In my previous trips with ISA to Costa Rica, I took Spanish classes. Now that I have finished my degree in Spanish, I am doing Service Learning. I work at the Hospital de Mujeres, a national public hospital that provides comprehensive medical care for women, including prenatal care, surgical services and a clinic for breast cancer rehabilitation. I will write more later about my work at the hospital, but each day my walk there is filled with unexpected surprises.
From my house, the walk takes about thirty minutes. Sometimes I stop at the local tortillería, a place that serves Costa Rican pancakes and coffee brewed the traditional way from a wooden chorreador.
After walking along tree-lined streets with little, colorful houses, I come to a small, triangle-shaped park with cut-out metal artwork. Looking through these metal figures of children playing you can see everyday life in San José: young men riding motorcycles, women shopping, children in uniforms going to school and mountains in the distance framing every scene.
Not far away is the local fire station, which is well-decorated in September to celebrate Costa Rica’s independence. Throughout the month, you will see national flags and the colors red, white and blue everywhere. As always, the bomberos, or firemen, say, “Buenas” (an informal way to say hello) as I pass by. I always cut through Plaza Viquez, with its swimming pools and play grounds. Today, skateboarders were all too happy to practice English with me and show me some of their stunts.
This leads me to a huge, brown building, about two blocks long, the Liceo de Costa Rica, which was the country’s first high school. As in the past, the school is only for boys. Many of Costa Rica’s early leaders were graduates of this school. There was another high school for girls, and the long street connecting the two schools, that also goes through Barrio China (Chinatown), was commonly known as the “El Paseo de los Estudiantes” (walk of the students). This is because boys from El Liceo traversed this street to the other school to meet girls.
Street artists are prolific in San José. Murals and graffiti are everywhere on my way to work. One mural has caught my eye for several days. In colors of grey, blue and purple, it features a man’s face, and is labelled “Juanito”. My host family tells me this is a mural of Juan Rafael Mora Porra, who was president in the 19th century and is a national hero.
Most artwork, however, is light-hearted and reflects the pura vida lifestyle.
The world awaits…..discover it!