This blog documents my time in Costa Rica from the Bichos to the Beaches, and everything in between. I hope you enjoy it! What I suggest is to start at the bottom (that’s when I arrive) and work your way up through everything I got to see and learn on my trip. Thanks for reading!
The trip home was long and tiring, but a great time to reflect on our time in Monteverde. We were excited to go home, but remembered what it was like to go from complete culture shock, to growing accustomed to our Vidas Ticas. Not only did things start to feel normal in Costa Rica, but we started to love the lifestyle. Even though I will not miss Costa Rican showers, I will definitely miss the people that I met, both in my group and living there. I will not hesitate to go back given the chance. Most of all, it filled me with pride to be able to understand and communicate in a foreign language, even though sometimes it went above my head. I’ll give you an example: In the airpot before we left, a man yelled “Hala Madrid!” as I had been wearing my proud purchase of Cristiano Ronaldo’s full uniform. Knowing nothing about soccer (I just bought it because I hadn’t bought anything else, and that it made me look tan), I shouted “Hala Madrid!” back. This taught me a wonderful lesson that might as well have summed up my two weeks of Spanish immersion – one that my Spanish teacher said was an important skill while learning a foreign language, “fingir hasta que lo logre,” or “fake it till you make it!”
As much as I hate homework, it is worth it especially in an immersive environment to go to school. It is beneficial not just learn the grammar, but use it every day. CPI (Centro Panamericano de Idiomas), or just “the school” was the first thing I saw when I stepped off the bus in Monteverde. Once I got over how shockingly cool the weather was in the mountains, I got to take a look at the impeccable landscaping of probably the most beautiful building in all of Monteverde. I was in awe and almost felt like I didn’t deserve to study in such an oasis, but I got used to the familiar scholastic grind that occurred every weekday for two weeks. On the contrary, my teachers were always wonderful as I was able to talk to them in Spanish for hours on end, learning their personalities, and most importantly the personality of the language. One of the main reason I chose this program is that I thought that having an immersive studying experience would dramatically improve the experience, and I was right.
Every outing was worth it, being able to learn about the delicate balance of everything natural in Monteverde just brought forth one of my passions: The environment. Learning facts is great and all, but what really inspires me is seeing first-hand one of the things I feel strongest about. It’s what draws people to Monteverde. Walking through the cloud forest was hands down the most jaw-dropping experience of my trip, maybe even more so than Isla Tortuga (Turtle Island). While I was walking through the movie-like forest, almost trying to get lost on purpose, the guide explained everything from plant growth to the weather phenomenons that create the clouds, even pointing out the exact continental divide that runs through the forest, extending all the way up to Canada. On another note, however, he did conclude the tour with the fact that the cloud phenomenon and even up to thirty species that reside in the forest today could be gone in some twenty years due to climate change. This shocked me, and further sparked my aspirations to change the path of humanity’s effect on the planet.
Doña Carmen, my mama tica, Olger, my papa tico, and Josalín, the girlfriend of the family’s oldest son are three people I will never forget. The reason being is not that they always made sure that the Wi-Fi was working (though that is huge), but because they taught me everything from Costa Rican currency, history, and about Pura Vida. Oh, and obviously how to cook. I was sick for the first cooking class, but Josalín and Doña Carmen were able to help me make up for that as soon as I stepped into the kitchen, and in my slow Spanish, offered to help. We made fried chicken, rice (of course), beans (of course again), and picadillo (a Costa Rican vegetable dish). I was proud of what I made, having even learned the Spanish word for “shake” when I had to shake the extra batter off of the chicken.
It was quite easy getting to know everyone’s names, especially forming groups on outings. Not only did I get to talk to people from all around the states, we could practice a foreign language amongst ourselves albeit out and about, one on one, or in the classroom. Something I found out that we’re all going through as teenagers in our last years of high school is that we are all faced with the agonizing college search. One girl from Sacramento, California was able to give me insight on her stressful college hunt when our teacher assigned an “Open ended project.” I can’t imagine why she’d do it over something so awful, but I was able to hear her angle of an impending headache for me, all in a different language. My favorite thing was to see everyone’s confidence in Spanish increase along with mine – especially trying in situations like those when the whole group but four came down with a virus. With a visit to the clinic where everyone was throwing up and getting an IV, they handed me a nausea pill and a disgusting drink to prevent dehydration. It was called “Sueco,” which my host family later mocked as not very beneficial once I had loudly thrown it all up in the middle of the night.
I like taking pictures. I am usually quite compulsive about my pictures, and for that reason, I delete the pictures I don’t think are perfect in their composition, exposure, etc. This is a perfect example of a not-so-perfect photo: it looks almost accidental as I took it anxiously from the bus on the way to Monteverde, Costa Rica. The reason I still have this picture is that it is the first time I have seen something as mundane as a normal street be so different to me that it caught my attention. If I could have stopped the bus in order to get a perfect picture, it would have made no difference. I had never left the United States before this, so snapping this terrible image still reminds me of my first time seeing a different world.