School in Costa Rica
03/27/05 to 04/20/05
Well, we are finally back from our adventures in Costa Rica and Panama.  
We took over 700 photos, so it was tough picking just a few to put on line.  
We started our adventure with three and a half weeks at IPEE Spanish
language school.  We were picked up at the airport and taken to our host
house.  Our host mom, Nury, was a cute little 60 year old lady who couldn't
grasp that Richard didn't speak a word of Spanish.  She would ramble on to
him about stuff, and he would occasionally say "si," just in case she might
have asked him a question.  We were shocked by the bars on all the door and
windows.  Richard, you know, Mr. Safety, pointed out that if there were a
fire, we would not be able to exit the house except through the front door,
which had two locks, and at night a pad lock to which we did not have a key.  
All the houses are like this, and the Costaricans (also known as Ticos) have a
saying that the criminals came to town, so everyone put themselves in prison.  
School was good, Richard would call it, "intense."  The first week I was in a
class with one other person.  After she left, it was just me and the teacher.  
Richard was one-on-one the whole time.  He learned how to say, "Mi
hermano es muy alto, pero muy feo."  Which means, "my brother is very tall,
but very ugly."  Jack, all of Costa Rica has heard about you.  You're famous.
Our first weekend, we studied and went to the open-air market that is held on
Sunday mornings.  We saw more fruits that we ever knew existed.  The
market was very hot and very crowded which is why I have such a pleasant
look on my face.
Not surprisingly, our bad luck with the weather had followed us to Costa Rica.  
It was raining at least every other day.  All the Ticos kept commenting on the
strange weather, and telling us that it wasn't supposed to be rainy season until
mid May.  On April 8th, Costa Rica was supposed to experience an almost
total solar eclipse.  We looked as hard as we could, but didn't see anything
through the clouds.
Although we had not planned on doing any traveling while we were in school
since we had the SOAR trip planned, by the second weekend we just had to
get out of smelly, crowded San Jose, so we hopped on a bus for nearby
Atenas.  Costa Rica does not believe in street signs, seriously, directions are
given by landmarks.  When we got the "address" for our host family, it was
not a street address.  It was, "125 meters north of the 7th Day Adventist
Church, house Q12."  Anyway, because of this, we walked around downtown
San Jose for an hour looking for the bus station.  We finally got out of the
city, and wound through the mountains up to Atenas, known for having the
world's best climate.  Not when we were there.  It was about to rain (imagine
that) so it was very muggy.  We met Jorge on the bus.  He lives in Atenas and
was coming back from an English grammar class in San Jose and wanted to
practice his English, so we bought him a beer and he showed us around the
town.  His parents and sister live close to a park he showed us, so we went by
their house.  Everyone was so nice, his sister gave us home grown mangos,
and cashew fruit.  I thought cashews grew like peanuts, but they actually
grow on trees, on the bottom of a nasty tasting fruit that some people actually
eat.  Richard tried to eat it to be polite, I couldn't.  Richard described it best,
dirty gym socks.  The townspeople had a more country look to them, and
there was a tractor parked in the street next to the town square.  Richard says
any town that has a tractor parked in the square is alright by him.  Anyway,
from the bus, up in the hills, we could see a huge poultry plant.  I had this
funny urge to stop in and try to sell them gloves, boots, and aprons.
Speaking of chicken, that
was one of the few other
words Richard learned.  So
he would say things like,
"Vaya con Pollos"  (Go
with Chickens) instead of
the much more common,
"Vaya con Dios" (go with
God.)  He was so pleased
to see a moutain with Pollo
written on it in huge letters.  
Everyone else on the bus
was giving me
compassionate looks since
the old man next to me was
saying crazy things like
"Vaya con Pollos."
The next weekend, we planned a trip to Jaco beach.  We had heard that the
bus took two or two and a half hours, and left every half hour.  So, Sunday
morning we got to the bus stop (lost again, but it only took us about 15
minutes to find it this time) at 8:30.  However, the thing about the bus
leaving every half hour was not correct, so we waited until the next bus left
at 10:30.  This bus stopped for every man, woman and chicken standing on
the side of the road.  If they were going anywhere close to our route, he
would take them there.  We wove through the tiniest little towns, dropping
people off at stops that were definitely not on the official route, if there was
one.  We finally got to Jaco 3 hours and 40 minutes later.  The beach is
supposedly known for it's surfing, but we didn't see any surfers.  The beach
was covered in rocks, which made it very uncomfortable.  So, at 6:00 (the
next available bus to San Jose) we got back on the bus, covered in salt and
sand, for the long ride home.  {No, none of these buses have air
conditioning.}  However the scenery along the way was nice, and it was still
worth all the hassle to get out of San Jose.

Our last day of class was Richard's 60th birthday.  Since I was the only
person in my class, my conversation teacher and I snuck away the day
before to buy him a present.  That's right, I got him a joke book in Spanish.  
Just what he had been needing.
Then we shared a cab with another couple {Hi Neil and Gayle!} from the
school to visit the Poaz volcano.  In this picture, you could see the crater
below us, but of course our luck would have a cloud covering it.  You could
smell it though, sulfur.