It's called entrapment. The longer I went without writing on this blog, the larger and more insurmountable a task it became. Now I break the silence.
Since November, a bunch of things happened. Most of it can be told in pictures and videos, so here goes.
At UPEACE, we have cultural nights/weeks, and back in November, our many African students hosted a huge show and party for the university and whoever was interested. Here are some pictures (click to go to the album) - a picture says more than a thousand words, so here are more than 42,000 words:
Around the same time, my American friend Ragan (no E), Canadian friend Atkilt and I cooperated on a project for our class on Media Ethics. The result was a little slideshow with pictures of two Colombian families that live and work in San José. Some came as refugees, some did not. They feel at home in Costa Rica but miss their homeland:
Shortly thereafter, I joined a very short (too short) trip to the northwest corner of Nicaragua. A group of UPEACE students drove to Isla Venezia, an almost deserted peninsula (I know) where this Canadian guy Kyle lives with his girlfriend Jessica in a house on the Pacific coast, doing open source wind turbines for private and public clients. I was at their amazing house for less than 24 hours but it was gorgeous there:
Another cultural night happened, the so-called M.A.P. Night (Middle East, Asia, Pacific). A tight-packed show with singing, poetry, great food and - especially - dances. After the show we had a short dance party:
On the 13th of December (Lucia Day), the few Nordic students (and one intern) at UPEACE (except for our Swedish student) hosted a nice little Nordic Christmas. The teaser/trailer looked like this:
I spent Christmas in Panama with Suroor, Elizabeth, Jennifer and Ricardo, and I already shared pictures from that trip. But I didn't share this video of José Augusto rolling my ten 50-cent cigars (the price, not the rapper) while chatting about his dad and their lives:
For the rest of my nice long break I mostly relaxed. But I did do one nice little Costarican trip with my Indian friends Bijal and Suroor (Gayatri, her sister Purnima, and her friend Jared joined us for part of it), and my Kurdish friends Sivan (from Israel/USA) and Hemn (Iraq/Australia). Elizabeth and her family guest starred, and we met a new friend, Sophia from Portugal/Switzerland (wow, so many /'s). We started in the mountain town of Monteverde but it was too cold for all the non-Scandinavians (read: everyone else than me), so we went south to Quepos and Manuel Antonio, a touristy but beautiful beach not far from Ciudad Colón (where we live).
Unfortunately, a Dutch woman travelling alone, was robbed of her hand luggage on the bus and lost everything (passport, cash, camera, phone numbers). So Sophia and the UPEACE group helped her out which brough Sophia into our crazy little crew. Somehow she seemed not to be judging us too much, so we all got along pretty well. (The Dutch woman is fine now, NOT thanks to the Dutch embassy.) Here are some pics:
All right, that brings us more or less up to speed. Oh, and I got a new haircut. Kind of a wide mohawk I had made in Panama. I'm removing it soon, though. Sick of it already.
Watch out for a post about my next/last semester and the challenges ahead.
And that's what you missed. On Glee.
Happy birthday to me. Sunday was my time to shine, so I copied my cousin Martin's concept of hosting an all-day open house where people could bring food and drinks fitting the time of day. As a fun addition to the concept, I decided to take a group picture of the party every hour:
The party went great, a lot of people came over, even people who had big papers due at midnight or the next day. That's love. Thanks guys.
More pictures from the birthday here (click to go to album):
The night before Sunday I came back from four days in Nicaragua. A few of our programmes were supposed to have gone there this week to monitor Sunday's elections, but Nicaragua cancelled the delegation so I had the week off instead. And on Tuesday, I decided to pack my stuff and go with my Ethiopian/Canadian classmate Atkilt to Managua, the capital of Nicaragua.
As we didn't plan the trip properly, I didn't get to see a lot of Nicaragua's popular sights but we had a good time. Thursday night Atkilt left for a 6 hour bus ride and a 4 hour boat ride to the secluded Caribbean town of Bluefields to do research for a documentary he's doing with some of our other classmates. Luckily, we had met some nice backpackers with whom I hung out until I had to go back to Costa Rica on Saturday. The backpackers were called Josefine and Kerstin from Germany and Nick from Canada/Colombia. They look like this:
The big thingy in the background is a huge "acoustic shell" designed by the American Glen Howard. It was overlooking a huge square (Plaza de la Fé) filled with empty merry-go-rounds and other rides. We were let in by a lazy security guard and took some nice pictures.
