"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.' "
Jeremiah 29:11

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Part 2: ¡Semana Cívica!

A week has passed since I started my blog entry about civic week, so I guess it is time to continue it.  Of course I intended to finish this entry during the week, but that didn't quite happen.  You see I had last Monday off in observance of Independence Day, so I was busy going on adventures with my friend in Montezuma.  Then Tuesday, as a result of my adventures the previous two days, but mostly as a result of sleeping in my contacts, my right eye burned like it was on fire, was red and puffy like I had conjunctivitis, and was watering so much that I appeared to be crying.  All day long.  That resulted in me leaving school early to have my eye checked out, because I literally couldn't keep  my eye open.  Then Wednesday I decided to stay after school before an afternoon meeting to catch up on work I had wanted to do the previous day.  I ended up not leaving school until 6 pm, and after my 11 hour work day, I didn't exactly get much done.  I woke up around 10 pm that night still with my clothes on, my light on, and the book I had been reading tossed aside on the floor.

But now it is Saturday, and I am curled up in the hammock as I type this, trying to regain feeling in my legs from my morning bike ride up and down these hills.

I believe I left off my civic week entry with Thursday evening's events.  

Friday morning was the running of the torch; or, it was supposed to be.  The event was cancelled as a result of the September 5th earthquake.  Since the earthquake the ferry, which is the primary means to access the Nicoyan Peninsula where I live, has been inoperable.  The water levels dropped significantly, and the ramp was also in need of repair.  

A bit of history about the torch:  I am going to pre-apologize if any of my facts are wrong, because I am just learning all of this, too.  The independence torch is a national symbol of freedom in Costa Rica.  When the Central American countries declared independence from Spain in 1821, the letter carrying the message of new-found independence left Guatemala and ended in Costa Rica.  

It has become a tradition that the schools in Central America emulate the path of the mail carrying the news of independence back in 1821.  The torch actually didn't arrive in Costa Rica until a month after the declaration of independence, but each year throughout semana cívica students run with the torch from school to school.

I was super excited about this event that our small school had the honor of participating, and I was equally disappointed once I learned that it would be cancelled.  Well, enter the police force of Cóbano:  although the official torch could not arrive without the ferry, the police force arranged for an unofficial running of the torch to keep the tradition alive.

Friday morning of September 14th, several students from the school met at city hall in Cóbano and began the relay from the municipalidad to the school.  Since I have walked it multiple times, let me tell you, that is no short distance!  Those of us at school waited and waited for the torch to arrive.  It was estimated to take about an hour to get from the city hall to school, so the teachers gathered all the students into the lunch room and anxiously waited.

As my students were responsible for the acto cívico of the day, I volunteered to stand down at the end of the driveway to keep a lookout for the torch.  I could hear it before I saw it.  Rounding the corner and kicking up dust along the road, the police truck led the way with its siren going.  Right behind the police truck, was our school Director driving and honking his car horn.  Behind his vehicle was the group of red faced, sweaty students still running.  Behind them, a group of police men ran along, and finally a small caravan of school parents drove their cars and honked along. The torch was passed off one last time before running it up the drive and into the comedor where the rest of the students were waiting.  


here they come

getting closer

last leg of the relay

that's my student holding the torch!


running it into the comedor, with the flag waiting

As I mentioned before, Friday was fifth and sixth grades' turn to lead the acto cívico.  We were assigned to explain the symbolism and importance of the torch.  Thank goodness my co-teacher who teaches Spanish and Social Studies to my students is Costa Rican.  She always keeps me informed.  If not, I would have been googling away.  She prepared a little blurb for one of the students to read in Spanish.  I translated it for one of my students to read in English.  The previous day, we got crafty and made little torches from construction and crepe papers.

cute, right?
Our acto cívico was short and sweet.  The students put the torch in a special torch-holder (not sure the official name), and were recognized for their job well run.  No pun intended.

Then we sang the 3 patriotic hymns, and said the pledge.  

And then two of my students read the story of the torch.  

Like I said, short and sweet. Unlike this blog entry.

Friday night, September 14th, was supposed to be a parade with faroles (lanterns).  All the children in town make their own paper lanterns and walk from city hall back to the community gym while singing the national anthem.  The lanterns are lit with candles at 6 pm and this is symbolic of the meeting held in a Guatemalan plaza the eve of the declaration of independence.  That meeting was lit by candles.

I was very excited about taking part in such a unique tradition, and once more disappointed when the announcement came that the lantern parade had been cancelled.  Again, we can blame this on the earthquake.  We have had so many tremors and shakes since September 5th that the city officials did not want to have children and families out walking with lit flames in case of another quake.  First their decision was to change the time from 6 pm to 2 pm in the afternoon and just ask everyone in the town to turn off the lights (what about the sun?), but it was then decided it would be safer to cancel it all together.  Can we say thank goodness?  Because that was the day at 1:57 pm a 4.1 shook us with the epicenter only one kilometer from this house.   Three minutes before the time that we would have been about to start the lanterns.  Talk about being in the right place at the right time.

Saturday morning, the actual day of Independence, Cóbano holds a parade, so the students donned their uniforms once more and the preschoolers dressed in their cute Trip the Worm costumes again.  The preschool students rode in a float. The honor students marched behind, leading the way for a banner held by each grade.  The teachers marched alongside their students who held the banner.

Of course the parade started on Tico Time, and the sun wasn't taking it easy on us.  The teachers had to wear our school polos and jeans because apparently jeans are the only pants we all had in common...I know it's "winter here", but 29 degrees Celsius may as well be summer.  We also were given these red scarf things to tie around us, because its part of the typical clothing of this area.

with my Tica sister before leaving for the parade .  She was an honor student!

I took plenty of pictures while WAITING for the parade to start

The fancy banner for our school.  Ohh-la-la

another float.  Don't let those "rain clouds" fool you.  

so thankful for a recently hired American teacher/ new friend :)

I let Jorge choose between my sunglasses and the hat.

precious pre-school on their float.

yay!  The 5th grade banner.

stopped for a bit in el centro

Despite the heat, it was an exciting way to start the morning of my first Costa Rican Independence day.  I loved marching alongside my kiddos and waving to their parents as we passed by!

The parade followed the route of the rest of the semana cívica activities:  from city hall to the community gym.  Once we finally arrived at the gym, it was packed with townsfolk and a performance was already taking place.

no wonder the Ticos dance so well--start 'em young!
I went back outside to watch the remainder of the parade while waiting for my complimentary plate of arroz con pollo.  

The color guard is a little bit different here...the flags don't spin.  I guess more of an honor guard.

And last but not least, the animals:  I guess so the other parade marchers wouldn't step in their poo.


an old coffee cart

That is the end of my longgggggg two-part blog entry about civic week in Costa Rica.  Yes it was a montón of extra activities throughout the week, but I loved every bit of it.  I'm just trying to soak up every little bit of culture I can while I'm still here.


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