I have more pictures posted at http://picasaweb.google.com/jaygraham72.
I went into San Jose Thursday afternoon on a group tour of the Teatro Nacional and Museo del Oro. San Jose is not as attractive of a city as Quito Ecuador (the only other major city in Latin America I have visited). There is very little in the way of interesting architecture and there is no old town center to speak of. Most of the buildings look like they were built in the 60's and 70's (i.e., ugly). The National Theater, however, is very nice. It has a very European feel to it. If you've been to old palaces and churches in Europe, you know what it looks like. It has a lot of marble, artwork, sculptures, antique furniture, and paintings on the ceilings. It is a source of pride for Costa Ricans that 100 years ago, a poor country in Central America was able to build a place like this.
A few random observations about this country:
- Pedestrians do not have the right of way when crossing the street. You cross the street at your own risk. Cars are not necessarily going to stop. In fact, drivers expect you to get out of the way and will honk if you cause them to have to put on the breaks.
- There are a lot of different kinds of fruit here that I've never heard of or seen before.
- Costa Ricans pour their beer into a glass and add ice cubes.
- You really need to know how to dance here.
I have taken the dancing lessons offered at the school almost every day. My dancing has improved slightly - from horrible to terrible. Most Americans do not learn how to dance. I remember before my first junior high dance, my sister told me that during slow dances, the girl puts her hands behind the guy's head and the guy puts his hands behind the girl's back. That was the total extent of dancing lessons I've had prior to coming to Costa Rica. I think I now have the basic steps down, but the turns and spins get complicated and I seem to go blank when it's time to do some turns - and the man HAS to lead and decide what turns to do. I think I need some sort of cheat sheet or memory jogger. We have learned Salsa, Merengue, and Cubio. Cubio is a dance specific to Costa Rica and consists of a lot of hopping and kicking.
It's fairly inexpensive for westerners to get by here, although it can be a bit cheaper in other nearby countries. A beer in a bar ranges from about $1.30 in the Mule Bar, a place across the street from the school that can only be charitably described as "homey", to about $2 at Castros, a large dance club in downtown San Jose. A plato del dia (plate of the day) can be had for lunch for about $4 and usually consists of a meat, vegetables, rice, potatoes and juice. A short taxi ride is usually under $2.
I eat breakfast and dinner with the family. Breakfast is fairly large and usually consists of an assortment of fresh fruit (pineapple, mango, papaya, and bananas) and some sort of eggs & tortillas or gallo pinto (black beans and rice), juice, and hot tea. I've had a wide variety of foods for dinner.
Everyone here is really excited about the 3rd season of Latin American Idol. There is a girl from here in Heredia, Costa Rica still in it. Maria Jose Castillo made it through the voting this week and will go on to compete next week. It was the same kind of vibe I got earlier this year when I was in Kansas City and David Cook was in the finals. (http://www.latinamericanidol.com/participantes_doce.php)
This is my last week in Heredia. On Sunday, I will take a bus to Sámara to attend classes at the beach campus. From what I´ve heard, it´s really pretty there, but it´s a really small town and it won´t have some of the convieniences that Heredia has. Also, it will be much hotter since it´s at a lower altitude. So if I can take the heat, I plan to stay in Sámara for about 6-8 weeks.