El Rey de Baile

May 9, 2008

 

On May 8, the last day of classes at Mesoamerica, Jessica, Jeremy, and Shannon, students in Lorena’s Spanish class, entertained students and staff with a wonderful theatrical performance in Spanish.  It was enjoyed by all and we were all impressed with their Spanish language skills.

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Finishing the Semester

May 6, 2008

As our semester in Costa Rica rapidly approaches its finish most of us are occupied with last minute activities that come with any semester – final papers and exams.  Over the course of the May Day holiday, a four-day weekend for us, many students took the opportunity to make their final trips to the beaches, mountains, and even to Panama.  Granted Christina had a passport scare, everything turned out alright for the travelers.  I spent my extended weekend making campaign phone calls for the Clinton campaign via Skype – not a major surprise for my companions.  Despite the extended time away from the community surrounding our school, MesoAmerica, we still found the time to complete learning aides for the English classes at la Primaria Batenia.  This completed a service project component of our Education Seminar/Numbers & Culture class that also involved painting a classroom (they will remember NC forever since the room is decked out in Tarheel colors.)  The students appeared more than happy to receive our gifts.  

While studying issues in Latin America, we have also kept abreast with the news at home such as the soaring gas prices, rice restrictions, and the ongoing Democratic primary.  It seems everyday our Latin American Politics class is geared more towards American politics everyday – we have learned just how much our government affects the whole world.

 I am among the students excited about the return home, but I at the same time I cannot think about without feeling sad as it means leaving my host mom behind.  I am sure that the bus trip back to Juan Santa maría International Airport will have a mixture of bitter-sweet emotions for everyone. 

Hasta Pronto,

Jeremías Teetor

National Museum

May 5, 2008

“From the early ages, there has always been someone before us, someone we have displaced, someone who has marginalized us, someone against whom we have fought and someone with whom we’ve eventually mixed.”  Victor Hugo Acuno (Praise of Immigrant 1999)

This quote stands before the entrance to the immigrant room of the National Museum in San Jose.  Three Elon students pose with the cardboard cutouts that represent the different ethnicities of the people of Costa Rica to include the indigenous groups, the Spanish, the Africans, the Chinese and others.   

Arenal and La Fortuna

May 4, 2008

 

Our last group trip of the semester really sent us out in style this past weekend in the Arenal area. I think from the moment we first viewed the impressive (and active!) volcano, we could unanimously agree that the best was saved for last (not that our trips to Volcanes Poas or Irazú were anything to complain about)! After a long bus ride, with our favorite driver, Mauricio, and a short lunch break at Switzerland…well, a Swiss restaurant chosen by—guess who—the infamous Brigitte, our secretary/tour guide, we FINALLY arrived in Arenal Friday night. We enjoyed dinner in La Fortuna; afterward it was unfortunately a little too cloudy to see the flowing lava from Volcan Arenal. However, we weren’t ready to give up and call it a night just yet. Some students hung out at our luxurious Los Lagos Hotel while Mauricio escorted a few ladies to the local discotec for a night of dancing!

The next day was filled with a number of activities, but of course I first have to mention the amazing breakfast we all ate, including the second best pancakes you’ll ever eat in your life (if you are curious about the first, you would have to visit Oriental, North Carolina). Some adventurers, even fearless Professor Richardson, headed out to a nearby swimming hole complete with a rope swing and waterfalls to frolic in. Others chose to lounge by the many pools of Los Lagos, though I don’t know if you could really call “Water Slide Tour 2008” (wreak havoc!) “lounging.” For those of you that want to know more about Water Slide Tour 2008, it involved groups of college students running from water slide to water slide as though we were back in elementary school. If it sounds simple, clearly you had to be there to understand. A few lucky students even pampered themselves with a massage in the hotel spa. Kristin and her mom (visiting from SOUTH AFRICA!) spent a great day at the hot springs of Tabacon. All tired out from our long days, we dined together and headed out to go catch a glimpse of the lava flow at night or relax in the hot springs of Los Lagos.

On Sunday morning, a group of early risers headed out to Lago Arenal for some kayaking and came back pretty damp, but satisfied. Others took the last opportunity to play in the pool although some students—one more than the rest—definitely learned that water slides can hurt you.  All in all, we had a great trip and Arenal is one place that I would sincerely recommend to anyone traveling in Costa Rica.

