We're a little behind on our blog, but here are a few updates about what we've been doing. The students are VERY busy with classes and getting settled in with their Tico families. The first two weeks are always hectic: getting used to a new schedule, new language, new friends, and new food. On Feb. 1, we took a day trip to Volcan Irazu, Cartago, and Orosi, and then came back to Mesoamerica and watched the Superbowl. After a busy first weekend, the second weekend brought with it our first roadtrip: el Parque Nacional de Manuel Antonio. We journeyed for four hours on our tour bus, with our wonderful driver, Ricardo, to the Pacific coast. Even though Manuel Antonio is only about 100 miles away, travel is different in Costa Rica--no interstate highways. Instead we drove up and down the hills, through beautiful farming communities, and eventually into the town of Quepos, where we stopped for lunch. An hour later, we were checking into the Hotel Karahe for our introduction to Pacific Costa Rican culture.
Over the weekend, we all enjoyed the gorgeous sunsets, the warm ocean, and an early walk through the park to see lots of animals (Howler, Cappucin, and Squirrel monkeys; two and three-toed sloths; bats; lizards; bugs; but fortunately, no snakes). Some of the students opted to explore the park more while others headed off for horseback riding, siestas in the hotel hammocks, a swim in the pool, practicing their Spanish at the markets, or just lazing on the beach.
We reluctantly left the beach after a relaxing weekend, sad to say goodbye, knowing that a week of challenging schoolwork was ahead of us. Last Thursday, we went as a group to the Museo Nacional to learn more about Costa Rican and Josefina history. We saw an interesting art exhibit on the pulperias (general stores) that are common in Costa Rica, but also are disappearing (just like the general stores in the US). After lunch several of the students left for a weekend trip to the Caribbean town of Puerto Viejo, where most of the other students joined them the next day. I think this coming weekend will be a rest break for most of us!
This week we had a speaker on sustainable tourism in Costa Rica. Amos Bien is a leader in this field and runs the Rara Avis lodge, a research and tourist facility that has received national recognition for its sustainablity advancements.
All in all, we are all well and adjusting to life in San Jose, getting to know our Costa Rican families and friends better, and learning a great deal about the politics, economics, environment, and culture of this beautiful land. Stay tuned for posts and pictures from the students about their travels.