6/17/2022

We began the day with a lecture by retired historian Carlos Naranjo. He offered us a brief history of Costa Rica’s system of education, which along with the health-care system, is one of the pillars of Costa Rican society. Yet its history is relatively recent. While Harvard University was founded in 1636 and Roxbury Latin in 1645, Costa Rica did not have a university until 1814, and did not have primary schools until the 1840s. Before then, the well-to-do would hire private teachers to prepare their sons for professional careers. The coffee boom provided the miracle that allowed Costa Rica to invest in education. In 1886, with the “Public education law”, the government made primary education free and mandatory for all children. Government officials even hired foreign teachers, especially from France and Switzerland, to educate and train the first Costa Rican teachers. In 1888 the prestigious Liceo de Costa Rica, and the Liceo the Señoritas began sending graduates to Europe. Some of them came back to Central America and eventually founded in 1915, the Escuela Normal, the Costa Rican institution that trained the best teachers in the country. Graduates would go on and teach in both urban and rural areas, and some of them studied in Chile with the Chilean poet and Nobel Prize laureate Gabriela Mistral, who, highly committed to early education, had created in Chile its first kindergartens. The first maternales, as they were called, appeared in Costa Rica in 1923. Almost all Costa Rican literary figures of this period were committed teachers who saw education as the key to social mobility and to the creation of a prosperous and healthy nation. The University of Costa Rica, founded in 1940, quickly became one of the best universities in Latin America. It was almost free but had a very hard and demanding entrance exam. Nowadays, this prestigious public institution still charges about $200 per semester. After the 1948 civil war, and the abolition of the army, the CR government was able to invest even more on education. By 1950 all primary and secondary education in the country had become free and mandatory, and schools had been created all around the country to serve the entire population. New universities were created in 1970 to absorb the new high school graduates: Instituto Tecnológico, Universidad Nacional de Costa Rica, and the Universidad Estatal a Distancia. Things changed with the global economic crisis of the 1980s. The long period of prosperity created by the coffee trade ended, and due to lack of funding, the quality of primary and secondary education began to decline. Coffee gave way to tourism as the primary source of revenue, and tourism forced the government to invest in the country’s forests to protect its biodiversity, one of the principal tourist attractions. With less money to invest in education, education began to be privatized. Private universities of lesser quality and less demanding curriculums began training teachers. While it took 7 years of hard work to become a teacher in a public university, it took only 3 years in a private institution. Graduates of these private colleges, with much less pedagogic preparation, would end up teaching in rural areas. In urban areas, on the other hand, new and prestigious private schools, with better economic resources, would offer a better education than the less-well-funded public school system. Nowadays 87% of students who get into prestigious public universities come from private schools. The sad consequence: growing inequality in a society that had been in the past much more egalitarian. Carlos Naranjo is very concerned about the future of his country, and he is very critical of the current president and his populist rhetoric on how to fix the country’s problems. For Naranjo, a good education system is the key to having a community of informed, discerning, critical, and productive citizens, and thus the key to having a healthy democracy.

We then heard from Juana, a 27-year-old musician of Afro-Costa Rican ancestry. Her father is from Limón, a Caribbean town, rich in Afro-Caribbean traditions. Limón gives meaning to her life in part by providing a bridge to Africa, the land of her ancestors. Juana feels that humanity, separated and afflicted by chaos and conflict, has forgotten that we all belong to one people who originally came from this continent. Juana had us spend a few minutes reflecting about the conquest and colonization of the Americas and its consequences, and about who we are, where we come from and where we are going. She also asked us about American and Costa Rican culture, its traditions, and its roots. For her, multiculturalism is fundamental to understanding our societies. We must be proud of who we are, we must approach other cultures with respect, we must share and value our cultural differences, and we must regain our contact with nature, because we are nature. She approaches music as medicine, as spiritual nutrition. Music is sharing the fire we have inside to heal ourselves and to heal others. Her favorite means of musical expression is Calypso, a style of Afro-Caribbean music that originated in Trinidad and Tobago. Juana played for us the first song she wrote, in Limón’s honor, the land of her heart, and another song when she joined us for a Caribbean lunch at the beautiful house of Henry Soto Murillo and Teresita Camacho Víquez, the owners of the Instituto San Joaquín de Flores.

