Sunday, January 17, 2010


I back! I'm very glad to be home, but I also miss my Costa Rican family. I'll really miss the family traditions we had there (Grandma's house every Sunday for soup, going to the country property every Saturday, etc.)
I've found that my friends and people at school can't really understand the huge experience I had. I know it's because they've never done anything like it before, so they can't relate to me...but I still feel like it was a huge experience that people aren't really that interested in.
Now, when somebody asks me how my experience was, I just say "it was a really great experience. I had a really good time," because there's no way I can fit everything I did and learned into a conversation that's a polite length.
All in all, glad to be home and looking forward to visiting my family in Costa Rica this summer.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


In Costa Rica, Christmas isn't Christmas without tamales. Today we made 102 tamales! (we have a very big family)
Allow me to explain the art of tamale making:
First, one must purchase cooked banana leaves. Then wash them... every single one.
Next comes putting all of the ingredients on top of two banana leaves in a neat little lump. First comes the dough (special corn flour cooked in pork broth.) Then, add one little piece of cooked green bean and one little piece of cooked carrot and potato, one quarter of a hard-boiled egg and a cube of cooked pork, and spoonful of dyed-red rice and a little slice of green pepper.
Next, fold up the tamale and stack two on top of eachother to be tied up with white string. Boil them in a big pot of water, let them cool, and enjoy!
And let me tell you, they are GOOD!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Volcanos, Beaches, and Zip-Lining. Oh my!

Costa Rica prides itself on the beautiful flora and fauna that it has to offer. It's a country FULL of national parks and preserved wildlife reserves. In my first weeks here my family took me to Volcano Poás. It was really cool to look down into the volcano from the observation deck and see the blue lagoon. I've also enjoyed the beautiful beaches here on the Pacific side (Jacos and Punta Leona). Fortunately, my family has planned another beach trip (to Manuel Antonio) after Christmas!

Perhaps the most thrilling experience I've had in Costa Rican wildlife is zip-lining. My host-mom's class English class from the University took a "field trip" to a park called Turru Bares, and I tagged along with Seline. We zipped down a series of seven cables and walked across a wobbly hanging bridge. Let's just say that on my first cable, I wasn't the most graceful of the group. OK, I ended up going backwards all the way (my host mom was screaming), but I think I redeemed myself on the other cables.
Before I came to Costa Rica, I thought that all of the national parks and wildlife preserves were just tourist destinations, but I'm very glad to stand corrected. Ticans love to enjoy the rich flora and fauna of their country (and they love to show it off, too!-- making me a very happy camper.)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Steps of Learning a New Language

Before I left for Costa Rica, I had a list of expectations concerning how I would progress in learning the language. The first month I expected to be completely lost. The second month I expected to be able to understand everything, and the third month I expected to be fluent. But what does fluent even mean?

Here's what I've observed in my Spanish-learning experience:
1) First day: Wow! I speak pretty darn well...but can't understand a thing that these people are saying.
2) First two weeks: I was wrong, I'm actually pretty bad at Spanish... I can't understand or speak well. Good thing I'm not afraid to draw pictures and act out what I'm trying to say.
3) After one month: Oh! It turns out that the news anchors are actually saying words here... they're not just moving their toungues really fast and making Spanish noises.
4) After two months: I can understand the majority of what people say, I just don't speak very well.
5) 3 months: I've got this Costa Rican accent down!
6) 5 months: I can understand everything that people say and generally can respond well. I'm way faster conjugating verbs that I was before, I have a better feel of Spanish sentence structure, and the size of my vocabulary has grown significantly.

I definitely don't speak perfectly, but I've improved a lot!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Catholicism and Culture

Coming from a public school and a country that believes in the separation of church and state, Costa Rica's take on religion has been a whole new perspective for me.
Although I attend a public high school here in Costa Rica, we have a religion class every week.
The majority of my classmates are occupied every Friday night with their Catechism classes. I asked a classmate why he couldn't skip the class for one day, and he told me that he needs to attend every session in order to get married in the church.
There's even a government position regarding religion in Costa Rica: The Minister of Religion.
Last week was the First Communion of my little sister, Melissa. The preparations for this were very important to the family: the whole family went shopping to pick out the white dress, the neighbors helped do her hair, and we woke up extra early to make the special food for the family party afterwards.
Even in daily conversation, we allude to God. For example, when somebody asks how you're doing, you respond, "Very well, thanks to God." Additionaly, when you pass somebody you know on the street, you say "Adios" (meaning "goodbye" and also "to God.")
It seems that the culture and religion of Costa Rica are so meshed together, that I can hardly separate them.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Meat: Who Needs It!

It's true, who needs meat anyway? My first week here I noticed how little we eat meat (about four times a week, usually fish, chicken, or ground beef.) After being here for more than four months, I stopped noticing the lack of "carne."
Honestly, I don't think it would be that hard to be a vegetarian because there's an abundance of protein options that I've grown to enjoy: beans, eggs, lentils, beans, garbanzos, beans, beans... you get the idea.
When I return to Wisconsin, I hope I can keep the healthy change!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Monkey Business

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to go on an AFS trip to Tortuguero, Limón.
I got to enjoy a close-up view of Costa Rica's rich wildlife with fellow AFSers.
There is definitely a climate difference between Tortuguero and my town, Cerbatana. When our guide took us on a hike through the dense rainforest, my clothes were completely soaked from the humidity. On the hike, we saw a few tucans resting in the lush upper canopy-- too far away to take a good picture, but the memory is still awesome. Our guide also showed us a tree infested with termites and he told us to eat them. At first, I wasn't going to, but then I thought, 'How often does one have the opportunity to eat termites?' It turned out that I was the second person to try them in our group. They actually have a salad-ee flavor. Once the termite-eating trend started catching on, our guide had to say, 'Leave some for the other tourists.'
The hotel in which we stayed was on the channel and nestled in the rainforest (only accessible with a 90 minute boatride through the channels.) Because of its great location, I was able to see lots of wildlife walking from my cabin to the pool. I saw lots of colorful birds and intersting trees. Oh, and by the way, I saw MONKEYS! On my way back to the cabin after eating lunch, I heard some noises up the trees and they were monkeys! Fortunately, I was one of the few people who saw them , so I kind of had a private tour. To add to the already excellent situation, my tourguide happened to be standing right next to me and showed me the tree where the monkeys live! I took some great pictures of the monkeys, including a pregnant one and babies. It was so interesting to watch the monkeys use their tails as a fifth arm.
Apart from the tucans and the monkeys, I also saw giant spiders, a baby crocodile, a viper, a chameleon, an iguana, AND a yellow-billed cuckoo.
Without a doubt, a nature filled weekend.