Costa Rican Independence

Published: September 15th 2010
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Monday night and Tuesday:

Monday night was very interesting to say the least. After the US Open was delayed for rain again, we went to the pescador, a little restaurant on the beach, for our welcome drink. Since there are only a few students here now, we all went (but only us news ones got a free drink!). There are currently 8 students and 2 interns, and one of the intern’s friends. 11 people, 8 of whom take class regularly. A month (or two) ago, the school had 80 students a week! Wow, it really is low season. Back to the evening, we had our welcome drink, got a pitch from the lady who runs the local travel agency, and ate some chips and guac. Then my friend Dustin and I headed to Sharky’s (the sports bar) to watch some MNF. Dustin is a friend of one of the interns, so he is just staying here, but not taking classes. He is also the one from the Bay area who is unfortunate enough to be a 49’s fan and had to watch the Seahawks annihilation with me. After the conclusion of the Jet’s - Raven’s game, we headed back to our school with two of the German students who had joined us for a drink.

Back at the school, we started watching the next MNF game, (why doesn’t the NFL spread their games out this much every week? First a game on Thursday night, then all day Sunday, and back to back on Monday, TV revenues must have been huge!) before deciding that we wanted to play a drinking game. A popular game down here is called gnip-gnop (Ping Pong backwards, pronounced more like ga-nip ga-knop) which is a variant of ping pong, that allows for multiple players and requires running around the table. It is a very fun game which I will have to bring back to the states. I proposed turning it into a drinking game ( I was amazed that they hadn’t yet) and so the second part of our night began. I will leave out the details, but sometime around 1 am, the 6 of us (the two German girls, my roommate Kyle, Brazos the intern, Dustin, and myself) were down to our britches and decided to go take a dip in the ocean. It felt really good, and it was my first time in the ocean even though I have been here since Friday afternoon. The night guard José got quite a kick out of the whole ordeal. José is also one of the teachers, and I’m not sure what he told the other staff members about our shenanigans but they were all inquiring about our wellbeing this morning and I even managed to catch a few jokes despite the rapid Spanish coming out of their mouths.

Getting up for 8 am class was rough this morning, but never-the-less I made it and enjoyed the lesson. While mostly review for me (all new material for Kyle) it was helpful as I got a refresher on the preterit (the only part of my placement exam that I didn’t know) and learned a few new things about the imperfect as well. For our afternoon session we had to finish up our arts and crafts projects because at 11 30 we had a special presentation, as well as show and tell. It turns out that tomorrow, the 15th of September, is when Costa Rica celebrates Independence Day. This was the day in 1821 that the Central American states announce their independence from Spain, in Guatemala. Because cars did not exist back then, it was not until early October that Costa Ricans actually knew about their newfound independence but they still celebrate commemorate the event on September 15th. Our arts and crafts projects turned out to be related to this national holiday. We had to make faroles, a symbol of the torch relay that brought the news down from Guatemala. Below is an excerpt about the holiday:

“Costa Rica's Independence Day (and the rest of Central America's) - Sept. 15
The Freedom Torch is brought from Nicaragua by student relay runners the day before, arriving in Cartago with Costa Rican relay teams at 6 p.m. on the 15th,
when everyone country-wide stops what they're doing and sings the National Anthem. Kids in every town have "lantern parades" where they carry their home-made "faroles". Parades, marching bands, parties, and celebrations.”

After having to give a briefly presentation to the school about our faroles, they were judged with the winner getting a free lunch later in the week. After learning more about the history of the country we were given a traditional meal made mostly of corn (they called it arroz de maiz, rice of corn) it predates the arrival of rice, and it eaten with meat and fried plantains. I found it to be fairly bland but filling.

After lunch we were free until 5 at which time we got in the schools van and went to the nearby town of Villareal. Villareal is where the majority of the schools staff lives, and where students with homestays reside. It is a little bigger than Tamarindo but not much, but not a tourist spot. We sang the national anthem with the locals and marched in the parade with our faroles. After this us students decided to stay in Villareal and hang out at the local bar. They had some pool tables and a projector where I could watch the Sounders game. The food (and beer) was cheaper in Villareal than it is in Tamarindo which was nice. The Sounders played at 8 pm, against a Costa Rican team, Saprissa, which is based in the capital of San Jose. Saprissa is the most popular, and historically the best, Costa Rican team and there are many Saprissistas (big time Saprissa fans!) in the country, even in Tamarindo and Villareal. The locals were nice and didn’t give me too much trouble, but they let it be known that they were rooting for Saprissa over Seattle. It wasn’t the best of games for my men in rave green but I enjoyed the experience and found myself shouting at the tv in Spanish to the amusement of my friends and other patrons of the bar.

With no class tomorrow we contemplated going out to the karaoke bar but after a few peaceful minutes inside our suite it soon became evident that no one was going anywhere besides the couch or bed tonight. I am excited for more parades and parties tomorrow. I will report back, hopefully with pictures too.

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