Today, we went to the National Museum. As a group, we’d visited several other museums in Costa Rica and so I was interested to see how this one would stand out. The first thing I learned was that the building itself is historical. It used to be a fortress and was originally built as military barracks. There may even be bullets in the exterior walls! We got to walk around inside and see what all the different rooms used to be. We even saw the exact spot where the president had announced that Costa Rica would no longer have a military in 1948. I loved being able to see so much history from several different eras that this country has gone through all in one building. Next, we walked through different exhibitions about the native people who first lived in this area of Central America as well as some focused on the political evolution of the country. I found it all so interesting to see the different perspectives people had on Costa Rica and the way each opinion helped form the diverse country that it is today. After our time at the museum, we all walked across the street to a market for souvenir shopping. We were able to haggle with a few of the shop owners and buy some great things to take home. People got hammocks, mugs, and little trinkets with pura vida on the side. It was a lot of fun to wander through the different tents and practice my Spanish with the shop owners. Overall, it was a very good day and another one to remember in Costa Rica.
Doing service work here in Costa Rica has taught me about differences in cultures that I really never thought existed. Normally when one thinks of cultural differences you think of music, religion, clothes, etc. but today I noticed they run food banks differently too. To be fair there is also only one food back in all of Costa Rica so this is the only place that can be compared to America. But when we arrived half of us were directed to take inventory and half to clean a warehouse. I was part of the warehouse group and proceeded to take a few hours pushing water around on the floor of a warehouse trying to get it to go down a very tiny drain. To us this method of cleaning seemed really slow and inefficient while to the Costa Ricans there it seemed as though that was the best way it could be done. I think we felt this difference because in America everything has to be fast and immediate and if it’s not we try to change it so that it is. So I found it interesting to note that while we found that the process was taking forever they seemed to think it was right on track. To me this taught me that cultural differences can be anywhere including things that are in another country. Just because food banks are run one way in America doesn’t mean it is run the same in Costa Rica.
Today was amazing! It was our first full day at Arenal Hot Springs. I spent the morning lying by the pool relaxing and catching some sunrays to show off when I get back home to winter. In addition to working on my tan, I went back and forth between the naturally warm pool and a cold-water area to cool off. Everything was pretty excellent. Around noon, we walked down to the dining area and got to eat tons of delicious food! Then, our driver offered to take us to a waterfall in the middle of a mountain. About half of us decided to go. As we drove from the hotel to the park, we got an amazing and rare view of the volcano. It was completely clear from top to bottom with no clouds covering the summit. We snapped a few pictures to remember the beauty of it. Once we got there, we walked down along a rough trail through the beautiful forest and to the waterfall. When we finally arrived, we set our things down then cautiously worked our way across the precarious and slippery rocks. It brought back some memories of type two fun maneuvering boulder fields during NOLS. We reached the edge of the water and slowly began to lower ourselves in. It was cold, especially in comparison to the hot springs we’d just been enjoying, but we all got in. The natural waves and power of the waterfall gently kept us towards the outer area of the pool. For a while we just floated along and played in the water, taking pictures and trying to balance on rocks. It was so fun and relaxing. Then we got out and took more pictures of the stunning waterfall. I felt so lucky I got to experience two very different yet equally amazing places in Costa Rica within a few hours of each other. It reminded me of how diverse the small country is and how unique the natural beauty is.
It’s finally Thanksgiving weekend here in Costa Rica. Man it’s weird to look back and see how we got this far but now it’s time to sit back and relax before finals. It has been so much fun traveling growing along with my group. I have personally had so many eye-opening experiences and grown as a person. I can only think as I have thanksgiving with the Gap group how thankful I am for them and this program. If I could, I would do it all again, Gap Semester for life!!