Thursday, September 30, 2010

Now I understand why the rainy season just got rainier

Since Monday we've been having even more rain than usual for the rainy season. No morning sunshine, rain starting before we even get to school and heavy downpours during class- so loud it's hard to hear people talking. Yesterday they cancelled the buses after 3pm and asked us to head home before that because they were worried about the road not being passable after that because of the rain.

Here's a link to the weather report, but don't worry. We sang "Here Comes the Sun" at the beginning of class today and it seemed to help. Didn't need my umbrella on the walk home this afternoon.

There have also been reports that the rainy season will be hanging out a bit longer this year- 'til December or possibly even January rather than November. I thought about this and decided I'd still rather have a rainy season than a Chicago winter.

Monday, September 27, 2010


It's been a very busy week and all signs point to this week being the same, so I guess if I don't post tonight, I won't get another chance til next weekend. Maybe.

Monday- the last day I was caught up on readings for class.

Tuesday- International Day of Peace! Great success, excellent participation from our class, I helped teach and lead the singing of a peace song in Spanish. Also attended a career workshop in resumé/CV writing.

Wednesday- finished writing a paper in time to attend Cultural Dance event sponsored by a bunch of embassies in Costa Rica. About 30 UPEACE students piled into a mini-bus and headed to Escazu to see our classmate represent Bolivia with some energetic dancing. While there, we sampled food from the nations represented (Nicaragua's chocolate drink was my favorite) and the man at the Russian table failed to be impressed that I spoke to him in Russian. Granted, it was only three words but he had know way of knowing I didn't have more where those came from.

Thursday- my first Spanish class and my Spanish nickname is now "gringa en las botas" because of my striped rain boots. Another career workshop in finding internships.

Friday- in class my group turned our summary of the plight of landless farmers in the Philippines, analysis of the underlying causes and recommendations for action into a 3 verse song set to the tune of "Memory" from Cats and performed for the class. Peace Ed is WAY more fun than International Law and the Settlement of Disputes, and this is why there are those who do not take us seriously. I totally meant to be social and join people for a drink at Oscar's but a guitar came to my house! So instead I stayed in, tuned Por's new guitar and when my landlord heard, he brought down his guitar. I tuned that too and he said I could borrow it since he's never actually learned how to play. One of these days I'll learn not to fall out of practice on the guitar because re-acquiring those fingertip calluses is painful.

Saturday- a trip to San José with Diana (not Ugandan Diana, Canadian in my programme Diana) to check out one of the San José markets where I find avocados at 2/$1 and we split a couple bunches of enormous rosemary leaves. I hacked away at the reading, trying to get caught up. In the evening many of us went into town to see our classmate Midori play the piano with a violoncellist at the local performance hall. Beautiful, world class classical music and quite a treat.

Sunday- reading all day. All. Day. Still not completely caught up but getting close. And I discovered what you do with cheese that doesn't melt. You cut it into small cubes and fry it and it's just like the baked cheese they have at the Andersonville farmer's market. Delicious with my beans, rice, tomato & red pepper concoction for dinner.

Tomorrow- I've been asked to read a poem at the memorial service for Robert Mueller who was one of the founding benefactors of UPEACE. And people who like to sing are gather for the first time to see if we want to form a group! I'm very happy about this. Now, back to reading.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Independence Day- Costa Rica Style

Wednesday was Costa Rica's Independence Day and I woke to the sound of drumming. The Independence Day Parade was moving through the center of town, down the street between the church and the soccer field. I threw on some Costa Rican colors (red, white and blue), grabbed my camera and went to see the celebration. I only saw the last 20 minutes or so, which means I can't make too broad a generalization.
What I saw were half a dozen youth groups either drumming, playing the bells, carrying flags or dancing in traditional dress. I think every child old enough to walk on his or her own was in one group or another. Michelle, my landlord's daughter, was one of the bell players and Daniele, the oldest boy, was a flag carrier. The final dance gave a chance for audience participation and each dance break brought more and more people from the crowd into the dance. Afterwards everyone headed to the plaza for food, cotton candy (which is not food) and more drumming. I ran into Maria, José and Pablo and they said they thought everyone in Ciudad Colón was out in the street.

And now, in honor of Costa Rica's Independence Day, a few of the many things Costa Rica has to be proud of:
Former President Oscar Arias Sanchez won the Nobel Prize in 1987 for his work ending the civil war in Nicaragua.
Current President Laura Chinchilla is the first woman to hold that office in Costa Rica.
Costa Rica and Great Britain were the two countries that sponsored the UN resolution creating the International Day of Peace on the 21st of September.
In 1948 at the end of its civil war, Costa Rica abolished its military and has not had a civil war or military coup since.

Plans for International Day of Peace

The Peace Education Programme is responsible for planning activities for International Day of Peace on Tuesday, September 21st. One of the things we're doing is teaching student how to make paper cranes and helping us make a bunch of them for an activity we'll do on the IDoP itself. Not sure what it says about me that I kind of love these colors- at least to look at. It's been nice to get out of my thinking brain for a bit and using my crafting head instead. Seems like the other students agree because they've been great about learning, helping and teaching newcomers. We've got a ton of other plans still in the works and that's what I'll be spending most of my weekend on. Except when I take a break to make a few more cranes.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Al Gore is not the only one in love w/Power Point

Apparently it is THE latest thing in NGO, NFP presentation making. Part of the instructions for our presentation assignment for the Foundation Course was to use Power Point, which I have never used, except when I was taking a test for a temp agency. Most of the other groups got fancier than we did. Not just bullet points but zooming into place bullet points, cross fades, graphics, movies. My section of our group presentation seemed a little My First Presentation in comparison. Just pictures with titles. I think I think of Power Point as the set, and I’m the show, where for others it’s more of a 50/50, PP and presenter are both the show.

