Language is the blood of the soul into which thoughts run and out of which they grow.
‒Oliver Wendell Holmes
And just like that, five weeks is over.  Don't let the fun photos fool you - these guys worked hard!  I am so proud of them for immersing themselves in a new culture and pushing themselves personally and academically.  They were an amazing group of students and I enjoyed spending the last five weeks with them!

For our final excursion, the group attended a Farewell Dinner held on Wednesday at Ram Luna, a really cool restaurant in the mountains, with a view of San José and the surrounding towns of Alajuela and Cartago.  The buffet had all of our favorite typical foods and afterwards we enjoyed a dance performance.  The dancers wore beautiful costumes and performed some folkloric dances to live music, then asked some of our group to join in!  The evening closed with some fireworks.  Thursday was the last day of classes for some of the students and then it was time to pack their things for Friday.  When I asked the students to share their Costa Rican Goodbyes, Sarah graciously provided this:
There is a lot I'm saying goodbye to, sadly. Costa Rica has been one of the best experiences of my life and with a great group of friends. I am saying goodbye to some of the best food I have ever had, olafos (from Bufalos) as well as the relaxed lifestyle. I think the main thing I am going to miss are the people; Ticos really are some of the nicest people I have met. 

*One thing I will be gladly saying goodbye to is throwing toilet paper in the trashcan :)

I'm going to guess that everyone will miss their families, as they were all so inviting and kind to our students.  Michael 1 will probably miss the food. Kyle will miss the beauty of Costa Rica.  Michael 2 will miss the English Conversation Club we started.  All will miss the experience, but carry amazing memories with them.  And on Facebook.  I saw most of them off this morning and by now (8:51 pm) they are ready to make the final journey to North Carolina.  Pura Vida.  Peace Out.
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Sorry this is a little late. The final weekend included an excursion to Manuel Antonio, on the west coast of Costa Rica.  We started on Friday morning, around 9:30 and drove to about 4 hours.  On the way we stopped at a place where we saw tons of crocodiles!  We stopped for lunch in Quepos, which is quite the typical beach town, except that it is in the mountains (think Boone mixed with Wilmington...).  From there we went to our wonderful hotel, Plaza Yara, where everyone was disappointed in the size of their rooms.  Just kidding, they were huge!!  From the balcony some of us watched a sloth climb down a tree and back up again.  He seemed to be in a hurry, moving in a very un-slothlike manner!
On Saturday we were up bright and early to go to the National Park, which includes a beautiful beach.  We hiked up the small mountain to reach the beach, where about half the group immediately settled in and the other half hiked a few trails.  We all ended up back on the beach and enjoyed watching Miguel, Lauren, and Blake swim to the rocks and back.  We also had a good time watching the raccoon try to steal everyone's bags.  We saw white-faced monkeys and a sloth, so all was complete in our animal watching.  We were really lucky that the day ended up being beautiful and rain free!

After a brief rest at the hotel, we headed out again for a sunset tour on a catamaran.  It was a large boat!  There was music, dancing, and food.  We also got to see several dolphins jumping in the water!  The catamaran made a stop where some of us snorkeled, and many jumped from the top of the boat into the water - about 20 feet high!  We saw the sun set in the sky and arrived back to Manuel Antonio exhausted, but happy.  For dinner, we went to the Barba Roja and heard some live music, ate some wings, and a yummy mud pie dessert.  On Sunday we had a lazy day; many slept in, some went back to the beach.  We left Manuel Antonio around 12:00 and got back to a rainy San José around 4:00.
As an outreach program, our director (Karen) visited some English classes at UCR.  On Monday, she went to a class where they had been reading about bullying.  The students shared their thoughts, and then Karen put them in small groups where they had to read a fact about bullying and respond to it.  The students did very well, given that they only had about 3 years of English study.  On Tuesday and Thursday she held an English Conversation Club, where she shared information about English pronunciation around the country, based on the recent study by NCSU PhD student Joshua Katz (

On Thursday, several students joined Karen to help with the Conversation Club and there was a shared linguistic dialogue between English and Spanish, with each student practicing their respective languages.  The Costa Rican students helped our NCSU ones with their Spanish idioms, and we reciprocated with English ones.  Michael 1 was saying something about telling a joke, and he used the word "chiste" but was misunderstood by the Costa Rican students, who thought he was saying "cheesecake" and couldn't figure out the context!  It was a fun time, and a great way to connect across languages.


