Monday, September 28, 2009

All Corners of the World in One Hostel

This past weekend there was a reunion with all of the AFS exchange students in San Jose, and it was one of the best weekends I've had so far. I loved talking to students from other countries (especially Germany) about their Costa Rican experience. I found that the majority of students are experiencing the same feelings as I. Interestingly, we were all speaking Spanish to eachother, whereas at the first meeting the common language was English.
During the reunion, we stayed in hostels. I had never been in a hostel before, but it was really cool! It wasn't at all like the damp cement walls I pictured; it had billiards, a lounge, and a nice kitchen. I will definitely be using more hostels in the future.

Friday, September 25, 2009

"I don't understand English."

My Costa Rican experience has been unbelievable thus far, but there is one thing that really bothers me-- people keep speaking English to me! Of course, it doesn't help that my blonde hair, blue eyes, height, and pale skin make me stand out in a Costa Rican crowd, but I just wish store keepers and people on the street would try speaking Spanish to me.
Sometimes my classmates say phrases to me in English, and I say jokingly in Spanish, "Sorry, I don't understand English."
In reality, a few words in English a day can't really delay my Spanish-learning process, but I just want to be seen as a part of the culture, not an outsider.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Pura Vida y Comida

I think that the famous Tican saying "pura vida" (the pure life) also translates to the Tican diet. The foods I've eaten thus far in my adventure have been very simple and pure. There are hardly any processed foods! The foods of which I eat a lot are rice, beans, fresh fruit, cooked vegetables, green salad, and lots of cabbage. I'm really enjoying the transformation in my diet and plan to bring this pure, healthy eating back to my life in America. Yes, a mini rice cooker is on my Christmas list.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

July 4th on September 15th

Independence Day!
In preparation for Independence Day, my host siblings had to make lanterns for the parade. I helped them (aka I did all of the work) in making one lantern shaped as the symbolic ox-cart of Costa Rica and the other shaped as a tradtional Costa Rican home. The lanterns were so stellar that my host sister won the contest at her elemantary school!
During the day, I watched the parade in the town center with my classmates. We hooted and hollered when my little host sister marched by playing her xylophone. There was also a traditional dancing performance from students in my highschool. I couldn't get enough pictures of those beautiful dresses!
What I found to be really interesting is that after the festivities, some mothers brought snacks for the children who participated in the parade. Unlike typical American snacks of Twinkies and fruit snacks, the mothers brought little plates of rice with chicken!
Although I've been doing my best not to compare Tican culture with American culture, I couldn't help but make a comparison between the very different celebrations: I missed the neighborhood BBQs, but enjoyed chicken and rice in the park. I missed the fireworks, but watched a parade of homemade lanterns. I missed celebrating it with my family, but I celebrated it with a different family of mine.

Sunday, September 13, 2009


It's taken nearly two months for me to get used to the roads here. Most of the roads are gravel, and few are level.

Some of the car trips we take are like riding a rollercoaster... yes, extremely steep and sharp turns. We also have to dodge the dogs in the street and lots of pedestrians. My host family has been very nice and they let me sit in the front of the blue Toyota with them... they noticed that in the back I always hit my head and have to curl up in a ball to fit.

Finally, my stomach is getting used to the hilly roads, and I'm getting used to much smaller cars.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Lush Landscape and Wonderful Wildlife

Seeing the lush landscape on the way to school every morning has become almost routine. Costa Rica is full exotic vegetation, birds and other wildlife.

The other day, my family went to their property in the country and we picked limes, bananas, and sweet potatoes. When they said that we were going to cut bananas, I assumed that we would be cutting the bananas from the trees. Much to my surprise, cutting bananas means cutting down the entire tree. We also had fun digging up potatoes and cooking them for dinner.

One of the things that I love about Costa Rica is the fruit trees... they're everywhere. When my family goes on a walk and we see a fruit tree (guava, mango, orange... you name it), we throw sticks up at the tree so we can catch the falling fruit and eat it during our walk. Once I saw tucans in some fruit trees.

Normally I wake up to the sound of a rooster crowing, but one morning I was awakened to an earthquake! It was small and only lasted a few seconds, but I was excited.

And did I mention the crocodiles? We were driving over a little bridge when I looked down and saw... yes... crocodiles in their natural habitat. I've also seen my share of gigantic toads and snakes. It's not all tucans and banana trees!