Tuesday, February 23, 2010

96 Degrees in The Shade: Pura Vida en Costa Rica

By Yannick Pilgrim

My name is Yannick Pilgrim. I am a third year English major from Trinidad and Tobago and a member of the Davidson Men’s Soccer team. I am currently spending my spring semester in Puntarenas, Costa Rica. I chose this location because the size of the town seemed ideal for meeting and interacting with locals. The town is about ten miles long and no house is further than a three minute walk from the ocean. Despite being one of the poorest provinces in Costa Rica, the people of Puntarenas are very welcoming, and after only three weeks, I have become well acquainted with many of the locals. Coming from a small island in the Caribbean, their lifestyle was a bit similar to what I was used to back at home in Trinidad.

I am really focusing on improving my Spanish while I am here. I am currently taking four Spanish courses which include composition courses as well as a conversation course. I am also enrolled in a Latin American Cultures Class, a field studies class. However, my favorite class has to be my dance class. I figured that while I’m here I might as well immerse myself as deep as I can into the Latin American culture. Besides, it is a nice workout as well.

When I first met my host family, I felt a genuine connection to them. My host mom is a 32-year-old psychologist and my host dad is a 30-year-old elementary school teacher by day and a DJ by night. I have two host brothers aged six and three. The set up of my host family was perfect for me because their family structure mirrored that of my actual family back at home. At times when I see them interacting with each other it is like looking at and old photograph of my own family.

What made my living arrangements even better was the fact that my host Dad was an avid football fan. When I told him that I play soccer in college the expression on his face was that of a man who had just won the lottery. Every afternoon he takes me to the beach to find “un mejengon” (a pickup game). The guys I kick around with are maybe two or three years older than me. Most are good enough to play professionally, but each has their reasons for not making the most of their sporting potential. Some say that they have families to take care of, while others say that they just want to be ‘”fiesteros” (party boys). This made me realize that being a professional requires a truly different lifestyle and having skill is only half the battle.

My host dad also took me to see the local club team play these past two Sundays. This team, Puntarenas F.C. was the runner up in the Costa Rican Championship last year. The team resembles Arsenal F.C. in England because it is a young team with explosive attacking abilities. After watching two games I was attracted to their style of play, which is fast paced and very characteristic of Central and South American futbol. They play in pretty decent stadium located in the center of town. It seats about 5000 people. The fans here are passionately crazy about their team and turn the Puntarenas stadium into hell for the referees and opposing team players. After the Tiburones 1-0 defeat this past Sunday to the reigning champs, Liberia, the referees were bombarded with rocks and had to be escorted by the police out of the stadium.

All in all, it has been a great time here so far in Costa Rica. It’s been filled with interesting soccer experiences and great adventures. I’ll keep you posted.

Pura Vida.

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