I stand by my pictures though. Our conflict was the Tamil/Sinhalese in Sri Lanka and I managed to work in a pretty pair of Mandelbrots and a diagram of quantum truth vs. quantum uncertainty. I got metaphorical on them and had a great time. I suppose I understand why people don’t believe I’m an introvert because I really do love to perform- provided I have confidence in the material. To me, there’s a world of difference between giving a presentation (fun! thrilling! satisfying!) and meeting strangers or asking for directions or going to big party (not fun! I don’t want to! I’ll be the one standing next to the food looking uncomfortable!). It’s probably a control thing. Anyway, score one for team theatre, the presentation went really well, in spite of the bullet point deficit.

And now for the words

It is a measure of my love for you all that after working on a paper for 3 days straight I am once again clicking away at my keyboard to update my dormant blog. Well, my catnapping blog. If I haven’t used up all my organizational brain molecules on structuring my paper (Three Kinds of Violence: Challenges to peace for minority students in Chicago Public Schools), I’ll try to make this several short focused posts, instead of one long rambling one. I’ll start with:

Foundation Course, That’s a Wrap!

Friday was the last day of the Foundation Course. We did our group presentations in the morning and celebrated the end of our first course in the afternoon. Discussions at the party generally fell into one of two categories- What are you doing on the break? and What did you think of the Foundation Course?

Unfortunately my answer to the first question was, “Writing my paper, working on my group presentation for the next course and trying not to fret about International Day of Peace.” My answer to the second question is much longer. There was a certain cadre of people who did not like the Foundation Course. They either found it too basic (people who either studied this stuff in undergrad or have been working extensively in the field) or too far from the work they plan to do (pretty much everyone in the Natural Resources and Sustainable Development program and some of the folks in the Environmental programs). And all of that makes sense. For me, it was great- a combination of learning terms and definitions for concepts I knew without knowing I knew them and discovering totally new ideas and models. We learned a bunch of different conflict models, some theories on conflict persistence and escalation and the beginnings of methods for conflict resolution. We had some really interesting discussions in our seminar group (and to be honest some failures at having any kind of conversation, interesting or otherwise). The best part was hearing from classmates who’d been out in the field (Sudan) or were from a country with recent conflicts: South Korea, Indonesia. The perspective is very different and in some cases much more cynical than mine. It’s too soon to say if that’s coming from who they are or what they’ve seen.

Morning Walk up the Big Hill

Now here are the pretty pictures you really want to see.

I took a walk this morning up past where Avenida 2 stops being paved and becomes a gravel and dirt road running up the hill. All the way up on my left hand side is the cinderblock wall separating the fancy people from the not fancy people. You can see it in the picture below on the right hand side. I'm looking down the hill back at Ciudad Colón. The road is very steep and just keeps going up and up. I didn't set out provisioned for a long hike, so I turned back before I got to the top. Perhaps tomorrow, if no more exciting opportunities present themselves.

I think I've mentioned that there are a lot of butterflies. Here's two of them. I tried to get a picture of the black and green butterfly I saw, but he wouldn't hold still for long enough. These two practically posed.

I don't know what these gorgeous flowers are, but we see them all over the place. You can't tell in this picture, but they are huge.
Sorry the layout is a little boring. Weird things happen when I try to get fancy and change things up.

The Street Where I Live

These are some of the things you can see on the street where I live. There are many incongruities.

End of the road.

A cow lives here.
Not so fancy houses.

Fancy house.

No parking.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Pictures from Poás

This is the main crater of Poás Volcano, the second or third highest volcano in the country. Underneath all that steam and smoke is a lake. The smoke comes out of little fissures all around it.

This is the lake that formed in one of the craters of Poás. The large plants in the foreground are called 'sombrilla de pobre,' poor man's umbrella.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

21 days, 0 monkeys

Sorry Griffin. No monkeys yet. But I did see a volcano. And a giant mall. And a $30 pint of maple syrup. I'm going for a hike in the morning, maybe I'll have better luck then. Pictures of volcano and nearby lake, coming soon.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Why the blogging has slowed

Here are a selections of the reading I've been doing for my Foundations in Peace and Conflict Studies course:

Ramsbotham, Oliver; Woodhouse, Tom and Miall, Hugh. 2005. Contemporary Conflict Resolution

Mitchell, C. R.1981. The Structure of International Conflict.

Abdalla, Amr. et al. 2002.Understanding CR SIPABIO a Conflict Analysis Model.

Bohm, David. 1980. ‘Fragmentation and Wholeness’; ‘Appendix: Resume of Discussion on Western and Eastern Forms of Insight into Wholeness’ in Wholeness and the Implicate Order.

Escobar, Arturo. 1995. Conclusion: Imagining a Post Development Era’ in Encountering Development: the making and unmaking of the third world .

Capra. Fritjof. 1982. ‘The Newtonian World Machine’, in The Turning Point

Pruitt, Dean & Kim, Sung Hee. 2004. Social Conflict: Escalation, Stalemate and Settlement.

Grad school doesn't seem so glamorous now, does it?