KWC in Costa Rica
During the 2012 Winter Term (January 3-19), Dr. Arcea Zapata de Aston is teaching a travel class called Language, Culture and Diversity in Costa Rica. Three students are taking the class; they met for a week on campus before leaving on January 8 for 10 days in Costa Rica. The group will post daily updates for the KWC blog, including photos and videos, while in Costa Rica. This page will be an aggregate of all their posts, beginning at the top. You can also see a full photo gallery from the trip online (click “recent albums” to see day-by-day photos).
Meet the students:
Collin MacQuarrie is a senior from Owensboro, Ky, majoring in Music Industry and minoring in Spanish. He is involved in the KWC band and in CROSS.
Katie Scheck is a sophmore from Greenwich, CT, earning a double major in Zoology and Communications. She is a member of the Kentucky Wesleyan Singers, Kappa Delta Sorority and the Sierra Club.
Alexander Aston Zapata is a sophomore from Iowa City, IA, earning a double major in Computer Information Science and Vocal Performance. He is a member of the Kentucky Wesleyan Singers, Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity and the KWC band.
Well…. Sunday was hectic, to put it nicely. First there was the packing, and the checking, then the going out and buying things you forgot to get, followed by the double checking…meanwhile all the time you are thinking to yourself, “This can’t be real.”
After an 18-hour traveling experience, we arrived in Costa Rica. It didn’t seem real. “Era como un sueño. Que bonita, que hermosa, que refrescante! Hotel Robledal es magnifico! Me encanta este lugar!” The architecture is beautiful, along with the laid-back layout of the property. The bright yellow walls and rustic dark wooden doors complement the excitement of Costa Rica and the tropical nature.
When we arrived at the hotel, I fell in love. It is the best hotel I have ever stayed at, not because it has a huge screen TV and all these different amenities that make hotels expensive, but because of how plain and elegant it is. They allow you to take yourself out of your room and into the world.
Beautiful trees and plants surround us. My favorite was a tree called a trumpet tree. This is because it is very straight, yet hollow. The ants use this as their “hotel,” but what’s truly amazing is to see the ants protect the tree. One helps the other, giving you a real idea of how we should work as humans to find that balance as well.
Thus began what we knew would be a long, exhilarating, fun trip.
Today was an early morning. Undoubtedly, we all slept well — we hardly got any sleep on the road or in the air yesterday.
We all agreed to meet at 7 a.m. for breakfast. The Costa Rican breakfast is surprisingly nutrition based. Laid out across the counter were pitchers of farm fresh milk (we later discovered it gets delivered everyday), fresh fruit juice and hot Costa Rican coffee, along with cut-up papaya, pineapple and watermelon. Also offered to us was a plate of eggs, rice and beans (called gallo pinto) with a piece of cheese.
El Volcan Poas was to be our first attraction. Emmanuel, our guide for the entire trip, mentioned that it might be a bit chilly on El Volcan Poas. Who would have thought it would be cold around a volcano? Needless to say, I wish I would have known how cold it would be 8,000 feet above sea level! But, I prayed that the Lord would keep me and I wouldn’t become too cold, and that’s the way it worked out.
The view from the top was absolutely surreal; we were eye to eye with clouds! Below was a turquoise acidic stew of water, ash and sulfur. As we continued our tour of the Poas Volcano, we came across a lagoon made solely from rain deposit yet heated by the volcano itself. That was breathtaking to see.
Later, we visited a coffee plantation, which was very interesting and cool. We got to learn about the process of how a seed starts by hanging off a tree – yes, a tree. There are misconceptions that coffee is a plant of some sort, but it’s actually more like a tree with tiny little seeds (coffee beans) hanging off.
