Thursday, December 31, 2009

Costa Rica Culture and Personal - Photography

Volume 1
Her are some images from Costa Rica. Russo Mutuc's Image Worx shares some of his photography.

When you come to Costa Rica, you will not only see the many breathtaking views of the cloud forest, volcanoes, hot springs, jungles, beaches, and many more. To truly experience a cultural immersion, get to know the local foods, music, art, dance, and the people. When students go abroad, to learn Spanish, they have the chance to be part of the local scene. Try and speak the language, and you will be surprised how you can discover the whole culture.

Russo Mutuc – “I spent a day doing a walking tour around town, and I got to know some of the vendors at an open-air market. Surprisingly enough, many of them are not camera shy. They were very friendly, and open to chatting about our different backgrounds. I also went around looking for locals willing to speak about their fashion style. I tried to capture, in video and pictures, urban styles.”

Some of the images shared are people in their element. We’ve posted Volume 1, more images to come in the near future. So make sure to come and check us out often.

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Taking Cabs (taxi) in San Jose, Costa Rica

How to Take a Cab in San Jose, Costa Rica
If you’re traveling to Costa Rica, and it’s your first time in Latin America, you might come across the cab (taxi) services they have. Taxis are a great way to get around in the city, and sometimes within the country. They are relatively in-expensive, if taken within the city.

For travelers coming in the country who are reluctant to take the transportation system, it can be intimidating, especially, if they do not speak the language. Communication can be an issue, but if proper precautions are taken, anyone can use these services with ease.

What to look for?

Airport Taxis - In the airport of San Jose, there are official taxis services that work specifically with passengers arriving and even departing the country. Taxi Unidos offers services almost anywhere in Costa Rica. All the drivers speak English, and are accustom to servicing foreigners.

Red colored taxis - Are the general taxi services within the country. When looking for official taxis, keep an eye out for cars; with red in color, and with yellow triangles on both passenger and driver doors. These yellow triangle signs are to signify they had registered their car, and they have specific numbers assigned. Most of the red cabs are associated with taxi companies, and are very reputable services, which a lot of travel services use. With big companies, reservations can be arranged via phone, and arrival times are very convenient. Plus their meter system is usually fair, and they tend to be a more honest in taking you to your destination, without having to go through extra mileage.

There are also other red taxis that have the same look, but work independently from the big companies. T
hese taxis tend to have a bad reputation, because they that tend to charge more than usual, or they never use the meter. But not all of them are like that, if the passenger knows what they are doing, they can find out respectable independent taxis. If a passenger decides to take one of these taxis, be prepared to negotiate a price prior to entering the cab. If you know your destination, and the normal price, you can ask that driver how much would it cost to get there? If the price sounds just about right, then, it’s a fair ride.
Generally when taking red cabs, off the streets, it’s a good idea to know a few phrases and questions prior to taking the ride. Normally passengers would ask;
• Maria? (locals call the meter Maria)
• Marca con Maria?
• Cobra con
• Usas con Maria?
If they say no, you can either negotiate a price, or move on to the next taxi.
Un-marked cars – in smaller towns of Costa Rica, they have taxi services that have un-marked cars. Independently run, these taxi services are usually negotiations only. They are not red in color, and often times, it’s a local who uses his or her personal car as a taxi.

What to prepare for?
It’s suggested when taking any taxi to get your directions pre-planned or ready. This way the passenger can get to the destination a lot faster and possibly save some money. If possible try and memorize your directions, especially in Costa Rica, they don’t use numbers on buildings and houses. Instead directions are b
ased on land marks.
Have enough money in your pocket or bag, to pay the taxi, in case you have to get out prior to your destination during heavy traffic. Plus having exact change will prevent showcasing bigger bills, which prevent theft.

For the new travelers coming in the country, know the Costa Rican money currency before you pay. Often times, people mistakenly paid more money, because the bill looked the same in color. If the driver is not honest, they might simply drive off without
giving you change.

This blog is for anyone traveling in the country, and for study abroad Costa Rica students.

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Thursday, December 17, 2009

Costa Rican Gallo Pinto

Gallo Pinto, a popular dish in Costa Rica. It’s considered one of the traditional foods of the country. The name Gallo Pinto resembles spotted rooster, hence, the dish is normally served during breakfast time. But it’s also common to eat at lunch and dinner.

