The Last Hoorah!!

This post is overdue but things escalated quickly and I’m still processing all that’s happened. It covers my last week in Costa Rica and the many goodbyes that rapidly emerged as my study abroad time got cut short.

Today is Monday March 9th. The Coronavirus is here in Costa Rica but so far there’s only three confirmed cases of travelers coming back from Italy. This morning we went to a beautiful home for some relaxing yoga. Talk about house goals- there were plants everywhere and earth colored walls and furniture and a huge pool in the backyard. We went to La Concha Tuesday night which is a small bar that’s free every Tuesday night but because of the virus they had relocated everything to outside. All the workers wore gloves and walked around sanitizing the tables every five minutes and everywhere you looked was a bottle of hand sanitizer! Some students from our school are starting to be sent home since their home states are in states of emergency, but K-State said its our programs decision as to whether or not we get sent home. In my Tropical Ecology class we had an interesting speaker who talked about illegal fishing practices and how it impacts the environment, poverty and pretty much every aspect of life. By-catch is a major issue here as fisherman use long line nets and don’t have any way to specifically catch the types they are trying to. Mariana and I were super bored after dinner so we decided to make cookies!! They quadrupled in size in the oven and basically made one giant cookie but we ate them anyways while watching Me before You. Wednesday was a sad day- Alexis called and said the trip to Costa Rica is cancelled because the Peace Corp isn’t allowing any international travel. That really sucks because we had so many cool places planned out to go to and I was excited for her and mom to get to meet my host family and see my school and everything but I guess that gives us the excuse to take a trip to Costa Rica soon to make up for it! Made an impulse purchase of matching earrings with my friend Anna-Grace because why not! They’re handmade spirals made from tin and are super cute. On Friday we headed to Puerto Viejo to the Caribbean coast and our last beach weekend! Our AirBnB was the ~cutest~ with a straw hut roof and open walls and windows to let the warm breeze in. There were hammocks hanging inside and a huge plate of fruit waiting for us when we got there! I slept with a mosquito net for the first time and was not the biggest fan as I flop around a lot in my sleep and was scared I would accidentally rip it down unknowingly. Thankfully that didn’t happen but I must not have had it up right because I woke up with around five mosquito bites on my ankles, right where the shoe rubs ugh. We had a big family dinner of pasta that night and played our favorite game of Spicy Uno- can’t wait to teach all my friends back home how to play because it’s the best. On Saturday we took a nature trail to get to the beach and found a baby octopus and a perfect photo-op rope swing on the way. The beach was nice but there was a very strong rip current in the waves so we didn’t spend much time in the water. They warned us about rip currents day 1 but this was my first time actually experiencing one and let me tell ya- it’s pretty scary. Dinner that night was at a sushi place in town- no one got sushi but all the food was delicious. We cheered to our last trip all together- it wasn’t supposed to be the last weekend but people had field trips the next week so we wouldn’t be together anyways. Our plan Sunday was to ride to a black sand beach, Playa Negra, and relax there until our bus left in the afternoon but as we were walking out the door we got the devastating email from ISA that we were all being sent home and had to leave by Friday. I figured it was coming, but it still hit hard when the doubts I’d had very quickly became a reality. We didn’t want that news to ruin our last time at the beach though so we decided to not talk about it and pretend we hadn’t read the email. That didn’t really happen but we still made the most of our time on the beach and rented some bikes to ride around town for a bit. My friend accidentally lost our key to the bike chain, which is easy to do because the key was the size of a fingernail, so we got to spend time looking for it on the beach while our other friends rode back into town to the bike dude to get a spare. There’s no way we would have found it due to its size and the fact that all the black sand sparkled like a shiny key too. The bike guy rode back out with our friends and a chain of over 30 keys, but somehow the first one he tried worked and we were good to go! It’s funny because I’m sure anywhere else the owner would have been annoyed with a lost key and charged us to replace it but he just came out to help with the biggest smile on his face, simply thinking it was funny we had lost the key, and didn’t seem to care at all that his key was gone now. People on the beach live a different life that’s for sure. I spent our four hour bus ride back to San Jose watching the beautiful scenery of Costa Rica pass by one last time and reflecting on how thankful I am for getting this experience even if it was being cut short. My host family welcomed me back with big hugs as they’d heard the news about all of us being sent home early and made a nice traditional dinner to cheer me up. Changing my flight was quite the time as all the lines are busy with so many travelers needing changes now. On the 16th, Costa Rica declared a State of Emergency and announced it’s closing all its schools and restaurants as cases there have escalated quickly- my classes have been moved to online but with only two weeks left it’s pretty much just turning in final projects and doing a few Zoom classes to wrap the semester up. Instead of two weeks I was given two days to get packed and say goodbye to everyone- goodbyes really suck and I’ve never been good at them so hopefully everyone knows how much I appreciate them even if my words can’t express it. My host family continues to be the greatest and are sending me home with a big bag of chocolates, coffee and some of my favorite beans! On March 17th I said goodbye to my host family, my home, and of course Tommy, and headed to the airport to return back to the states.