Henry and Teresita were so impressed with our students when they first arrived at the Institute on June 6 (with their Spanish-language skills, their general knowledge, their intellectual curiosity, and their manners), that they decided to invite them that same day to their house for a farewell lunch before our departure on June 18, something they rarely do. Henry and Teresita are both scientists. Henry is a geneticist who taught for many years at the Universidad de Costa Rica. They are also a multi talented couple. Henry sings classical music (he is a baritone working currently on a piece by Beethoven) and plays the cello. Teresita has run the Chicago, New York, and Istanbul marathons, and keeps running. They are also amateur architects. They designed both their house and the Institute where the boys took their classes. They have hundreds of trees in their property, a river, and thirty goats that provide all the milk, cheese and dulce de leche they consume. They also love to cook and the “rice and beans” with chicken they prepared (Caribbean style) was one of the best meals we had during our stay in the country. We were very grateful for their generosity.

After a tremendous thunderstorm that took some of the boys by surprise, we returned to San Joaquín de Flores to pack and get ready for our flights to Miami and Boston the following day.

-Dr. Guerra

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6/16/2022

After saying goodbye to Will Anderson the night before, the rest of the group who didn’t have to leave early for a lacrosse tournament had the sweet opportunity to sleep in a little. Those of us who hadn’t drafted our presentations about our host families arrived early at the Institute (where the laptops are) to mash together a collage of bullet points and photos. At 10:30, the presentations began. Each of us was assigned to speak for 7 minutes about one member of our host family. Most of us, including me, chose to present on our mamá tica (Costa Rican mother). We orally painted a portrait of them through descriptions of their childhoods, educations, careers, hobbies, favorite Costa Rican traditions, and of course, their favorite dishes. Will Hutter’s host mother told him her preferred traditional tico dish consisted of plantains marinated in vinegar, a combination most of us had tried a few nights earlier. To put it politely, us gringos could not find the same richness of flavor which delighted Hutter’s mom. While these presentations were considered a hassle since they required so much knowledge about our host family, they did have the consequence of all of us having a deeper understanding and thus a deeper connection with our host families. Speaking personally, it felt rewarding to get to know our host moms, women who had opened their houses for American strangers, a little better, even on the last couple days of the trip.

After a quick lunch, the group embarked on a short bus ride to the ICE in San José. ICE stands for Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad, (Costa Rican Institute of Electricity). There, we learned about Costa Rica’s vanguard electrical coverage program, which supplies electricity to 99.4% of the population, the second most coverage for a country in Latin America. Additionally, 99% of their energy comes from renewable sources. Our presenter, a man named Alejandro Luna Baltodano, an electrical engineer and professor who has worked at the Institute for more than 31 years, continually stressed the truth that all energy comes from nature. This includes renewable sources, such as solar or wind power, oil which comes from ancient biomass, and nuclear power. It is no surprise that Costa Rica, a tiny country with incredible biodiversity, has such a profound network of electricity supplied to nearly all its citizens. We learned to a very technical level how the country harnesses its volcanic sites for geothermal energy, its powerful rivers and lakes for hydroelectric power, and the winds of both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. And since Costa Rica also is home to many sugarcane plants, the bagazos (the residual dry fibers of the sugar cane), are burned as another source of energy.

At the end of that very long and detailed presentation, we learned more about ICE’s mission to protect nature. For example, in order for the hydroelectric plants to work, the rivers cannot be clogged with sediment, so the institute plants trees to help prevent erosion. And, although costly, aerial cables are lined with materials to prevent climbing sloths or other animals from dying from electrocution. We also learned how to read electrical bills in Costa Rica.

At the end of the presentation, we were toured through some exhibitions that showcased the history of the institute through objects such as antique telephones, worker helmets, and art made by members of Costa Rican indigenous communities. Although briefly touched upon, rural areas in the country generally populated by indigenous people are often the zones with the least electrical coverage. On top of that, there was a plan a couple years ago to build an artificial lake to power a hydroelectric plant that was ultimately scrapped because it was on indigenous land.

