22 September 2010

Dias Uno en Cartago

After such a long trip, you would think that I was exhausted and had gotten plenty of sleep Sunday night. Not exactly... I got some sleep, but I had slept quite a bit on the airplane and I think I was excited by a new place. Monday we had to wake up at 6:00 Am in order to be at breakfast on time and begin our orientation series. Scott slept pretty well and we both woke up easily, anxious to see where we were.

When we arrived in San Jose, the CCS Cartago driver Allan drove us to the home base from the airport. It was very dark at 11:00 Pm and while he had pointed out outlines of things (like the volcanoes), we only could see well the buildings that were lit. So our first point of orientation, after breakfast, was to have a walking city tour guided by Jovel (pronounced like Yobell). We walked and walked and walked around the city to orient ourselves around the CCS home base. It was a beautiful morning, sunny skies and warm (too warm for a black long sleeved shirt).

The first stop was the Basilica. This is one of the buildings we saw the night before because it is REALLY well lit up. I'm talking tons of wattage is used to make this building glow, and for good reason. It is probably the most important and well known basilica in all Central America. There is a pilgrimage to this temple every year around the beginning of August. It is ginormous and so beautiful. Pictured above is Scott in I in front of the basilica's streams of holy water, which are said to come from underneath the building and have healing powers. The water is safe to drink for tourists.

We finished our walking tour by seeing the laundry mat, indoor market, ice cream parlor, central park, and post office were located.  One thing to know about Costa Rica is that there are no street signs because the people use landmarks like, the old Coca Cola factory, to drive anywhere or send mail. This could obviously be difficult for anyone who doesn't know where the previously living fig tree could have been, or even how many blocks are in a meter. To get an idea for the implications of no street signs, here is an article that we were given later in our program orientation.

The program orientation was fantastico! In the afternoon it started to down pour, typical of the rainy season, which worked out perfectly as we spent the rest of the day indoors. In the program orientation, the director described the country, it's many assets, and current issues. Incredibly interesting (ask me in person sometime) and Jose, the Cartago director is muy intelligent. Then we had Spanish class, where the teacher discovered that I understand much and have very little ability to say anything. Scott however has magically remembered everything from high school Spanish classes and has impressed (not surprisingly) all the local staff with his knowledge and humor. After orientation Monday, Tuesday (Sept 21) would be our first day at our volunteer placements.

P.S. I had to Babelfish the post title, because I speak nada Spanish. Did you know that Cartago means Carthage? That's what the babel fish said, anyway.