Bueno, it's been a while since I've written, hasn't it? My apologies. There's not been an ABSURD amount of htings going on, but there have of course been events.
The last week of my Herencia Cultural class with crazy, neurotic, hilarious, and at the same time laid-back teacher Carmen followed smoothly after my Sámara trip. (I still have to finish the Sámara blog, my apologies.) We watched Frida in class and learned some MORE dichos. I gave a large presentation on the horrors of the Ciudad Juárez in México and a final essay that summed up our class together. In what was my final cooking class we made a cheese and potato casserole type thing. I skipped dance class because it was over-crowded with the 50 new people, half of them from the same fraternity, who didn't want to take things seriously. I went to Zumba once more and took my second mid-term in Phonetics and Phonology. Mostly I just tried to avoid the seemingly millions of people around me who were suddenly getting sick. I also tried to prepare myself mentally for not being TOO too jealous of the group of six going to Cuba that coming weekend. It had been my idea to go, since it's legal from here and as soon as it's not ilegal from the US, everything will change. I wanted to see the old cars, the old buildings, experience the supposedly "one-hundred!" percent safe city. I wanted to see first hand what life was like under such a restricting regime, where tourists and citizens have different money.
But I couldn't go. And the reason was that my friend Anna, who visited me before, had decided she wanted to return! She didn't have a job to ask off from, and she had had a great time when she first came, so she booked a cheap-ish flight to arrive at the beautiful hour of 6 am Thursday.
When I finished class Friday we booked it over to the bus station to Puntarenas where we'd take a ferry to the Nicoya Peninsula. There we tried to get churros and Churchills, but somehow missed out on both. (Churchills are only found in Puntarenas, I'm pretty sure. They're vanilla and strawberry ice cream with layers of strawberry syrup and powdered milk and strawberries and of course the well-loved-here condensed milk.) The trip was uneventful if a bit long, and we made it to the one air-conditioned hotel in town before the nightlife had started too much. Sure there were street performers playing with fire, but the smelly hippies selling their handmade jewelery were still out, too, so it was "early." Plus we had beaten the nightly rain. All we did that night was walk around a bit, buy some Trits and get OUT when the rain did come.
The next day we went on the hike to the waterfalls, having in mind to let Anna try the 40 foot cliff jump. But the river was much changed since my visit there 5 weeks previously. It was fuller, and, with the new water came the new dirt it had to wash away, so it rushed the color of café con leche. It was difficult to hike even to the first waterfall with so few rocks poking their heads up as stepping stones. By the time we made it to the top we were drenched in sweat and ready for the cold dip, unappealing as the mud pool looked. We did the rope swing in and went on to stand over the ledge I'd for some reason felt the need to leap fom before. But it wasn't so clear this time, a well-near tree growing out sideways from the cliff in direct line of where we'd fall. We chickened out and hiked back to the hotel.
Also in Montezuma we had some delicious food, saw the entire families of all the flies I've ever met in my life, relaxed on the beach, read not nearly enough of David Sedaris' "Naked" that we rented from the mini library, had some delicious Trits and guanábana icees to follow our delicious meals, guarded our food from an enormous blue-jay thing, cut Anna's hair to a cute bob, and did some shopping for skirts. On the way back we took the more expensive but expedient "Gringo ferry" to Jacó, cutting the travel time down by probably over 3 hours. It was the same style boat we'd taken in Panamá, which brought back good memories. And I saw my first sea turtle!!! I only saw the back, which was large and dark but not black, and with many relieved areas. I actually thought at first they were scars. I was thinking, "What's wrong with that dolphin!?" and "There aren't manatees in Costa Rica!" "What IS that!?" "There aren't even manatees in the ocean, you doofus!" (*actually, Jenn, who takes tropical ecology, tells me as I'm writing this that they DO live in estuaries and of COURSE there are manatees in Costa Rica.)
When we got back to San José I moved my stuff into my new room at the residencia. Rebecca Dos has moved out of the house into a private home, and so her spot in Tristen's room was calling my name. I never had much of a problem with my other roommates (the singular one being that Cayla never heard her alarm go off until Sharifa and I told her it was going off). I just wanted the closed-off-ness of any of the other rooms in the house. It's so much better with a wall going to the ceiling. People can watch TV right outside my door as late as they want now. I can still sleep!
