Thursday, August 4, 2011

BLOG! and recap of Costa Rica 2010

Okay, so I finally have my blog up and running. I've spent the past three days experimenting with different blog platforms and have discovered that Blogger is definitely the best and that tumblr SUCKS! The dashboard is impossible to navigate, personalization is really difficult, and its too much like a twitter without the word limit and with more people who think that everyone should listen to them even though nothing they write is interesting. And the website doesnt work half the time.

Anyways, to sort of kick off my theme of traveling, I'll recap my previous travel experience in Costa Rica volunteering with the organization Amigos de las Américas and then sum up my reasons for taking a gap year.

My host family's home in Altos de Germania:

I spent six weeks in the summer of 2010 in Altos de Germania in the province of Limón, Costa Rica. Altos consists mainly of cattle farms spread across rolling hills separated by creeks. Orange, banana, avacado, and coconut trees grew voluntarily, as did yucca and pineapple.

Cow on one of the cattle farms:

A huge Chapolin used for the nearby pineapple farm:

Munchin' on some coconut (called "pipa" in it's unripe stage) that I had just picked right outside the house and had a refreshing drink from:

View from the door of the home looking out:

My host family lived in a very rustic home that was nothing more than a concrete floor and a tin roof. There was no glass in the windows and the bathroom was outside, but the conditions never seemed to bother anyone. My host mom, Xinia, always kept warm food for us all day, and I would wake up every morning at 3 AM to the sound of sizzling plaintains and rice as she packed her husband a breakfast to take with him to work. My host dad, Remundo, was working most of the time- he biked 20 miles to work and 20 miles back every day, leaving at 3 and getting back at 9. He worked on the maintenance crew of a nearby agricultural university called La Universidad EARTH.

One of the small classrooms at EARTH agricultural university:

My host mom on the left talking to her sister, right

The Pulpería, where the members of the community bought all their food, electronics, hygienic supplies, and pretty much everything in between.

My host brother attended the small and insanely underfunded primary school that consisted of two classrooms and a large "sala" used as a cafeteria and for community events.

My host brother, Reynaldo:

Escuela Altos de Germania:

My work in this small community of only 80 people was to rally the community behind a development project and to teach environmental health classes to a handful of the 22 students that attended the school. The school's teacher suggested that we plant a school garden so that the kids can learn about agricultural processes and also have some supplementary food for their lunches.

The garden. Doesn't look like much, but this took a lot of work and a lot of help from community members.

Some of the kids from the "campamentos," or daily lessons throughout the summer:

A small mural we painted to promote cross-cultural acceptance (there is a minor racial divide between whites, blacks, and the indigenous Costa Ricans, and the public school system is trying to put and end to that cultural friction)

Throughout my time in Altos, I came to be close friends with two youths of the community, Stephen and Rodolfo, who helped me carry out the project and made me feel like a part of the community. We played futbol together, worked together, and passed the time sitting next to the road sipping on orange fantas while nodding a solemn "pura vida" to the old men on their rusty bikes rumbling their way home from work on the eroded gravel road.

Rodolfo loves the two-fingered "peace" sign:

Stephen w/ mango tree in background:

Stephen wearing my sunglasses:

To sum it all up, I played a lot of futbol, ate some traditional tico food, saw some cool animals, climbed to the top of a volcano, adopted a second family, and made two amazing friends.

So why am I doing a gap year? So that I can do all of this again. So that I can make those connections with a totally different culture. I want to see all of them again, but I also want to branch out and see what else there is in Central America. Hopefully six months will be enough time for that...

For now, enjoy this picture of a guy I met in Costa Rica thumbs-upping like a champ:

The Gap Year Guy

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