New post on reverse culture shock and international travel during a Pandemic coming as soon as I get adjusted to life back home.

Education outside the classroom

March is off to a fantastic start! It’s so funny how such good things can come from plans that get changed. On Monday we were supposed to go to a cafe we’d heard about but when we got there it was closed- so we walked across the street to a different one, Saul, and it was amazing. They gave us the most delicious samples of smoothies and the place was decorated in hanging plants and some zebras, don’t ask me why but it was cute. They had a re-purposed bathtub as the sink and hand painted plates hanging on the walls to add an authentic vibe to the place. Rob Greenfield was a guest for the school’s Sustainability Day and I highly recommend finding his work on social media as he has quite the unique projects and was such a joy listening to. One of his projects was to wear all the trash produced by someone in a month and his documentary of it is quite insightful so really go look him up. The Central Market was one of our stops Thursday morning as we looked for gifts to bring home and purchased lots of lots of coffee to take back to the states. It’s so hard to say no to vendors when they give you free samples and are so kind, but that’s everyone so if I’m not careful I’m going to spend all my money without realizing it! (sorry mom and dad I’m trying my best not to). One of my favorite stops was a man whose family owns a coffee plantation- he gave us chocolate covered coffee beans and passion fruit and that was superb. If you combine two of my favorite things, coffee and chocolate, I can’t say no. Speaking of chocolate, I got to make my own at a chocolate tour we went to on Friday! La Casa Del Cacao is where we spent our afternoon learning the history of chocolate production and tasting samples ranging from 100% dark chocolate (quite bitter and I hate to say it but no good) to the chocolate we made that got lots of spoonfuls of sugar added. I learned that 50% dark chocolate means only 50% of the bar is actual chocolate and the rest is sugar.. whoops. I experienced my first earthquake/earthquake tremor that night which was so strange. I was sitting on my bed when it started shaking and I honestly thought I was just feeling things because I was so tired but then I looked at my wall and saw the paintings shaking and realized it was real. Definitely something you don’t forget! I had my last school field trip this weekend to the Pocosol Biological Station near Monteverde. We spent the weekend in the rainy cloud forest doing lots of hiking and looking for frogs and snakes and all kinds of other critters. There was a boiling clay pot where we stopped to rub clay all over our faces because it’s apparently really good for your skin but it reeks of a sulfuric smell so pros and cons to putting in on your face. We took a night hike and not gonna lie it was kinda scary, especially since we were looking for poisonous snakes with our little flashlights and our professors say they blend in with the vines and every time you look up there’s a vine hanging right by your face! Luckily we had our extra thick, clunky rubber boots to give us the ultimate protection from a snake bike in the feet. We stayed in a cute wooden tree house lodge with lots of porches and rocking chairs to sit in and watch the fog roll off the mountains. Sunday was spent bird watching and after over two hours of hiking the trails we finally saw the bird we came looking for, the Quetzal. It’s a vividly colorful bird but that’s about the only one we saw- it’s hard to see animals in nature when you’re in a group of over 25 college students who can’t be quiet to save their lives. Ignacio, aka Nacho, did a great job guiding us though and has a great eye for spotting things I never would have seen even if I was looking for it. Even though it was rainy and much colder than usual, it was beautiful to be up at the tops of the cloud forest and be surrounded by nothing but nature- no service provides a great opportunity to actually talk with people and appreciate your surroundings which is exactly what we did. A few people have already been sent home due to COVID-19 which makes me appreciate each day here even more! Prayers that I get to complete my program and that my family can still come visit at the end!!

