I always enjoy traveling to places I have never been. I create in my mind a picture or expectation of the place I am going to see, basing it on the concept I have of places that I think are similar that I have already visited. In this case I referenced my experience on my mission in Torreon, Mexico which I finished 9 years ago. Torreon (and the outlying areas) are all I know of latin america, and though I knew that Costa Rica is tropical and Torreon is desert, the rest I expected to be about the same.
For the most part my expectations were right. It is much greener here, and San Jose (the capital of Costa Rica) is surrounded by beautiful tropical mountains. There are waterfalls nearby, and other tourist attractions such as active volcanoes, beaches, and more. There is also extreme poverty just like in Mexico: houses made out of of cardboard or tin, low wages, old clothes, etc. The state of music however, is much different.
In Northern Mexico the popular music celebrates terrible singing. The hymns that they sing in church are the same five or six sung over and over again. I had no idea what to expect from a national symphony orchestra and chorus from here, and was so pleasantly surprised that I am already hoping that I get an opportunity to sing with them many more times. They love great music, and are extremely emotional and proficient in their performance of it. They appreciate and recognize artistry, and create art themselves.
I am traveling with Karen Esquivel, an American from Costa Rica who sings contralto with us and used to live and teach here. When she arrived many of her old colleageus and students rushed to greet her with great affection, and her husband Gustavo told us of what an impact she had and still has on the lives of all the young singers here. She is studying at Florida State University now to try and create opportunities for these singers to study in the United States, and those opportunities should be provided. They simply cannot afford the travel costs or the risk if they do not get accepted. We can help them create those opportunities (more on that later).
I have had a wonderful time here. The hotel is very nice with a lovely view of the mountains, and it has been a real treat brushing up my Spanish skills. The local paper "La Nacion" interviewd us a couple of days ago, so CLICK HERE if you would like to read more (sorry, it's in Spanish). I will have pictures when I return home.
(If you would like to join in a discussion on how to help those in places like Costa Rica CLICK HERE to go to my website forum)