The process of making coffee and comparing the plant to the finished product is quite interesting. Apparently, they pick only the reddest seeds to be exported, making those their primary exports. The Costa Ricans drink secondary and tertiary coffee seeds. A cool surprise was to try the coffee beans in their primary form and the “meat” around the bean. You’d never guess that it’s sweet! Verrrryyyy delicious …
Alex: Today we moved hotels once again to the Tirimbina Lodge and Biological Reserve. This hotel is inside of the rain forest. There are even more plants and animals than at Hotel Robledal. When we arrived, we got to walk in the rain forest and explore. We got to see birds, porcupines, monkeys, bats, and many different insects. We also got to walk across a suspended hanging bridge.
Katie: TODAY I FACED A FEAR! Not going to lie, when I heard the words “rope bridge” two days ago, I thought they were kidding. Well, turns out I was the one who was wrong. Right after arriving at our second hotel of the trip, Hotel Tirimbina, we dropped off our suitcases and headed out the door.
What did I come face to face with at the head of the trail? A “hanging bridge” – actually, it was made out of nothing but twisted metal wire and rusted laced metal sheets. I decided that I had to go. I had to try, if not for the class and opportunity to retell my experience, then for me, so that I can say that I, Katherine Elizabeth Scheck, walked high above trees and a rushing river.
Collin: Halfway across the bridge, I offered to have us all walk together, and I thought she was going to rip my bicep out, she was holding on so hard. Today I saw that fear is a very real thing, and it is something to be dealt with because you can’t just “get over it.”
Katie: Tomorrow holds in store more adventures in the beautiful escape that is Costa Rica. Buenas noches!
Collin: We walked and walked and walked, endlessly it seemed, but the rewards were great. We saw two birds nested on a branch, a very rare bird from the order of turkeys, many vultures and quite a few insects. Also, we went down by the river and Emmanuel, always with his surprises, showed us how to make “collectibles” from paw prints in the sand. He took flour and water and mixed it together. Then, he placed the mixture on top of the paw print. Later, as it hardened, it took the form of the print, so we were able to see very closely the prints of the certain animal in the region.
Katie: Unbeknownst to us we had spent four hours hiking! I never imagined I could lose track of time so easily, but we quickly got lost in the beauty of the surroundings. As we hiked back towards Tirimbina, something small caught my eye – a tiny movement, which could have merely been a leaf blown off the trail by Emmanuel’s foot. I stopped and stared. No bigger than the size of a quarter, a brown frog had leaped onto a curled brown leaf. ACCOMPLISHMENT! I spotted a tiny frog. *brownie points*
Collin: After our long walk and before dinner, I spent about an hour sitting outside on our porch watching the birds. I saw, and heard, a large amount of Montezuma Oropendolas, a few Golden-hooded Tanagers and another black-throated Trogon. It was so awesome it left me speechless. Sitting on your back porch and watching beautiful birds with a cool breeze is paradise.
Alex: Everyday now I see myself thinking more and more about how much importance nature has and how big of a role it plays in the formation of the world. I think that we as Americans – and as humans – need to be more aware and respect our ecosystem a bit more than we do at the moment.
Collin: Day Five has been a good – and busy – day. After breakfast, Emmanuel (our guide) and I walked to a beautiful place that we hadn’t gone before and yet again, he spotted some birds. I love this guy. Later, it turns out that someone from Owensboro was staying at the same hotel as us! What a small world.
Katie: People here in Costa Rica grow and sell various fruits and vegetable along the side of the street as a source of income. Emmanuel pulled over on our way to the Ecocentro Danaus & Arenal base, maybe it was to stretch our legs or maybe it was because we all need a moment away from feeling like sardines the “turismo” van. Haha. The mango was absolutely delicious, and since my stomach was still not feeling better, Professor Zapata suggested that I drink some Coconut milk … ewwwwww. If I could make a list of foods/beverages I do not like, coconut would be on top … right under pickles.
Collin: I, on the other hand, enjoyed the coconut water along with Dr. Zapata.
Alex: We then stopped at Ecocenter Daus. This was a piece of land that the farmers preserved and let grow out so that the surrounding animals and vegetation had a refuge.