 

Posted by Shannon Boone

 

Giving Back in Costa Rica

April 21, 2008


 

Lots of people think that spending a semester in Costa Rica would be a lot like a vacation.  While in some aspects being in this tropical climate feels like a day at the beach, we still have to keep up with schoolwork and adapt to this unfamiliar culture.  One thing many of us have noticed is that there are lots of needs here in Costa Rica.  After seeing how much more fortunate we are than many of the people here, we have decided to help in a variety of ways. 

Jessica and Amanda have been visiting a nursing home to spend time with the elderly there.  Many of these people do not have family who visits them.  They are so excited to receive the companionship that Jess and Amanda offer when they visit.

Parker has connections through his Tica family to a family whose house burned down.  This family of two parents and eight children lost almost everything.  The children can’t attend school because they no longer have their uniforms.  Many of us know the dad of the family as the guy that sells fruit from the back of his truck in front of Mas por Menos and after Parker told us of his horrible news, we gathered some money to give to the family.

Erica, in addition to her practicum at Escuela Roosevelt, has been volunteering at the local elementary school Betania.  She’s been helping out with English classes there and became aware of the many needs of the school.  The school lacks materials for teaching English and the building could use a little repair.

In an effort to help, our GST and Education classes have joined forces.  In the Education class we are creating materials such as posters, flashcards, and games that could help the students at Betania learn English.  This past Thursday our GST class went down to Betania to paint two classrooms.  However, we didn’t realize exactly what was in store for us.  The two classrooms were fairly large with high ceilings and the administrator wanted the top half painted white and the bottom blue.  After about three hours of working and only having one coat of white in one of the classrooms, we realized we were going to have to do some rearranging.  Since we had to wait for the paint to dry, some people decided to return on Friday to paint a second coat of white.  Today, a couple of people returned to paint the bottom of the wall blue.  While the roadblocks we ran into were a little frustrating and we only got one classroom painting instead of two, I think we are all really glad that we got to help out.  As these last few weeks dwindle down, I’m sure we will find more ways to give back to this community and appreciate all that we have at home in the United States.

            Ciao,

            Brandy Sparks

 

The Day I Held a Hummingbird

April 17, 2008

Over the past weekend, eight other students in the environmental science class and I went to a part of Costa Rica called Cerro de la Muerte, or Hill of Death, to examine how much hummingbird feeders affect pollination.  No one is exactly sure why it is called Cerro de la Muerte, but there have been many accidents on the road going up to it, so that is a possibility.  It also could be describing the weather conditions in comparison to the rest of Costa Rica.  The temperatures at night have dipped below freezing at Cerro de la Muerte, and our humble cabins without heat helped us with a WONDERFUL good night’s sleep. 

We drove about 1.5 hours to a mountain bog to experience that type of marshy land with lots of epiphytes (plants that do not root in the ground, but up in trees).  After walking around in our black rubber boots and getting stuck in the mud, we drove another hour to La Georgina restaurant, which is a popular place for tour buses to stop in and have a nice meal.  The restaurant has plenty of flowers and feeders, resulting in hummingbirds flying all over the place.  To catch them, we would wait with our hands out until one landed, and then would simply squeeze.  That would be amazing if it was true, but unfortunately it was much less exciting, since we simply had nets up that they would fly into.  Once we caught and released them from the net, we rubbed tape along their neck to track how much pollen they were carrying on their feathers.  While holding the hummingbirds, we were able to lay them flat on the palm of our hand without closing our fingers because they thought their wings were trapped.  The point of the experiment was to see if hummingbirds have stopped going to flowers for nectar because they can get food from the feeders, resulting in a lack of pollination.

The lone night we had together was very entertaining despite not having very much to do.  I brought my guitar with me and we all had a sing-along in the restaurant.  When we left the next day, we stopped at an area called the Paramo and climbed up a small mountain for a nice lookout.  The clouds flew by us, so one minute we could see for a mile, and another we couldn’t see 100 feet out.  The final part of the trip was stopping by the side of a road to hike in 30 meters or so to a tree so big, that the hollow inside could fit six students!  Even though the trip was short, it was very informative and gave us the opportunity of a lifetime to hold hummingbirds in our hands, which is something most people will never do. 