That Tuesday was to be the first day of my final class in Costa Rica. I am taking Advanced Conversation, and expected it to be much like my conversation class I took at CSU before coming here. Either that or a lot like the class my past two months--we spent more than half of every class doing nothing BUT converse in Spanish, so there you go. Informal versions of the same thing. Point being: I thought I could spare to miss the first day.
Instead, then, of heading off to room 2211 in zone 2 of Veritas at 8 am that morning, I was sitting at the bus station for Alajuela with Anna, talking about our friends from when we were younger. We'd risen at 6:30 to catch the taxi by 7:15, full of bagels and muffins and coffee from Costa Rica's Bread Co wannabe, Bagelmen's. We had a bus to catch at 8:30 for Volcán Poás. I know now that I left WAY too much time for us to get where we needed to be, and if Anna bothers to read this, I'm sorry! But if I was going to miss class and thereby voluntarily deduct 2% from my final grade, I was by golley not going to miss that bus.
When it arrived (5 minutes early, wowzer, Ticos!), we rejoiced that it had air conditioning. As it climbed up into the mountains to the Northwest of San José, we rejoiced we brought at least what light jackets we had. Disembarking, we were met with mist and temperatures of probably 60 degrees. We went into the gift-store/cafeteria to buy a camera for taking the place of the two we'd each forgotten then headed off down the sendero to the main crater to see what this was all about.
What I had been warned of when discussing the Poás trip was that it is often too cloudy up there to see any of the crater. "But if you get there early, it's more likely to be clear," they'd told me. Well we'd risen early, but we couldn't exactly control when we arrived, could we? It was past 10:30 when we finally rolled into the parking lot, I'd basically given up hope we'd have much of a view. And sure enouch when we got to the look-out, there were the clouds, rolling in from the right.
But they were only rolling past! With each picture we snapped on our tiny disposable Kodak, desperately thinking each one was the best we'd get, the view mejoró. This crater was ENORMOUS, much larger than that of Irazú. Its walls weren't all the dark gray-black of my first volcano, either. There were very interesting lines in the rock, some brown-red parts, some light ones. You could see sediment layers. You could CLEARLY see the vertical grooves I like to think of as blasting lines. To the left, far down, was a smaller crater with more interesting geo-colors. And in the center, of course, was the volcanic lake. It smelled only slightly like the sulfur it contained, and from a point I assume is on the shore nearest where tourists stand, steam billowed up. No wonder it's always cloudy if it makes it's own, huh?! And though the water here wasn't the cool side-of-my-blog-page-green that Irazú was, the scene was impressive nonetheless.
También at Poás, unlike Irazú, there is a maybe 2 mile-loop trail that goes through the lush vegetation of the volcanic mountain side. Its main attraction is a deep blue, untouched lagoon surrounded by dense, dense green. Anna says it looks a lot like the Pacific Northwest here. Everything is COVERED in moss, it's dark and misty. It's almost like going through a tunnel of foliage, and I might have forgotten I was in the tropics if there weren't the occasional salmon heliconia or little green hummingbird. ...Or if the girls behind us weren't so enthralled with a little gray squirrel they saw. Sounds were muffled here, and everything was slightly wet.
On Wednesday I finally went to class in the morning. When I walked in, the teacher pulled a chair out from the group, faced it to the rest, and said, "Este es tu asiento." Great. "Hola, clase," I said, fearing what I'd have to do. As it turned out the other students just asked me questions like my name, hobbies, school, and most embarrassing moment. I, in turn, got to hear none of theirs, just sit in the hotseat. Luckily, though, después de my interrogation, I was allowed to rejoin the class like a normal student.
This day we spent almost the entire time playing that game where everyone gets the name of a famous person taped to their head and has to ask questions of the others to figure out who they are. It was actually rather fun and a very successful way to get us talking and making mistakes he could correct. Every day in this class since, I've had a relatively good time, too. I just think the teacher is great. But more on that later.
