Friday, March 25, 2011

el ultimo dia...

It's a weird feeling. It's almost the same as right before I came...just as I couldn't believe I would be coming to Costa Rica, now I can't imagine leaving. It feels right, normal to be here, walking the streets of San Jose.  I'm going to miss all the good friends I've made here, my AMAZING host family and mama tica in particular, an awesome roommate, this city, the beautiful places around Costa Rica, the beaches, the Spanish, and so much more that won't hit me until I  return to the states.

I've been keeping busy this week--lots of lunches with people, dessert trips, a couple cooking classes, a Saprissa (Costa Rican soccer team) game, and lots of other things I've been trying to squeeze in.  Tonight, our last night, we are headed to the National Theatre to watch a dance company and then meeting up with a bunch of people from Veritas as sort of a 'goodbye' night. And before that, a last dinner and some time with the tica family. And oh yes, somewhere in there, I should probably pack. I head out tomorrow morning at 8am.

I hate goodbyes anyway, but here it is especially weird knowing that aside from maybe one or two, you will most likely never see these people again.  It's just the experiences you've had together and the impacts you've made on each other's lives. Over time, the details might fade, but my time in Costa Rica is one I will never, ever forget and wouldn't trade for anything.

Adios a la pura vida, a Costa Rica....hasta otra vez :)

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Nicaragua x2

This past weekend, I got to go to Nicaragua again! It was neat because I got to do and see different things this time around and go with different people.  One of my friends here has a friend/mentor (who is basically like her mom) from the states who was coming to visit her missionary friend, if that all makes sense.  So five students, the friend/mentor and her family (four people), the missionary and the young Nicaraguan lady who lives with her. 
the whole group

Marsha (the mentor/friend/mom), Kim (missionary), and Bildad!

We left Thursday after class last week and loaded up on the nine hour bus ride to their house in Dirriamba, Nicaragua. The next day we got to see parts of the mission, including the clinic, the food-place -- where they give out food to about 100 kids everyday (I got to help! The ladies that do this get up at 6 every morning to prepare it), and go to a church service that night.  The service was so cool – it was very Biblical and I tried to follow in Spanish but someone was translating in English for us and that ended up being a much better way to go ha.  I sat by this 13-year old girl named Marcela who was so adorable!!  She was so fun, and at first during the service she kept laughing at me because I kept doing things wrong, and sometimes I understood why (like the time she tried to shake my hand and I thought we were supposed to start clapping) but other times I had noo idea why. It was funny.  She was so sweet and generous, too!  She gave me a couple of her silly bands after we were trying to figure out what they were, and some squishy sticker things too.  Talking with her and the kids was so fun.  After we also got to talk to some of the other ladies, and they were teaching us Nicaraguan phrases, and we had a blast with those.

We tried to go to the beach that day, but it was the day of the Tsunami in Japan so the beaches were closed.  So we mostly just hung out and did random stuff—played twister, the boys wrestled (the friend has two sons ages 6 and 8) and played soccer.  And that night we just hung out and talked and got some good wisdom from the dad of the family that was visiting from the US.

the house we stayed in

twister, with 6 people...interestingg



entrance to the house: "Cristo te ama" o "christ loves you"

The next day we went to Masaya – which has a cool volcano and a big market place. I bought a hammock woo woo! Which conveniently does not fit in my suitcase, so I’m going to have to have it as a carry on and feel like a huge tourist the whole time in the airport…oh goody.

next to the volcano

volcano! and to explain why i look like that, it was bright and windy lol

these are nicaraguan taxis!

Also, I sat by two ladies on the bus…they were both really nice!  The first lady was a Christian and so we had a good chat, and she introduced me to her kids afterwards, and she also gave me her address and everything and told me that we should all come visit her if we had time (which we didn’t but it was still really nice) and another lady that was an ambassador between Nicaragua and Costa Rica and taught me more phrases J She kept calling me amiga, it was cute. 

I’m really glad I got to see Nicarauga because it’s very different from Costa Rica.  Costa Rica is much more American-ized whereas Nicaragua has kids asking for money, and in places, people that really have nothing.  Eye-opening and made me really aware of how much we have in the US and just how attached we are to our stuff and not generous with it.  Definitely glad I got to go a second time!