Posted by James Homan

A Public Elementary School with Uniforms and Prayers?

April 15, 2008

When you walk into Escuela Franklin D. Roosevelt in San Pedro, Costa Rica at 7:00 AM on a weekday morning, you will see a statue of the Virgin Mary in the courtyard and a bulletin board that displays the words to the “Padre Nuestro” prayer. You will see elementary school students wearing their blue and white school uniforms and bowing their heads to pray before class begins. Did I mention that this is a PUBLIC elementary school?

Throughout the semester, Elon Education majors have had the chance to compare and contrast the Costa Rican education system with the U.S. education system by taking a seminar class and engaging in a practicum in a local Costa Rican school. Some Elon NC Teaching Fellows have been spending time with teachers at local private schools. Three Elon Elementary Education majors have been observing and assisting various teachers at the public school Escuela Roosevelt.

With the semester ending in a few weeks, we are now preparing to teach an English lesson or lesson about life in the United States. Overall, our practicum experiences have been worthwhile and eye-opening. We all hope to remember our practicums and the lessons we have learned about Costa Rica so that we can help prepare our future students to be globally aware citizens.

Posted by Kara Cowdrick

Nicaragua

April 8, 2008

After 2 months of being immersed in the culture of Costa Rica, we finally had the opportunity to catch a glimpse of another Central American country this weekend.  On Friday morning, we boarded the 6 am TicaBus for a nine hour trip across the border into Nicaragua.  A native of Pennsylvania, the travelling time was about equal with the length of my drive to Elon.  While there may be some existing differences between northerners and southerners in the United States, crossing the Nicaragua-Costa Rica border separates far more cultural differences than any Yankee could claim about the Mason-Dixon Line. 

We noticed the distinctions between Nicaragua and Costa Rica soon after making our way through the long process of crossing the border- even the gallo pinto tasted different.  Most prominently, we noticed more people begging for money in the streets, and trying to sell us anything they could for a few extra Cordobas (the currency of Nicaragua).  We all felt extra generous, handed out a few extra coins, or often shared any leftover food from dinner.  On a lighter note, we enjoyed the fun, relaxed atmosphere of the colonial city of Granada.  People gather around the concrete soccer field in the main square of town, sit along the street for hours in rocking chairs, and seek the shade to escape the scorching sun.  Horse drawn carriages offer colonial taxi rides around the city.    

On Saturday, we had a busy tour through some of the highlights of Nicaragua surrounding Granada.  We started the day at Volcano Masaya- on the drive up to the main viewpoint, our guide gave us cautionary instructions that we would need to run as fast as possible back into the van in the case of an eruption (the last eruption reported occurred in 2003).  After enjoying the several lookout points of the craters, we travelled to the Masaya market, and purchased paintings, handmade crafts, jewelry, and other items for low prices.  Later we ate lunch together, and visited a local pottery business, where some of us had an opportunity to try out the pottery wheel- and found out it was a lot harder than it looks.  Next, we headed to Lake Nicaragua for a short boat ride.  Our entertaining guide showed us the islands with prized real estate, Monkey Island, and even sang us the Nicaraguan National Anthem. 

Sunday we were free to explore Nicaragua on our own.  The extremely hot weather kept some of us by the pool, while others visited Lake Nicaragua, the Granada market, or a local baseball game- unlike most Latin American countries, soccer is not the most popular sport in Nicaragua.  Finally, a group of us climbed the bell tower for a beautiful view of the city to see the sun set.

We enjoyed an extended weekend, and departed from Nicaragua on Monday.  Once again, we were shuffled around, filled out paperwork, got our passports stamped, and waited in long customs lines at the border to reenter Costa Rica.  The process of crossing the border was tiresome, but thankfully uneventful as well.  The long tedious travel was well worth the trip to visit another country, but we all welcomed the cooler temperatures when we stepped off the bus in San Jose.

Posted by Amanda Stamplis

 

 

Spring Break in Costa Rica

April 3, 2008

 

What to do when given a week and a half off from school in the middle of spring semester? That is exactly the kind of question students studying abroad in Costa Rica had the joy of answering. Beaches, volcanoes, family visits, and national park excursions characterized the breaks for us, and I don’t think anyone came back disappointed from the beautiful places that they got to see here in Costa Rica and around the world.

