No longer a woman alone with a flood of daring females

For years I have been writing to women encouraging them to come to Costa Rica. Last Friday I learned that they are here. That is when I attended a meet and greet gathering of the Women’s Professional Network, a relatively new organization and offshoot of the Women’s Club of Costa Rica. The get-together was held in a new Venezuelan restaurant in Barrio Amón. The acoustics were not cushioned in this two-story Caracas Arepas and Juice Bar, and I walked into a cacophony of enthusiastic voices.

Joyful, but still cacophonous. I got my first eye opener about what women are up to when one of the young women at the door told me that she works with study abroad students, and that 70 percent of the arrivals are female. Women, I learned, now make up a majority of students taking advantage of study abroad programs. Wow, I thought.

I bought myself a beer and climbed the stairs to the second floor, which had been turned into a balcony. That is where most of the chatter was coming from. There were more than a dozen women there, all in their 20s to their 40s. They were talking about their various enterprises and exchanging business cards. Most of them are involved in environmentally sustainable businesses or non-profit concerns.

One, Christina, is working with Children without Borders (Niños sin Fronteras), an organization that brings medical attention to poor children. There were writers, a photographer, and social media specialist, and Sara, a movie producer who is working to get U.S. filmmakers to use locations and crews in Costa Rica (an idea whose time has certainly come if the government would encourage it). Stacey, a mover and shaker in any organization, has opened a yoga studio in Barrio Amón. And one was promoting American-style football. Her team is made up of young men from the tough barrios.

There were a number of English language teachers, and one involved in the Multilingue program in public schools.

What both pleased and surprised me was there were some women who have packed their bags and come alone to Costa Rica, some as a stop included in their plans to visit other countries as well. Others, came to live here. When I moved to Costa Rica as a woman alone it was something of a rarity, or seemed to be by the surprise people expressed at my daring.

But women are freer to be more independent and adventurous than we once were. And we are doers. Seeing these women in action made the reality even clearer. Even
older women are getting more daring. Gigi, a former ballerina, simply packed two bags three years ago and has been traveling the world. We found we have a lot in common.

Another reality hit me this week. I visited a school in Moravia. It is a private school that delivers the curriculum in English to children from the age of 2 through sixth grade. I was there as the result of an invitation from Mariana, the 11-year-old daughter of a friend of mine. Mariana had done a report of my book, “Butterfly in the City” and asked her mother to see if I would visit their book club at her school.

It is a small privately run school with about 200 students. It is the creation of John and Silvia, a Costa Rican couple. I was impressed with the behavior of the kids. In the middle of the school is the playground, and during recess they run and swing and play together and make noise. In class they all work quietly at their desks, whether they are coloring or reading or learning science – even the 2 to 4 year olds. At least when I visited.

John showed me their reading books and workbooks. All in English.

But my visit revealed that although the students obviously read and write English with some proficiency, they are very hesitant to speak it.

They need more practice, and one way to give them practice speaking is to have them do something where communication is tantamount and self-consciousness is reduced — where they can be somebody else, not themselves talking self-consciously but actors playing characters. They need short little plays where they can be funny, tragic, informative or angry.

And that is just what a group of people at the Little Theatre of Costa Rica is doing. The group is bringing plays to the schools, even getting students to write plays and act in them. I’m not involved in this endeavor, but I applaud them and just may contribute something, at least to this one special school I visited.

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