Don’t Worry, Be Happy!

21 05 2012

As I blog, I am relaxing in a hammock at the University For Peace in San José!  After waking up a little too early this morning (probably out of excitement), I enjoyed a delicious breakfast prepared by my host mom- it even included mangoes picked from a tree in her yard!  Fueled by delicious food and excitement, I was ready for a trip to the famed University.  On the winding, green way to the University, we passed El Rodeo, a small community that is rather isolated; considering that only one bus leaves the community each day, most of the locals find employment either in the numerous coffee fields (now growing tomatoes since it is not yet coffee season) or in Ciudad Colón.  In this area, one can easily observe the economic disparity between the locals and the foreigners, who take advantage of the natural beauty of the area by residing in sprawling vacation properties during part of the year.  This observation provided an unexpected yet extremely relevant prelude to the course in International Development I would begin.

The peace monuments from a nature trail across the pond!

Upon arriving at the University, the rugged exquisiteness of the campus inspired both tranquility and exhilaration.  Surrounded by forested mountains from which mist rises, the campus may as well be a nature reserve!  One-story buildings designed with large windows on all walls are scattered through out the extremely green campus.  Roofed outdoor paths connect the buildings, and nature paths canopied by countless different types of trees entice exploration.  A few of the many notable features of the campus include the peace monuments and the Garden of Peace.  While strolling down one of the nature trails, I could not miss the view of the peace monuments in the distance.  Across a pond, monuments of various ambassadors of peace symbolically arise from the top of a hill.  Once I walked around the pond and ascended the hill, a moment of profound awe overcame me.  Upon stepping onto the path that spirals around the statues, I entered a sacred covenant- a commitment of sorts to the universal peace upheld by the various leaders represented by the monuments and towards which we all strive.  All of the stone monuments are arranged in a circle, and each monument includes the name, face, and representative quote from leaders that have worked for peace, from both Costa Rica and around the world.  From the central statue, a dove, the symbol for peace and the University’s mascot, flies from a pair of hands- the hands of past generations and of future generations that will continue to act on the hope for a world that empowers humanity rather than disgraces it with ignorance and conflict.

Upon ascending the hill, a closer view of the peace monuments!
The central memorial is Óscar Arias Sánchez, the CR president from 1986-1990 and 2006-2010. Due to his work abating civil war throughout Central America, he received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1987.

“Peace/ Has no frontiers/ Has no terms/ It is not immutable/ In the definition/ Of its profits.”
“Happy is the Costa Rican mother/ Who knows that when giving birth/ That her child will never be a soldier.”

All of the Global Scholars!

A memorial for Gandhi, another prominent figure of peace, appropriately greets visitors at the front of the Peace Garden.  The Garden has an open, grassy area surrounded by flag poles.  When events are held in the garden, a flag is raised for each country that signed the UN Charter for peacekeeping.

The flagpoles and central memorial of the Peace Garden

The Gandhi memorial at the front of the Peace Garden

Upon entering UPEACE, an amazing panoramic view of CR’s verdant mountains

The UPEACE mission

A mural of hope and peace

One of many roofed outdoor paths

One of my friends chilling, later to be studying, on one of the hammocks

Reading on the “Bench of Dreams”


Embarking on a Magic Carpet Ride!

20 05 2012

Well Virginia Beach, the time has come to say hasta la vista!  In less than 3 hours, I will board an AA plane to Miami, which will then deliver me to San José, Costa Rica.  For the past few hours, I have been packing, brushing up on Spanish, more packing, checking up on Facebook, even more packing, and now blogging!  (Even after this, I am going to check my baggage one last time.  As the only Global Scholar that does not have any special restrictions on my luggage- and as a female with a sense of fashion that requires a lot of space- the freedom in packing is proving to be rather dangerous!)  Once I finally arrive at my homestay and meet my generous host family, I am going to fight my tiredness and find the closest coffee shop!  From what I have read on a UPeace Student Forum, Mimosa and New Day are the spots to hit for a coffee fix- for locals and travelers alike!  Alas, the time has come for me to shut down my computer and pack it in my backpack.  Thank you for following!  Be on the lookout for more posts as soon as I can find Internet connection!

A Whole New World!

15 05 2012

¡Bienvenido blog readers!

For those of you who do not know me, I am Francesca Cameron, a Global Scholar at American University.  (Just fyi, “Global Scholars” is just a fancy name for a group of International Studies undergrad students graduating in 3 years.)  This summer, I will be journeying with a cohort of other Global Scholars to Costa Rica!  Nestled between Nicaragua and Panama, the Latin American country is home to both invaluable natural resources and a rich culture.  During our stay in Ciudad Colón in San José, we will explore the relationship between those natural resources and the native population through an International Development course that entails in-class instruction at the University of Peace, “hands-on” activities (whatever that means), and weekend excursions.  Outside of the course, we will learn of and adapt to the culture as much as “Amurican” (no, that’s not a typo) students can.  Hopefully, we will prove to the families of our homestays that we are not as stereotypical as they might expect.

In preparation, here are some basic facts about Costa Rica:

*Language: Spanish.  Ladies: if your Spanish is lacking, try a smile and a wink– just make sure you’re carrying pepper spray or the like.  As Professor Bratman warned, we don’t want anyone returning to the States with anything extra.  Gentlemen: if your Spanish is lacking, try English.

*Currency: colón.  $1 USD= 504 colones.  Ladies, if you’re out of colones, same advice as above applies.  Gentlemen, if you’re out of colones, try a dollar.

Now for the important information:

*National liquor of Costa Rica: guaro.  If you’re 18, drink like a local and indulge in some guaro, which is made from sugar cane.  Another plus: it’s cheaper than beer.  If you would like something a bit classier, enjoy some Ron Centenario, a popular, relatively high-quality rum.

*Popular musicians: Walter Ferguson (calypso), C-Sharp (reggae), Fuerza Dread (reggae), Malpaís (contemporary).  Tired of hipster/Indie music?  Blast some tunes local to the Caribbean!  (More information on popular culture in Costa Rica will be posted in a future blog!)

*Coolest place to party in San José: Aviarios Del Caribe, the sloth sanctuary.  Yup, that’s right– it’s a sloth sanctuary!  Once the dancing and partying (and “studying”) wears you out, settle down with the sloths of Costa Rica at this baby sloth sanctuary.  Maybe the visit will even inspire a future career as a “sloth whisperer”!

Thank you for reading this first post!  More to come in the future!

*Note, this blog is not affiliated in any way with American University or related organizations.