mud, mariachi & more

I’ve officially discovered my favorite cafe, which says a lot because we go to a new one almost every day. It’s called Bread House and we came across it by accident and boy am I glad we did! I had the best iced latte ever and the place was covered in plants and greenery so of course I was in love. This past Wednesday we went to the National Museum of Costa Rica which was filled with the countries history and all kinds of unique exhibits and lots of large stone rocks which I’m not sure of the meaning behind.. We had a movie night on Thursday where too much popcorn was consumed and hidden jokes in Shrek were discovered. We had to say our first goodbyes this weekend to our pal Taylor who was only here for two months taking Spanish courses. ManQala, the board game bar, is where we went and learned a new game called Secret Hitler which is apparently quite similar to Settlers of Catan (which I’ve also never played) but it was a very funny game. Basically you have a secret identity and someone is Hitler and that’s the person you’re trying to kill. As someone who sucks at lying it was pretty clear when I was Hitler and I got killed before the round was even halfway done. It’s weird to say goodbye to someone knowing you’ll most likely never see them again, and its a sad reminder that our time here is wrapping up quickly so I need to appreciate every day that much more! Saturday was filled with quite the adventure of a 10 mile hike to and through Cerro Dantas. You know it’ll be a good hike when you have to trek three miles to get to the actual hike. If I were to sum the hike up in one word it would be mud. The “trail” switched from being wooden boards over mud to tires over mud to fallen trees to climb over and under to rope railings for basically sliding down mud covered hills. We crossed over waterfalls and pretty much crawled our way up hills but that just made it so much more of an adventure! At one point I misstepped and ended up knee deep in the mud so my shiny grey tennis are now a mud stained mess. Luckily we made it out of the muddiest section before it started pouring, but the rain made us not only muddy messes but also soaked to the bone. However, the rain made a vibrant rainbow on our bus ride back so I’ll take it. This Sunday we went to a beautiful church about 15 minutes away that had a stage overlooking a green forest and was gorgeous. Even though the service was in Spanish I was still able to recognize the tunes to some of the songs and hum along. It’s amazing how worship is universal and even in another country and another language people behave the same and speak on the same topics- the message is always the same and it’s great. Sunday was my mama tica dads 90th birthday so we had a big fiesta for him with a mariachi band, seafood (octopus tentacles and all) and his favorite drink, Imperial, decorating the cake and cookies. That was so much fun and we became friends with one of the little girls there who drug us around the house to play with her dolls and quiz us in Spanish. She’s six and said she doesn’t have a boyfriend because everyone is ugly and looks like a sandwich, not sure what she meant by that but we went with it! A great end to a great week- here’s to my last month in Costa Rica!!