Finally, we left the institute and returned to our houses before leaving for a sports restaurant to watch game 6 of the Celtics in the NBA finals. Dr. Guerra granted us un día de excepción (an exceptional day), so we stayed out until 11 watching the game and enjoying each other’s company on our second to last night in Costa Rica. Although the Celtics lost, the food was good enough to be worth the unfortunate experience.

Each day we immerse ourselves in a new activity that forces us to learn about this different, complicated, diverse, and beautiful country that we have called home for the past two weeks. I know I am sad to be leaving so soon. There is so much that can only be learned from traveling and engaging with a place in such an intense, hands-on way. We have to thank Dr. Guerra for his vision, Sean for chaperoning us, Mónica for accompanying us to most sites, and Francy Orozco for organizing an incredible and unforgettable trip to this rainy paradise in Central America.

-Bobby Zabin

6/15/2022

Today was a pretty early start for everyone but especially for Adam, who got woken up by his dogs at 5:45. We had to be at the Instituto San Joaquín de Flores by 8:30 which meant a 6:45 wake up for the runners of the group. It’s a good thing they taught us about “tico time,” a tendency of Costa Ricans to be late to every event, because I have not been on time to a single thing on this trip (sorry Dr. Guerra). After running, showering, and eating a breakfast of bread, cheese, crackers, and OJ, it was already 8:23 and I hadn’t even left the house for my 15-minute walk  to the institute. After arriving last to the institute, I boarded the bus with the rest of the group. The agenda today was to go to a finca and learn about the coffee plantation there. The finca we drove to was called “Flor de abril” and it was a 45-minute bus ride (relatively short compared to some of the others we’ve taken) from the Institute. At the plantation we learned how they grow the coffee and we got to see the fields with all their crops.

First, Fernando, the owner of the finca, took us to see the seedlings of coffee which were barely sprouted in the soil. Actually, the first thing he did was tell us the Instagram account of the finca (@fincaflordeabril if you want it). We walked into a little greenhouse made of mesh which provides shade to the plants. He showed us how he had different lots of coffee growing which would become different types of coffee when they matured, and he explained how he uses the mutations in the coffee to take advantage of good characteristics and breed better coffee. There are hybrid coffee plants, he told us, but it takes a long time to breed for certain genes because the process of growing the coffee takes years. He walked us through the process of growing the coffee and, more importantly, weeding out the bad coffee seeds before they grew into mature plants. He told us that roots straight down into the dirt were favorable, while twisted, wild roots were not. He put on a little show of telling, just by looking at the leaves of the plants, whether or not their roots were healthy, and we were very impressed.

Unhealthy roots could be caused by a number of things including bad planting by the person who planted them or insects. The finca had various, impressive ways of dealing with insects in a safe and healthy way. They don’t use pesticides or any chemical toxins to keep bugs away, instead they take advantage of certain plants natural ability to repel bugs and worms. Some bugs, however, are important because, once the flowers of the coffee plant bloom, it no longer self-pollinates and it needs to be pollinated by bees and other pollinating insects. To strike a balance, the finca uses plants like the higuerilla, or castor bean plant (which, in addition to providing shade, has leaves that are toxic but don’t harm the coffee plants), basil (which attract pollinators), and the Carolina Reaper (which keeps insects at bay).

He took us to see the ways that they planted the seedling once they were bigger but not fully matured. The finca was slowly switching over to using hard plastic pots rather than the usual plastic bags. The pots were better for the plants and kept the roots organized and straight. Also, because the pots are reusable and don’t let as much water escape, they bring economic benefits to the finca. After learning about the immature plants, we began walking to the rest of the plantation to see the fully grown coffee bushes.

