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 →

Even though this year’s Wandering Scholars – Jonathan Moore, Marina Musgrove-Pyfrom, and Serina Wesonga – haven’t left their hometowns yet, their journeys have already begun. 

For their first official assignment as Wandering Scholars, they did some fact-finding about their host countries. From exchange rates and average costs to  popular artists and political issues, they have researched things about their host countries that will impress their host families and inspire their fellow travelers. In the process they’ve also discovered new things to be excited about, as well as some surprising facts about where they’re headed.

Want to know more? Read the highlights on Costa Rica below and stay tuned for our Peru edition!

Traditional Casado

Serina Wesonga researched her host country, Costa Rica, where the official  language is Spanish. However, as Serina notes, English is spoken in business communities and tourist destinations. The nation shares borders with Panama, Nicaragua, and North Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea.

Serina also found that the traditional  lunch meal is called a “casado” a word that means “married man” in Spanish. In Costa Rica, when husbands come home from work this dish is served for dinner by their wives. It consists of rice and beans served side by side and mixed with some type of meat (usually pork, fish, or chicken).

Serina also investigated Costa Rican popular music genres including an indigenous calypso scene. This form of calypso is distinct from the more widely-known Trinidadian calypso sound.

Watch the video below to learn more about this typical music:

During her research Serina was most surprised by Costa Rica’s temperatures during her travel window. She says: “I imagined Costa Rica being very hot in July and June…I found out that [these months] would not  be classified as summer in Costa Rica”. Serina sees differences between her host country’s culture and America’s culture, “Everything seems like it will be  new and exciting  to me.” She says that the biggest adjustment will be the language barriers.

“I am hoping my host family and the people of Costa Rica will be patient as I try to soak up and translate as much of the language as possible. I am extremely excited for the new things that await me and I hope that all adjustments will go smoothly for me”.

Marina Musgrove-Pyfrom‘s host country is also Costa Rica. She discovered that even though Spanish is the main language, there is also an area where a Caribbean Creole dialect of English is spoken. One phrase used in Costa Rica is “Pura Vida.” It means pure life and symbolizes the Costa Rican idea of letting things go, and enjoying life. In Costa Rica, if someone asks you “Como estas?” (How are you?), you can answer “Pura vida.” A local band is Villalobos Brothers and a local TV show is A de Asombroso.

Watch a trailer for A de Asombroso here:

Costa Rica has a similar government system to the USA. She learned that in Costa Rica abortion is severely restricted. It is only permitted if the mother’s life or physical is in jeopardy and it is a controversial issue between political parties.

Marina also noted that the seasons seem different from the U.S.

“Philadelphia, where I am from, is very hot outside [in June and July]. So when I pack for Costa Rica I plan to bring ponchos, rain boots, and rain jacket to protect myself from the rain.”

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