Was not sure how I would feel celebrating my birthday in Costa Rica - I would have none of my family near me for the first time, I would have none of my close friends, and I would be in a country completely foreign to me. However, I was excited at the thought of an adventure in another land. Cesar promised to take us on trip around town and I was anxious to start the day. So anxious I couldn't stay in bed past 4 am.
I meditated, read, and admired the scenery that enclosed me from every direction, all before anyone was even up. Finally, Cesar and Amalia arrived and took us on a tour of the campus, showing us the marvelous buildings, the amiable staff, and the bustling centers of life. As part of our tour, he showed us RSN, the lab where university seismologists accrue and analyze data from over 140 seismometers all throughout the country. RSN works closely with ICE, which is where Maria and I will be spending a lot of our time in Costa Rica. The University was replete with students despite this being their winter break. The noises and scenes so new to me completely engrossed me in thought and longing. We walked more and more, eventually visiting a mall and finding our way to a small restaurant where we got a chance to try a "Casado" - a typical Costa Rican dish. After a good long tour of the dense, tight, and entertaining city, our mentors brought us back to our hotel.
At around 7 pm Cesar was back in our hotel giddy to guide us to our next destination, "El Barrio Escalante". El Barrio Escalante is a historic part of Costa Rica; when the rich dwellers abandoned their homes in the city, they left behind luxurious homes that were nearly useless. The resourceful people of Costa Rica decided they would use these large homes and remodel them as restaurants, bars, and clubs. This area now makes up a part of the rich culture of the Costa Rican night life. Cesar took us to La Lolita which featured several restaurants that served burgers, tacos, pizza, ramen, and sushi. Every food had flare to it. I, for one, had a burger with hash browns, fried eggs, bacon, and a mouth-watering selection of sauces and dressings. It was delicious.
After the wonderful meal, we had some ice cream and rode back on a bus. Paying the driver was an oddly interesting affair. He had a whole table of full of the many different Costa Rican coins; his manner for arranging them and his rapidity in it was rather fun to watch.
At the end of a long and wonderful day I'm left recollecting some of the strange, stirring bits of the adventure - the office of RSN within the University with its wide and numerous screen featuring recent earthquakes, seismometers, and all sorts of geological activity that has been fermenting for months, the paradoxical nature of the city of San Pedro which was metropolitan in feeling, but looked small and communal every where you looked, and of course the ever-hospitable ticos and ticas on every corner and side walk. The beginning has been fun and interesting, but things will slowly develop and I will find myself working closer and closer with my mentors. The gaps in our days have been accented with talks of geology, volcanoes, earthquakes, and the developments taking place in order to learn more about each of these. As we begin to settle down I see myself learning much about the rich science that envelopes the picturesque country.