In talking to some friends in the U.S. I've realized that although I say "I've been up to nothing, really, this past week," that's not ACTUALLY the case. It just means I didn't travel anywhere. But in fact we do kind of interesting things occasionally.
One week, jonesing for the surprisingly elusive chocolate, Cayla and I went up to the minimart (here they're ironically called "supers") looking for brownies, cookie dough, a Hershey's bar, SOMETHING. We found chocolate cake mix. "Oh, but we don't know if we have oil or a baking pan there," we lamented to each other. But it was so tempting. So though it was not cheap, we finally just decided of course they'd have oil, and if no baking pan, we could make use of whatever sort of cooking containers they DID have. We would HAVE this cake. We bought chocolate frosting, too.
When we got back from the store to our residencia kitchen, we ransacked the place. They DID have oil. We'd take the three eggs even though there was a clearly written note on our whiteboard NOT to do so or we'd have none left for breakfast. We found 2 cake pans we could stack. And we figured we could make due with measuring things in ceramic coffee mugs for "cups." We did nooooot realize there was no oven.
But my scientific roots (and lust for chocolate) mandated that we experiment. We put a third of the powdered ingredients in a bowl with one egg and about a third of the rest of the things and mixed till it had a nice consistency. Then we poured half the batter into a ceramic bowl and stuck it in the microwave. A minute and a half later it had risen BEAUTIFULLY, cooked through but in no part burned. We flipped it like a bundt, frosted it, and enjoyed a mini cake each. There was quite enough we had to share. And there was enough for a cake each two more days! Absolutely delicious. I don't know why I'd ever make a cake another way again.
Another day (yesterday, actually) we decided to go to a class at the gym we joined this month. We chose zumba, the aerobics thing based around Latin American dance and showed up seconds before the teacher. We did not warm up. He jumped right in, doing intense salsa, merengue, and who knows what else moves. There was lots of hip shaking, foot work, turning, and jumping, all to Spanish music and with Spanish instructions. We were the only 3 Gringas, Tristen, Sharifa, and I, and we were soooo lost. The teacher came back to laugh/correct us, and I don't htink I stopped smiling the entire time. I guess that wasn't a very good story, but I had to vent to someone. And you should try Zumba yourselves, too, if it's offered near you!
And now for some datos, or information, about Costa Rica, in puntos. I hope I haven't already said some of these things! Please forgive.
--For a capital city, San José looks nothing like what I'd expect. Of course I've mentioned how dirty it is, how there aren't very many historical buildings or interesting architecture, and how gates obstruct all the otherwise pretty houses. But you can still see all the colors so common in Latin American houses--light pinks, purples, greens, oranges, yellows, and blues. Many roofs are rusting, some disconnected from the houses. And the tallest building in the city has 16 storeys. Almost all other buildings seem to be 3 storeys or less. I'm pretty sure the tallest building in Costa Rica is a tourist hotel in Guanacaste, the province along the Pacific where all the celebrities visit. Meaning Ticos really don't go in there.
--Yes, Costa Rica is famous for being quite progressive in terms of conservation biology. It is rumored that close to a third of the country is national parks. Yet the recycling program here is horrible. The only recycling bins I've seen in all my almost 10 weeks are at my school and in the residencia, both sites of wealthy and liberal patronage (my Veritas an art school, everyone's current and edgy).
--As in any third-world country there are stray dogs EVERYWHERE. They're all really nice--that's how they get fed--but it's still heartbreaking to see. The director of my program will take in stray puppies, which is how Jenn came about her potential pet, and get them neutered and speoed (wow, how do you spell that word?) to be later adopted. There are also semi- frequent black-outs here, where it gets INCREDIBLY dark, and a large incidence of fake merchandise. One time shopping on Avenida Central we noticed the vendors of DVDs suddenly shove their merchandise to the center of the blankets where it was laid up, bundle the whole thing, and put it on their backs like hobos. Thirty seconds later the policía rolled up.
--It is a combination of being in a poor country and being in a tropical country, but there is also the problem here that the water pressure is extremely low. Apparently the tropical sewer system can't handle toilet paper or ANYTHING, really, being flushed into it. We have to throw it away. Though it really doesn't even seem gross to me anymore, I can tell you I look forward to being back in the U.S. if for no reason other than this! Además the showers are very different, too. There's only one knob connected to a head from which the water doesn't spray, but rather falls, straight down, and not accompanied by a large amount of more water. And to make it hotter you have to just turn the knob so that less water comes out. But we're lucky to HAVE hot water here. (Actually the lack of it in the smaller towns usually doesn't affect much since it's so hot anywhere but the central valley and its surrounding mountains that you only want the cold.)
--I swear I'm not going to beat the traffic topic to death. I just want to say that the traffic lights are slightly different here. The green means "go", yellow means "here comes red," and red means "stop" (were anyone to pay attention to them--okay I promise that was the last comment!), buuuuuuuuut there is also a flashy green one before the yellow that I guess means "here comes yellow!" Also Costa Rica has tried to approach its traffic problem in a way similar to that of Mexico City. Any car with a lisence plate that contains a certain number cannot drive on a designated day of each week. For example my teacher has two cars, both of which have 2s on them. She can drive neither one on Tuesdays (which is a pun in English but not Spanish), and can only drive one on Friday because the other has the number forbidden that day. It's meant to cut down on congestion, but doesn't work as well as it should because the fine for being caught driving the day(s) you're prohibitted results only in a $10 fine. (I can't remember for sure, it might be a 10 mil colones fine, in which case it's about $20, but still, not much, right?)
--Costa Rica abolished their army in 1948. Just another reason for it to be called the Switzerland of Latin America. Other reasons include that it has been pretty darn stable though it's been surrounded by fighting for most of its existence and that it's rather expensive, especially for the region.
--Costa Ricans doooo make their own music, but I've really not heard much of it. Instead there is usually one of two familiar things playing. There's tons of reggae, Bob Marley and modern, and this makes sense. I think I've made it clear that basically the entire Caribbean coast of Central America his full of Rasta culture. But the other common thing to hear is 1980's music from the United States. They love it.
And that is all for today. This weekend my plans are to go white-water rafting down some river in the jungle Saturday and then go to Jacó and Hermosa beaches again on Sunday. It should be a good time!! (When isn't it?)