.   But the younger generation is growing up more tolerant
----Costa Ricans are more open about being what we call politically incorrect.   If you're black, you'll be referred to (at some point) as negro, if you look Asian, you'll be referred as "Chino."  If you look white, you're "gringo."  And Ticos assume that all Gringos are from the U.S., not England, Germany, etc. (the same as how many American think all Latinos are from Mexico or Puerto Rico)  Also, they assume that all Asian-looking people are Chinese (which we do in the US too, hahaha).Costa Rica has a lot of problems with Nicaraguan immigrants. 
-----Due to the continuing political problems in Nicaragua, many immigrate to their neighbor down south, Costa Rica.   Most Nicaraguans come over uneducated and with their children, who often times don't attend school.   When I asked my host parents about the situation, my madre said that Nicaraguans come over but do not try to change their culture to match that of the Ticos.  My padre said that it was just a very complicated situation.Essentially, the problems Costa Rica has with Nicaraguan immigrants are the same exact problems that the US has with Mexican immigrants.   In fact, during orientation when we were talking about US stereotypes of Mexicans (lazy, drink all the time, uneducated, can't speak the language, etc.), one of the Costa Rican directors said that those are the same stereotypes that Ticos have regarding Nicaraguans (nicknamed "Nicas," which is considered a derogatory term)  

-I returned home around 6pm.  The walk is easy and straight forward, you just follow one main road.
-Dinner, was something baked, my madre used some type of vegetable that looked like a potato only longer, a little thinner and more twisted.  It was pretty good, we had salad too.
-I went to bed around 10pm
Day 3:
-Today was exciting because we explored the Rainforest!  We went through a company called "Sky Walk."  There was a misunderstanding and we as a group ended up going by ourselves.   We thought we were going with a professor, but we weren't suppose to.   By the time we understood what was going on and had reached the Sky Walk, the guided tour was gone.   We explored on our own buy got lost along the path and had to turn around half way through.   But we made it the bridges. 
-They were hanging bridges, and while secure, still wabbled as you'd think they would, so it was a little bit scary.   But we got to see monkeys.  Overall, the trip was fun and we saw a lot of interesting things.  The rainforest is exactly as I'd thought it would be.   Lots of plants, very wet, and beautiful.
-In the afternoon we started our "intensive" Spanish classes.   I didn't think it was very intensive, we went over some basic things and then got into groups and wrote a fairy tale play after listening to Beauty and the Beast in Spanish.  For homework I finished reading some children story.  It was about a little black boy in Africa (he was often referred to as "el negrito" [that mean "the little black one"] in the story) exploring the jungle.   Then a cruise boat comes to his lands and he is mesmerized by a little white girl.  That's basically what happened in the chapter I read.  Apparently, the author is very famous and this is a well-known story.
-I got home around 6pm again.   We ate pasta with alfredo sauce, which my padre add ketchup to...
-Very tired, I went to be around 8:30pm (I had gotten up at 6am)
Day 4:
-More Spanish classes.  I'm not sure why they are called intensive because I think they're really easy.  
-In the afternoon, some people and I went back to the rainforest to do the Sky Trek, which is zip lining over the rainforest.  At first, I was very nervous because it was very windy.   But it was lot of fun.  Where we were is called the Cloud Forest because you're actually zip lining in the clouds.  
-After zip lining, I went on the internet to look up classes.
-At home, we had pasta and meat sauce for dinner.
-Bed at around 9:30pm
Day 5 (Friday)
-Final day of Spanish classes during orientation.  We listened to some Spanish songs
-After looking at classes again, I went home to help my host mother cook for a fiesta the program was going to have at the institute.   We made "pudding de maizana" it looked lik flan with raisins.   It was pretty good.
-The fiesta was fun and I met other students' families.
Day 6:
-We went on a horseback riding tour of the rainforest.  It was fun, but I spent most of the time paying attention to the horse as opposed to enjoying the scenery because it was a bumpy ride.
-We were at a dairy farm and some of us made cheese :)
-Then we went to another farm where they showed us sugar canes and coffee plants, explaining how sugar and coffee were made.

**Pictures will be added soon*
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