I hope everything is going well. I know it has been a while since I have updated so I will fill you in on a few things that have happened. Mid-December, on the first day of Chanukah, Tico’s kicked off the Holiday season with a parade through the middle of San Jose, creative floats and all. Lights began to appear on some houses and the municipality of San Jose decked out all of the walkway-overpasses and parks to reflect the holiday spirit. Some other big cities joined in on the fun and decorated a large tree or central park.
My town is small and doesn’t have a municipality, mearly a Development Association, with a role similar to a town council in the states. The main Catholic church was able to organize an impressive “winter concert” (in 75 degree weather) where they transported and housed an entire orchestra and choir. The concert was awesome- not because could be compared to the Wang Center of Boston or because they played famouse pieces, but because they were able to bring something new and culturally different to the people here. For many of the residents here this was their first time experiencing a live orchestra.
In order to experience a live orchestra here in Costa Rica, you have to 1. travel to San Jose (from my site it is 6 hrs and $7 one way) then 2. pay for the presentation or be lucky enough to see a live public performance during some sort of holiday and 3. find lodging- because the trip is so long and buses are scarce, you can not go, see a concert, and get home all in the same day. The two main obstacles in this situation are money and time, because, for many families, job oportunities are rare and are not turned down when they are available. Also, a large percentage of the town has low education levels, directly resulting in the low salaries.
As for X-mas/my B-day? Well, I took my first vacation, aka, more than 2 nights out of my site. I went to San Jose and stayed with my training host family. It was a really nice low-key couple of days. The volunteer from the previous group also came to visit for a couple of days with her parents and sister. We ended up doing a good amount of translating for her parents, haha. On the 23rd we started the process of making tomales: hike up to the top of a mountain to chop down huge banana leaves, smoke them over a fire (to make them more pliable), zip the leaves off of the branch with a machete, fold up the pieces and lug them down the mountain in a large sack. ::Step 1:: haha ;o)
On the 24th I bet you can guess what we did, yes, we did the whole process of making tomales, and yes it is a 2-day process, and yes, I have tons of pictures and videos so I am compiling them in to a video so you all can enjoy the lengthy process of tomale making :o)
After a morning and afternoon of hard work making tomales, the evening of the 24th was fun filled and low-key. With threats of a full-on-egging by my host aunt and cousin, I was a bit on edge, but it worked out all-right. I convinced them that this tradition of theirs could not possibly start before it was my actual birthday and they complied: the egg-bath could wait until it was officially midnight. It was only then that I was fully able to relax, and with 5 minutes to midnight, I hid the basket of over 30 eggs. Muah haha ha. No egg-bath for me! It was not until 12:10 that my host aunt realized that the eggs were missing. Sitting calmly on the sofa, I watched her scour the kitchen for the basket. Don’t worry, I made sure to put on the most inoccent face I could muster. Good thing she didn’t ask ME where they were, I don’t think I could have kept that face for long :oD
The next morning, eggs still safely hidden, I asked my host mother if she was planning on using the eggs for breakfast. Her answer was no- thank goodness for breakfast tomales haha! Well, we did make 350 packets of 2… so there were plenty of tomales to be eaten! So they eggs stayed safely hidden after this exchange with my host mom:
Me: So, are we going to need the eggs at any point today?
Aracelly: Well, no, why?
Me: Because I have the eggs hidden and I am trying to figure out if I should keep them hidden.
Me: So basically, I will only take the eggs out of hiding if you can promise me that they will not end up on my head.
Aracelly: Well, I can’t promise you that someone in the house will not use them against you.
Me: Ok, so eggs will stay hidden today :oP haha
The day continued with threats of many yolks covering my body but I somehow managed to avoid the disaster. I made deals: raced a small did in a short sprint, traded “eggs” for “punches” (in the shoulder, in true Dan and Matt form) and made promises of baking delicious cakes. In the end, I was not egged. Phew! Sorry mum and dad, no messy pictures this time.
After spending another day hanging out with my host family and picking some coffee, I parted ways and met up with a fellow volunteer and a couple of her friends that had just flown in from the states. We spent the next couple of days being touristy and american and it was a nice little break from the norm. We spoke english, laughed till our sides hurt and danced up a storm. The next we went white water rafting and rowed till our arms hurt and, again, laughed till our sides hurt. All-in-all it was quite a good time and a nice little vaca.
I headed home the next day on a 5hr bus ride sans seat then another hour ride before I finally made it home, tired and sick- and sick and tired of the distance. It seems as though I picked up a little something while I was in the (now) chilly San Jose. I slept a total of 25 hours in the next 2 days to kick the cold but no regrets here! That was the first time I have been sick since I have been here- not bad I’d say. Thanks for the good immune system mum! All those dirt-pies we made as kids have paid off. Haha, jk
As for New Years eve, I spent that with my family here- at my host mother’s brother’s house. We did a BBQ and just hung out. I provided the sweets with some home-made hot fudge sauce + ice cream + fresh strawberries. Yum! We kicked off the New Year with 12 grapes for each person (one for each month of the year) and made a wish for each grape that we ate.
To everyone reading this, I hope that you all had a wonderful holiday season and a happy New Years! I will be kicking off the New Year with a new cell phone!!! Well, not exactly a new phone, but a new line, so now I can be reached 24/7… or as long as I have service. Contact me or my family to get the new number.
I hope all is going well with everyone. Let me know whats going on (but please sign your name if you leave me a message here).
Take care all!!!