Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Estoy bien en Costa Rica

BYannick Pilgrim

Hola Amigos,

Estoy bien en Costa Rica. I have so much to tell since my last entry.

It is unbelievably cheap to travel around Costa Rica. They have a really efficient bus system that I take full advantage of on the weekends. I usually travel around in a small group with about two other girls, one from North Carolina and one from New Zealand. Our program only has about ten guys to the forty girls, so the men of the group usually have to do some bodyguard work. Our first major trip together was to a place called La Fortuna. This town has a very interesting history and is one of the most visited sites in Costa Rica.

It is especially known for the active Arenal Volcano that dangerously looms over the town. We took a tour of this volcano and this tour included a visit to nearby hot springs, stops at breathtaking waterfalls, and a night tour in search of snakes and other nocturnal creatures common in La Fortuna. Our tour guide (a great guy who took us to play a pick-up game of soccer against him and his brothers) also told us the story of Arenal Volcano and I must say it was a bit sad and disturbing. The volcano got the name ‘Arenal’ because this was the name of the town it destroyed when it erupted. In the 1960’s, the people from this pueblo were caught off guard when what they thought was just a mountain ended erupting, and scorching vapor swept through their homes killing many and injuring dozens. For me, this story is disturbing because according to the guide, despite the rumblings from the ‘mountain’ and many suggestions from the elders of the community that this mountain was an actual volcano, the authorities and the scientists assured the residents of Arenal that there was nothing to concerned about and it was simply a mountain. Now a lake covers the remains of this pueblo. The steeple from the church can still be seen protruding from beneath its watery grave.

Currently I am enrolled in a Latin American Field Studies class in which we have many field trips to different parts of the country. One thing for me that really stands out about Costa Rica is its natural beauty. A lot of the care that goes into taking care of the environment in Costa Rica stems from the Costa Rican’s reliance on nature’s products. They are a major exporter of pineapple and coffee. Even though they can never rival the quantity of coffee produced in places like Brazil and Colombia, the quality of Costa Rican coffee is in a class of its own. We visited the mountainous town of San Ramon where coffee and sugar cane dominate the hillsides, a true representation of the success of these industries in Costa Rica. Also with this class we had an excursion to a fishing community called Costa de Pajaros. The people of this town are very humble and have a remarkable relationship with the mangroves that border their community. Speaking with one of the fisherman it was clear that he understood and respected the laws regarding fishing and preservation of the mangroves. ‘We need these mangroves’ he told me, “Without them there is no fish and no fish means no food and money.”

Even though I spend a lot of time learning about Costa Rica I find some time to have fun here and there. It is out of respect for those of you who struggled with a cold winter that I do not mention my surfing trips, 90 degree weather, and trips to sandy secluded beaches. I mean I don’t want anyone to feel jealous or anything. With that said I must mention my highlight for the month of March. I was in San Jose this past weekend and stayed at a guest house for two nights. The family who runs the guesthouse was very “agradable” and showed extreme hospitality. On my last day there, I went to thank the lady of the house for everything she had done for us that weekend. She ended up trapping me in a conversation that turned out to have a pleasant surprise at the end. It turns out that her husband is the head coach of the Costa Rican National Team. She introduced me to him and I had the pleasure of chatting with him for a while. He is quite a remarkable man with loads of coaching experience, from being the Assistant Coach for Nigeria during the France 1998 World Cup to now being the head coach of La Seleccion de Costa Rica. He gave me a book he wrote and was kind enough to autograph it. It’s crazy how things work out over here, but stuff like this happens to me all the time in Costa Rica.

We’ll see what adventures lay ahead.

PuRa vIdA


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