So I have survived through my first month in a foreign “third-world” country. San JosÈ is a very dirty city, with more than a third of Costa Rica’s entire population--almost 1.5 million people. There are way too many cars for its narrow, narrow streets and most of the cars are malfunctioning somehow. Also, the garbage removal services aren’t the best, so there are often piles of car-sized trash on the side of the road. Supposedly, this year the government will pass an emission-standards bill, so maybe the next time I come here, things will be a little bit cleaner. I still enjoy the city a great deal.
The food here is amazing for a semi-vegetarian like myself (mostly fruits, vegetables, rice and beans and some chicken). Gallo Pinto is one of my new favorite foods. It’s a national dish that consists of rice and beans (no rooster like the name suggests) and whatever else the cook would like to add.
Obviously, learning a second language in a country where the people speak it as their first is much more intense, but also much more rewarding then the classroom setting. Many people call this process immersion, but to me it feels more like emerging, maybe from the depths of some lake I have been living in most of my life in which I wasn’t very fluent in Spanish. Little by little, the voices in this country sound less muffled, less incomprehensible. I can now understand a great deal, and can express myself in ways I never thought would be possible in Spanish. Not a day goes by that I don’t feel like I’m learning something new about the language.
I have had the chance to get out of the city. I have visited the beaches of Montezuma (too touristy for my taste, but with incredible natural beauty), and the cloud forest between San JosÈ and San Isidro (the name tells you how high up it is). I’ve also greatly enjoyed the company of my host family--they are kind, patient, and at times amusing people.
During the first month I attended classes in Spanish (por supeusto), a class in Spanish about ethnic-cultural development in Costa Rica, and a class in English about globalization. Now that I am done with classes, I have begun a two month research/internship in San JosÈ through an organization called Foro Emaus. Foro is an organization with a large network consisting of more than 23 organizations in Costa Rica--they are interested in sustainable development, alternative agricultural, environmental preservation, and banana plantation worker’s rights. In my short activist career, it is the most impressive progressive organization I have seen. It seems to me that the organization encompasses many voices and many ideologies in its decisions. I’m not yet sure what my responsibilities will be. This is my first week on the job, and my assignment has been to learn.