Archive for March, 2008

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


Semanta Santa Begins

March 17, 2008


Ever since the first meeting I attended about studying abroad in Costa Rica, I have heard about the notorious “Semana Santa.”  Semana Santa is a very special for the people who live here in Costa Rica because over 75% of the Ticos are Catholic.  Throughout the world, the term Semana Santa (Holy Week) refers to the week proceeding Easter Sunday.  Therefore, Semana Santa began this past Sunday.

This past weekend, while some of my fellow Elon peers traveled to Montezuma and other exotic Costa Rican towns, I stayed in San Jose.  Since I stayed in San Jose for the weekend, I had the opportunity to go to Palm Sunday Mass with my Tica mom.  Usually when I go to Mass with my Tica mom, we walk up a small steep hill in our neighborhood to get to the local Catholic church.  However, on Sunday, we walked down many roughly paved neighborhood streets and ended up a small garden. 

When I arrived at the garden, I noted a decorated altar sitting in the center of the garden.  I saw Ticos of all ages, who were dressed in their Sunday best, standing on both sides of the sidewalks.  Each person held a long bright green palm leaf.  Even though the blazing hot Costa Rica sun was shining down directly on the bystanders, none of them seemed to mind. 

After a few minutes, the reverent and lively Palm Sunday service began.  The priest said an opening prayer, blessed all the green palms and Mass attendees with holy water, and then started to lead a procession through the neighborhood streets of Sabanilla, Costa Rica.  The church attendees followed the priest singing songs of praise and worship while walking up and down the streets.

Now, to an onlooker not participating in the Palm Sunday Mass, the procession might have looked extremely bizarre.  He or she probably saw a random Tico priest, wearing a red dress, throw water on a group of people who were holding long green palm leaves.  An onlooker probably wondered why hundreds of Ticos were walking in their nice clothes and high-heels through the streets on a random Sunday morning.  An onlooker probably winced when he heard the discordant voices of the people singing slow and repetitive songs.  

However, to a Catholic Elon student who was participating in the Palm Sunday Mass, the procession appeared humbling, beautiful, and invigorating.  I saw an extremely religious man bless his congregation and their palms by sprinkling water that was blessed by a higher spirit.  I saw Tica families holding hands and smiling at one another as they walked through the neighborhood streets.  I truly felt the grace of the Holy Sprit inside of me as I heard and sang along to the lively and reverent music of which guitarists were leading. 

Walking in the procession through the streets of San Jose and participating in the Palm Sunday Mass was a wonderful way to begin Costa Rica’s infamous Semana Santa.  I look forward to the rest of the week’s activities and vigils.

Happy and Blessed Semana Santa from Costa Rica! 

~Kara Cowdrick


March 17, 2008
This weekend proved to be quite different from the rest. Our group spent the weekend travelling to Monteverde, which consisted of beautiful mountains and rain forests. There were many activities to choose from including the zip lines and canopy tours, suspended bridges, coffee and horseback tours. We arrived in Monteverde Friday afternoon, after almost five hours on a bus, in which the last hour consisted of bumping and rolling around in our seats. We ate lunch in Santa Elena, a nearby town, and then proceeded on to our hotel, which was pretty amazing. Several students went to a Cheese Factory, while others ventured on to some nearby waterfalls. We ate dinner together at the hotel. Saturday morning we woke up early to go to the National Park and see some animals! Little did we know, there were no tour guides available. No worries, upon our arrival we spotted a quetzal, which immediately sparked the attention of our noted bird watching expert, Matt. We knew we could now guide ourselves through the park. The group split up and each of us took different routes. Each of us saw various animals and plants. We then regrouped and made our way back up the mountain to zip line. While many of us were afraid of heights, we all completed the zip lines and jumped from the ¨Tarzan swing.¨ I claimed to be a Liga soccer fan and one of the guides scarily placed the rope around my neck and not on my harness. Luckily, I was a good liar and convinced him I would become a new born Saprissa fan. I survived the jump and so did the rest of the group. The canopy tour lasted two hours, which for only thirty dollars, proved to be well worth it. There was the option of taking the bridge tours for ten more dollars. Many of the students took advantage of this incredible price. The canopy tour was one of my most memorable activities since arriving in Costa Rica. The guides were full of energy and used humor to divert attention away from the fear of gliding across a line connected only by a single harness. After we returned to the hotel, we had dinner together again and then celebrated Shannon´s birthday! The cake was different, not good, not bad, just different. We enjoyed its uniqueness. After a high class meal, most of us relaxed and read or spent time outside listening to music. Two students went to a local bar to watch the Carolina vs. Duke game. GO CAROLINA!!! On Sunday many of us went hiking while others enjoyed the luxuries of simply resting. This weekend was both adventurous and relaxing. Maybe next weekend will be spent at the beach. In Costa Rica, the opportunities to travel are unlimited!


Kristin Sutej


March 14, 2008

This picture was taken by a tour guide through his spotting scope at the Monteverde Reserve on March 9. The quetzal is a member of an endangered species. As long as forests are preserved, they will be in no danger.  The male (in this photo) has a long tail.  The favorite fruit for the quetzal is the aguacatillo, a small avocado.   As Elon students entered the reserve on Saturday, March 8, they were able to see a quetzal in a fruit tree near the parking lot. 

Click here for more information on Monteverde and the quetzal.

