SQUIZ THE WORLD (1400 × 700px)

Squiz the World goes to… Costa Rica

Costa Rica’s biodiversity: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G-CbbmsNvx4
Gallo Pinto recipe: https://stripedspatula.com/gallo-pinto/#wprm-recipe-container-7474
Salsa Lizano: https://www.chilemojo.com.au/products/salsa-lizano-700ml 

Each week, we give the world globe a spin, and see where we land. Then we take the kids of Australia on an audio excursion to visit that country and its people.

I’m Amanda Bower, and today on Squiz the World we’re visiting the Central American country of Costa Rica, which stands out from its neighbours because it’s one of the happiest countries on earth. It’s a stable democracy, its economy is strong, and it has none of the problems with violence that its neighbours suffer from.

So at a time when there’s so much news about war in the world, let’s learn some of the secrets of this peaceful nation … Strap yourselves into the Squiz Kids Super Fast Supersonic Jetliner as we take off and take a squiz at Costa Rica …

Just the Facts
Costa Rica is in Central America – the thin strip of land that connects North and South America. Its neighbours are Nicaragua to the north, and Panama to the south… and on either side, the Caribbean sea and the Pacific Ocean. Costa Rica means “rich coast” in Spanish, and was given the name when early Spanish explorers and colonisers saw the gold jewelry that indigenous people wore.

There are eight different indigenous groups in Costa Rica whose descendants were living there before Spanish and African people came to Central America. Today, they represent about 2.5% of the population… not so far off the 3.3% of Australians who identify as indigenous in our country.

In total, Costa Rica has a population of about five million people, with around 350,000 of them living in the capital, San Jose. But Costa Rica’s most famous inhabitants are probably its wildlife… the country has highest density of biodiversity in the world.

Now, that phrase rolled right off my tongue… density of biodiversity… but what does it actually mean?

Well, biodiversity means the variety of plant and animal life in a place. If it’s dense, that means there’s a lot of different types of plants and animals. Because Costa Rica is part of a land bridge between North and South America, it’s a place where the animals and plants from the two continents have been mixing together for millions of years, producing many more, different, species.

Costa Rica takes up just one thirtieth of one percent of the land on earth, but it contains FOUR per cent of all species that exist on the planet. That means that it’s extremely DENSE with plants and animals… thousands of which exist nowhere else on earth. The fancy word for those unique plants and animals is endemic… and Costa Rica has endemic frogs, snakes, lizards, hummingbirds, butterflies, and more. It’s an incredible place to visit… and there’s a link in your episode notes for a virtual video visit, too.

Whenever you travel, it’s important to learn a few words in that country’s language. It’s a great way to show respect. So, let’s….

Learn the Lingo

In Costa Rica the official language is Spanish, and there are also three recognised regional languages.

Squiz Kid Sarah is 10, and her Mum works for the Costa Rican embassy in Canberra. She’s here to teach us how you say hello in Spanish:

Go on, you give it a try! Hola! It starts with an “”h””, but you don’t pronounce that in Spanish. There are 21 different countries in the world that have Spanish as their official language, but there’s one saying that’s typical for Costa Rica. Sarah, tell us what it is!

Pura Vida

Okay, literally that means “”pure life””, but it’s basically a way of being optimistic and happy, of making the most of life. It’s the unofficial motto of Costa Rica – pura vida! Say that to someone there, and they’ll treat you like a local.

People are always really grateful when you just try to speak their language. They may even thank you for it. Hey, Sarah, how do we say thank you in Spanish?

And Gracias to you, too, Sarah.

Now that we can communicate a little bit, it’s….

Time for School
Costa Ricans are some of the best educated people in Latin America. Education has been free and compulsory since 1897, and starting at age 4, kids put on dark blue pants and skirts, and white shirts, and head off to preschool.

Whether kids go to a private or a public school in Costa Rica, they are going to be taught the same subjects, and use the same books. Kids also eat the same meal together at school, so that they learn good eating habits together. Some schools even have a toothbrushing session after lunch, to make sure kids are taking care of their teeth!

The Costa Rican government wants all kids to be educated, so they make sure that kids whose families don’t have a lot of money receive extra help to buy uniforms, and pay for transport to get their kids to school each day. It’s not so easy in lots of other parts of Central America, so lots of families come to live in Costa Rica to escape troubled times, and give their kids the benefit of going to school in peacful Costa Rica.

Just like we learn about Australian history at school, kids in Costa Rica learn about the important events that shaped their country. Of course, we don’t have 12 school years to teach you all about the history of the country, but here’s the ONE thing that we think is pretty interesting and important… and a reason why all those families are moving to Costa Rica for their kids. Let’s get in our time machine for

Time Travel
Let’s head back… way back… to 1949.

A new constitution – a set of rules for running the country – is being adopted in Costa Rica. And it’s Article Twelve of this constitution that is really interesting. It abolishes the Costa Rican Army.

That’s right, for more than 70 years, Costa Rica has had no army. There is a police force, but all the money that would be spent on the military has gone towards education and health.

Now, even though it’s quite a poor country, Costa Rica leads the Central American and Caribbean region in primary education and health. Its former president, Oscar Arias, won a Nobel Peace Prize for leading efforts to negotiate an end to civil wars and conflicts in other Central American countries in the 1980s. And in 1989, Costa Rica’s neighbour, Panama, also abolished its military… meaning that their border is the only non-militarised one in the world!

Phew! I’ve learned a ton about Costa Rica, and now I’m starving! I think it might be…

Dinner Time
Okay, actually it’s breakfast time. Because when the rooster crows, who doesn’t want spotted rooster for breakfast?

“Gallo Pinto” means spotted rooster in Spanish, but it’s actually a rice dish made with beans, coriander, onion, and red capsicum.

A typical breakfast in Costa Rica involves Gallo Pinto, eggs – fried or scrambled, maybe some fresh tortillas on the side, and of course avocado and some fresh fruit. And on every table in every home and restaurant in Costa Rica, you’ll find Salsa Lizano… it’s a brown sauce that’s slightly sweet, slightly spicy, with hints of cumin. There’s a link in your episode notes to a recipe for gallo pinto, as well as a link to Salsa Lizano. Buen provecho!!

The S’Quiz
This is the part of the podcast where you get to test how well you’ve been listening.

Question 1. Costa Rica has the highest density of what in the world?
Question 2. What does Article 12 of Costa Rica’s constitution do?
Question 3. Hard one – what should you say to sound like a local in Costa Rica?