It's crazy that we only have one last weekend here!! And with only a week and a half left, that means that I only have 6 more days of Spanish class!

As much as the classes here are great, I think the 4 hours per day of Spanish for three months is starting to wear on me...I'm ready for a break! Although I do really like the classes here. (If I had four hour classes everyday in the States I think I would no longer be in For one, they are small; my class this month only has 8 people in it.  This month my class is titled "Advanced Conversation" which means we do a lot of speaking. I think the class has helped me because the past two months were a lot of grammar and important information, but I don't feel like I remember the grammar if I don't get the chance to speak with it.  And I definitely get the chance to speak in this class--other than just day-to-day speaking assignments (for example, yesterday we had to tell the person to our right their future using a new grammatical structure...apparently in my future I will go skydiving, have an accident, have my legs cut off, became a famous cyclist, and later a famous fighter -like Joan of Arc- during the Third World War. haha.), we have three 10-min presentations and two 15-minute presentations.  And a combination of these assignments and maybe partially my slacking-ness has gotten me more comfortable with just improvising (instead of writing or memorizing something and then just repeating it), so it's just what I need.  For the last presentation, we worked in partners and made a 30 minute presentation of a newscast! Not that it was anywhere near perfect (or good ha) but I never thought I would be able to do that in Spanish.  We've also had to read two Spanish books that were around 100 pages woo! (I of them :) We also get to do some field trips, we went to a festival last week and next week are going to watch a court case.  And tomorrow we get to watch the Veritas International talent show (for our school) for part of class. We get the chance to ask any random grammar or life questions that we have too, which is nice.

Also had another cooking class! It's nice because there's only three of us so we get to do a lot....and eat a lot :) This week we made empanadas with beans and cheese, yum! This is the teacher, she's so nice and fun:

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Cooking Class

Today I started a cooking class! It is once a week for this month, but last week there was a little mishap so we are starting this week instead.  It was neat, the lady is a Tica and a motherly-kind of sweet and has a little spunk too. There are only three of us in the class, so we get to help and then EAT! But now I know not to eat before next time...I feel like I am going to explode. We made chorreadas palmarenas, which is a dessert and kind of like a crepe/pancake thing with sour cream, honey, and cinnamon sugar.  If it sounds weird, it was good, I promise.

After, a couple of us went to Auto Mercado, a local supermarket that has a lot of American products.  I felt like such a gringo, but I realllyyy miss desserts here (they don't really have them-their idea of dessert is a piece of bread with some sugar on top) so I got oreos, nesquik, and nutella. I felt like such a fatty American gringo but I'm ok with that =)

Now it's time to head to photography class...we are just working on our portfolios, for which we have to pick a theme and put together pictures on that and then present them at the end and explain the color, composition, lighting, yada yada.  I chose 'framing' for my theme, which worked out okay because it's really broad which makes the portfolio a little easier. :)

And I liked Nicaragua so much that I'm going back! Ok well that's not reallyy why, but a different group of people are going and we're going to be doing different stuff so I'm excited :) We're leaving tomorrow, so I'm skipping my one day of class this month Friday (if we miss more than one we fail...uh oh!) so we can leave Thursday afternoon.

Until next week...adios!

Monday, March 7, 2011


With only two weekends left now (AH!), I'm starting to really value the ones I have left here. And this past weekend was definitely a good use of time...NICARAGUA!

Four of us made the trip because a friend who studied in Costa Rica for a month in January is now working at a clinic in Nicaragua for a couple months, and we wanted to go visit her! Two people left earlier, but Kalifa (my roommate) and I had class Friday so we left a little later at 12.  The bus ride was a bit long...about 8 hours.  The border was interesting.  Basically, we would fill out the little customs form, then we would all get out of the bus. They would look at our passports and stamp them.  Then, we would get back on for about 5 minutes.  Then we would stop again and the bus people would take everyone's passports in a big pile (sounds scary, I know) and then they would 'check' our bags that we would lay out on a table outside.  I'm not sure if they just don't check backpacks or if it was because we were gringos, but they didn't even touch our bags, just kept going down the line.  I'm not trying to secretly suggest that I would ever try to smuggle anything across the border, but I think I understand how there is so much drug trafficking in Central America now!


