Student Blogs & Vlogs | College Study Abroad Programs, IFSA-Butler

A Short Recount of Various Short Trips

I have been gallivanting about the country and it is high time I wrote all about it.

I took a trip with three other girls from the IFSA-Butler program to Uvita, a coastal town on the Pacific side of Costa Rica. I had been to Uvita during a volunteer project last semester, but didn’t have much time to enjoy the tranquility of the town or discover its hidden beauty.

We arrived by bus early Friday afternoon (February 11), and after dumping our bags off in our hostel room we headed straight for the beach. Near Uvita is the National Marine Park of Whales (“Parque Nacional Marina Ballena”). This park is known for a unique strip of rocks that juts out from the beach and then branches out perpendicularly on both sides, taking the form of a whale’s tail, thus the name for the park. Although I was unable to see it, during high tide the waves crash into another over the rocky strip of land and it is said to be visually spectacular.

The following day, armed with a couple thousand “colones” (about $4), we pillaged the local supermarket, later retreating to the hostel with our cheaply-paid-for spoils. From an assortment of crude ingredients we crafted some hefty sandwiches and then headed up the road from the hostel to explore a series of waterfalls. It was a long hike up an old skid road. The insects in the trees droned stridently and incessantly. Over an hour later we discovered the first waterfall, its water tumbling across the road. We hiked down the river and then up an adjoining river, discovering a waterfall every hundred meters or so. Without a doubt this is one of the most beautiful places I have been to in Costa Rica. We devoured our sweating sandwiches, chatted, enjoyed the cool water, swam, lazed about, and jumped into the river from overhanging rocks. We grudgingly left late that afternoon to go back to the hostel and headed back to Heredia the next day.

Not too long ago (February 25), we IFSA-Butler students went on a fieldtrip to Palmichal, a rural area about 2 hours from Heredia. It was a very full day. That morning learned a little about the history of the town and the people living there. Later we hiked up to a “finca” or farm to learn how to make into the van and headed for hocheese, starting with the cow and ending with samples of squeaky deliciousness.

That afternoon we enjoyed coffee and cheese-filled fried tortillas. By this time with warm and tasty goodness in our stomachs, most of us were tired and ready for a nap, but we still had to take a coffee tour before we headed for home. So we loaded up in the van and then headed to a coffee processing plant. Families, groups of families or co-ops bring their freshly picked coffee berries to the plant to be fermented, dried, roasted, ground, graded and packaged. We were fortunate enough to be able to tour the entire plant and see the entire process.

Last weekend (March 4) I went on another “gira” or fieldtrip, but this time with a class that I am not actually part of. The IFSA-Butler Social History class was going to the National Guayabo Monument and there was extra space in the van for those who were interested in attending. This monument is dedicated to preserving and studying the indigenous group that had live in that area at one time. There are several excavated areas revealing roads, the bases of homes, aqueducts (some of which still function today), grave sites and so forth. Interestingly enough, this group of people was not contacted by the conquistadores. Estimates pinpoint the duration of this people group from 400 BC to 1400 AD, if my memory serves me.

We also went to the Basilica de Nuestra Senora de los Angeles in Cartago, the most famous Cathedral in Costa Rica. There are several traditions, stories and even some holidays pertaining to the church. During our tour, we learned about the origins of the church and the appearance of the virgin of los angeles. As the story goes a figure of the virgin appeared on a rock in the woods and was found by an indigenous girl. She took the doll home with her. The next day she went to the woods and discovered what she thought was another doll, identical to the one that she had found the day before. But when she went home with the doll she discovered that the one she had found the day before was absent. The next day, the figure was gone again but the girl found it at the same rock in the woods. By the end of the story, it was realized that the virgin wished to stay in that place, and eventually a church was built over the rock. The rock is still there underneath the church and the original virgin of los angeles is preserved in the church.

We also went to see the ruins of an old Catholic church relatively near the National Guayabo Monument. Upon arrival we all tumbled out of the van, wandered around the ruins and the small, quaint park surrounding the ruins, and then we all piled back me.

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