I have been here in Costa Rica for almost three weeks now, and already I feel as though I never lived in Olympia. Such is the reality of travelling, we get absorbed in the places that we find ourselves in, and the rest of the world fades away slowly but surely. I love you all back home, or wherever you may be when reading this, but I sure do love this country as well, and it deserves my full attention for the majority of the days that I am here!
So much has happened since I arrived in the country that it will be impossible to recount everything that has happened, but I will cover the basics here, and please, please, please, feel free to leave me a comment asking me questions or simply saying hey, or telling me what YOU have been doing lately! I welcome it all!
The first night in the country was interesting, I managed to get scolded by the police not 20 minutes after I came out of customs because I had laid down on my baggage on the sidewalk while we waited for people to filter out of the airport and find our group and was apparently blocking the way. We went to an amazing hotel that gave us snacks in lieu of dinner because the kitchen was closed, and I woke up early the next morning in order to get a jump start on breakfast! It would have been a great jump start on breakfast too, except that I woke up a full hour early having misjudged the time difference in the country! Que tonto!
It didn’t matter though, I found the beautiful garden they had behind the hotel, wandered around contentedly, looked at the insane plant life they had, and eventually found my way to the pool to have a dip before breakfast. Man, was that breakfast good. Beans and rice, and eggs and fruit, and oh my was the fruit juicy! And the coffee! So delicious!!!
We left the next morning after a bunch of orientation stuff, headed to Monteverde to live with a host family for a week and take an intensive Spanish language orientation. The Monteverde Institute, an organization originally started by Quakers, coordinated host families for the week and treated us WAY too good, making us empanadas, dedos del queso, postres, and an insane amount of other delicious traditional Costa Rican foods, always accompanied by some delicious fresh fruit or another.
One night we ended up going to see one of the Ticos, Jorge, play a show at a fancy hotel where we were the white people under 50 years old, and man could he sing! He also played the drums at the same time that he sang, something I have never been able to figure out (well, I’ve never figured out singing alone either for that matter). One of the Ticos’ friends, whose name I forget, eventually showed me and two girls the pool, and talked us into jumping in, although not much talking was needed. Luckily the guy who we were with knew the hotel owners since he was a local, and nothing bad happened, other than our friends coming down and laughing at us all in our underwear in the pool. They were just jealous though, that water was wonderful and refreshing!
We went to a waterfall in Monteverde, we went on a night walk with a tour guide in the jungle, we climbed a ficus tree that was easily over 100 feet tall and 100 years old, we danced (some of us at least), and we had a wonderful time enjoying the natural beauty of the area. To finish off our time there, we performed a traditional dance for our host families, who came to the Institute where we had been taking classes for a “convivio” or potluck of sorts.
It was bittersweet leaving that place, but higher education was beckoning, and our new host families in Heredia were waiting for us. We went back to the Hotel Bouganvillea where we had left most of our luggage, and went straight to the Universidad Nacional in order to meet our new host families. It was kind of nerve-wracking, they made us write what we wanted to give each other on a card and present it to our new host families, who did the same for us. I told them I didn’t have enough of a vocabulary to tell them everything I wanted to give to them, but I told them a few things, including that I wanted to give them a new perspective on the United States.
My host dad (in reality, my host mother’s boyfriend), Gustavo, told me later that when he heard this, he knew we would be good friends, and indeed, we have been having great discussions. Today at dinner for example, we discussed the global banking crisis, and talked about possible solutions to the problems. I told him my views, that every country is in debt, and the people who “own” the debt are hidden behind organizations like the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, and the Federal Reserve. He agreed with me, and I told him my view that if we were to collectively decide to “buck the system”, it would indeed be possible, but gaining enough support for such a tactic would be next to impossible. I then told him about some friends I have that are living almost without money, living off the land and the kindness of others, and are currently working in various places throughout the world on organic farms, supporting themselves directly through their work. He showed an immense amount of interest, and suggested that we could go and visit one of them on a weekend, something that I am going to try to follow up on!
Another day, Gustavo took me on a tour of Heredia while Doña Ligia, my host mom, went to church. They had asked me my religion the first day, and I explained that I was Jewish by heritage, went to a Catholic school, but am not religious, and Gustavo had a riot! He explained to me later, during the tour, that he’s not religious either, and proceeded to tell me his views on spiritualism, which struck me as something that one of my Evergreener friends would tell me. He puts out positive energy, and most of the time, he gets positive energy back. Man, do I like the guy!
I also have a host brother, Jose, and a host sister that lives out of the house. The brother is cool, a drummer and optometrist, but I don’t really see him all to often as he is, like my host brother in Monteverde, wrapped up in his own life. His biggest task right now is learning 21 One Direction songs to play at a cover concert; I really do feel bad for him. Additionally, there is a grandmother in the house who is rather afraid of me it seems, or at least uncomfortable in my presence, yet I’m doing my best to be nice to her.
The only other person in the house is Marica, the maid, who I really like! Like Gustavo, she’s from Nicaragua, which means that they are both looked down upon by many Costa Ricans, much like a Mexican in the United States. They have a sort of solidarity kinship together, and in talking with Marica alone when nobody is home, we’ve reached a point of understanding as well. This topic will be explored more in upcoming blog posts!
All in all, my family is great, I am registered for classes (which was a nightmarish process), I bought a bike last weekend, rode a 35 km loop in the Orosi Valley and went to a cockfight with the people I bought it from (which will also be explored in an upcoming blog post after I go to a championship cockfight the week after this one), and I rode 40 km back over a mountain pass, through downtown San Jose, and made it back home without getting hit by a car! Success! This bike is exactly what I needed, and it has already enabled me to find a climbing gym in San Jose that is only 10 km away! This next weekend, I’m going to either Puerto Limon or Jaco, both of which will prove to be wonderful places I’m sure, and I’m hoping to get settled into my classes very shortly here.
There is so much more I could write about right now, but I need to be up early to get to class on time (and find my class), so I will save it for another day. Thanks for reading about my sporadic adventures, and be on the lookout for more organized blog posts in the future about some stuff that has been occupying my mind about this country!!!
Peace, love, and pura vida!