Today's Guest Blogger is Malia Williams.

This past weekend, those of us that went to Puerto Viejo left on Saturday. Originally we were going to leave at 6 in the morning, but saw no need to rush so we left at 10 instead. The bus ride was 4 hours long, so we arrived in Puerto Viejo at 2 and immediately checked into our hotel. We stayed at the Coconut Grove Hotel which was the cutest little place! Pat and I shared a room and Jenna and Lauren shared a room. After we got settled in, we walked around to the beach which was right across the street. We went to eat at this little restaurant, and chatted. After eating, we went to the little shops where they had souvenirs, post cards, clothes, etc. At one point, there were all these little bugs flying around, it was pretty clear who was visiting the area and who was from there;  everyone who was visiting was freaked out by them. A few hours later, we went to a bar called “The Lazy Mon” and Jenna and I had a few drinks and chatted with Patricia and Lauren. After that, we went back to the hotel and went to bed. The next morning, we ate breakfast before leaving and bought our tickets to come back to San José.

Este fin de semana pasado, aquellos de nosotros que fuimos a Puerto Viejo dejó el sábado. Originalmente íbamos a salir a las 6 de la mañana, pero no vimos ninguna necesidad de apresurarse, así que nos fuimos a las 10 en su lugar. El viaje en autobús fue de 4 horas de duración, por lo que llegó a Puerto Viejo a 2 y de inmediato se registró en el hotel. Nos alojamos en el Hotel Coconut Grove, que era el pequeño lugar más lindo! Pat y yo compartimos una habitación y Jenna Lauren y compartimos una habitación. Después de que nos acomodamos, nos dimos una vuelta por la playa, que estaba justo al cruzar la calle. Fuimos a comer en este pequeño restaurante, y charlamos. Después de comer, fuimos a las pequeñas tiendas donde tenían recuerdos, postales, ropa, etc En un momento dado, hubo todos estos pequeños insectos que vuelan alrededor, estaba bastante claro que estaba de visita en la zona y que fue a partir de ahí, todo el mundo que estaba de visita estaba aterrada por ellos. Unas horas más tarde, nos fuimos a un bar llamado  “The Lazy Mon” y Jenna y yo tomamos algunos bebidos y conversó con Patricia y Lauren. Después de eso, volvimos al hotel y nos fuimos a la cama. A la mañana siguiente nos tomamos el desayuno antes de salir a comprar los billetes para regresar a San José.

Today´s post is a photo montage from the students about things they have seen or experienced that feel uniquely Costa Rican, or summarize their experience here in Costa Rica.  Enjoy!

Today's Guest Blogger is Blake Shifflett

This weekend was our free weekend, and we were able to choose where we wanted to go.  We split up into two groups based on our interests. My group decided to go to Jaco Beach because we wanted to try surfing and the other group decided to go to Puerto Viejo because they wanted to experience the Caribbean side of Costa Rica. Friday morning we caught the public bus at the Coca Cola bus station in San Jose and arrived in Jaco around 1:00. I got lost on the way there but luckily someone helped me find my way before the bus left. When we got settled into the hotel we decided to head to the beach to swim in the ocean and lay in the sand. That night we had spaghetti for dinner that Kyle made, and it was awesome. The next day we woke up early and Michael 2 took surf lessons. He learned the technique and rode a couple of waves all the way into the shore. The rest of the day we relaxed and swam in the pool. That night we went out to dinner to a restaurant on the main street in Jaco. When Sunday arrived, we were all tired and ready to head back to San Jose. It was a fun weekend, and it was nice to get away for a little bit.
Este fin de semana fue el fin de semana libre, y hemos sido capaces de elegir dónde queríamos ir. Nos dividimos en dos grupos en base a nuestros intereses. Mi grupo decidió ir a Playa Jacó porque queríamos probar el surf y el otro grupo decidió ir a Puerto Viejo porque querían experimentar el lado caribeño de Costa Rica. El viernes por la mañana recogimos el autobús en la estación de autobuses de Coca Cola en San José y llegamos a Jacó alrededor de la una. Me perdí en el camino, pero por suerte alguien me ayudó a encontrar mi camino antes de que el autobús saliera. Cuando nos instalamos en el hotel, decidimos ir a la playa a nadar en el océano y sentarnos en la arena. Esa noche tuvimos espaguetis para la cena que Kyle hizo, y fue increíble. Al día siguiente nos despertamos temprano y Miguel 2 tomó clases de surf. Aprendió la técnica y se fue un par de olas todo el camino hacia la orilla. El resto del día nos relajamos y nadamos en la piscina. Esa noche fuimos a cenar a un restaurante en la calle principal de Jacó. El domingo todos estábamos cansados y listos para regresar a San José. Fue un fin de semana divertido, y fue agradable escapar por un rato.