Wednesday night was what we had really been waiting for!! Qué suerte we'd had to be here on June 3rd, date of the Costa Rica--U.S. soccer game! At 6 we left for the stadium, doubting the warnings we'd heard that to get the really good seats, being at the field by 4:30 was mandatory. The game started at 8. Everyone in the house as well as all our friends had their Costa Rica jerseys, tank tops, or t-shirts on. I don't know if anyone wore the same one, there were so many being sold in the markets, the sports stores, the discount stores, and from clothes lines in the medians of the more-travelled roads. Tristen made signs.
As for the arriving time, it DID take us an hour or so to finally get to our section in Estadio La Saprissa. Anna, Justin, Tristen and I were seated waaaaaay up in the "U.S.A. section," unable to find others from our group amid the crowds. On the way from where our taxi spat us out we passed countless vendors of everything Costa Rican, from jerseys to balls to wigs to full-sized flags. I was very tempted to get my face painted--but which team should I get on it?
Closer to the entrance there were many long and confusing lines, but when we approached the one with taller people with fairer skin and hair, we knew we were at the right door. "E! E! U! U!" we knew Dan was chanting somewhere, but we were a little scared to do so ourselves. We didn't reeeeeally want to receive any of the crazy animosity you hear about at Latin American soccer games. We even wondered if we should buy the gloves some man was selling. Why was he selling them here? Would we need them for some sort of protection? (Point of interest: at Mexican soccer games people have been known to throw even bags of urine onto the field.)
Well we finally got up to our seats, an umbrella short (apparently it's a weapon?), but otherwise happy as we came. Maybe we were even happier! We found seats in a constantly packing stadium and they gave us free blow-up palos to clap together when cheering. Who wouldn't be glad? And there below us and on the left the entirely filled Costa Rican section was jumping up and down to the beat of a pump up song and clapping together their clappers. One group even rolled out a giant red '09 version of their teams jersey over top people's heads and jumped up with that, too, so that it waved. Everyone was just so stoked!
Now the game itself I'm a little ashamed to report. Though the statistics indicate the U.S. as being a much stronger team, they haven't won here in Costa Rica in 12 years. It's often attributed to the amazing fans that come out to the stadium, sometimes blamed on the fact that yes, occasionally things like clappers or toilet paper get thrown onto the middle of where we're trying to pass, and we pampered Americans aren't used to that. Regardless, this was no exception. Costa Rica scored less than 2 minutes in and never lost their lead. In fact the only goal the U.S. managed was on a penalty kick. The man sitting next to me was Tico, and he just laughed with me whenever the Estados Unidos would do something terrible. Whenever his team scored he'd turn to give me a high five. I didn't mind--it was more fun to chear with the Costa Ricans anyway!
So, with 10 minutes left in the half or so, Anna and I decided we'd seen enough. We didn't want to get caught in the throng, anyway, and we wanted a taxi back to the hostel fast. She had to leave for the airport at 4:30 the next morning. She needed her beauty rest. The whole ride home we listend to the r-rolling radio guy announce the game, so that when we got back we knew the final score was 3 to 1 and that while the U.S. team would probably not suffer much in the division for the loss, Costa Rica would be benefitting greatly. All night, it seemed (or at least until we fell asleep at 11 or so), cars went by honking and airing out their joyfully screaming passengers. What an evening. And I"m glad Anna, who's lived soccer for most of her life, got to enjoy it, too!
Aaaaas for the 6 who went to Cuba while we were in Montezuma...
The first thing we heard from any of them when they walked in the door on Monday evening was Cayla booming, "They robbed me in my *explative* sleep!" Apparently at the house where she'd been sleeping, she'd put her bag near her face to go to sleep, but had been unable to lock it up anywhere. When she woke up everything, including the bag itself, was gone except her passport, sitting right where all her luggage used to be. There was also the story of them leaving the gas on from the stove and later of them breaking the sink in the bathroom. I don't know how the second happened, but they only had to pay $10 for it. And they somehow survived having the gas on all night, even though all windows and doors were shut and they'd smoked some of their Cuban cigars in the room! One other girl besides Cayla also got her stuff stolen, all but 2 of the people came back sick, and the girls said Cuban men were the worst cat-callers yet. I'm thinking I'm glad I went back to lovely Montezuma, no matter how beautiful the beaches and architecture may be on that other island. Knock on wood, I've yet to have such horrible experiences as those in my travels.