Pacuare River & Manuel Antonio

Hello again! Since I last wrote 2 weeks ago, I’ve gone white-water rafting on the Pacuare River, spent a weekend in Manuel Antonio, and… (an unanticipated adventure) sprained my ankle while playing soccer. Read on for more details!

The day after I last wrote, I went white-water rafting with another of the students in my program. We had a rather intense guide who would chastise us and the other people in our raft whenever we didn’t follow his paddling instructions exactly. Because it’s the dry season, the river wasn’t that high, and the rafting experience was similar to ones I’ve had in Massachusetts. Probably the scariest part of the trip — which I didn’t personally experience — was that the friend I was with saw a tarantula in the bathroom.

White-water rafting on the Pacuare River

Last weekend, several other students and I went to Manuel Antonio for the weekend. It’s located on the Pacific coast, about a 3-hour bus ride from San José. (Costa Rica is only the size of West Virginia, so pretty much all areas of the country are reachable by bus within 5 hours.) The main attraction there is Manuel Antonio National Park, in which dense, hilly rainforest meets beautiful beaches. The park is known for its wildlife, including sloths, monkeys, purple and orange crabs, raccoons, and lizards. Unfortunately, many of the animals — especially the monkeys and raccoons — are overly familiar around humans and approach to try to steal their food. It’s clearly the result of too many tourists feeding them and trying to take selfies with them (which I witnessed several times). Despite the number of tourists, the park retains a remote feel with the opportunity to see animals in their natural habitat. It’s very hot and humid in that area of Costa Rica, so we were all dripping sweat within about 10 minutes of starting walking around the park, even at 8 AM.

A three-toed sloth (I have to give one of my friends credit for this photo; sloths stay pretty high up in trees and — true to their name — tend not to move from those positions)
Capuchin monkeys in Manuel Antonio National Park

Because Manuel Antonio is hilly, it offers stunning views over the ocean. One evening, we went to a restaurant recommended for its sunset views and weren’t disappointed. Although that setting was more picturesque, the best sunset photo I’ve taken so far in Costa Rica was on my street in Cartago!

Watching the sunset in Manuel Antonio

After returning from my trip last weekend, I spent the week working in the antepartum service (for pregnant women before delivery). Compared to what I’m used to in the U.S., the public hospital where I’m working here is very lacking in privacy but no doubt cuts down on costs. The antepartum service consists of two big rooms with eight beds each. There are no curtains between the beds, which means that when one patient is getting examined, all the other patients can see. Also, when the interns take the initial history from patients, including the sexual history, it’s in front of all the other patients. Probably because the room is shared, no men (e.g. fathers of the babies) are allowed. I’ve occasionally seen patients’ mothers in there when the patients are teenagers, but otherwise no visitors. There seems to be a nice sense of camaraderie between the patients; for example, I’ve seen one braiding another one’s hair. Once women go into labor, they move to the labor room, which is also shared. Overall, my impression is that the experience of birth in a public hospital here is very different from that in a hospital in the U.S., where the norm is to have a private room with the father and other family present and, in some cases, the mom has a birth plan specifying how she wants to tailor her experience. There’s little room for personalization here!

I had a very brief experience as a patient here myself on Friday after I twisted my ankle playing soccer on Thursday night. I asked my host father, who’s an Ob/Gyn, about getting an X-ray to make sure I didn’t have a fracture. I thought I might have to go to San José since that’s where providers covered by my insurance are located, but he said I could just get an X-ray at the hospital where we both work. That consisted of my host sister taking me to the Radiology Department with a requisition slip and asking if they could do an X-ray on me, which they did. I got a physical X-ray to take home with me and still don’t know if the Radiology Department even knew the name of whom they were imaging. There wasn’t a radiologist to review the image, but it looked fine to the tech, my host father, and me. I’ve been out of commission this weekend since I can’t walk on my ankle, but fortunately I wasn’t planning to travel anywhere. I’m hoping to be recovered in time to travel next weekend!

Sunset over my street in Cartago