            Speaking for myself, the break was a blessed time of fellowship and beauty. As my host family and I have continued to establish a better relationship, I spent the last part of Semana Santa cooking with my Tico mom, learning recipes, and sharing stories about our families. The slow, contemplative nature of Semana Santa was a blessing to unwind from school and see millions brought to a halt by the memory of Christ’s death and resurrection.

            When Easter Monday came around, my adventure excursion began. I took an 8:30 bus out of San Jose into the mountains to attempt to climb the famous Mount Chirripo, where the tropical climate actually dips to below freezing. Its Costa Rica’s Everest— a treasure in the middle of the Talamancas mountain region—and people from all over the world flock to the site. I met Costa Ricans, Swedes, Americans, and Lichensteiniens with other nations surely represented as well.

            The climb itself was a test of perseverance. Most people hike Chirripo in a group, but every step I took seemed to prove that my God was with me. As I climbed higher and higher, through six different environments including a beautiful cloud forest, I took some incredible pictures, met other climbers, and felt close to my NC roots (and those great Appalachian Mountains).

            At the peak, those who had gone before me had littered their signatures and comments throughout a log book that recorded everyone’s name that had successfully climbed Chirripo. Many signatures included special dedications to God and prayers for the health and well-being of friends. I found myself joining in the chorus:

“Every valley shall be raised up,

Every mountain and hill made low…

Even youths grow tired and weary

And young men stumble and fall;

But those who hope in the Lord

Will renew their strength.

They will soar on wings like eagles;

They will run and not grow weary,

They will walk and not be faint.”

Isaiah 40:3, 30-31

I added my signature, prayers, and thanks to the book as well, and stopped for lunch on top of the peak, looking out over the lakes and path I traveled.

            My return to San Jose has put this same path in even broader perspective, causing me to consider all my friends back in the States and my new friends in San Jose. Here at the halfway point, I realize how much I’ve been learning in Costa Rica. The Spanish language continues to seem more natural, and the simple family life more comfortable. In Costa Rica, life is often more stunning, more delicious, and more peaceful than life in the United States; it is an excellent complement to my Elon experience.

Posted by Parker Cramer

Students in Montezuma

March 27, 2008

Over the March 14-16 weekend, four students and two Ticos traveled the long way to Montezuma on the Nicoya Peninsula.  After a two-and-a-half hour bus ride to Puntarenas, a one-and-a-half hour sunset ferry, and another two hours of bus, they finally arrived for a fun weekend.  Lots of time was spent on the beach, but the highlight of the trip had to have been going to Montezuma Falls on Friday and then once again on Sunday.  Montezuma Falls consists of three waterfalls and three natural swimming pools.  A grueling ten minute hike up to the second waterfall was well worth the struggle as Kathryn, Amy, and I all jumped off of the 15 meter (49.2 feet) waterfall into the pool below!  A smaller waterfall, rope swing, refreshing water, and very talented locals doing back flips and dives all added to the excitement of the afternoon.  “The waterfall was the best part of the weekend,” said Kathryn.  “It was really exciting to see James do a triple front flip and land in a dive, he is so amazing.”  Okay so that last interview was completely fictional, including the events described, but nevertheless it was an amazing experience. 

Montezuma is a quaint little town that can be walked entirely in a matter of five minutes, and has many cheap ($10) hotels/hostels that are right on the beach.  Adventure was found yet again as James and Kathryn discovered a tide pool the size of a regular swimming pool along one rocky section of the beach.  The larger beach area, La Playa Grande, was lined with coconut trees, rocks, hot sand, and totally narley  waves…dude.  Many vendors also lined the streets selling hand-made crafts that seemed well worth the prices. 

One experience James and Kathryn had that proved how small of world it really is was when they were up at the top of the waterfall and met five Elon graduates!  They had all graduated in 2004, and at least a couple of them had gone to Costa Rica during winter term at Elon.  This area seemed to attract a large young adult crowd, including many Europeans.  The CR guides are correct, as Europeans were some of the people we all met during our time there.  The only warning we would give for anyone going in the future would be to bring enough money for a whole weekend since there is no ATM in town, and to watch out for that sun…just ask Amy Papantonio who now has a target burned onto her back.

Posted by James Homan