Friday, June 1, 2012

Cascades and Saris

Today was essentially just another day in paradise for me and the amigos.  I woke up semi-early to finish some of my readings and then hopped in the shower (today was especially nice because I finally figured out how to turn on the hot water) before going to breakfast.  This morning, my host mother made us a ham and cheese sandwich accompanied by a bean paste and some lettuce.  Once we finished the most important meal of the day, we caught up on some last minute readings, gathered our gear, and marched on to the bus stop.

After arriving at UPEACE, we were given a few minutes of break time (I spent mine jamming to some Florence and the Machine) before our speaker of the day arrived: a French professor named Victoria Fontan who taught at the university.  To start her lecture, Fontan described her ideas on the peace process and how development is a key factor in creating stability within a nation.  Following this brief introduction, she introduced a case study to us: the story of a woman named Sampat Pal Devi.

Professor Fontan giving her lecture
In the story, Professor Fontan describes how Devi grew up in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.  From an early age, Devi was rebellious, following her brother to school to listen to the lectures.  Her uncle eventually gave her the opportunity to attend school, allowing her the rare opportunity to be an educated woman in Uttar Pradesh.  For the next few decades, Devi continued to rebel against a system she viewed to be unfair; she frequently challenged the caste system and the ideas of misogyny.  Wherever she lived, she would take it upon herself to teach women to read, write, and sew.  She even helped some women gain economic autonomy.

Eventually, Devi decided she could no longer handle the injustice in the world (banks and governments taking advantage of the little people, men abusing their wives, etc.).  She decided that women (as well as the underprivileged) needed to stand up for themselves; this inspiration led her to form the Gulabi Gang, a group of mostly women in pink saris who tried to stop injustice whenever they saw it.

Fontan stated that what made the group so successful was that there was only a single ideology holding the women together: help others.  This idea caused women to both fight injustice and provide assistance to any who needed it (but only on the condition that they would help someone else in return).  This, in effect, created a grassroots movement of individuals helping others, something Fontan described as being the most effective way to develop a nation.

After Professor Fontan's lecture, Professor Paxton brought our lesson back to Costa Rica.  We started our discussion by investigating the readings for today (which focused mainly on the conditions which have brought Costa Rica to where it is today).  After talking about this brief introduction, the class discussed different things they learned at the market yesterday (some of these being that many worked with their families, that they only did these jobs for the money, etc.).  Eventually, our discussion brought us to the topic of the merchandise within Costa Rica.  Mainly, we discussed about where it actually came from and why the shop owners were so ambiguous about this fact.  We concluded that shop owners want tourists to believe that their goods are locally made because it is better for business, and the goods that these shop owners have reflect the ideas that tourists think of when they imagine Costa Rica.

The delicious lunch food
After discussing this (and the various theories or ideas surrounding it) we broke for lunch.  Today we were given the choice of papaya or pineapple with a salad, baked and seasoned tilapia, rice and beans (of course), and broccoli and cauliflower.  The meal was excellent (although I was devastated to learn that they were not selling brownies today).  Once we finished lunch, some of us stayed outdoors to enjoy the weather while we worked on blogs, played card games, and listened to music.

Francesca jumping into the water
(Left to Right) Hans, Joe, Will
Once we returned to our home stay, one of the other guys living with us (his name is Hans) brought Will, Joe, Francesca, and I to a waterfall.  While there, they edged their way towards the cliffs and jumped into the cascading water (this blogger did not partake in these incidents on account of a crippling fear of falling).  They swam around in the cool refreshing water for some time while I enjoyed the beautiful scenery and tried to get as close to the edge as I could.  Eventually, it began to pour rain and thunder, so we left as quick as we could.  Hans and I went one way while Will, Joe, and Francesca went another.  When Hans and I got back to the road, we looked for the rest of our gang, but couldn't find them.  We assumed they went back to the house, and we made our way back there as well.

Once we got back, however, we still could not see them.  We waited about 15 minutes before our home stay mother told us they were in the next-door apartment (needless to say, I was upset).  After we returned their clothes and things to them, we stayed in the apartment until dinner (pizza).  Upon finishing the meal, the guys and I went into town where be bought some ice cream from a side shop and then told jokes until it was time to go back.  All  in all (despite thinking for a good 10 minutes that my friends were dead), it was just another adventurous day in Ciudad Colon.

The view from were I sat

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