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!