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Basketball, baby shower, and other babbling

I have been in Costa Rica for over a month now.  Which means my semester is more than 20% over…wow!!  Looking back, it really doesn’t feel like that much time has passed, but at the same time, we have done so much already that it kind of does.  I can already feel my Spanish improving – I comprehend a lot more of what is said, I have to look up less words when reading, and I find myself speaking faster.  It is really cool to feel these changes as they are happening!

All of the buildings at the UNA look more or less like this – red and grey, with all the windows open and the roof slanted to direct the rain. I think i might become an architect.

I was walking with a friend and I saw this at the U and I yelled out “Cool!” and the people around us stared.

By now we are three weeks into classes, and unfortunately that means I have been busy with readings and essays and other schoolwork.  The classes I am taking are Advanced Spanish, Social History of Costa Rica, Human Rights: Truths and Lies, Culture and Development in Latin America, and… Costa Rican Folkloric Dances.  The dance class is a little scary, because the other people in the class are dance majors and very good at dancing already, whereas I (and the other US students in the course) am a true beginner.  That being said, I am really happy with these courses, and it is shaping up to be a nice variety of subject material that approaches Costa Rican culture from a variety of angles.

Squirrel hunting my laptop

August 2 was the Feast of the Virgin Mary of Los Angeles.  On the eve of the feast, people walk from all over the country to Cartago to pray to Mary.  It is also a time to ask something of Mary, such as to heal a family member.  However, the people that live farther away leave as much as a week early to get to Cartago by the feast day.  Here is a picture of the huge crowd at Cartago.

Here is a picture of the huge crowd at the church in Cartagos.

This past weekend my host family hosted a baby shower for one of my host cousins (?—not totally sure on the family relation).  Now, I have never been to a baby shower in the US, so I really have nothing to compare it to, but it was very fun.  It was HUGE – over 80 people came – and we ate food and played some games and there were lots of door prizes and I have never seen so many cute baby clothes in my life.  I was designated event photographer, since I seemed to be the only person to bring a camera to the event.  It was nice to have something to do though, and the mom-to-be was very appreciative.

Costa Rican tamale – potato and rice filling, with veggies, wrapped and cooked in a banana leaf.

Clockwise from top left: my host mom, the mom-to-be, my host aunt, my host mom’s daughter, and…someone I don’t know

I filled all these boxes with a variety of fresh pastries for the baby shower.

One interesting thing about the University here is that syllabi are considered to be legal documents.  All professors are required to hand them out on the first day of class and read the entire thing with the class.  The syllabus contains everything from the goals of the course to a calendar of all assignments and tests to a bibliography of sources used throughout the semester.  Then, all students sign a list saying they received the syllabus, which is then given to the department chair.  After the first day, if a professor wants to change anything about the syllabus (such as the day a test will be given), the change must be approved by all the students in the course or the professor cannot make the change.  Students have rights here!

Last Tuesday was the National Championships for pro basketball, held at the Palacio de los Deportes (sports complex) right here in Heredia!  My thirteen-year-old host brother Andrés actually had a game there right before the championship, so we watched him win 14-12 and then stayed for the championship.  Warm-ups were a little different: both teams started out warming up as normal, shooting baskets and such, and then after about 10 minutes both teams sat down in a big circle on the court and did stretches as a group.  This lasted about 10 minutes, and then they announced the players (which no one in the crowd paid much attention to).  This was followed by a team picture for each team, and then 3 more minutes of shooting drills.  Then, during the game, the pep band for the home team (Barva, a neighborhood in Heredia) played the exact same 10-second tune after every single score.  Barva won 86-60, so they played it a LOT.  And although there was fairly low turnout (I’d say a couple hundred people at most), you certainly wouldn’t know it by the amount of noise generated by the fans.  The crowd was most excited by Barva’s alley-oop dunk – judging by the amount of cheers, I feel like it definitely would make Costa Rica’s Top Ten Plays!

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