Our introduction to Costa Rica really opened my eyes to how amazing this country really is—in some ways the US has some lessons to learn. For example, Costa Rica has gotten rid of its army—a sort of declaration of peace to the world…who would attack a defenseless and unthreatening country? Without money being poured into military, there are more resources for a universal healthcare system, and education, resulting in an amazing 94% literacy rate! Also, there are dozens of environmental programs and incentives to preserve the natural ecology. Much of these policies are more political than practical, of course, but they are on their way to progress in the right direction. But sadly, corruption, greed, and (I think) strong ties to the U.S. are causing this country to take some large steps backwards. Healthcare and insurance are being privatized, and “free trade” has brought in a flow of American goods, replacing much of the locally produced products. It is sad, because all of these things are keeping this country from fulfilling what seems (on paper) like huge potential. Instead, there is a social decline, from having a strong middle class to a growing divide between rich and poor….I hope to explore these changes more, and hopefully to ask for more local opinions of the current political environment.
As far as my impressions of the program go…This is going to be jam-packed. The schedule looks like early mornings and 6 day weeks. And information will be constantly thrown at us as we travel. We’ve already had a couple assignments. The other students (there turns out to be 33 of us--the largest program ever) are all great and nerdy, we're having fun exploring San Jose and a few of us had a good game of ultimate frisbee last night. But it's certainly not all fun and games, we've also been working on our projects on and of continually, and getting last minute gear... Yikes, this is going to be an adventure…Now off to our first field trip for two weeks!