The first thing we encountered was a bush of Carolina Reaper peppers. Here I made what was probably the worst decision of the trip. Fernando picked a few peppers off to show us and said that, although he didn’t recommend eating them because of the spice, they were perfectly edible. I, and a few other unsuspecting classmates, ignored his advice and tasted the peppers. I cannot even describe the spice of that pepper except by saying that I thought my tongue was going to burn off and that my life was going to end outside that Costa Rican finca. Eventually, he brought us a whole bottle of yogurt, which we finished immediately, and we continued the tour, still feeling the effects of the hottest pepper in the world.

He showed us the rest of the plantation and as we walked, we tried different fruits like guava, beans, jocote, and unripe coffee right off the branch. He brought us all the way to the edge of the finca where there was a steep slope to a river. Afterwards, we walked back and ate lunch, during which he quizzed us and gave everyone calendars as a reward for getting a question right. He then brought out a table full of coffee grinders and filters as well as different types of coffee beans to show us the process after the coffee is picked.

He ground up and let us taste two different types of roasted beans, natural (whole fruit -skin, pulp and parchment- dried for 30 days) and lavado (only bean and parchment dried for 12 days). He put each into a grinder and showed us the exact process that he uses to make coffee. With his phone as a timer, he put in exact measurements of water through the filter with the ground coffee to reach an exact 15:1 ratio of coffee to water. After brewing the coffee, he let us try out each to see which we liked better. We had the option to buy bags of the coffee if we enjoyed it (or rather if we thought our parents would enjoy it). His finca sells mostly to Korea and Australia but recently they have started selling to Costa Ricans as well, so if you like what your kid brings home, you know where to find it.

We boarded the bus again and when we arrived in San Joaquín, we had free time until 10:00 pm. Everyone went to their tica houses to rest after the long day and to interview their padres ticos to prepare for the presentations tomorrow. Some ate dinner with their tica family and some went out with friends. A bunch of us ended up watching the Stanley Cup Finals at an open-air restaurant.

When Dr. Guerra first sent out the schedule for who was writing the blogs, I thought that I had tons of time before I would have to write this post. Today, when I learned that it was my day to write the blog, I was shocked. The truth is that this trip has flown by, and I, and all my classmates, have really enjoyed it. These last few days are bittersweet. We all wish that we could stay here in this incredible place for longer, but we also miss our non-tica families and are excited to go home.

-Michael Thomas

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6/14/2022

This morning was one of the earlier mornings of the trip. We woke up, ate breakfast, packed, and all walked to the institute from our houses. We left at around 7 am for a lengthy but gorgeously scenic bus ride up to the top of the Irazú volcano, 3,310 meters (10,859 feet) above sea level. When we hopped out of the bus, we immediately noticed how cold it was, especially compared to the regular temperature in Costa Rica. We all made our way over to a vast, open space full of ash and rocks from the volcano. The altitude was so high that we were inside of a cloud, so there were some moments when we could barely see 10 feet in front of us. It was all a very surreal experience. We were able to see the Diego de la Haya crater, but unfortunately, due to the lack of visibility, we were unable to see the main crater down below and its famously turquoise acidic water.

On the way back, a world cup qualifying match between Costa Rica and New Zealand began, so many of us started watching on the bus. When the Costa Rican team scored, there was a cacophony of car horns and cheering everywhere we drove. We stopped at a restaurant to eat and finish watching the game. Costa Rica ended up winning the match 1 – 0 to qualify for the world cup. As the bus took us back to the institute, there were people in soccer jerseys everywhere cheering, honking their horns, and waving the flag of Costa Rica. It was so wonderful to see how much this all meant to the people here.

We got back to the institute at around 3 pm, where we all went our separate ways to our houses. After dinner at our houses, some of us went to a nearby mall called Paseo de las Flores. We played dodgeball at the trampoline park and bought some ice cream together before returning to our houses.

