A note from TWS: It is important that our Wandering Scholars prepare for their journeys by researching their host country before they leave home. The below post is the product of an assignment in which we ask our Scholars to read and share something interesting they’ve learned about Costa Rica’s history, culture, or politics. 

Costa Rica at first glance is seemingly a tropical experience full of wildlife, exquisite culture, and amazing adventure. However there are also misconceptions, many of which I’ve learned aren’t close to reality.

These include believing that the drinking water is unsafe, lacking familiarity with the region’s currency, and thinking that it’s possible to travel there without proper Identification.

First off, you can drink Costa Rican water. Costa Rica is an established democratic society and has put much effort in to water purification systems and techniques. Much like any coastal area, it is important to simply be weary if water consumed is from the ocean or rivers, which present a higher risk of harmful bacteria. Secondly,  U.S currency is used everwhere! And sometimes even preferred, and since the cost of living is even equal, it seems we shouldn’t expect a huge price deal on everything we buy. Finally, even though Costa Rica is not an island, that doesn’t mean we can simply drive their or go without a passport!!! Its an international territory and requires proper identification! 

The lesson is: I’m glad I won’t let these misconceptions get in the way of my experience.

 

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A note from TWS: It is important that our Wandering Scholars prepare for their journeys by researching their host country before they leave home. The below post is the product of an assignment in which we ask our Scholars to read and share something interesting they’ve learned about Costa Rica’s history, culture, or politics. 

In the last few years there have been periodical strikes from Costa Rica’s teachers and those of other occupations who feel wronged by their country’s treatment and lack of prioritization of their respective institutions (education, medical, etc). Among the ‘seven claims’ of these employees are demands such as decreasing work overload, increase of salary and opposing to having their pay deducted for a previous strike in September 2015.Most media sources gave thorough explanations as to the motivation behind the protests and why it is important for those in the Costa Rica workforce to stand up for their rights. APSE (APSE – Association of Teachers of Secondary Education), ANDE (National Association of Educators) , and UNDECA (National Union of Employees of the Fund and Social Security) are three major teacher unions all joining together to protest against President Guillermo’s administration. However, some other outlets pointed out the impact on the community during the protests. These strikes left many classrooms empty and those in need of medical assistance waiting or forced to go home.

Nonetheless, the protests made many concerns and frustrations of the middle and lower class public and uncensored. Among the demands were also for upperclass citizens to pay taxes and for access to water to be a public right rather than a privilege. Costa Rica’s government predicts protests such as these are steadily gearing the public to a shared mindset about breaking down social structures and aggravating an intense class struggle.

I chose to analyze this topic because there were several teacher protests in my city this year. Over the last few years, the School District of Philadelphia has struggled financially and was forced to close many schools and let go of many staff to save money. This year, teachers consistently protested the contract that had been severed and dismissed for a handful of years.

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A note from TWS: It is important that our Wandering Scholars prepare for their journeys by researching their host country before they leave home. The below post is the product of an assignment in which we ask our Scholars to read and share something interesting they’ve learned about Costa Rica’s history, culture, or politics. 

Since 2014, the control over the Mexico and US border has become extremely strict. one way is by forcing Central Americans to find new routes to safety. This resulted in a surge of refugees fleeing violence and political instability, to find new homes elsewhere. Because of this, Costa Rica has attracted fleeing refugees, since it is the most stable country in the region. Currently, the Asylum claims are set to quadruple.

“Now, the country is offer temporary protection to refugees.Under the new protection transfer agreement (PTA), Costa Rica will accept up to 200 prescreened refugees for periods of up to six months, while their US asylum applications are processed. Migrants who arrive in Costa Rica before applying will not be considered for US asylum.” ()

This event is similar to many of the other migrant crisis all around the world, and has been going on for a long time. Europe has only just woken up to this issue, in 2015. Thus creating the name “European refugee crisis”. One of the reason, for the spike of asylum seekers is the Syrian civil war. Secondly, it’s impossible to gain legal entry into Middle Eastern countries.

The US response was to accept “at least 10,000 Syrian refugees” in 2015 (KRISHNADEV CALAMUR).

Because of the opportunities Costa Rica offers like many of the European countries.and the US it is not alone in its shelter  for refugees seeking homes.

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A note from TWS: It is important that our Wandering Scholars prepare for their journeys by researching their host country before they leave home. The below post is the product of an assignment in which we ask our Scholars to read and share something interesting they’ve learned about Costa Rica’s history, culture, or politics. 

On December 1, 1948, following a violent civil war, Costa Rica’s president José Figueres Ferrer (also known as Don Pepe) destroyed the wall of the Cuartel Bellavista and called for the abolition of the army.  The following year, it was adopted into the Costa Rican Constitution (article 12). Consequently, the funds previously used by the National Army were allocated to the development of education, health, and culture.

Most media outlets agree that this historical event has greatly improved the living standards of Costa Rican citizens. Citizens enjoy high literacy rates, well-preserved ecology, and relative wealth/stability in comparison to their Central American counterparts. Furthermore, the country is widely regarded as one of the happiest in the world, and Ticos (the nickname for Costa Ricans) and foreigners alike praise the policy.

When faced with the question, “How does Costa Rica defend itself?” people explain that diplomatic alliances with countries like the US, special forces, and the Civilian Guard enforce law and patrol borders. Some go further yet to voice that the impromptu army is nearly on par with American armies in that they are trained extensively and equipped with high caliber weapons (5.56-caliber M4 carbines). Such people draw the argument that Costa Rica continues to protect their citizens and are even increasing internal security spending substantially.

However, other sources contradict this information, pointing out that  “Costa Rica’s police reportedly have insufficient training, a shortage of service men, and a lack of resources (including vehicles, weaponry, etc).” Particularly in recent years, the nation has been faced with serious security problems such as drug trafficking and border dispute with Nicaragua, which cannot be adequately tackled by a small civilian army. To these ends, there are some proponents for the development of a stronger defense system and even potential revision to the policy. read more →

Summer 2017 is finally here, and The Wandering Scholar’s Global Skills Fellowship Program is off to an exciting start. We have five new Wandering Scholars – our largest class yet – who will all be participating in an inaugural program with Smithsonian Student Adventures. From July 14-23, our Scholars will be traveling on their 10 day Osa Wildlife Conservation Expedition in Costa Rica. Keep an eye on this space in the coming weeks: we’ll be sharing regular blog posts from Absari Begum, Sherbie Geffrard, Sarah Kwon, Jabari Lottie, and Seyni Ndaw, who will discuss everything from their pre-departure research on Costa Rica and trip planning details, to their field updates and completed documentation projects based on their time at the Playa Tortuga Research Center. Thanks for following along!

 

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