Sunday, February 7, 2010

San Joaquin de Flores, Costa Rica

We have just spent two weeks attending Spanish Language School in the town of San Joaquin de Flores, not too far from Heredia and San Jose in Costa Rica. My brain is hurting! We lived with a Costa Rican (Tico) family, who were very nice to us. However, they did not speak English, so we had plenty of opportunity to practice very basic communication! All of their children and grandchildren lived close by so the house was often full and boisterous. We walked to school in the morning, classes were from 8AM to noon - all Spanish all Morning. The teachers were excellent and we all made some great progress, hopefully a good start in order to survive the next few months.

In the afternoons and weekends we studied or went on outings. We went to the city of Heredia for a walking tour, and to the movies at the local mall (Avatar 3D, English with Spanish subtitles, a few of which I actually understood). We visited the town of Sarchi, which is noted for the production of "traditional" and festively decorated Ox Carts. We visited the "factory" where these were produced. All the power tools were run from a water-wheel. Many belts and wheels running around the place. Each cart is hand-painted, which takes one painter about 2 weeks.

We spent a weekend down on the southern Caribbean coast in the town of Puerto Viejo. Here many of the residents are descended from afro-caribbeans, and the culture is more like Jamaica than Costa Rica. The beaches and jungle are very beautiful. The weather was hot and humid. We were fortunate to be in town for the big surf competition. Watcing the crowd was (for me) just as interesting as watching the contestants. We rented bikes and rode around on the (mostly) dirt roads. I went a little further down the coast and saw many birds, a few monkeys, and two sloths - both very close up. Zane went boogie boarding, and we all ate very well. Sadly, for our Spanish skills, there was not much studying that weekend!

After school ended we took a couple more excursions: a boat trip on the Sarapiqui River, and white-water rafting on the Pacuare River. The sarapiqui river was tranquil and pretty. We saw many monkeys, a sloth, some bats, poison dart frogs, a caiman (small croc), and many birds. The rafting trip was fantastic, 18 miles and 38 rapids, class 3-4, through pristine rainforest. We all agreed perhaps the most beautiful river we had ever seen. Might have even been prettier if I had worn my glasses!! Only Zane took an unplanned swim, and he was hauled back into the raft quickly. Unfortunately no photos from that trip, although we may return!

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