Monday, August 31, 2009

mi casa

living room
dining area and kitchen (in rear), door to my room on right
My host mom is an artist.  There are several of her paintings in the living area and one in my room.  She also made the quilt on my bed.

INBio Parque and Irazu Volcano

First a correction on a previous blog-the mall is called Paseo de las Flores.

Saturday we went on our first field trip.  We met at 8:00am and went to the INBio Parque in Heredia.  Side note: the address is 400 meters north and 250 meters west of the Shell Service Station in Santo Domingo, Heredia, or 2.5 km east of La Valencia on the road to Heredia.  The park was pretty cool.  Our guides spoke in spanish but I understood most of what they said.  The park had several different areas with different types of plants and/or animals.  They also had a butterfly garden.
USAC students
After this we went to lunch at a restaurant where the walls and ceiling were covered with business cards and notes.  Here we had a traditional dish called "casado" (married).  This dish usually includes beans, rice, salad and meat.
After lunch we drove up to the Irazu Volcano.  It was very foggy but the clouds cleared for about 1 minute while we were there and I was able to get a picture.  The weather at the top was very chilly and off-and-on rain.
before the fog lifted
Volcan Irazu
area where there is no growth, only volcanic ash

Friday, August 28, 2009

que hora es?

Yesterday I went to a mall (La Plaza de las Flores) with some other students.  We ate at the food court (I had Chinese) and just wandered around.  We then returned to downtown where a few of us bought watches.  At home I use my cell phone as my watch; since being here I never know the time.  I feels odd  having something on my arm.  We also stopped in at Pops Heladeria (ice-cream shop).  People do not eat much sweets here.  Sometimes we have fried platano as a sort of dessert with dinner. 

Tomorrow our whole group is going to the INBIO Parque and Irazu Volcano.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


I found out today that Anja lives just around the block from me.  We walked home from school together and went to the supermarket.  The prices look a bit odd to me.  1850 colones for shampoo (the cheap kind); it is about $3.20.  They have few bills and a lot of coins.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

cooking class

I walked home from the university for lunch and am guessing it takes about 30 minutes. I like walking and would do this all the time except that it was very humid.

A few of us walked to the Parque Central between classes.  I thought this sign was funny especially considering the couple on the left.

Had my first cooking class today and made empanadas: ham/cheese, beef/chiles/egg, and tomato/cheese/basil. I have to say that I did not eat much of what I cooked. After class ended at 6:00 it is fairly dark. I took a taxi for the first time which is interesting because I did not have an address to give him. Most of the students have written instructions from their host parents that they can show the cab driver. I don't have this yet as I take the bus. I told the driver I needed to go to San Pablo (neighborhood/village) near to MasXMenos (supermarket) and then was able to direct him to my house about 2 blocks from there.

I was very excited tonight as my shower was lukewarm! It wasn't anywhere near what we would call warm but it was better than before. About half way through the shower the water actually got warm...for about 15 seconds and then it was freezing cold. Oh well, I tried to enjoy it while it lasted.

first photos

Here are some photos I took my first day here. For those who don't know about the angel it has gone many places. It has been passed from friend to friend and has been to Cambridge, Yellowstone, London, New Zealand, Washington DC, Hong Kong and now Costa Rica.

Monday, August 24, 2009

first day of classes

Today was the first day of classes. My host mother took the bus with me to show me the ropes of the public transit system. I only had Spanish this morning and the professor seems great. All the people I have met connected to the USAC program are very nice and helpful. My host mother then came when I got out to show me where the bus stop was that I needed to go to to return home. There are no street names here. Everything is related to by km and landmarks. For example for their address they may say: 50km N of Pops (ice-cream place), etc. This is why all our mail is sent to a PO Box for USAC and then one of the directors brings it to their office where we have our own mailboxes. My address is:

Esther Shively
P.O. Box 541-3000
Heredia, Costa Rica

Anyway, got a little off subject. The bus I took today costs 320 colones (about 60 cents) and it is the expensive bus. I get on 1 block from my house and off right in front of the university. To go back home I have to walk 4 blocks over and 4 blocks down (I don't know which direction that is yet).

