I arrived in Alajuela, Costa Rica on Saturday, January 25th. Emerging from the airport, the strange words flying around my head confirmed that I did indeed just sign on to live for several months, in a foreign country, with complete strangers, speaking none of their language (and they none of mine). Woo-hoo! My host family, Max, Annia, and 11 year-old daughter Zaylin, met me at the airport and we stopped at a roadside fruit stand on the way home for a fresh-cut coconut. I watched them axe it open, stick a straw in, and hand it to me through the car window. I am DEFINITELY no longer in Minnesota! Arriving at my new home in the smaller town of Carillos, we spent the afternoon and evening playing "Let's Get to Know Each Other in the Form of Charades", the Spanish/English edition. Exhausted, I was asleep by 9:30. Before I fell asleep I wrote a word list, some of which I'll share here: loud, bright, colorful. Winding roads, peaceful beauty, motorcycles, crazy drivers. Trees and fields, warmth and sun, friendly people, overstimulated.
Sunday morning I joined the family at the local Catholic church for a taste of culture. Lunch afterwards was picnic-style: BBQ'd carne on tortillas, chips, fruit, and rice w/the very popular cilantro salsa. All of the good food necessitated an afternoon nap, followed by meeting the neighborhood, consisting mainly of family. A very close-knit society here. By Sunday afternoon the rest of the Minnesota group of students had arrived, we met at the local futbol field and showed each other our homes, all within close distance to each other. I spent the evening with my family. Much gesturing, smiles, and laughs at failed communication later, came time for another good sleep.
Monday was our first day of school. We met some instructors, did introductions/orientation and Spanish Language placement testing. We then toured the neighboring city of Grecia by public bus, teaching us how to use the system and a bit of discovering the city.
Tuesday was actual class day. SO. MUCH. INFO! After 4 hours of Spanish lessons we toured Alajuela by private bus--again familiarizing ourselves with the city. We also toured a wood making factory which smelled great!
Wednesday, Thursday and Friday consisted of class, much activity, and exhaustion. On Friday I brought my sister Zaylin to the local pool for some swim and sun. Delightful!
Saturday we took a school trip to the San Luis Canopy, a cloud forest with lots of zip lines. I was feeling ill and didn't participate, choosing instead to work on homework while enjoying a great view. I stayed in Grecia when we got back around 4 in the afternoon. Kathy S. and I discovered several thrift shops and enjoyed a frozen cappuccino in the central park before relaxing at her apartment.
Sunday was a great breakfast followed by homework in the park (it's possible a second frozen cappuccino was enjoyed as well). It was Presidential Election day in Costa Rica so there were many parties and much excitement going on. There was not a winner declared, as no one candidate gained the required majority of votes. The run-off's will likely not be held until April, to the disappointment of the people here.
A busy week, it feels great to be here! I'm impressed with how far my Spanish speaking skills have come in such a short time, and look forward to the weeks ahead. I'll be sure to keep in touch and send some warmth to each and every one of you.
Though I can't post them all, I'll add several photos to whet your appetite.
Peace, and warmth, and love.