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Orientation Week

                 After an entire day of travel I’d left the pines trees of the Northwest, felt the warmth of Phoenix, passed over the mountainous landscape of Mexico, and arrived in beautiful Costa Rica.  At this point I’ve been here five days, but most of it has been spent on the Whitworth campus since we have one week of orientation before moving in with Costa Rican host families.  

                Besides living on campus, the opportunities I have had to venture down the thick green mountain (where the campus is located) and into the city have been amazing.  Monday was my first time in the capital city of San José, on what the CRC staff calls “The Plunge.”  The Plunge is basically a city-wide scavenger hunt, with the twist that it’s done mapless.  Being without a map is a way of acclimating ourselves to the city and putting us in a situation where we must ask directions in Spanish.  

One of the first things I noticed downtown was the style of driving.  In Costa Rica pedestrians never—I repeat, never—have the right of way, and because of this crossing streets is much more exhilarating than in the U.S.  Knowing that you could easily be run over by a red and orange taxi traveling at top speed just makes things more fun.  

                Another thing I quickly noticed was how the Costa Ricans (Ticos) are incredibly helpful to us gringos, lost and disoriented.  When searching for buildings such as El museo del jade and parks such as El parque de España the help of the Ticos felt as warm as the Central American sun.  I know my excitement and limited knowledge might seem broad, so for those interested in more numeric details I recommend you take a look at CIA World Factbook to familiarize yourselves with some of the logistics of Costa Rica (CIA World Factbook, Costa Rica). 

                Being on campus for the first week has offered me both very busy times due to orientation as well as times to reflect and soak in the world around me.  Both have been times of growth and learning.

                On one of the occasions when I found some downtime I observed six pinto beans.  The beans were each a different color, some red, some yellow, some white with speckles.  I’d been staring at them for at least 20 seconds before I realized I was mesmerized.  Each one was so unique; each one was only beautiful in the diversity of the other. The mix of pattern and color both accentuated the individual and the collective beauty.  Each one of us would do well to learn from the awe of six beans cradled in an open palm.

                Well, seeing as this week is mostly spent on campus (pictured above) I’m sure I’ll have more pictures and adventures once we’re received into our Costa Rican host families this Saturday.  It’s been a great introduction, and there’s more to come. Hasta Pronto.

-Austin Vander Wel