Beware of the monkeys

This past week flew by and the weekend was here before I knew it! The trip this weekend was to Manuel Antonio, one of the most popular national parks of Costa Rica, and I completely understand why. On Friday we got to Quepos which is a town right outside of the park and realized just how hot it is there. I will never appreciate air conditioning more than after spending a majority of three months without it. We had lunch at a little cafe that had a sign explaining Spanish in Costa Rica- basically if you respond Pura Vida there’s a good chance it makes sense. For example, “How are you= Pura Vida” “thank you = Pura Vida” “bye = Pura Vida”. Don’t know what to say? Say Pura Vida!! Our hostel for the weekend had a small pool that overlooked the ocean so we spent a lot of time there. After dinner everyone wanted ice cream so we walked down to a super market nearby and saw the most beautiful sunset. The sky was blue, orange, pink, yellow and purple all at the same time so yeah, it was gorgeous. Somehow we managed to get 11 people up by 5:45 am so that we could get to Manuel Antonio park right when it opened. It was a long day but so very worth it. We hiked every trail in the park- 9.5 miles in total! After 81 floors climbed-aka a lot of stairs- we spent the rest of the afternoon at the beaches in the park. You know that weird tingly feeling you get when your feet or hands are super hot and it goes through your whole body? Well we got that a lot from the extremely hot sand burning our feet everywhere we walked. You’re probably wondering about the title of this post so let me explain. One of the trails we took led us down to a secluded beach you can’t swim in due to the rip currents so we were just exploring and walking around on some rocks. Some of my friends had left their stuff on the beach so it wouldn’t get wet but then we came across a big group of monkeys. We were too busy taking videos and thinking about how cute they are to notice that one had snuck off and started rummaging through their bags. We’d heard to watch out for the monkeys at the park, but for some reason decided it would be a good idea to bring bananas for our lunch anyways. So we look over and see a monkey throwing out our bananas and some shoes and my friend ran back over to get her bag back. Turns out monkeys get very aggressive when threatened and make a terrible screeching noise so it took awhile to figure out how to get the bags back without getting attacked by monkeys! Lessons learned to never leave your bag unattended and probably don’t bring food animals like if you want to be able to eat it for yourself. We had another learning experience at dinner that night when we ate at the local pizzeria. At the park we had to pay to refill out water bottles and then on the menu at the restaurant it said that water cost money. So none of us ordered water because we didn’t want to pay $3 for a glass of water and then when our waiter came he goes, “don’t you guys want water?” We were like um is it free? and he goes well yeah tap water is free everywhere in Costa Rica so we had to explain why we were confused about the water and he just laughed and then proceeded to share our embarrassment with his waiter friends. But now we know we can always get free tap water but bottled water is what costs money so another lesson learned. On Sunday we went to a beach outside the park and had quite the time getting wave slapped and watching the parasailers take off and land right by us. I got stung by something but after about 30 minutes it stopped stinging and just left a little red dot so I’m not sure what that was-my friends guessed an underwater bee ha. Our bus ride back was supposed to be 3 hours but ended up being 6 and a half because of traffic, and at one point our driver pulled over and the whole bus shut off and all we here is “una problema”.. but then the bus started again and we proceeded to go home with no issues so that was interesting. Weekend trips always bring unique experiences and plenty of learning and I’m thankful for getting to travel so much and explore all Costa Rica provides. Also very thankful for my friends here and the humor they bring like getting their bag taken by monkeys-you learn from your mistakes and now we know to never trust monkeys.

Life’s a Beach

Life’s a beach and I’m just living it. And loving it all. It’s been a busy time here as I work to apply for things back home and stay on top of research projects and papers for classes. I never got the chance to write about our class field trip to Guanacaste a week ago so here’s some quick reflections. We took an extremely long bus ride to a rural community on the beach of La Cruz where we stayed with host families and enjoyed home cooked meals, including a whole fish (eyeballs and teeth included) and lots of rice and beans. Our trip was to study the marine ecosystems of the area so we spent all day Saturday and Sunday snorkeling where we saw brightly colored fish, poisonous snakes, starfish and dead coral. We rode to the cove areas in a tiny little motor boat and had quite the trip battling the wind and waves on the way back. Thank goodness no one had motion sickness or that would’ve been bad news!! My friend Mikayla and I discovered there’s a little park behind our houses with a paved basketball court so we’ve been doing workouts there every morning. Outdoor gym equipment is a popular thing here so at every park there’s a few arm and ab machines which is convenient when you don’t want to pay for a gym membership! This past Monday we walked down to a cute restaurant called LuvBurger where I had the most delicious guacamole filled vegan burger. Our abroad program had an event on Wednesday called Tingo which was Bingo but with local tico slang words so now I can say “dude” and “chill out” in Spanish. On Friday we headed to Tamarindo which is a beautiful beach on the Pacific side and due to my poor time planning skills we caught our bus with just a minute to spare. Traffic is a big factor here and not being used to that back home makes me misjudge the time it takes to get from one place to another, oops. Saturday I got to go surfing for the first time and that was such a good time. It was extremely windy that day so the waves were big and there were a lot of them to try and catch. Our surf instructors Sabinka and Fifo, such cool names, were the funniest people and made wiping out in the waves much better. They tried to teach me how to do a flip switch while riding a wave which is just doing a little jump to switch which foot is in front and yeah that didn’t work out too well haha. It was still a blast though and we spent the rest of the afternoon laying out on the beach and watching the bachelor party next to us practice their coordinated dance for the upcoming wedding. They were terrible dancers but made it amusing so there will be lots of laughs at whatever wedding they’re in. We had dinner at a restaurant on the beach and got to watch the sunset over the waves and take lots of pictures with the golden hour glow. Tamarindo is a beautiful place with an abundance of cute boutiques and cafes and mostly nice people but there was a lot of cat calling this weekend, my favorite being “you smell like freedom”! Not even sure what that’s supposed to imply but hey who knows what goes through men’s heads who think they can just shout out whatever to people who walk by. I’ve become quite the pro at ignoring people here and just laughing off the strange comments they make. The only problem with coming back from weekend trips is the bus rides back as traffic gets so bad and makes a 5 hour bus ride 7 hours instead. That’s quite a long time when you’re on a bus with no AC- we had the windows open so instead of a bus if felt like an extremely long roller coaster ride, especially since the roads are winding in every direction here. Totally worth it though and I’m learning to love the ride as much as the destination. If I tried to cover all the funny things that happen every day I’d be writing a book for each week so these are just the highlights from it all. I think I’ll be washing sand out of my hair for a long while but like I said earlier it’s all totally worth it and this experience has been like no other!