Katie: At the Centro, I got the chance to see this amazing creature that was half pig, half squirrel!!!! A Central American Agouti is its proper name.
Alex: After we moved in to the La Pradera hotel, we went out to a local restaurant downtown and had a good meal with lots of laughs, with ice cream afterwards.
Collin: We had all decided to do the Puentes Colgantes (hanging bridges) porque Katie decided she was okay with crossing them. The bridges, along with trails between them, make one long trail around the Arenal Volcano Park. They are really neat to walk on because they allow you to have the opportunity to see animals and plants that are only seen at high altitudes. We were all impressed that Katie finished them all.
Katie: I am proud of myself. Thanks to Alex – I would have given up and never finished all 15 bridges without his encouraging words, helping hand, and strong-willed patience, but now I can say I did something with my life. I did it!
Alex: I understand why the Costa Ricans have the saying “Pura Vida,” which means pure life. It is the perfect expression for such a beautiful and magnificent place like Costa Rica.
Katie: As we started pulling onto an old gravel and dirt road, the ideas of a fresh bed, and the day at the beach slid from my mind. For some reason I spaced during the conversation where it was mentioned we were going on a river tour. Pero no es una problema. Pura Vida … Then I really kept noticing more of the conversation I had missed out on, when finding countless local signs like “PELIGROSO” y “Crocodile Man Ahead.” Apparently this was not merely a river tour of a local delta (where the sea meets a river) on the way to the coast. We were about to tour a river well know for its variety of birds … and crocodiles of course.
Alex: Today we went on a crocodile safari boat expedition. It was so much fun. Later in the night, we got to go to a local festival here in Jaco where the whole town comes out and sells food and has karaoke and celebrates. That was very fun of course.
Then, there is a very special tradition that we got to see firsthand. They have bull riding and fights. The night we went, they only had bull rides, but gosh was it amazing. People from the community would be around the ring to distract the bull after the rider got off or was thrown off. It was really cool to be a part of the community like that.
Collin: After a four-hour drive to the river tour, we were all a bit worse for wear. But, the moment we began the tour, I perked up and began to have life again. There were birds everywhere! Sandpipers, egrets, and I can’t believe I saw a scarlet macaw. I had really wanted to see a scarlet macaw and the Lord granted me my wish. Birds aside, we saw crocodiles too. The highlight of the crocodile aspect was when we got within arms length of a huge crocodile, sleeping in the water. It was a bit scary and I kept wondering, “How close are we going to get?” The scenery was also very beautiful – clear skies, bright sun and beautiful mountains.
Later, Emmanuel and I went to the Catholic Mass. I was a bit scared and/or nervous because not only was the mass in Spanish, not only was I not Catholic, but it was the first time I had ever been to a Catholic mass!
I enjoyed the message and it was funny that I understood so much of what was going on. The scripture readings were from 1 Samuel and 1 Corinthians. The fact that I recognized them is something else in itself. Emmanuel was very kind in allowing me to attend with him. The message was about having a personal experience with God, how he will call you and it is up to you to answer yes or no, and he will respect your decision, and also how we need to make time for him because only going to church isn’t enough. I enjoyed the message and I enjoyed the service as well.
Katie: I can’t accept this moment. I honestly never realized how much I miss la playa. Esto es increible. Pensaba en el coche cuando Emmauel nos llevo a las mansiones. He vivido cerca de la playa toda mi vida. Yo solía decir que pertenezco al mar. Ahora me doy cuenta que esto es todavía verdad.
It makes me cry to think of being landlocked. I see now how similar all costal people are. I see the resemblance between Alex, his mom and me. They are loud, vibrant, vivacious, and I am the same. (Not that Collin is not – we are all just more vocal about it. Like Professor Zapata was saying the morning of Day 3, the Colombians of Barranquilla are wild in a sense that they are visually more carefree and easygoing, while the Colombians of Bogota remain more conservative in their demeanor. They all express the same exuberance for life, just in different ways.) They love life and thrive off they energy it feeds.
