8/26/14

Celebrations of Life and Death in Costa Rica


At times, the cultural immersion process that volunteers face abroad is not always the celebration of life, but also of death. Samuel, a current WorldTeach Costa Rica volunteer, has been fortunate enough to be welcomed into his community, so much so that he took part in a traditional funeral. As many Latin cultures do, the community came together to honor the life that was lost, and in doing so showed Samuel a different definition of death, as understood in Costa Rica. And with a new definition of death, comes a redefined version of life.     

                                
Death is not something I would ever consider a welcome event; however, it did allow for me to experience one of the more interesting cultural events since I have been in Costa Rica.  La Lucha lost one if its more admired souls, Don Cristobal, just over a week ago.  I was only able to get to know him through the passing conversations on the street and the few lengthier ones we had over dinner at his house, but that was more than enough to experience the gentleness and love with which he approached this world and lived his life.

The Catholic funeral traditions in Costa Rica a very different from what we do back home.  Their celebration is called "La Novenaria," it is a nine day event that starts the day of the funeral (usually the day following the death).  Every night of the nine days everyone in the community comes together to say a rosary and pray for the deceased that they believe is resting in purgatory.  The nine days represents the nine months that an unborn child is in the womb, and on the last day they say a total of nine rosaries and end with a mass.  They believe that the soul of the deceased is then accepted (born) into heaven.  Every night of this event is capped off with food prepared by friends, neighbors and family that all came together to support the grieving immediate family.  Seeing an entire community come together like they did was one of the more uplifting things I have witnessed. I felt very lucky to experience this and be allowed to be a part of it all.  Death is never a wanted thing, but seeing the positive that was the result is something I will never forget.  

-On to a more pleasant note.  I mentioned in my last post how Richard was relating a few stories of his wilder days.  This too is one my favorites:  His brother, funny how it always seems to be his brother, has woken up a couple times not really sure how he got home.  He would figure it out after looking through his window and seeing his horse that he road to the bar, tied up to the neighbors' door....
-The Festival de las Artes was also this past week.  All of the schools in the district came together to compete in various singing and dancing competitions.  There was traditional dances, people singing pop music, plays and much more.  I really enjoyed the competition, but I am still a little unerved by the 6 year olds Bichata and Tango dances.  Call me old fashioned, but I don't think I can get on board with barely clothed little tykes grinding all up on each other. As shown below:

Tyke grindin'

-We had a long weekend this week because Friday was Mothers' Day (Shout out to Lila and Momma Luz); so, I decided to make a trip to the beach.  It was very last minute, and it ended up being a solo adventure.  I had heard quite a bit about Playa Zancudo from various amigos and decided to check it out, and I was glad I did.  Getting there was pretty interesting.  On the bus I saw a girl mouth feeding and nursing a parakeet back to health, met a lady that had picked coffee on the same farm as my host dad, and was dropped off a little more than 10k short of my final destination (I was told the bus went all the way to where I needed to go).  I tried to hitchhike from where I was dropped off, but the only people that drove by were three Germans on a fourwheeler.  Do to the lack of space and language barrier, I thought it best just to hoof it. Plus, I had just finished reading The Hobbit, and I was feeling adventerous.  The walk was worth it.  Zancudo was a little slice of heaven.  Being unaffected by the surfer take over of Pacific Costa Rica, I had miles of beaches to myself.  Currents did not exist in the water, and I had my own private cabina right on the beach FO CHEEEAAAAP.  I will most definitely be returning.  

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