Last Thursday the Office of International Student Affairs hosted an International Lunch.  All foreign students were invited to bring a dish reflective of the culture.  Five countries were represented: Costa Rica, Germany, Colombia, Mexico and the United States.  The day started with some getting-to-know-you type games and then each country shared what dish they brought and how they prepared it.  Three of our students bought the ingredients for apple pie, which was paid for by the director (Karen).  What a surprise to find out they cost $32!!  A very expensive set of pies.  Michael 1 and Sarah met one day and carefully baked two pies from scratch, guessing at some of the amounts of ingredients due to not finding the measuring cups until afterwards.  No matter!  The pie was delicious and was a huge hit with the international crowd!  Other dishes included Mole from Mexico, potatoes from Germany, a soup from Colombia and a rice and chicken dish from Costa Rica.
El jueves pasado el departamento de la Movidad Estudiantil (OAICE) ofreció un almuerzo internacional para los estudiantes extranjeros. Todos fueron invitados a llevar un plato típico del país natal.  Estudiantes de cinco países participaron: Costa Rica, México, Alemania, Colombia y los Estados Unidos.  El día empezó con unos juegos para conocerse mejor cada una, y después los estudiantes presentaron sus platos: qué prepararon, cómo lo prepararon, etc.  Tres de nuestros estudiantes participaron y Miguel 1 y Sarah llevaron una tarta de manzanas, los ingredientes pagados por la directora (Karen).  Pero fue una sorpresa que todo costó $32!  Una tarta cara.  Miguel 1 y Sarah la hicieron el lunes, sin medir los ingredientes y de verdad era deliciosa!  Todos disfrutaron del día.  Otros platos incluyeron molé de México, papas de Alemania, arroz con pollo de Costa Rica, y sopa de Colombia.

Today's Guest Blogger is Lauren Hatchett

On Saturday, our group went to Fossil Land to discover “the spirit of the pterodactyl”. We left the university to start our journey around 8.   When we arrived at Fossil land, we met our guide, who called himself TomCruise Brad Pitt, was very, very excited about our mission. He was very optimistic, he told us probably 100 times that we were gonna die that day [Director's Note: just joking, of course]. We did drills to warm up and bond as a team, and then we headed to an area to get instructions on how to zip line properly.  There was a lot of yelling of "Du Du Mantanga" which we are pretty sure means, "Are you ready to die?!?!" After that, we zip lined! We went on a series of 5 zip lines (ranging from 100 meters to 400 meters long) and we also got to rappel off a 180ft cliff. After we finished zip lining, some of us did a Tarzan swing, which involved jumping off a platform and swinging wildly in the air, and some of us went down the water slide that makes you go 60 miles per hour. The day was filled with craziness and excitement and we all got to feel how it feels to fly through the mountains.
El sábado, el grupo se dirigió a la Tierra Fossil para descubrir "el espíritu de la tetradáctilo". Salimos de la universidad para iniciar nuestro viaje, alrededor de 8. Cuando llegamos a la tierra fósil, nos encontramos con nuestro guía que era muy, muy entusiasmados con nuestra misión. Él era muy optimista, nos dijo probablemente 100 veces que íbamos a morir que morir. Hicimos ejercicios para calentar y luego nos dirigimos a una zona donde obtener instrucciones sobre cómo tirolesa correctamente. Después de eso, zip bordeado ¡ Fuimos en una serie de 5 tirolezas y también llegamos a rappel por un acantilado 180 pies. Después de haber terminado tirolesa, algunos de nosotros hicimos un columpio de Tarzán y algunos de nosotros fuimos por el tobogán de agua que te hace ir 60 millas por hora. El día estuvo lleno de locura y emoción y todos nos dieron a sentir lo que se siente al volar a través de las montañas.
All government offices were closed today, including the University, due to a visit by the Chinese President.  Roads for the routes were shut down as the president and his wife visited various places here in San José.  So the students enjoyed an extra day off to complete all of the homework that they have!