-Tommy Reichard

6/13/2022

We started off the day by meeting at the school at 9:00 in the morning. This was a nice change of pace since we got to sleep in a lot more than we had the last few days. After drinking our daily three coffees, we went upstairs to the classroom for about an hour or so to do an activity led by Dr. Guerra himself. He asked that we talk in groups of two or three about our Costa Rican families and sent us a list of topics to discuss. It felt a lot like a normal Dr. Guerra RL class, which was a very strange experience given that it is the middle of June. Anyways, we spoke about our families’ interests, education, professions, schedule, traditions, preferences, etc. Then we convened as a group to talk generally about our families and about Costa Rica as a whole. We compared and contrasted the country with the US, pointing out differences in social interactions, living standards and patterns, perspectives on privacy and security, and how much more aggressive the drivers are here. After a few minutes of this discussion, Dr. Guerra to our surprise dropped the news on us that we would have to prepare a presentation for Thursday about our families, so that is what we will be working on for the next few days. After this, we ate some fruit and hung out for a little bit before our next activity. A local sports enthusiast and owner of a bike shop brought us over to a field down the street from the school to play some games. First, however, we started with a team building exercise. The idea of the game was that there was a rope laid out on the ground with all of us standing on it in a line. Without picking our feet up and without talking, we had to organize ourselves in a line based on height. It took us a few different methods to complete the task, but nonetheless we managed to do it. Then we drafted teams and started what would prove to be a very heated game of ultimate frisbee with goal posts made from ecobloques: bottles filled out with compressed plastic waste that are used as blocks for construction in Costa Rica. Enemies were made, friendships were broken, and equipo dos came out on top. All joking aside, this was a very fun activity that got us all moving a bit, including Dr. Guerra who was unarguably MVP of the day. We then tried a type of snack that is made only in the specific part of Costa Rica where we are. It was a type of bread with salsa poured over it that was a bit spicy but not overpowering. Then we walked back to the school, ate lunch, and were brought over to the bike store which our guide for the day owned. He talked to us about the different things they did there and fielded a ton of questions from us. He also introduced us to the other workers there who were very nice. After this, we returned to the school and received a lecture from the same owner about sports in general in Costa Rica. He showed us a few of the most famous and successful athletes to come out of Costa Rica and answered a ton of our questions. Then we took part in an activity that was probably the weirdest thing we’ve done this trip. Bear with me as I try to explain this because it will be confusing. Basically, he had one person lie down on the floor, and another person lie down perpendicularly to him with his head on the other person’s stomach. Then the next person did the same, as did the next, until we had a weird crisscross pattern of students lying on the ground. Because of how absurd the activity was, we were all dying laughing the entire time. Once about five minutes had passed, we got up and he explained the idea behind the exercise. It was meant to be a sort of meditation, since by laughing at how strange it was, we forgot for a few minutes about everything else going on in our lives. I guess it worked since I’m only remembering just now as I write this blog that I need to make a presentation for Thursday. Yikes. Anyways, after this we had a bunch of free time which I spent walking around a mall, then Ubering to a different mall to go rollerblading. Once we were done flailing around like idiots and hitting the floor countless times, we went to watch the Celtics game at 7. Our chaperone señor Rose invited us all to watch the game with him at a local sports restaurant. Though the Celtics did end up losing in a horrible outing, we nevertheless enjoyed the night. Now it’s time to sleep since we must be up at 6 tomorrow.

Buenas noches,

Matt O’Connor

6/12/2022

Today we woke up and ate breakfast at a hotel in Manuel Antonio National Park. There were 3 options for meals: gallo pinto (which is just rice and beans with eggs), an omelet, and a plate of fruits. As for drinks there was coffee and orange juice. Then we got on our bathing suits and went to the main part of the National Park, where we saw many animals in their natural habitats. Right before the entrance, we saw a sloth in a tree and got some good photos of it. We also saw many different types of monkeys: the Central American squirrel monkey, the white-faced capuchin monkey, and the howler monkey. Later, we encountered several deer, and even got an arm’s length away from a group of them. This part of the day was amazing and was made better because Josué, our tour guide, was highly knowledgeable and had an amazing eye for finding small lizards, spiders, crabs, birds, and even frog eggs hidden in the jungle. We also saw hummingbirds, a bird snake or mica pajarera, a white-nosed coati, a giant red-winged grasshopper (at its nymph stage), and a green basilisk lizard, also known as “the Jesus Christ lizard,” for its ability to “walk” on water. After finding them with his naked eye, Josué would set up his telescope on his tripod and would give us a chance to see them and to take pictures of them through the telescope.

