FAQs about living in our little town
Where is it?
The course is held in a small town located between La Fortuna and San Carlos (aka Ciudad Quesada) called El INVU. We are not on the map! We are very close to two towns, Chachagua and San Isidro de Penas Blancas. El INVU is a farming community with about 500 inhabitants. We are located in the San Carlos region of Costa Rica, known for its rainy weather and friendly people. El INVU is located approximately 2 hours driving distance from Juan Santamaria International Airport and San Jose.
What does EL INVU mean?
Instituto Nacional de Viviendas y Urbanismo. It is actually an acronym for a government organization here in Costa Rica that attends to peoples housing needs. Our town was one of the first towns that this organization homesteaded almost 50 years ago. They named our town "Santa Ana" but no one every refers to it by that name... El INVU is what has stuck!
Why is this course located in EL INVU?
Mary, the director of Centro Espiral Mana (host of the course) and occassional trainer on the course married a fellow from this town. After living in Japan and Brazil they moved home and bought a farm near the Centro. They started Centro Espiral Mana and this course so that they could serve the community's need to learn English and work with developing teachers and teacher trainers. They also wanted to work in their own community and not have to commute to nearby cities for work.
Does it rain a lot there?
Yes. It does rain a lot here. Depending on the time of year, it can rain all day long for weeks, or not at all. During the rainy season (May-December) we usually wake up to a morning drizzle or see at least a thundershower in the afternoon. Expect that it will rain during your time in Costa Rica. There are many umbrellas available for your use and shoes that can get wet are invaluable.
What about the bugs?
Yes, There are bugs. Most are harmless, and depending on the time of day and your location can be anywhere from nonexistent to unbearable. You are provided with a mosquito net and fans are available on request. Usually one or the other is enough to keep you from getting bitten at night. Many people choose to use mosquito repellent or simply persevere.
What services are available in El INVU?
Shared broadband internet access is available in the course computer lab. We also now have wireless internet access. If you have a laptop computer, we will be happy to give you the information for you to connect on your own computer if your computer has its own wireless card.
There is one phone available at the course location as well as two public telephones in town for you to make phone calls. Most course housing does not have a telephone. International phone cards are available at the local pulperia or at stores in the surrounding towns. They cost 3000 colones (about $6.00) for around 20 minutes. You can use the card to call from the school or from the two public pay phones in town. You can also call using a AT&T or MCI calling card or major credit card if you have the Costa Rica access number, but the rates are quite expensive.
The local pulperia can change U.S. dollars (amount varies depending on availability) as well as mail letters and small packages.
La Fortuna, which is a 45 minute bus ride away, has several bank branches and ATM’s, restaurants, pharmacies, a post office and internet cafes. There are also private and public health clinics located nearby. These services are not available in El INVU.
Can I drink the tap water?
Yes! You can absolutely drink the tap water here. In fact, the water in El INVU is much better than in most US cities.
Do I need to worry about malaria?
It is your decision to take anti-malarial medication if you feel it is necessary. Malaria is not a present danger in this region of Costa Rica and most of our resident teacher volunteers and past participants have chosen not to take anti-malarial medications. For more information you can look up the Center for Disease Control web site at http://www.cdc.gov/travel/camerica.htm.
Will I be able to travel during the courses?
Our courses are intensive in nature. We work hard during the week and have some on weekends. The rest of the time is free time to spend as you please. There are several options for things to do and see in the La Fortuna area. A bus ride to La Fortuna takes about 30-45 minutes, San Carlos is about 1-1 1/2 hours. San Ramon is about 2 1/2 hours and San Jose about 3 1/2 hours. Most people who wish to travel to see Costa Rica usually plan to do so before or after the course.
Should I bring my laptop computer?
Yes! We highly recommend it, though it is your choice whether or not to bring your laptop computer. We have four course computers available for use. Many people find it convenient to have their own computer to work on it whenever they choose. All course housing is safe and secure, as long as proper precautions are taken. (Locking doors and windows when not at home)
What should I bring?
For the most part, our weather here is hot and humid...and rainy! Even in the dry season we can expect afternoon showers. Below is a list of SUGGESTED items. These items are not required, but rather given as a guideline for what and how much to bring.
Cool, breathable clothing!
* 2 pants or capris (lightweight material)
* 3 shorts/skirts
* 5-6 t-shirts or tank tops (cotton or similar breathable fabric is best)
* one light sweater, jacket or long sleeve shirt
* shoes that can get WET--(plastic flip flops are great!)
* bathing suit
* a sun hat
* clothing appropriate for practice teaching*
*business casual...collared shirts for men, good coverage for women, no casual flip flops)
* travel alarm clock (battery operated)
* small flashlight
* sun screen
* bug repellent
* light rain coat or poncho
* umbrella (we have several available here as well)
* flash drive/thumb drive for saving files (not necessary, but helpful if you have one already)
What should I leave at home?
* Valuable jewelry
* Heavyweight or dry clean only clothing
* Sheets and towels
* High heeled shoes (most of our roads are not paved)