I have a long enough break from classes to come home for lunch. I went back this afternoon to check out another class which was at the Public Library. When I left there I knew how to get back to the bus station but wasn't for sure if I got on the right bus. I just kept praying that it was and that it would stop at the right place where I needed to get off. I was pretty worried because they don't stop at every station unless there is someone there or someone signals to get off. There was no cord to pull on this bus like the previous one and I didn't see a button to push. As we went right past the stop at my street I told the girl sitting next to me that I needed to get off (in espanol). Apparently someone else signalled the bus to stop and I got off one block down the street and all was okay.

My schedule:
Monday: Spanish 8-10:30am
Tuesday: Spanish 8-10:30am, Tropical Ecology 1-3:45pm, Latin American Cuisine 4-6pm
Wednesday: Latin American Cultures 1-4pm
Thursday: Spanish 8-10:30
Friday: Spanish 8-10:30

The reason I have a lot of Spanish classes is that it is actually three 3 credit classes in 3 months: Spanish Comp 1, Spanish Comp 2 and Advanced Spanish. Each class is about 1 month long.

We have our first field trip this Saturday to the INBIO Parque and Irazu volcano.

in the beginning...

Hopefully I have correctly set this up. I have just been connected to a wireless network and some websites are in Spanish, including this one. Apparently I have done okay so far as I have created an account.

I am posting the following from a Word document that I have been writing in until I had internet access.

Friday 5:00pm: I have arrived. The trip was fairly uneventful. Our flight from Houston to San Jose, Costa Rica, was delayed about an hour. I met several people who are in my program: Lauren (Nashville), Jessica (Boise) and Michael (Columbus). I will meet everyone else tomorrow when we have orientation and a tour of the university and city. My host mother and her sister picked me up at the airport. They are very nice, speak English and when they speak Spanish I find that I can follow along somewhat.

A few interesting things I noticed during the drive: a cactus hedge that looked like it was recently pruned (?!?), Ronald McDonald in the passenger seat of a truck, and what looked like a funeral procession-a van with a large flower arrangement on top and a group of people walking behind it in the street.

Their house is very nice. I have my own room and bathroom!!! They also have an internet connection and I will soon be connected in my room.

I have only been here several hours and have tried new things already. As soon as we got to the house, Marielos (my host mother) offered me a tropical fruit that she called a water apple. It was different; the taste made me think of a tropical flower. I also ate noodles with pieces of ham (I think) on top and broth. To drink she gave me juice made of a fruit called “cas” that she got off the tree in their front yard.

Friday 9:00pm: dinner: salad (lettuce with white cheese cubes), fish and rice. I also tried another fruit which I did not like. I found out after that they soak it in rum.
I am very tired. I have been up for 19.5 hours with only 1 hour of sleep last night. I will write more tomorrow.

Saturday: breakfast: egg on a piece of ham, toast and a plate of pineapple, banana and papaya.

I went to the Universidad for orientation from 9-4 today. They gave us all the information about classes, textbooks, safety, maps of the campus, Heredia and San José, and a tour of the campus. One very important piece of info they told us: public bathrooms (including at the university) do not have toilet paper-you have to bring your own. For lunch we had salad, rice with meat and veggies, some kind of beans (I tried but I could not eat this), and juice.

The evening has been fairly uneventful. After returning to the house, I took a nap, walked down the block to a small Chinese store with the mom, and then used their computer to check my email.

Apparently there are two temperatures of water here: cold and less cold. Last night my shower was freezing and tonight it was barely tolerable. My showers are as short and I usually try to avoid being in the water as much as possible. I have been using my fleece sweater to wrap my cold feet in when I go to bed.

There are only two seasons here: summer and winter. Summer is only about 4 months long. Currently it is winter which means cooler temperatures and more rain. It is usually in the 70’s during the day and around 60 at night.