Ana Felicia Bola"os dressed in traditional clothing to share her Costa Rican customs with children at Star of the Sea School Monday.

Bola"os was one of 22 retired professionals to visit Astoria as part of an Oregon-Costa Rica exchange program that began 17 years ago.

"You learn the language, you know the customs. The customs are very important for me," said Bola"os, who arrived in Oregon Sept. 30.

This is her first trip to the state. The group departs Astoria today and travels to Salem on a bus contracted from the Seaside School District. The group will stop at the Tillamook County Creamery Association and the Newport Aquarium before arriving in Salem.

They will visit Hood River, Sisters and Portland before returning to Costa Rica at the end of October.

Bola"os taught first through third grades, then worked as a principal and finally a "supervisor" of schools in Grecia, in central Costa Rica.

"In this group, we have many friends," she said, thanking her Astoria host, Kathleen Hughes.

Armando Alfaro, another retired teacher spent some time in California and Israel during his career.

"The experience I have is that schools are essentially the same everywhere," he said.

Costa Rica doesn't have a military so much of its money goes to education. Two schools specialize in sports. One school in the capital San Jose specialize in the arts, while others teach it minimally.

"Right now in Costa Rica, we are concerned about teaching English," he said. "We are very concerned about computers in our classrooms."

In Costa Rica, teachers manage about 35 students per class. Schools usually have one or two aides. The country requires every child to attend school.

The country with 4 million people has a 96 percent literacy rate. The United States, with 292 million people, had a literacy rate of 99 percent in 1995.

Alfaro's wife Rosario Alfaro, who is vacationing from her job in Costa Rica, said she enjoyed the houses in Astoria, which are constructed with wood instead of Costa Rican cement. The cold weather also struck her.

"Our beaches are completely different," she said. "All year, they're warm."

But she said the warmth of the people in Astoria was remarkable.

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