Dinner Celebration

March 12, 2008


Originally uploaded by janicerichardson17

Elon students enjoy a traditional Costa Rican dinner which they prepared and shared with each other (in Spanish).  Dishes include favorite recipes of their Tica moms such as arroz con palmito, pastel de yuca, cajetas de leche, spaghetti with white sauce and corn, and tres leches. 

Museo del Jade, San Jose

March 5, 2008

Elon students visit the Jade Museum in Costa Rica on February 28. The museum holds one of the world’s largest collections of jade.  Students gained knowledge on the lives of the pre-Columbian cultures including agriculture, hunting, ceramics, dwellings, prestige and power, and jade production.

Ode to Costa Rica

March 5, 2008


Student teaching in a foreign country is a lot like taking a pop quiz every hour, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. No matter how hard you prepare or how many books you read, there will always be questions that stump you and you just can’t explain. Whether it’s learning the hard way that Costa Ricans don’t flush their toilet paper down the toilet or explaining to a small child in Spanish why he shouldn’t bite other students in his class, around every corner and in every bathroom a learning situation awaits.

Fortunately for me, after having been in school for nearly 21 years and selecting education as my future profession, these learning situations are what drive me forward each day. They are what motivate me each morning to awake and try once more to explain in Spanish to a six-year-old why the bounce pass is sometimes better than the chest pass in basketball. And why you can’t eat your boogers during class. Luckily, these personal “teachable moments” haven’t stopped since I walked through customs at the Juan Santamaria International Airport and won’t stop until I’m eating my peanuts on my way back to Charlotte. By then, I’ll already have had enough experience to say the word booger in Spanish, Korean, and Chinese.

Each day is an adventure and begins at 6am with a hot or cold shower, depending on how much I prayed the night before. Alright, it doesn’t really depend on how much I prayed, it just depends on how finicky the shower is being that morning. Either way, combined with rice and beans, mango, pineapple, bread, and some sort of jelly I haven’t been able to identify, it is one heck of a way to kick start your morning. After walking down to the corner and hitching a ride up the mountain with a fellow teacher, I’m pretty content if I’m still alive by 8am. See, what you don’t understand is that in Costa Rica, when it comes to driving, everyone is from Manhattan, everyone has somewhere to be, and no one has time to let you in their lane. As a result, if I make it to the school that morning, well, let’s just say that I pray extra hard that night.

While my day may start off with a bang, the students seem to drag their feet as they saunter into the gymnasium at 8:05am. But that’s where I enter the equation. Whether its basketball, handball, hockey, football, and baseball or learning how to skip, jump, or gallop, it’s my job to get them moving. Unless we are playing soccer of course, in which case any sort of prodding is unnecessary as Soccer is King. Whether it’s seniors in high school weeks away from college or kindergarteners still learning to control their bladder, the age of the students that I teach runs the gamut. While most other student teachers may focus solely on high school or elementary school, I am teaching children from all ages, backgrounds, and nationalities. While some are the children of missionaries, others are the children of foreign ambassadors. As a result, each day and each student brings something new to the table.

While any student teacher may tell you that he or she feels comfortable in the teaching setting, few will tell you that they feel comfortable in an international school where a third of the students’ native language is Spanish, another third is English, and the last third is divided between Chinese, Korean, and Japanese. For this reason, it’s often daunting knowing that your students who are several years younger than yourself already speak three languages and are unbelievable soccer players. And when I say unbelievable, I mean that I lost to the third graders just yesterday.

After teaching between three and four classes a day and coaching at least one sport, either soccer, volleyball, or basketball, I’m ready to return home. While most student teachers return to the comfort of family and friends, my situation is a little bit different. While I too return to a fantastic family and many friends, it just so happens that they all speak Spanish. Lucky for me, the pop quizzes keep coming. Whether its explaining to your Costa Rican mother that if you eat one more plate of beans and rice you are going to explode or thoughtfully listening to her explain how her sister-in-law is in the hospital, sensitivity, humor and respect seem to get rolled into one. Thank gosh I know the Spanish word for booger.

Posted by Nolan Wildfire

Environmental Science trip

March 4, 2008


Another sleepless weekend has passed where we ventured deep into the neotropical rainforest.  Our environmental science class journeyed to Tirimbina in Heredia.  We arrived at Tirimbina after a rather short 2 hour bus ride.  Mostly it was short because the majority of us slept the entire way.  Upon our arrival, a delicious Costa Rican lunch was awaiting us.  We devoured our food and prepared for our 3 hour hike to our cabins.  Along the way, we encountered a very informative Tico who basically answered any questions that we had, pointed out interesting things, and showed us a short cut.  After dinner (great food again), we went into the field and searched a mesh net for bats.  It was so exciting to see a live bat up close and hold it in my hand!  They showed us a presentation about bats, myths, and why they should be protected.  After an ice-cold, yet somewhat refreshing shower, star gazing followed.  More stars were visible that I’ve ever seen before in my life!  We hung out in hammocks and then crawled into our bunk–bed cabinas.  The next morning began extremely early.  Alejandra, our environmental science professor, James and Parker, got up at the crack of dawn to bird-watch.  Toucans were sighted.  The rest of the gang woke up at 6:30.  We had breakfast and then hiked down to the river.  With our crafty homemade nets, we divided into groups and splashed through the rainforest river.  While stumbling over rocks, climbing on vines, dancing like ballerinas to empty our rain boots, singing songs that take you back, we captured tons of insects and invertebrates.  We separated the bugs into orders and counted up our data.  The trip was a success and an amazing experience. 
Pura Vida,
Christina  Lewis