C H A N G E

“The only thing constant is change.” ~Heraclitus

You can’t travel to a new country and expect anything to be routine because that’s just not how it works! This past week was full of all things new starting Tuesday when I was up before the sun for the first time to go to a workout class with one of my host sisters. The class was at 6 am and it was arm day so I basically died. The gym is a neat little place that looks like a converted storage unit and the instructor was energetic and made doing arms for 45 minutes not as bad. I learned some new Spanish terms also so all kinds of good stuff. It poured for the first time all afternoon which is apparently rare since we’re currently in the summer, or dry season. Our professor was basically yelling in class because the rain was so loud. On Wednesday a company who makes their own chocolate using bicycle power, Bici Chocolate, came and presented and gave us chocolate samples which were delicious!! I saw a cacao bean for the first time and it looked nothing like I thought it did. Still tasted delicious though. In class we learned our Spanish professor has a boyfriend living in the states and of course we asked all about him- she was so happy to talk about him it was cute. I had my last Spanish class on Friday and she was heartbroken to say goodbye to all of us- our class was a good one and I think everyone will miss our four hours together each morning. She makes her own earrings and made all the girls in our class their own pair which were beautiful! She really is the sweetest and I’ll definitely miss her. After class Friday we all headed out to La Fortuna to see a volcano- we actually saw it this time and it was gorgeous!! The hotel we were at had natural hot spring pools to swim in that were nice and toasty and so relaxing. The next morning we got up early and took a “short” hike straight uphill to an observation point of the volcano. It was quite the hike but totally worth it. Some of the trail was just dirt and on our way back down it started raining which made for pretty much a mud slide down the trail. We had lunch at an organic farm and they had the most delicious fried yucca and coffee. We learned how you grow sugar cane and extract the juice and got to try some of that as well. La Fortuna waterfall was our next stop and the whole place is earthy and picturesque. The water was ice-cold but we swam anyways and got to experience the turbulent currents which are powerful and a tad bit scary as they just sweep you away if you aren’t holding onto the rocks. My friends and I decided to stay an extra night in the town and rented out the cutest pink AirBnB. We went into town for dinner and came across the tope that was happening that night. Basically that’s a parade of horses with live music and some people dancing. It was quite the sight and the live music was lots of fun. Sunday was another day of swimming, both at a different waterfall and a natural hot springs river. Apparently it’s a thing for Uber’s to decline driving you if you’re too wet which we learned the hard way-makes transportation from swimming places a bit more challenging. It’s crazy to be in places you only see on Pinterest-so much better in person than in a picture. I got back into town to see the second half of the SuperBowl and watch the Chiefs win!! Definitely had a bit of fomo seeing everyone celebrating together but I got to have my own experience of watching the game in Spanish so it all depends on perspective. I’ll have a lot more free time in the mornings now without Spanish and I’m excited to get to explore the city more and find cute coffee shops to study at! Everyday brings change and I’m learning to embrace it and make the most out of every moment!!

