Thursday, September 16, 2010

Independence Day

I missed Independence Day in the US, but I celebrated Independence Day here in Costa Rica for the past couple of days  Yesterday, September 15 was Independence Day here in Costa Rica.  All sorts of events have been happening for the past week or so, but the important events happened the 14th and 15th.

On the 14th, in a reenactment of the notice of independence for Central America being brought from Guatemala to Costa Rica, a group of students and professors ran about 8 kilometers (5 miles) with a lit torch and the flag of Costa Rica.  About 20 students and 4 teachers began the run and I was one of the teachers running. I even carried the torch for a little bit.

It was somewhat surreal running in the hills around the volcano with a bunch of cars blaring their horns behind us and our police escort blaring his siren  Every few minutes the torch would go out and the principal, who also ran with us, would relight the torch with a box of matches he carried with him. Adding to those stops, occasional stops for water meant that the experience was not a very satisfying run, but it was worth it anyways.

For anyone who became too tired, they were told to jump in one of the cars driving behind the runners.  I'd estimate about half the students and all the teachers made it the entire way.  We arrived at the school after maybe 45 minutes of running with intermittent breaks.  The torch was put in a stand and an honor guard of 4 students stood behind the torch, with different students rotating  in every 15 minutes for the next hour and half.

At 6 pm an assembly of the students and the parents all came with paper lanterns which had been made by the students in various shapes indicative of Costa Rican culture.  I saw a large ship, an oxcart (the Costa Rican symbol of work), and squares with pictures of various Costa Rican symbols (seal, bird, tree, those types of things) on them among many other designs.

These pictures from San Rafael are a good example of what I am talking about.  The paper lanterns (faroles in Spanish) were judged and then everyone walked around Zeta Trece in a little parade.  This was really pretty and impressive and I really enjoyed being able to witness the celebration.

Yesterday, actual Independence Day, was a lot more like the 4th of July in the US, except without any fireworks.  I spent most of the morning carrying a cooler of water to hand out to the members of the Zeta Trece band as they played and marched in the parade. I saw most of the parade, and some of the bands were quite good.  There were also traditional dancers and the best students from the surrounding schools marched with banners.

I managed to get sunburned like a 4th of July parade in the States because yesterday happened to be the hottest and sunniest day in months, even though we're supposed to be entering into the height of the rainy season.   While that was less than ideal, I really enjoyed the entire experience.  So much of this year is hard to appreciate in the moment, only afterwards can I appreciate what I've done and experienced here. This holiday was one of the few moments this year that I am grateful for both in the moment and afterwards.

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