In Costa Rica, the preparation is with cooked white rice, onions, peppers, and black beans. All mixed and fried together, to give it that spotted rooster look. When served for breakfast, it can come with combination of fried eggs, slide of bread, and in the side, are a glass of juice or cup of coffee.

Study Spanish abroad, and experience a taste of Costa Rican culture.

Let us know what you think?

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Thursday, August 20, 2009

Tropical Fruits and Vegetables

Costa Rica is known for lush vegetation and greens. Because of the rich soils, many products can be grown in the country. If you're looking to transition your diet into plan based, this country will bring variety of options.

Every town will have open-air markets, many of the local farmers come to trade their goods. In the city of San Jose, the Mercado Central, houses a block full of goods to sell from; fruits, vegetables, meats, poultry's, kitchen needs, and many more. Some vendors you will come across in street side from main roads or even highways.

Here are some images of Costa Rica's fruits and vegetables. We'll post more as we get them from Spanish students. (Go to main BLOG)

Assortment of fruits from mangoes, apples, avocados, grapes, and more

Assortment of vegetables from a vendor.

Coffee Beans

For complete Study Spanish Costa Rica Blog

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Costa Rica From A Different View

One way to see Costa Rica from a different view, is from the sky. Here is a video and photo essay of Costa Rica from a different point of view.

Raw video taking off

The hanger

The runway

Take off time...

Pilots view

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What is it About Costa Rican Beaches, that Travelers Flock to?

When you think of Costa Rica, the beach is one of the most popular destinations to go to. Costa Rica beaches are so beautiful, often times, it's mandatory for a traveler to put in their itinerary. What is it about Costa Rican beaches, travelers love? Is it the warm waters all year round? The exciting waves to surf? The sunrise and sunsets? The laid back feeling? The food? The tropical weather? The people and culture? Whatever it is, travelers and tourist come from all over the world to experience the natural ingredients of the country.

In general the beach makes people happy, and Costa Rica is one of those places that makes people smile and have a good time. It was even named one of the most happiest place on earth, in 2009. So many tourist enjoyed their experience in the country, that they turned ex-pats and changed their life styles to get a piece of paradise.

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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Eco-Adventures and Biology Trips in Costa Rica

Students exploring the Eco-Adventures of Costa Rica, some are on a biology field trip, and others are on the Eco-high-feeling from the many natural beauty the country has to offer. When students study Spanish in Costa Rica, they have a chance to, not only to learn a language, but also to explore the country. If studying in a particular city or town there are tour companies working with the students who offer half-day or full day tours. Plus it's recommended if students are staying for more than one week, to take advantage of the weekend tours to explore. From late Friday to Sunday, students can either go to the beach or mountains to try some of the famous tours Costa Rica. Adventure tours are plentiful, and there are choices from; ziplines, river rafting, hiking, mountain biking, surfing, snorkeling, camping, kayaking, swimming, therapeutic and relaxing places, plus many more. It's an outdoor playground for students to explore. The pictures below are some of the tours students participate in. While in the country, it's common to come across the other locals, the wild life. Monkeys will holler, tropical birds flying, plentiful insects will be roaming, and other exotic animals living in their habitat. (Go to main BLOG)

Some of the students in the pictures had taken the courses offered at the Heredia and Samara Spanish schools, operated by Intercultura. Students can participate in these two locations to get different experience from city to beach. It's a good combination which many students participate in. Spanish for Success has been working with students and the school since 2004.

More images from Costa Rica

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Thursday, July 30, 2009

Salsa Dancing in Costa Rica

Samara, Costa Rica An alternative, must-try, activity in Costa Rica are the Latin dances. Ideal for anyone who is willing to try, or even the most experienced dancers. Being in the tropics and moving and shaking your hips, will make you feel immersed in the Costa Rican culture. The most common dance types in the country are; Salsa, Merengue, Cumbia, Bolero, Bachata, and some of the latest Latin Dance "Ritmo." (Rhythm) The locals, "Ticos" love to dance, and you can find many places within the country to go and dance. In the cities i.e. San Jose, Heredia, Alajuela are many dance clubs that open their doors several nights a week. Even at the beaches, it's common for open-air bars to start playing Latin dance music, and many of the locals and tourist mix to enjoy the night. The students that study Spanish in Costa Rica, many of the programs offer Salsa, Merengue, Cumbia classes, as part of the package. It's a great way to get-to-know other students from different countries. The picture above is taken from a Spanish school in Samara, and students are learning to dance, from an experienced instructor, and they are just a few steps from the beach. Imagine listening to music, moving your body, and getting that nice ocean breeze as the waves are crashing. Dancing in the tropics is a definitely a must-try! To learn more about Spanish courses in Samara Beach and dance classes, contact Spanish for Success.

