Sunday, March 15, 2015

The Journey Begins

Hannah Ray Lambert

Last night I left the Portland rain for my first non-North American international experience. I arrived in Costa Rica approximately eight hours later, where it was 80 degrees and sunny.

Not a bad way to start spring break.

Travel-wise, I consider myself very lucky. Everything went as smoothly as I could have hoped, especially considering the temporary closure of the San Jose airport Thursday following the Turrialba volcano’s most powerful eruption in 20 years. The volcano spewed ash that reached areas approximately 30 miles away. I'm extremely grateful the eruption did not interfere with my flight.

Fast forward a few hours and here I am in Cedros with fellow Murrow student Selena Alvarado. We are staying the night with our host family, la familia Marchena. Our room has a balcony overlooking the bustling street below. Bikes and buses roar past and cars honk frequently. 

The people have been wonderful and my basic knowledge of Spanish has already come in quite useful since no one here speaks much English. A friendly neighbor gave us a tour of the local “naturaleza” or “environment,” showing us the mango and plantain trees that will bear fruit in the summer.

Our host mother even showed me some remnants of the ash that settled on our balcony. She ran a finger over the glass table, showing me how it was still coated with gray dust.

I have already been surprised by both the cultural similarities (for example, in the taxi to our host family, the radio blasted AC/DC. We also passed a Lenovo billboard bearing Ashton Kutcher’s face, and Coca Cola signs are plentiful) and differences.

One of the differences in Costa Rica that really astounds me is the sheer amount of fences. Fences line the sides of nearly every road, only ending where another begins. Most are topped with circles of barbed wire or even razor wire. The homes in Cedros are all behind gates, also frequently crowned with wire.
The rules of the road also surprised me, mainly because there don't seem to be many. Pedestrians cut through traffic to cross the road – our driver passed two girls waiting on the middle, yellow stripe of a four-lane road. Cars park half on the side of the road and half on sidewalks. A merchant had set up a small stand that took up a good portion of one lane. I’m not sure if blinkers are part of the driving lexicon either. We made it without any accidents, though.

I was fascinated by the amount of graffiti. All the metal fences and walls provide a virtually unlimited canvas to graffiti artists. Leaving the airport, I stared out at the pictures splashed across the landscape. There were some words, but also cartoons and portraits. In Cedros, the artists seem to favor letters.

Tomorrow, we leave at 6 a.m. for our orientation with the Osa sea turtle project. After an day-long bus ride, we will arrive in Playa Blanca to report on and help with efforts to preserve sea turtles.

Hasta la pr├│xima! 

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