More pictures from Nicaragua (click to go to album):
Kerstin, Josefine and NIck had rented a car and were going north west to the town of León where two of my UPEACE friends (Jasmine, US, and Dobrawa, Norway/Poland) were supposedly staying. So I caught a ride with them and wrote to my UPEACE friends that I was coming to León. Our Costa Rican phones didn't work in Nicaragua so when they never replied on Facebook, I didn't really know if I would even meet them there.
When we arrived in León, I checked into a hostel and stayed there a bit with the backpackers. Suddenly Jasmine and Dobrawa walk in the front door. They hadn't gotten my message, they just saw someone they knew. Unfortunately, they were on their way south, so I decided to hang out with the backpackers a bit longer and go to the beach for the night. We made it to a rustic beach cabin and spent a nice evening eating seafood and playing pool. Next morning I had to leave and travelled all of Saturday to make it home in the evening.
Nicaragua was interesting, and I will definitely go back. Next time with actual plans. It's more exotic than Costa Rica, in a good and a bad way. There's much more life around you and street stalls selling food but also a lot of begging and - reportedly - a lot more crime. I was paranoid about my nice big Canon EOS 60D D-SLR camera, and that's why I took so few pictures.
A last little anecdote. My friend Elizabeth (of former blog post fame) texted me that the last buses from San José to Ciudad Colón left the Coca-Cola bus station (yeah) around 10:30 pm. This was around 9:45 pm and I was still in the bus on the way to the Tica Bus terminal. (The bus was scheduled to leave Managua at 12 noon but left at 1:30 pm and took forever at the border.) So when the bus pulled up, I jumped out, waited impatiently for my luggage and jumped into a taxi. "Coca-Cola por favor," I said. The driver thought I was another tourist so he offered to take me all the way to Ciudad Colón. It would only be around 8,000 Colones. 8,000, I thought. "OK, let's go if you can do it for 8,000," I told him. In Spanish. But the guy didn't turn off the meter. "Are you going to leave that on? Because then it's going to be at least 16,000. I live there. Otherwise, let's go to Coca-Cola." After a few grimaces, he turned off the meter and took me all the way home to my casa for ... 8,000 Colones. Booyah.
Yesterday, a couple of people had the sympathetic idea of inviting everyone at school to go to a local bar in the nearby town of Piedades to have a few quiet beers on a Tuesday night.
Then some guy at the bar brought out party hats, plastic leis and whistles. Then this happened:
After a while, a local guy walked in. He was middle-aged and wearing a black hat, sunglasses and finger gloves. And even though we were all sure that he was Gaddafi (who had decided to escape to the only country without an army), he thought he was Michael Jackson:
I know, pretty lame headline, right?
Today I had my first warm shower since I arrived. A short guy called Jorge arrived and fixed the electricity in the shower head so the heater worked. Here in Costa Rica, most showers heat the water directly in the shower head, and ours hadn't been working since I arrived last Thursday. So yeah, warm shower + new hair treatment + not outside in the rain = good hair day. Which was perfect because my UPEACE roomie Gayatri and I invited all the UPEACE students we "know" from Facebook to our place for a B.Y.O. party. We were somewhere between 10 and 15 people and we had a great time. Our house may not be smack in the middle of Ciudad Colón, but it's perfect for having a party: several comfortable couches, an icemaker in the fridge and lots of space. Tonight we met great people from Lebanon, Spain, USA, India/Italy, Denmark, Costa Rica and Kenya. Tomorrow, some of us will head to San José, the capital. To see the town and hopefully get me a lamp.
Friday I didn't really go grocery shopping. But today I thought I should check out the little convenience store five minutes from my house. So after I had been sitting in the living room with my laptop with something inane on the TV (that's right, I feel at home already), I decided to take a cold shower (since the shower head's built-in heater isn't fixed yet), shampoo my hair, put some anti-Jewish-genes-tropical-humidi-fro gunk in it and venture out. I made it to the store all right, and their selection of soaps and snacks was much larger than of any other group of products. After having picked up some Bimbo bread and some eggs in a bag, the sky opened. I have experienced tropic rain many times before, but having lived far from the Equator and having spent summers in the Middle East, the impact and wetness of every raindrop still impressed me. I would usually never admit to actively thinking of a Coldplay song, but as I walked home with my phone in a plastic bag in my pocket and my grocery bag getting heavier by the second, I couldn't help thinking of 'Every Teardrop is a Waterfall'. Welcome to the tropics.
My Year in Costa Rica
I'm studying an MA programme (Media, Peace and Conflict Studies) at the UN mandated University for Peace in Costa Rica 2011-12. This blog is about my experiences here, in and out of school.