Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Surfing & Spanish at the School of the World - Jaco, Costa Rica

Hola! From Jaco, Costa Rica!

Jaco Beach as viewed from El Mirador, a popular local viewpoint

"So far so good" is my verdict after the first week of my time at the School of the World in Jaco, Costa Rica  I signed up for four weeks of surfing and Spanish lessons at the School of the World while staying with a local family at a homestay.  The family I am staying with is awesome.  Ines, the mother is a year younger than I am, very friendly, funny, a great cook, and patient with me while I struggle to speak and understand Spanish.  In the home, we speak only Spanish although Ines is good about telling me Spanish words for the English words I don't know (I think she knows WAY more English than she lets on).  Also, in the family are Ines' husband Eric, who is a year older than I am, and three children; their 16 year old daughter Aimee, 7 year old son Gabrielle, and 3 year old son Antonio.  Ines and Eric also adopted their 19 year old nephew Alfredo when his mother (Ines' sister) passed away.  I have my own large bedroom in the house with a double bed, ceiling fan, storage closet, and wardrobe.  There is no air conditioning and no hot water but the house is comfortable, immaculately clean, and very homey and welcoming thanks to Ines and her lovely family.  I make tons of errors but have surprised myself by able to have hours of conversation with Ines and Eric about a whole range of topics...all in Spanish!  Ines cooks a lovely breakfast every day regardless of when my classes start (6:30am or 9:30am...there's always something nice for breakfast!) and dinner every evening around 7pm.  Breakpoafast ranges from fruit with yogurt and granola to gallos pintos (black beans and rice - translates as spotted rooster due to the appearance) to poached eggs on toast with lovely Costa Rican Coffee.  Dinners are great (rice, beans, chicken, vegetables, fried plantains, even spaghetti once) and if I don't get home on time, no problem, there's always leftovers. 
 
The School of the world is beautiful and welcoming.  I spend most days at the school.  Weekends have no scheduled classes so it is a time to relax. read, hang out with other students, study, or go on excursions.  The school has a lot of outdoor spaces so air can move through the space.  There are two classrooms, a yoga studio, a common kitchen, a garden area with two hammocks, a small pool, a chillout area, as well as many shared and private rooms for students staying at the school rather than in a homestay like I am.
 
Inner courtyard at the School of the World

Communal Kitchen
Classroom
Chillout area
Pool
Pathway around the School of the World
More pathways
Inner Courtyard and Hammock (my napping/blogging spot)
Path past the kitchen to the yoga studio
 Yoga Studio at the School of the World

 When I first arrived I joined an excursion to the nearby Manual Antonio Nature Reserve.  The tour included a short walk, a nature guide, a swim at a beautiful beach, and lunch.  The guide was excellent and was able to tell us a lot about the birds, animals, and plants as well as use a spotting scope to show us animals that were further away and well hidden.
My first sloth, as seen through the spotting scope.  You can really only see his claws ad a bit of fur.  Not very exciting but I was glad to see two of them on this trip.

White-faced Capuchin Monkeys at Manual Antonio

Very cheeky raccoon at the beach at Manual Antonio.  I saw one raccoon pull a bag of pototo chips right out of someone's bag and run away with it.

On weekdays I have a busy schedule with 2 hours of Spanish lessons and 1 hour of Spanish "Lab" per day as well as 2 hours of surfing lessons.  The Spanish lab is very fun.  We have played Scrabble, charades, and jenga in Spanish and have done excursions to a small town as well as to the local ice-cream shop.  Surfing is very fun but exhausting.  I have been able to get up on my board many times and have even started riding a few waves for more than a few seconds and have started turning and steering.  I have a long way to go still!  My first week I also did a photography class for two hours each day which taught me how to use all the manual settings on my camera and how to do some photo editing to enhance the photos.  The best thing about the photography class was the chance to go on excursions to some very cool locations that our teacher, Carlos, knows about which I wouldn't encounter as a tourist.  We went to a small beach where many fishermen work, a local viewpoint with the "ruins" of a restaurant that never came to fruition and is now covered in graffiti, a small town, and a river full of huge crocodiles.
Fishing boat on a nearby beach
Sunset on Jaco beach
Little girl playing in the sunset at Jaco Beach
Surfer at Jaco Beach
Floats for fishing nets and a fishing boat
Many crocodiles in the river
Watch out cow!  The river is full of crocodiles!
El Mirador - the viewpoint where a restaurant was going to be built before the proprietor died and willed the property and "ruins" to the city of Jaco
Long exposure - night photography
Our photography instructor at night, swinging a rag which was lit on fire and tucked into a whisk tied to the end of a string!  Looks cool, huh?

Every Saturday there is a surf competition at the nearby Playa Hermosa (a different Playa Hermosa than the one I was at with Trevor, Jenny, Chris, Matthew and Caleb in Guanacaste).  A group of the students and staff from the School of the World went there last Saturday to watch Derby, one of the surf instructors, compete.  They run the competition roughly from 4pm to sunset and surfers get points for riding waves to completion (ie. they can't fall off), doing tricks etc.  The one with the highest points gets $100, 2nd place gets $75, third gets $50 and fourth gets $25.  Derby did really well but broke his board before the end of the competition so he didn't win.  We all took beers, snacks, and towels to sit on and chilled out watching the surfers and the sunset.  It was also Derby's birthday so we had a fire on the beach for a little while after the sun went down.
Our group watching the surf competition
Nothing happier than a naked baby playing in the sand!


Happy Birthday Derby!  His board was broken but he was still smiling

Beautiful sunset at Playa Hermosa
 
I'm enjoying the structured nature of the School of the World.  Vacation...with a purpose.  I hope to become more proficient with speaking and understanding Spanish and I also aspire to catch my own waves consistently and ride them to completion.  Two and a half weeks to go...wish me luck!
 

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