Imagine dancing to the sexy dance of Salsa, and behind you is the pacific coast. Here in the Samara location, the school is located just a meters away from the beach. Move your body to the beat of the music and waves crashing. Let your sweat, from the tropics, energize your experience.

A listing of Dance Clubs in Costa Rica

More Pictures from Samara

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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Beach Soccer in Costa Rica

Beach Soccer in Costa Rica

Have you ever tried playing soccer at the beach? If not, it’s one way to get immersed into culture. In Costa Rica, the locals (Ticos) are known to play soccer on a daily basis. Usually smaller in groups and the field goals are based on either small sticks plunged into the sand, trash cans, and rocks. Normally it’s separated by few feet distance. It’s a great way to get exercise and some sun exposure. The picture above was taken in Samara, Costa Rica. Students that learn Spanish in Samara have a great view of the beach from the campus. Just a few steps and you’ve transitioned from student environment to tourist (picture link). 
Beach soccer is a great sport, it doesn't cost much to get active. For an alternative exercise activity, while in the country, try and pick up a few games with the locals. 
To learn more about Spanish programs in the beach, contact Spanish for Success.
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Monday, January 5, 2009

Pamela Chelin - freelance journalist in Los Angeles who has worked with Access Magazine, Globe and Mail, LA Times, German Glamour, etc.

By: Pamela Chelin (California, USA) 2008
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"I had an amazing time in Costa Rica and I developed a real fondness for the laid back and 'carpe diem' Costa Rican culture. Further, I discovered an adventurous side which I didn't even know that I had to the degree that I do have and, now, indulge freely! Between the wonderful fish and plantain desserts I feasted upon, the amazing time white water rafting and overnight camping along the Pacuare, the incredibly informative experience I had at CATIE learning about the flora, the wonderful Costa Rican people I met during my travels and the beautiful scenery from the volcanoes to simply gorgeous waterfalls, I have a love affair with Costa Rica. I am eager to return to this wonderful, laid back and inspiring country."

Pamela Chelin is a freelance journalist in Los Angeles who has worked with Access Magazine, Globe and Mail, LA Times, German Glamour, etc.

Blog By Nooria - Costa Rica Trip

By: Nooria (Maryland, USA) 2007
Repost By SFS Subscribe to SFS Blogs

To see Nooria's full blog with pictures, click here

The last time I visited Costa Rica, I went to a small beach town just at the tip of the Nicoya peninsula called Montezuma. It was the very beginning of the off season, so I had just missed all of the crowds.. This may sound boring to some of you, but for me it was perfect!

I had no idea how amazing the next few weeks were going to be for me, especially since I knew next to nothing about this Cozy little beach town. My friend was doing an internship at Ylang Ylang beach resort, which is about a ten minute walk down the beach from the edge of town. There is no other way there. It is like an Oasis among the seaside trees.. I found Ylang Ylang to be kind of expensive, after all I was staying for almost a month, so I found a room at El Jardin, which is at the top of the hill in Montezuma next to the beach where the fisherman have their boats, a fishy beach, not really good for swimming..

In the first week, I got to know some of the locals which was pretty much all that was there because it was off season, and that created a very personal very close encounter with the CR natives and their lifestyle and culture there.. I found most of my days were wandering around while my friend was working.. (which she did a LOT). But it was cool because I had a lot of time to myself and was free to do whatever I wanted. One of the people I got to know well was Trixy, an Ayurvedic practitioner that was working at Ylang Ylang at the time. I had many treatments from her. There was one where we walked out onto the rocks at low tide and I sat in a pool of water and meditated.. It was after this treatment that I almost felt reborn.. like I had new eyes and we sat on the rocks for a while and watched the people on shore, the fisherman and the last tour from Tortuga island returning for the day. I felt completely content and I was sure something VERY special had just happened to me. I knew I felt a little tired, but I realized I had felt much more than tired, almost jaded and now I felt better than I had in years..

