Wednesday, June 12, 2013
Yesterday we visited Cartago, which is the home to a very important basilica, the Basilica of Los Angeles. I’m not Catholic, so forgive me if I jumble up the jargon. It is fairly old, and built over a stream that provides holy water to all who come. I took a drink even though I am quite cynical about such things, I figured it couldn’t hurt me! Anyhow, this water isn’t directly blessed by a priest because of the significant of the stream it comes from. Here is more information on it, if you are so inclined. Or here is the wikipedia page on it. I am too tired to tell the story, and I know I wouldn’t do it justice after hearing our guide Selma tell it to us. Costa Ricans come from afar every September 5th to pray and give thanks. They may walk for 3-4 days or more, or 5-6 hours. It’s a pilgrimage of faith for the many Catholics in Costa Rica. In a lower level of the basilica are glass cases with pendants of body parts, things like bed, baby cribs, weapons, as well as pieces of wood, jewelry, etc. All are representative of miracles someone has prayed for—maybe the crib was for fertility, a leg for healing of an injury. Additionally, there are hand written notes. It is an interesting practice from an outsider’s standpoint. I wanted to ask where are the pendants representing those miracles that were not received? Oops, there goes my cynical self again. The basilica was very beautiful inside and out, and I am always in awe at structures that are so old.
Next, we traveled another 8 km or so, over a hill to the town of Orosi (translation: oro=gold, si=yes. Gold Yes). We stopped on the mountain and walked up many steps and then down a hill to get a slight bird’s eye view. We heard this rumbling sound, which I thought was some sort of heavy machinery nearby but it turns out it was rumblings from the Irazu volcano on the other side of Orosi! How cool is that? Well, cool as long as it is not an erupting volcano.
As green as Costa Rica is, the mountainsides surrounding Orosi are even greener, the flowers larger, and the plants more vibrant. This is due to the rich and fertile soil provided by past volcanic eruptions. Fascinating, isn’t it? As it turns out, one of the livelihoods of this small town is cultivating tropical plants for export. I keep seeing this tropical plants growing wild with what appears to be great ease and am jealous. I have had some of these in pots at my home that have not fared so well. In fact, I saw some schefflera TREES today. I kept mine alive for about 9 years as a houseplant and then it croaked, yet here they grow into fully grown trees.
We visited the oldest colonial building standing in Costa Rica, which is the Cathedral in Orosi. After the size and grandness of the one in Cartago, this one was small and quaint. You could tell it was old from the floor and the walls. It’s construction began in 1743. The stone tiles on the roof were created by hand. Amazing that it has withstood volcanoes and earthquakes over the years.
After the Orosi visit, we went back to Cartago and visited the market. This is basically an enclosed area full of venders for anything you can imagine—fresh fish, meat, fruits, vegetables, shoes, bread (in Español: pescaderia, carnederia, frutas, vegetales, zapatos, panderia, …), plus dog food, spices, honey, birds and bird food, and probably more. The smells…well, that was rough at times and I will just leave it at that. We also had a traditional Costa Rican meal—I had cansado with a pork chop. Cansado is just the typical arroz, frijoles, plus vegetables, pasta, and tortillas to wrap it up in.
Thursday we have another primary school visit and then we leave Friday a.m. EARLY to head for the Caribbean and Port of Limon. Another school visit is in store en route; that one will be with the indigenous people of the eastern side of Costa Rica. I am not taking my computer with me, so may not have updates until Monday unless I do it by phone. Check back then—should be pictures and fantastic stories to tell!
Hanging out above a basilica door
Basílica de Nuestra Señora de Los Ángeles