Earlier I mentioned to Professor Zapata that I have always wanted my third language to be Hawaiian (natural true original Hawaiian). I can see why – they have the same beliefs and manner. They believe there is a connection to everything around them, “A sense of being one with all of creation, being one with the ocean, being one with the heavens … there’s a feeling of completeness.” – Anona Napoleon (a famous 60 year old Native surfer)
Alex: We also got to see the mansions of Costa Rica. This area is where all the sport fishing occurs. The houses are very similar to the mansions of the U.S., but with a tropical design to them. We even got to see the mansion of the richest man in Costa Rica – it was on top of a mountain with the best view of the ocean. A helicopter would fly up the mountainside and fly him back down to take him down to lunch. The view is magnificent. The ironic part is that the man is blind.
Collin: Emmanuel took us to a few cliff viewpoints with stunning views. Also, I was blown away when at one viewpoint, there were FOUR scarlet Macaws in one tree. Two of them were playing upside down, playfully. It was too cute. It was like an airplane show (Dr. Zapata).
One thing that really encouraged me is that we met a guy from Lakeland, Florida. His name is Charlie Reid and he is a Christ-Follower. As a Christian, I know that when anyone says that, they are a REAL Christian. I prayed with him and it was so awesome to know that no matter where you go in the world, there are believers and there is light in the darkness.
Collin: Today is the second-to-last day. I hate saying it like that because it means this trip is coming to a close, but I couldn’t have had a better day. We have gone to many parques nacionales y la naturaleza on the trip and it has become better and better each time, parece.
Today was no exception as we visited the park ranked fifth best en todo el mundo! It was stunning and probably one of the most beautiful places that I’ve ever seen. I was a bit skeptical at first, but when we got to the beach, the water was the clearest, bluest and most pleasant that I’ve ever experienced. It is serene in every possible sense of the word. The sand was white and clean and a pleasant breeze accented the already beautiful day. I couldn’t have asked for more.
Katie: Miguel Antonio National Park was a rainforest which overlapped with some costal areas, creating beaches within. The beauty was surreal, and evoked an ideal of a hidden escape where time is limitless.
As we were about to leave, Emmanuel walked us over to the far end of the beach, where a family of white-faced capuchin monkeys had been spotted. We all stared in amazement at how accustomed to people they had become — they were within arm’s reach.
While we snapped shots of the hypnotizing creatures, Emmanuel mentioned that the local wildlife had become notorious for snatching human items in search of food. No sooner had the words left his mouth than a medium-sized male capuchin leaped off a branch to the beach and began rifling through an abandoned backpack. A man had realized what happened, but it was too late. The monkey had made off with something.
To the left of me I heard a comment … “I think he took your lipstick, wouldn’t it be funny if he started smearing it on his face? Hahaha.” I got upset and snapped, “NO! It would not be funny! He could die!” Professor Zapata overheard me, and peeved as well, repeated my comment to her. Honestly, it made me so happy that she did that for me! I walked away after that.
I made it halfway across the beach when I saw a pack of five raccoons attempting to steal a backpack, so I treated them like the 5-year olds I worked with. My conversation with the raccoons went something like this: “HEY! Yeah you, get out of there! (The raccoons turned and stared.) You heard me! Now move! (They scattered down the beach, and paused.) I didn’t say stop, keep moving. Go back across the trail!” As they glanced back one more time, I was given the dirtiest look I have ever seen. First of all, I didn’t know raccoons had attitudes, but these guys were aggressive. Second, I was glad they listened to me! Who knew Costa Rican animals can understand English? :P
Alex: After an amazing day at the park and beach, we went to eat hotdogs. You are probably wondering why we wouldn’t get typical Costa Rican food, but the hotdogs of Costa Rica are very different from the hotdogs you normally think of. These dogs are very long – about seven to nine inches. The thing that sets them apart from American hotdogs is the condiments. In Costa Rica, they dress their dog as if it were a salad or a main meal, with toppings like ground beef, lettuce, relish, pickles, onions, pina sauce, potato chips, beans, ketchup, mustard, honey mustard, barbecue sauce, cheese, mushrooms, mayonnaise, pizza sauce, oregano and cucumbers. This is why I love the hotdogs of Central and South America – they are actually a meal. It was very cool to see the reactions of Katie and Collin, as they had never had one before. I have eaten them before in Colombia.