One day, I stopped in one of the shops to buy a sarong, since no one uses towels here, and forgive me I don't remember what they call them in Costa Rica. And it was in the shop where the man told me I should go to Playa las Manchas. And so I did. I walked along the winding road, past the fisherman's beach up hills and across a bridge, when I started questioning what the man had told me.. maybe he had lied? Maybe it was much farther than he said, but as soon as I asked someone I was just about there. There was a little house on the right with rooms for rent, and I'm pretty sure it was called Manchas hotel or something similar and directly across the street was Playa las manchas, a beautiful little spot with nice soft white sand and crystal clear waters. The water was a little rough that day so I didn't end up really swimming. But I lay in the sun and watched some other very nice looking visitors without their shirts on play football..

Needless to say I enjoyed myself..
During the nights we would have dinner in one of the many restaurants in Montezuma. Our favorites were Allegr de something rather and Cocolores.. Allegr was an italian restaurant and they had the most amazing food. The gnocchi was my favorite. Cocolores had the most amazing gorgonzola steaks that were usually served pretty rare, no matter how you ordered them. But it turned out to be great!
After dinner, my old and new friends would go to Chicos.. the bar/nightclub there. We salsa danced and played pool and foosball, or just people watched.. and one night the bartender fed me a wonderful 35 year old Guatamalan rum, which instead of sitting on a barstool made me feel like I was floating on a nice fluffly little cloud. It was amazing! I spent a lot of time on the Ylang Ylang resort, talking to my friend and the other workers there. The environment was extremely mellow, and since it was the low season and no one was staying there, I was able to use the Yoga studio and the pool and lounge in the hammocks on the beach. One day, I was lying in a hammock when I suddenly felt like I was being watched.. I looked up to find five for six squirrel monkeys staring down at me from the tree tops.. they must have been attracted to the sparkles on my tank top. I didn't stick around to find out.

I had waited almost the whole three weeks I was there for my friend to become available to go on the four wheeling trip with me and we finally got to go. We drove up the road into the forest stopping at Santa Theresa and a little bar in the middle of nowhere, along the route we were taking.. it was (once again) amazing! We had the teeniest little margaritas we had ever seen in our lives but that was a good thing because I was driving the four wheeler. We passed a few houses and some open fields and one Tico sitting on the side of the road and when he looked up at us he had the most crystal clear blue eyes ever..(these features are typical among most of the ticos). I yelled to my friend sitting behind me "did you see his eyes??". *sigh*

The four wheeling trip was a lot of fun, even though I almost lost control of the thing a few times, in REALLY bad places like.. on a small natural bridge with a drop off next to it of who knows how many feet.. I would feel the atv lose it's grip and suddenly at the last minute it would catch on the nasty terrain again. I never told my friend about this.. She still has no idea! But hey, it's called living on the edge.. whoo ...
Anyway I guess I should wrap this up.. Through the lazy days that I wandered, most of them were sunny, so I was surprised to find that it was on a cloudy day that I found complete contentment for the second time .. It came when I least expected it..

Other things I did: Vistited a waterfall.. Made out with the most attractive guy in the town on the moonlit beach.. Went to Santa Theresa for a surfing competion, which we missed because we had false information about a connecting bus. But we sat and had margaritas and caught up instead, which was nice. The food was just amazing and it blew my mind that I would have an exceptionally good food and wine pairing in CR, but it happened a few times in Montezuma and then on my last night, in San Jose I wandered out to this restaurant with one of the guys that was staying at the hotel with me. We had traveled from Montezuma to San Jose together and became friends. It was at this restaurant where we listened to a guy sing love songs with his guitar and had really tastey filet mignon with really good red wine! It was so nice, and that night I went back to my hotel and lay in a hammock in the courtyard. There weres some older women there that were clearly having a reunion. I listened to them talk and laugh and felt my last and most lovely moment of contentment that I was ever so grateful for... *sigh and smile*
To see more pictures of her blog, click here

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