This is the second week of school for all of us. Most school days aren’t too exciting, but we’ve managed to keep this week relatively lively. Monday, everyone in the Alternative Medicine class went to the university thinking we would have an entire day of class in order to make up for the week that we had missed. The teacher was interesting and went slow enough that everyone was able to actually process the information as he went along. He did not, however, have any intention of teaching the entire day. When he found out the administration was expecting him too, he decided to teach until 11 or 11:30am and then make up the extra 3hours another time. The class was at least interesting, as the teacher stuck some of the students with needles, demonstrating acupuncture. Thankfully though, we did not have 6 hours of one class that day, and Fernando arranged a bus for us to all go back home after lunch.
Tuesday was another early day for us, though I wish we had known sooner. I spent the morning on my laptop at the university, waiting for the morning class to finish to go get lunch. After lunch, we came back and waited for the professor for the afternoon class. Everyone was confused about a field trip to the national museum. The professor had mentioned that it would be that day, but the schedule listed the trip as Monday of the following week. Just after 2:00, when the class was supposed to start, Fernando came and told us that he had a bus back to the hotel for us. We would not be having class that afternoon after all.
Other than these few misunderstandings and examples of disorganization, the week has gone by pretty smoothing and extremely quickly. Tuesday night, I met my friend (from UCSD) Emily and her family for dinner. Her aunt and uncle brought her with them to visit their parents here in Costa Rica. JJ had lived here for a few years after college and his parents moved here 16 years ago both to save money flying back and forth from California and for the health care system (his mom has cancer). I thoroughly enjoyed eating and visiting with them in their home in Escazu (near San Jose). They have all traveled all over the world and had great stories to tell. From their plans, it seems they might be at Manuel Antonio at the same time as me this weekend so we might have a chance to meet up again.
Though Tuesday had been a late night (I hung out with friends at the hotel after I got back, too) I got up early Wednesday morning and had breakfast with Fernando and Professor Bic. Fernando mentioned that his friend was turning 40 and had invited him to his birthday party that night at a bar in town. I told him he should go but he felt that his job required him to remain with us. Instead, he decided to invite us to go with him and take part in a typical Costa Rican birthday party.
Everyone had the school day to mull it over and after the morning class was over, Fernando took a small group of us to Heredia via public transportation. He gave us a small tour of the town and we wandered trough the main market, eating homemade ice cream bought at a fruit stand. We visited the post office (Fernando mailed all the postcards and letters everyone had given him) and a church off of the central park. Fernando demonstrated the typical building made of mud bricks and enforced with sugar cane reeds (today they use rebar).
After wandering for a while, we took the bus back to ULatina to wait until the afternoon class was finished and ready to go back at 4:30. I utilized the computers in the library for the first time (typing was difficult when it came to some characters and punctuation) and used my Spanish to check out a book from the library. That was an interesting experience because apparently, you can only have a book for 3 days, so it’s due on Saturday. The lady told me I had to call on Saturday so that I could keep it an extra couple of days to turn it in on Monday, or else I had to pay. I understood what she was saying though, so after some confusion I just took her word and decided I would call. It was only later that I realized the source of my confusion. I didn’t realize that July 3 (the day the book is due) was this Saturday (where did June go?) and thought she was having me call on some random day to let them know I had the book, when she already put it in the computer system. Getting in that computer system required some improvisation as well. Since I didn’t have a phone number, I gave the lady my email address but does anyone know how to say “@” in Spanish? It took us a minute to understand each other, and I have no idea what she said it was called, but I managed to successfully check out a book from the library. I went home with another copy of The Alchemist, this time in Spanish.
When we arrived back at the hotel, Fernando told us to meet him at 7pm to go to the party. Though most people were undecided about going, most of the group went, including Professor Bic. I went with Deanna, Jessica, and Michelle to the DeliTaco across the street to grab something to eat real fast before we left. I got a hamburger, which thankfully was a billion times better than those found in the US. The place was cute, with a small convenience store on one side where you paid and received a ticket to bring to the lady’s working at the counter and cooking your food on the other. Passing by, one would probably think they were entirely separate but you needed to hand over your ticket to get your food.
We took two taxis and a shuttle to the party. The shuttle had seats for 14 people, with plenty of room to squeeze more in, but the driver did not like that idea so everyone else took taxis. We drove through downtown San Jose (which I have yet to explore) to get there and soon arrived at a small “Restaurante Bar” that did not stand out or look special in any way. We could see through the window a few tables set up with a group of people there, presumably for the party. Our arrival was accompanied by a chorus of “This is it?” but everyone got out and decided they’d give it a shot. After paying the driver and waiting for the rest of our group to arrive, we entered the bar and set up tables for our group. There was a huge line of us waiting to greet and congratulate the Birthday Tico. After settling down, we all ordered some food and drinks to sustain us through what would probably be a longer evening than we had expected. I split some ceviche de pulpo (i.e. octopus) with Jenny, which turned out to be a bit too chewy but alright. Everyone enjoyed themselves talking and playing games at the table though.
Then the Cimarrona arrived. Fernando announced it, going back and forth between Spanish and English, and in marched a traditional Costa Rican band with drums, trumpets, touba, and all. It was a surprise for Fernando’s friend for his birthday. They brought in four different masks that people wore and danced around in and soon everyone was dancing. The whole group did a conga line around the room a few times and we spent over an hour dancing. Everyone concurred that Ticos know how to party.
It was a fun evening. On the way back from the bar, we had the first prostitute sighting of the trip. She was standing on the street corner and everyone in the shuttle turned to look at her. Before she started walking, Deanna said she thought the woman was a mannequin. For the rest of the ride, everyone kept watching the alleys and street corners but no one saw anything else.
When we got back to the hotel, Alex and I watched part of a really weird movie (Susan Sarrandon, Penelope Cruz, and Robin Williams in a bizarre and depressing Christmas movie). Alex hadn’t gone out because she didn’t feel very good and everyone decided we should surprise her on her birthday (which happens to fall in the middle of our trip) with a party like the one we went to, complete with cimarrona and everything (Tyler also wants to have a birthday party like that next year and for us all to come but that’s almost another year away).
Today, Thursday, is our last day of school this week. I spent the morning tiredly dozing, reading, and using the computer. Everyone is picking up laundry this afternoon, its expensive (1400/kilo, plus more if you want it done in anything less than 3-4 days) but we all need clean clothes (though I’m sure a lot will be done in the sink from now on) before we leave for the weekend. No one really knows what we’ll be doing tonight (besides packing) but we’re all looking forward to the weekend (well maybe not being ready to leave at 7:30am, but everything else should be great). The trip just gets better and better.