Yes. Giant inflatable bubbles floating on a pool WITH PEOPLE IN THEM. Ally, Christina, Grace, and I stood in line with five year olds for a chance at climbing into a chamber with minimal air reserves, zero safety precautions, and a poolful of awesome all for 1,000 colones, or two dollars. A deal. That is me ensconced in the ball of fun you see in the second photo. These bubbles of joy were located at a festival in an agricultural town outside Atenas called Plancillo. The main event at the festival had something to do with taunting bulls, and if I understood correctly it was less about riding them and more about annoying them. While dressed in cool cowboy hats and plaid shirts. ¡Tuanis! The fiesta was fun, and I ate a paquete con chicharrones. The food, oh, the food! We danced in a group and an amorous young man from Jaco was trying really hard to make our acquaintance. We were adequately warned about macho culture, but I didn't realize the lengths to which men will go to demonstrate their 'appraisal' of women. Some of the girls in my group find it offensive, but at the risk of sounding anti-feminist, I think it's flattering to walk down the street in jeans and chuck taylors and still have a carful of dudes hanging halfway out the windows shouting 'Ay! Más hermosa! Qué bonita!' etc. Okay, flattering is totally not the right word. However, as a person who spends a lot of time thinking about fashion and the way I put myself together, I don't think of the male gaze (and the male hoot, and the weird male hissing noise they make here) as threatening or negative. Cara in the study abroad office told us a story about a woman who grew up in a Latin American country and came to the U.S. as an adult. She said the lack of open male recognition made her feel frumpy or ugly. It's certainly something that takes some adjustment, though.
After the festival in Plancillo, we went to a bar in Atenas where Sarah's house sister, Maria Jesús, invited us over to her table with her group of friends. Afterwards, Sarah, Sara (two Sarah's, yes) and I drove to this surreal dance club outside of Atenas with Sara's house brother and some friends. The building was clinging to the side of a mountain overlooking a dark valley with a few lights at the bottom. The terrace wrapped all the way around the outside, and the lighting was like something out of a David Lynch movie. To keep going with movie comparisons, it felt a lot like the scene in Apocalypse Now where they stumble on the French plantation in the jungle. We danced, and I demonstrated such various moves as the sprinkler, the shopping cart, and the crazy leg. Afterwards we sat on the terrace and I had my first intellectually satisfying conversation in Spanish. We discussed the differences in foreign language education in the U.S. and Costa Rica, and talked about imperialism. Fun! Sara's brother said, at one point, that my vocabulary was excellent, and I actually believed it this time because I expressed something complicated without sounding like a second grader. I was proud.
But then I woke up yesterday morning and spent like five minutes giving my host mom a complete answer to a question she didn't actually ask. She is so kind, she just nods with interest while listening to me explain that I don't know where my friend lives, but I think she lives across town, but I'm not sure, and then she smiles like I've said something wonderful and asks again if my friend was able to call her family last night. Good job.
Today we did service learning projects in the morning, visited Intel Costa Rica in the afternoon, and in a few minutes I will go to a dance class to learn the cumbia! Tomorrow we start out early for a hike on the Volcano Poás. Time to go put on my dancing shoes.