Today's Guest Blogger is Pat Marshall.

Today was a “free day” so our larger group divided up into smaller clusters to engage in different activities of interest. The particular sub-group of which I (Pat) was a member visited the Museum de Oro Precolombino y Numesmática. Others in this sub-group were Jenna, Karen, Kyle, and Michael1. We congregated at the Plaza de la Cultura at 9:45 a.m. Prior to our entering the museums, Karen set the stage for the day by requiring that we communicate exclusively in Spanish. This was fantastic because doing so appropriately gave us all a great opportunity to warm-up our linguistic skills for the subsequent parts of today’s excursion. Notice I wrote museums. The ticket we each received to enter says Museos Banco de Costa Rica: Oro Precolombino, Numismatíca, Arte. The edifice is described as a ‘three-in-one” museum that on one floor showcases a collection of Pre-Columbian gold ornaments and hand-tools reportedly dating back to A.D. 400. Another floor offers a fascinating history of Costa Rican currency; whereas the third floor includes a collection of contemporary exhibitions. The featured artist on the third floor during our visit is Costa Rican painter, Sofía Ruiz. I found her exhibition, which focuses on identity, to be mezmorizing. Below is a collection of photographs taken during our visit of the museums. After strolling through the exhibits at the Museums, we made our way to a very New York City feeling café called Restaurantes Azafran where we each ordered our drinks and meals in Spanish. And then, after eating we walked to Mercado Central. It was there that Karen really urged us to utilize our Spanish speaking skills (rather than English) so that merchants would be less inclined to offer us highly inflated pricing for their wares. Knowing high pricing would likely be forthcoming irrespective of whether we spoke Spanish or not, Karen reminded us that we should be prepared for and comfortable with haggling with the merchants over the price of goods. Moreover, she noted that we should feel free to walk away (to the next merchant) if we can’t negotiate pricing we feel prepared to pay. Some of us bought items this afternoon, while others of us simply took it all in with the plan to return another day to make purchases. By the time we were finished strolling through the market, it was just after noon and still had not rained. None of us could believe our luck. We made it to the buses each of us desperately hoping to arrive home prior to the beginning of the inevitable daily showers.
Pasando un buen tiempo en los museos y buscando por los artículos en el mercado

Hoy fue un día libre y por lo tanto el grupo grande se hacía a dos grupos pequeños con actividades diferentes según el resultado del interés de los miembros en cada grupo. Soy Pat y el grupo de mío se incluye Jenna, Karen, Kyle, y Michael1. Reunimos a la Plaza de la Cultura a las 9:45 en la mañana. Antes de entrar el museo, Sra. Karen nos recomendó que debamos hablar en español en total. En mi opinión, estaba fantástico porque necesitaban a practicar hablando en español por el resto de nuestra excursión. Es importante notar que escribía “museos”. Los billetes recibimos se dicen, Museos Banco de Costa Rica: Oro Precolombino, Numismática, Arte. Se significa que hayan tres museos diferentes en un edificio --- un museo para cada piso. Por el primero piso hay muchas colecciones de herramientas de oro; y por el segunda piso hay exposiciones de numismática. Aprendíamos mucho de la moneda Costarricense. Finalmente, por la tercera piso hay una exposición de artista contemporáneo se llama Sofía Ruiz una artista costarricense. Me gustan mucho las obras de ella. Arriba hay una colección de fotografías. Después los museos, fuimos a un restaurante (se semejante a ellos en Nuevo York) se llama Azafrán a donde hablábamos en español con al camarero durante el almuerzo. Cuando terminábamos almuerzo, fuimos al mercado. Según a Sra. Karen, estaría muy importante por hablamos en español recibir buen información sobre los precios del artículos diferentes. También, nos dijo a nuestros que sería necesario regatear con los vendedores por recibir los mejores precios. Algunos de los miembros del grupo compran artículos, pero otros comprarán más tarde. Cuando salíamos el mercado, fuimos a la línea por los autobuses. Teníamos mucha suerte que no estaba lloviendo.



    9 Students who will share their "Pura Vida" experiences with you:  Malia, Kyle, Two Michaels, Pat, Sarah, Blake, Lauren, and Jenna.


    June 2013
    May 2013