Saturday, January 31, 2009

The students have arrived!

All of our students arrived safe and sound AND with all their luggage. Most of them came in on Thursday, while one was delayed a day because of the snow and ice storm up north. The students met their Tica moms, and by all reports, they were fed and housed well and seem to enjoy their new "digs."

Yesterday the group had orientation to the program and San Jose, took a written and a spoken Spanish placement test, and then walked to a local restaurant for lunch. Many of us had the casada (which means married) for lunch, a local tradition of rice and black beans with chicken, fish, or beef, fried plantains, and salad--sort of the "blue plate special" of Costa Rica These were delicious and inexpensive (around $3). Linda's assistant, Stefani, then took us downtown by bus and showed us around. Downtown SJ is very busy--a combination of modern stores in a pedestrian area and very old, beautiful buildings--all sandwiched between several large and lovely parks (parques). We had a good time people-watching, and, of course, being watched. One student even heard someone call out "field trip" when we passed. We were a little obvious, I suppose.

When we returned to Mesoamerica, Linda threw a birthday party for Charley (who turns 20 today). We sang "Feliz Cumpleanos" and had home-baked chocolate and lemon cakes and ice cream. The Tica moms came back to pick up their "kids," and the students were busy making plans for shopping and nightly activities. I've posted a few pictures of the day's events; however, I did not take any pictures of downtown. We'll get some of those posted later.

Today I'm meeting several students for lunch and to decide what they want to do for the day. Tomorrow is our first field trip to Cartago, Orosi, and the Volcan Irazu--then back to Meso for a Superbowl party.

Adios por ahora. Students will be posting their thoughts and pictures on this site as well, so stay tuned.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Hola desde San Jose! Welcome to the blog for the Costa Rica Semester Abroad group, spring 2009. As the faculty leader, I arrived one week early and have been exploring the city and my neighborhood and practicing my Spanish--Tico style. San Jose is a colorful, busy, and historic city, with several beautiful parks, buildings, and neighborhoods. Our hosts at Mesoamerica, Linda and Cliff Holland, and their staff have been wonderful, and I know the students will absolutely love the classroom building, especially the new student lounge with its gorgeous mural wall, provided by Dr. Anthony Weston and his fall '08 students. In fact, we will be there watching the Super Bowl on Sunday.

Many of the students will be happy to see a huge three-storey mall near the Universidad de Costa Rica (UCR), where they can see movies, shop and eat their favorite fast food from home if they become too homesick; of course, I have found that the food is much better at the cafes and "sodas" and other smaller (quieter) places in every neighborhood--and will encourage them to branch out and leave their comfort zones. They will find quickly that anything they want from the US can be gotten here, although sometimes at a higher price. The fresh fruits and veggies are amazing, and so far, everyone has been very patient with my use of not so grammatical Tico Spanish.

The students (17 of them) arrive this afternoon and will meet their homestay families and will have a couple of days of orientation, Spanish testing, a tour of San Jose as well as a walking tour of "our" neighborhood in San Pedro. The students and I will be posting on this blog regularly--comments and pictures--as we explore the many facets of this small but amazingly diverse country. I hope you'll follow along with us as we explore San Jose and visit volcanoes, rainforests, cloud forests, and coastal areas; as we learn the customs and language of the Tico people; as we figure out what it's like to learn to actually use a language we perhaps have studied but not practiced; as we experience pura vida.

Welcome to our community away from home! Hasta luego.