Every Day

“Cada dia es una nueva oportunidad” Every day is a new opportunity. I see this every morning as it’s written on the lid of the jelly I put on my toast. It’s a great reminder to start my day with and a good reflection that I can make each day whatever I want it to be. I noticed it at a good time also as eating new foods and going non-stop constantly has finally caught up with my immune system. Having a cold is no fun, especially when the weather adds to it. This past week it’s been cold (speaking relatively as cold here is 60 degrees and back home it’s about 20 or less). The sun also went missing for awhile, but as I write this today my cold is gone and the sun is shining brightly- my burnt scalp and neck are painful reminders of that. I think everyone forgets to put sunscreen on their head, but when your hair is parted it makes for a terrible place to get burnt! On Tuesday we had a cooking class and learned how to make delicious cajetas de coco which is simply condensed milk, butter and coconut but so yum! Spicy Uno is a popular game here so my friends and I spent the afternoon playing that before heading back to classes. Our school had a Fiesta de Rojo Thursday night which was very lively and entertaining, along with the after party at a really nice bar downtown. It apparently used to be a house that they converted into a bar and it has a pool and big dance space and lots and lots of people. Came home to Tommy having a haircut and the cutest little vest to wear. He’s always jumping on your legs to be pet and wandering in and out of my room looking to get some love and attention which I gladly give him. My Spanish class took us on a field trip to a market in Cartago Friday morning so we could practice our conversation skills. The longer I’m here the more I realize how vastly diverse their food is. Along with seeing fresh fruits and veggies there were turtle eggs, eel and lots of whole fish still possessing their eyeballs. Although I’ve never tried, I don’t think I’d be the biggest fan of eating that.My friends and I spent the weekend walking around different farmers markets and downtown. It was the Chinese New Year on Saturday so we hung out in Chinatown and watched a lot of amazing performances.Got an extra dose of culture this weekend being there and hearing people talk Chinese all afternoon. San Jose is a very diverse city which is neat to see. We also went to one of the malls here which is humongous- there’s a zip line going through the middle of it!! Also has a Pizza Hut restaurant so if you love Pizza Hut head there, it’s only like 3,000 miles away. I had the most amazing frozen cappuccino this week at a cute little place called Entre Nous. There was an antique Volkswagen there that the barista worked in and all their drinks came in jars, so extra artsy. That’s about it for this week-I’m finally getting into a steady routine which is nice for someone who loves having a schedule and a plan 🙂 Hasta luego amigos!!

Nature wins, always

“Cuando salgas de paseo: No mates mas que el tiempo, no tomes mas que fotos y no dejes mas que huellas” ~ unknown.