After the tour, we were supposed to swim for a while at the Playa Manuel Antonio, but the tour ran long, it began to rain, and we only had 15 minutes to swim before a long walk back to the hotel. It was still fun to play in the waves under the rain.

After this we got on an old bus-truck hybrid and drove to a place to do a canopy tour with zip lining. We got there and ate lunch, which was arroz con pollo, plantains, and tortillas. Then we put on our harnesses and began to zip line. There were fast ones, long ones, and scary ones. Some rides were scarier than others when you could see the ground more clearly, sometimes as far as 200 feet below the zip line. At the end of the canopy tour there was a dunk into water: we jumped from a platform while linked to a harness, as one of the instructors pulled us into the water. The water felt great, and everyone enjoyed the experience. Then we had a 3-hour bus ride back to our respective houses. Some of us went to eat at a restaurant and others went home and ate there. This was a full day of activities, and we had a blast.

-Emmanuel Nwodo

6/11/2022

The day started off earlier than most. We all met up as a group at the institute at 7:25 for a 7:30 departure for Manuel Antonio National Park, where we would be staying for one night and two days. Manuel Antonio National Park is one of the main attractions of Costa Rica and is known for its mix of picturesque beaches and a lush rainforest. However, the journey to Manuel Antonio from San Joaquín is long and we made several stops along the way. Our first stop was at a rest stop which included a gift shop and a bridge that connected the busy road over a flowing river. At first, I was unsure of why we had stopped at this seemingly random place, but it took one look over the railing of the bridge to clarify any doubts. When I looked into the water there was, clear as day, a massive crocodile slowly swimming through the currents. After ogling this croc for a while, we got back on the bus. The next stop was at a supermarket to stock up on snacks for our stay. The third and final stop was at a popular sightseeing outlook in the Jaco region of Costa Rica. Finally, we made our way back on the bus and all the way to Manuel Antonio. When we got there, we all took turns changing into bathing suits and making sure sunscreen was completely rubbed in before boarding a boat for our adventure. The captain of the boat split passengers into two sections: Spanish speaking and English speaking. In Spanish, he told us that we would be taking the boat out to deep sea to snorkel and swim in the clear water. The boat ride off the Pacific coast of Costa Rica was nothing short of breathtaking. Light blue waves crashed against massive rocks as we all listened to Spanish music and drank fresh-fruit (virgin) drinks. Once we got to our destination, many of us strapped on flippers and goggles and hopped into the water to snorkel. Immediately, you could see bright colored fish swimming around the water in large packs. It was impossible to miss. We then got time to just swim around, jump (or flip) off the. boat, and slide off the boat’s water slide. The journey back to the hotel was easier than the journey out, and when we got to the hotel everyone was excited to see that there is a pool here! After a quick dip and shower we sat down for a very nice dinner. After dinner, us kids played cards while listening to the unbelievable noise created by the pouring rain. Finally, Dr Guerra came in to do room checks at 11:00 to find exhausted kids ready for another day of fun!

-Quique Lonergan

6/10/2022

On this lovely Friday morning, we were allowed to sleep in more as our first activity was not until 9. That activity was a cooking class, given by my mamá tica, Patricia. After everyone grabbed their morning Costa Rican coffee (including me, even though I’d never had coffee before this week), we learned about all the delicious Costa Rican cuisine we have been eating for a few days now. In essence, beans and rice are vida. It also turns out that a spice sauce, Salsa Lizano, is used in 90% of all food here. Once we learned about the food, we made some. Guided by Matt’s mamá tica, Elsa, we made some chicken and rice. Or, more accurately, she made the meal after we chopped some vegetables. Regardless of how much we contributed, it was delicioso, especially after she dumped a whole bottle of Salsa Lizano. Anyways, we ate some amazing food and then had to have some quick covid tests. Luckily, they were all negative knocks on wood.

