We follow blindlessly behind our professor, Esteban, like little ducklings following a mother goose while he weaves through parks and allies around downtown San José. Once in a while, one of us gets distracted and falls behind but the fear of getting left keeps us on track and up with the group. We are eighteen gringos strong and draw quite a bit of attention. Cars honk, people stare, but we just ignore all of it. I laugh because Esteban has taken us on another “tour” of the city with no clear-cut plan. My professor fits the artist stereotype, super likable but a little all over the place. He is teaching us to use the “right half of our brain when drawing,” which is the more perceptive and creative half compared to the language and planning centered, left-brain. Mike and I joke that he has an over developed right half of the brain and a little lacking in the left half. We are surprised his head is not tilted to one side.
I did really enjoy the trip. Once a month, the city opens up all the art museums and studios for free and provides shuttles to all the major sites. Our Art fundamentals: theory and Practice class participated in this tour. We started off at the Gold Museum where we saw an exhibit on the Costa Rican Colónes (money), indigenous pots used for making offerings and gold jewelry from the indigenous people.
After packing the sixteen-passenger bus with all eighteen of us plus some locals, we stopped on a street with a few private studios. They offered a different view of the culture here. A lot of the art here made political and cultural statements. There was one painting in particular that had two white men sitting with two Tica’s (Costa Rican women) who were probably prostitutes (it is legal here) and the workers were holding up a canvas of the rain forest behind them. I interpreted the painting to mean that there was a show put on for the tourists. In reality, life is not a vacation.
We needed a lot of the pieces of art translated for us. Most of the words had some sort of irony or double meaning. My Spanish is not well enough to pick up on the subtleties of the word usage. There was a strong cultural element to the art that I just did not know enough about. I did not have enough contexts to interpret the meanings. Usually, Esteban’s explanation for one word took twenty words to describe the perspective and true meaning. Overall, I learned a lot about how much I did not know about where I am living and received a different view of Costa Rica. My perspective was widened.
Written by Alex Eilers, International Student Writer