When you go out for a walk: do not kill more than time, do not take more than photos and leave no more than footprints. This past week I have been fortunate enough to see a wide range of the true Costa Rica and let me tell you, it’s gorgeous. With my school being located almost directly in the middle of the capital, it’s always a treat to take a trip out of town and up into the surrounding mountains. On Saturday we headed out bright and early to visit Volcan Irazu, one of the six active volcanoes in Costa Rica. Sadly though we saw no volcano as the rainy weather obscured the whole area in fog. It was still quite the adventure though as the weather was drastically different from down in the city. The volcano was cold, so very windy and extremely wet but pictures from there look like you’re on a different planet with the black sand/ash being all you could see. After that we headed to lunch in the middle of a coffee plantation where they of course served us fresh coffee and the meal came with an outstanding view. It was still raining a bit but the sun was also peeking through so everything had a shimmery effect and it was tranquil and full of color with all the trees and plants. My new favorite tree is known locally as the Poro tree and it has an orange flower petal as it’s leaves. Where they are make the forests seem to be in an unchanging fall season and it’s perfect. The small pueblo of Paraiso was our last stop Saturday and to get there you have to cross a long yellow suspended bridge with a river rushing about 30 feet below you. The views from that were my favorite part of the day and I wish photos could better capture just how beautiful all the scenery is here. Buena vistas everywhere. There was a small, old church there that was having a wedding so everything was decorated in flowers and they were all singing as we walked around. Saturday night my friends and I went downtown to a bar known for its board games and live music, which is a great combination. Sunday was another adventure as my host parents took me with them to Heredia, which is another province about an hour and a half away to bird watch and see the waterfalls up in the mountains. Waterfalls are such unique sights, especially when surrounded by nothing but green forest. I honestly think Costa Rica has it’s own green palette as I just can’t compare any other sights to the shades I see here. We took the long way home and drove past pineapple fields and through a national park, untouched aside from the highway going through it. Overall, 10/10 weekend and great week also. I love the dance class the school hosts every Monday and Wednesday- so far we’re learning how to Salsa and Merengue and even though we’re bad it’s still so much fun. My Spanish class is getting progressively harder with verb conjugations and the realization that many words have multiple meanings that differ slightly depending on how you pronounce them- so pronounce them correctly or you’ll look quite foolish! I’m much better at hearing and understanding things being said in Spanish, but not quite yet at the point of being able to respond. “Como se dice..” has become my most commonly used phrase. On Friday we went exploring downtown and had dinner for my friends birthday at a restaurant called El Patio which was full of plants so definitely my kinda place. There’s so many shops downtown and sooo many people which isn’t really my scene, but it was still nice to see what all there is and the hundreds of pigeons that inhabit the area. It’s been great to observe the country beyond the little neighborhood my school and home are in, and I’m excited to continue exploring new places everyday!

Living the Pura Vida

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. ” ~Mark Twain.

Hola!! Welcome to the Pura Vida (pure life). I have just spent my first week here in the lovely Costa Rica and have loved every minute thus far. With this being my first time outside the country, everything is new and different and so very exciting! While abroad I’ll be staying with my host family of Lucrecia, Victor, Adri, Mariana and the most important member, Tommy the pupper. They are all so kind and thankfully know English as my Spanish in the very early stages currently. I am studying at Universidad Veritas, which has the most amazing architecture- trees and a garden in the middle of campus with open ventilation and sun shining through every window. It’s a small school so no getting lost here! My professors are all amazing and so passionate about what they’re teaching. I get to start every morning with a “basic” Spanish class where we are only allowed to speak Spanish and every word in the textbook is Spanish so that’s been interesting. I hope to catch on quickly as it’s almost necessary to survive here. Everyone said “you’ll be fine, most people speak English” but I’m finding that isn’t exactly the case.. It’s so cool though to be immersed in a whole new environment, everything here is vibrant and unique and the sun shines all day every day which is my favorite part. After spending the week in orientation and classes, my program took us out to the nearest beach, Punta Leona for the weekend. It was amazing, that sums it up right there. Everyone talks about how there’s so many different micro climates in Costa Rica and they’re not wrong! San Jose is sunny and 75 but the beach, which was only two hours away was upper 80’s and so so humid. At least the weather does my hair for me with so much humidity haha. We made it there in time to see the sunset the first night and it was beautiful to watch the sky change colors while hearing the sounds of the ocean. I tried calamari for the first time and yeah, not my favorite. Friday was karaoke night, aka all us international students trying to sing songs in Spanish and having the locals laugh at us and cheer us on. On Saturday we visited Carara National Park where we saw many giant trees and lots of tiny critters and birds. The forest is such a unique environment and contains much diversity to discover. After that we hung out at the beach all afternoon, the water was the perfect temperature but oh so salty! Getting “wave slapped” as they call it is no good but worth it to be swimming in the ocean. The “Chikas”, a local band, were performing that evening so we spent the night being taught how to “correctly dance” while enjoying the music. All this hopefully sounds amazing, because it is, but being at the ocean and seeing firsthand all the bleached coral washing up in the waves reminds me of all the issues happening right now. It’s hard to see bone white, broken coral knowing it should be alive and full of color. It also reminds me why I chose my field of study, and I’m so thankful to be expanding upon that in one of the most bio diverse and progressive places. Costa Rica holds vast opportunities and I’m excited to be discovering them. Stay tuned for another update next week and many more pictures! Hasta luego!!

My new home!
Views from above.
Tommy!!
Nature’s own temporary tattoo.
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