Alex: Today I got to meet a person who is very important to my mother. This man was a teacher to my mother since before I was born. This is the first time he has seen me since I was one, so this is my first memory of him. He is old now and sits in a wheelchair. He isn’t frail, but his body looks worn. But he is as young as ever in the mind. That is the way he put it, that you must never grow old in the brain, for if you do that, you die.
Alfonso Chase is an incredibly smart man. He is a writer, and to me, he is the definition of an intellect. He is a renaissance man. His walls are lined with books and artwork and cds and more books and records and more art. The man has treasures from all over the word, and he could tell you in explicit detail about every single one of them – where he got it, when, why, everything.
We got the privilege to interview him and ask him whatever we wanted. I wanted to know a little more about his profession, so I asked about what he wrote. We stayed awhile as we talked about the world and Costa Rica. He was such a joy to listen to. All I did was learn – I listened and learned. Every word that came out of his mouth was a learning opportunity. I really wish we could have spent more time talking to him. I would have never tired of listening to what he had to say. I hope to be able to meet him again and spend more time with him. He is also such a generous person. Not only did he give us intelligence, but he also gave us each a statue of a soldier, a record that was passed down to him by his father and a signed book.
Part I of our interview with him … in Spanish:
Katie: Alfonso Chase is one of the most interesting men I have ever met in my life. Not only was he intelligent beyond compare, but he was also extraordinarily intuitive and perceptive. Every time he looked at you it felt as though he was reading your life story … as if it was written across your face, body and clothes. It felt as though in those minutes, he was listening to every secret you have never told. With every meeting of your eyes, he was agreeing with every opinion you have ever had or answering every question you dared not to ask.
At one point in the conversation, Alfonso mentioned family lineage and knowing your ancestors. I wanted to interject and impulsively mention my relation to the McCulloch Castle in Scotland and my distant relative, Miles Standish. I never got the chance to. Although, just before we were about to leave he gave each of us gifts … one record from his personal collection (given to him by his father), a metal solider from his collection and one of his books. Of course the literature, which caught my eye, was a collection of fables. As I watched over his shoulder, he addressed a note to me, on the inside cover. I hadn’t the time to read anything more than the misspelling of my name, before he had finished and snapped the book closed. Once in the “turismo” van, I snuck a peak at what this brilliant man had written. “Mil anos en la sangre fuerte, Alfonso”. Like I had mentioned, I had only the desire to tell him my heritage, I did NOT actually get the chance to say what I had wanted. #awestruck&stunned
One particular comment he made I know will stick with me. He said (paraphrasing here) all young (aka naïve and inexperienced) poets write about love, and that only time will evolve their minds to write about actual issues. If I had the opportunity to talk with him again, I would disagree. I believe yes, all young poets may begin with love and the desire to obtain it, but as they mature and go through life, their ideas and beliefs change. They tend to focus more on different aspects such as loss of love, long-lasting love, variations of love, necessity of love for partners, people, countries, environment, etc. I would appreciate and respect a person who writes poems of war and politics and other topics of that nature, but I disagree Alfonso. Love is not merely a topic for the green to write about, but an ever-changing experience.
Part II of our interview with him … in Spanish:
Collin: He was quite generous and gave us a record of our choice, a small figurine and a publication of his to choose from. I enjoyed the time relaxing with him.
Check out a few short videos of fun moments from our trip:
Birds in the City (listen to the sounds)