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Published: February 12th 2010
Mami celebrating her "28th" birthday. You're only as old as you feel right?
"Cumpleaños, Oraciones, y Un Poco De Politica"
(Birthdays, Prayers, and A Little Bit of Politics)
Last month my Mama Tica celebrated her 59th birthday. She had a big party with her family, neighbors, and friends from church. She let Laura and I know that of course, her "hijas" (daughters) were invited too. While we are here, we are part of the family and we're made to feel so. I'm grateful for that.
The party was fun because we got to meet a lot of new people. There are so many different contexts in which one can practice a second language. Perhaps because I am still frequently assigned to the "kids table" at family gatherings at home, I felt more comfortable starting the night off playing with Mami's grandchildren. I began by making feeble attempts to master the hand-clap games they were playing. Alas, a child's patience has it's limits. It is harder than you might think to play games that rely so heavily on concentration in another language. Let me tell you! By the time the kids got tired and said goodnight the party had shrunk in size. Mami and her friends had situated themselves around the kitchen
vero y mai
Two of "las nietas" (the grandaughters)
counter and were talking animatedly about family life. I pulled up a chair and did my best to listen intently. Although I didn't understand everything that was said by any means, I picked up on the general themes. I was even able to make some internal observations about cultural differences between Costa Rica and the United States, and that made me feel good. I am making progress here. My Spanish is improving.
The birthday party culminated when Mami's pastor prayed for her. I would say the moment rivaled the all important birthday wish. We all gathered round as he thanked God for all that Mami does for everyone she knows and asked that God bless her in the coming year. It was clear that it was a very special moment for her. All of her friends were gathered around, they put their hands on her shoulders, they closed their eyes. I once heard of a rabbi who talked about the power of prayer. He said that when we pray collectively we let each other know that we care and we remind each other and ourselves that we are not alone. I think maybe that's what was going on that
Laura and I with Diego "el rey" (the king) and the only grandson.
Laura and I didn't want to interfere with the preparations for the big party so we decided to wait until Thursday to give Mami our gift. With the help of our program director, we made it to the uptown supermarket and found all of the necessary ingredients for an apple pie. When we took it out of the oven it didn't look like much, but when we had for dessert later that nigh, we all agreed, (Mami, Kiki, Laura, and I) that it was "tan rico" (really good).
As many of you seem to have found out, we have a new president here in Costa Rica. On Sunday los Costaricenses elected their first female president, Laura Chinchilla. According to the billboards I have been reading for the past month, she is "firme y honesta" (firm and honest) Honesty. I think it's something we can all agree on. When you get down to the bare bones I think most of us, regardless of our political ideology, are just looking for honest representation.
It has been very interesting watching a political campaign run its course in a Latin American country. While I haven't been paying nearly enough attention,
Me getting reaquainted with my domestic skills.
I have been able to make a few observations. The underpinnings of Laura's campaign, at least on the surface, seemed familiar to me. Her slogan was "adelante" which means forward. She's promising progress. Her platform was based on her leadership capabilities, her integrity, and her experience. She hopes to ensure security in the cities and protect the rights of children and the aging population. All of these things are of national concern in the United States too.
Last fall I heard every celebrity in Hollywood tell me that I should vote. Here in Costa Rica I've seen quite a few posters with young people smiling next to the phrase "VOTAR ES PURA VIDA". Stressing the importance of democratic participation is just as much a part of presidential campaigns here as it is back home.
I don't mean to say that the politics are exactly the same. I am sure they are quite different. But as I've only been here for a short period of time, it's difficult for me to pick up on the subtleties. Only one significant difference made itself apparent to me: THE HORNS. On Saturday and Sunday afternoon the traffic was worse the usual. It
I let Laura do the mixing.
seems that everyone and his younger brother decided to go for a drive. The thing is though, I'm fairly certain that nearly everyone who was on the road had no particular destination in mind. Instead they rolled down their window, raised their respective political party's flag, and drove through the streets honking their horns incessantly. I witnessed all of this from a bus window. And you know I kind of thought it was cool. There was something festive about it all. The noise and the heat and teeming streets. I imagine the day held more symbolic significance than anything else. But that's part of it too.
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