We then moved on to the most important part of the day: the long awaited fútbol game between us and some costarricenses from a local school. We showed up in our coach bus, locked in. We got off to a cracking start as Emmanuel hit a screamer into the top corner. However, the ticos fought back and went up 2-1. We scored again before the game ended and then the game went straight to penalties. On these small nets, the goalies had a big responsibility, which Wando lived up to amazingly. He saved numerous penalties and kept us in it. Eventually, we had a chance to win it in the 6th round of penalties. Michael stepped up to the plate in a score to win situation. To be honest, I was not super confident as he simply does not play soccer at all. However, I had nothing to worry about as Michael placed a clinical finish into the top bin, winning it for the estadounidenses. After a euphoric celebration, we played some baloncesto and won handily, this time as expected. We then said bye to our Costa Rican friends and headed off to the farmers’ market.

At the market, there was an amazing assortment of fruits and veggies, as well as some other food items. I tried a juice made from various unnamed fruits that was very yummy. I also enjoyed the two types of mamones that we tried, which tasted a little like cherries (at least to me). We then got some funky shave ice and milk mixture that was tasty, but super dense, and so I was unable to finish. We tried many different things and even got to drink coconut water straight from a coconut. Our grupo gringuísimo then went to our homes for a little while before going to watch the Celtics game. We were kindly invited by Bobby’s familia and were able to watch the game all together. We had many a snack and ate pizza as we watched the Celtics fall to the Warriors, otherwise known as Steph Curry. Anyways, we already had two big wins today against the Costa Ricans, so I guess we’ll live.

Signing off for now!

Adán Kuechler

6/9/2022

After a slight delay, we started the morning at 8:45 at the institute and to Zooave, a wildlife rescue reserve. The wildlife reserve was massive and thankfully, when we got there, we were met by our amazing guide, Amy. She took us on a route throughout the reserve teaching about the wildlife there. The reserve had almost every animal imaginable there including parrots, jaguars, monkeys, bats, peacocks, tortoises, boas, iguanas and more.

My favorite animal we saw was a crocodile that had lost its predatory instincts due to a life in captivity without the pressure to hunt for food. The crocodile had become playful: at one point it carried a stick in its mouth around the habitat like a dog. It would also stalk a log floating in the water and then pounce on it with a massive splash and drag it around.

In addition to the amazing sights, Amy taught us about the process of rehabilitating animals. We learned about the steps it takes to heal these animals, prepare them for life outside of the reserve and eventually release them. After our wildlife tour we had casado for lunch, a combination of rice, beans, plantains and protein at the Zooave then headed back into the city to visit the Museo National de Costa Rica.

The museum presented us with a comprehensive history of Costa Rica from pre-Columbian times to the modern day. Before we went back to our families, we stopped at an artisan market to buy all kinds of souvenirs. The shops were packed together in a building with a small, one-person wide corridor to walk in-between them. Inside these shops walls were covered with all kinds of souvenirs and trinkets from jade pendants to soccer jerseys and Costa Rica mugs.

During our free time we went back to the mall we saw yesterday and bought some ice creams. We then decided to head to the trampoline park 45 minutes before it closed. Even though the time was limited we had a great time playing dodgeball and basketball on the trampolines. It was a great way to end an intriguing and fun day.

Hasta luego,

Will Hutter

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6/8/2022

Another great day! Today we woke up at around 8 am to get to the Institute at 9 am for a Costa Rica politics lecture given by Dr. Alonso Ramírez. During his brilliant presentation, we learned that Costa Rica is amidst an election crisis as less and less people are voting every election due to dissatisfaction with the final candidates and a lack of faith in the government. He explained this through various graphs and annotated maps demonstrating the provinces with the least amount of voters. After a nice lunch at the institute, we ventured off to a Costa Rican high school. There, we gave presentations in Spanish about our lives in Boston, and they gave presentations in English about Costa Rican culture. However, more importantly, there was an intense five vs. five basketball game which we won. I’m less confident about the upcoming soccer match this Friday. After visiting the high school, we explored malls and ate dinner. Like the others, I’ve really enjoyed my experience with my host family, and I’m excited for the days to come.

-Ryan Frigerio