the border-there are people selling things, exchanging money, it's crazy!
The trip actually started out horrible. The bus ride there was not bad actually, but we took a taxi from the bus station to our hotel and kind of got jipped...we didn't realize how much it was because it was in Cordobas (Nicaraguan money) and not Colones (Costa Rican money). It's one of those things you look back and say you should've known, but we didn't, and that's okay. Learning experience. Luckily it was only about $15 for each of us so it really wasn't too bad.  We were also worried because we couldn't get ahold of our friend who we were supposed to meet (her internet was out) the next day and figured there was no way we were going to find her.  So we got there and pretty much went to bed lol. On the plus side, the hotel was pretty!

you can sleep in one of these hammocks for the night...only about $5! (we got a nice room. with actual beds. lol.)

little courtyard

But the next day, everything got much better! We got up early to look around Granada, the city we were in.  It is pretty and so different from Costa Rica.  Nicaragua is more typical of a Latin American country than Costa Rica--which is a bit more of a mix and modernized (kind of like the U.S. of Central America, if you will).  The buildings in Nicaragua are more of the Colonial style, and they use lots of bright colors.  Also, the set-up is that along the street there is the sidewalk and then just cement yard, gates, nothing.  Then, inside, imagine kind of a square as the house layout, the middle typically being some sort of courtyard with plants and no ceilings.  I'm not sure if that makes sense, but it's cool, trust me! haha.

We also walked around the market, which is CRAZY! Lots of people, food, clothing, and everything else you could ever want ha.  Nicaragua is cheaper than Costa Rica (Costa Rica is actually not really cheap at all, for the most part...some things are actually more expensive than the U.S.). 
it was really WAY more crowded than this, this was just really early in the morning.
We had made a back-up plan with our friends to meet at the bus station in Granada at ten. And good thing we did! The only problem was that we didn't specify WHICH bus station. That would have been a great idea.  But nonetheless, we managed to meet up at ten! Que suerte! After meeting up, we took a bus to Jinotepe, where my friend lives. In Nicaragua, they use 15-passenger buses to get from town to town.  But there is no such thing as a full bus in Nicaragua. At one point, I counted 24 people and a baby in our bus! 

yep. 24 people and a baby. in that. !ay caramba!
After getting some food from the market, we took another crazy-full bus to a beach called Huehuete.  It was gorgeous and there were only about 5 other people on the beach.  There was just a little village by it and it was not tourist-y at all.  BEAUTIFUL!

i got hit by a wave. lol. 

After a few hours at the beach, we headed back to Jinotepe. We got dinner, which was so cheap! We also met some of my friend's Nicaraguan friends and got to ride around in the back of a pick-up. Yay :) We had some 'Eskimo' ice cream, visited the town, park, etc. The next day, we had breakfast at a place owned by an American, and I got a wonderful, wonderful omelet.  And a chocolate milkshake. haha, very healthy breakfast :)

pickup ride! they thought we were weird because we all wanted to sit in the back. haha.
everything is so colorful!

we were playing musical chairs to try and figure out which seats were the most comfy in the 15-passenger bus. it's more like a lesser-of-15-evils kind of thing.
random fact of the day: they refill the glass bottles in Nicaragua!
YAY NICARAGUA! Anyways it ended up being a great trip. I'm so glad we got to see another part of Latin America that was a little more typical and it was great to see our friend who works there. As always though, it was great to return home to Mama Tica. Love her!!

Monday, February 28, 2011

long weekend!

The first Monday of each month, we don't have Spanish classes...and this is the last month of Spanish (wow, crazy!) so no class today made for a nice long weekend. Friday, I hung out with my roommate and we watched some Disney movies and made more cookies. yumm.

Saturday, I had a field trip with my photography class. We were told we were going to somewhere with a pool and a waterfall.  It ended up being our professor's parent's 'farm.' I was expecting goats and chickens, but farm in Costa Rica really just means out in the country. The house was SO nice, it was crazy. And in the backyard, there was a pool, a deck with a mountain-ish view over the city, and a mini golf course in process. We didn't end up going to a waterfall, we just chilled at the house all day, and that night we made a bonfire.  It was just for the day, so we got back that night.

yep. that's the house.

lay out on the deck, on a mountain, overlooking san jose. 

night time view

sunset :)

bonfire with the city lights as the background. pretty cool.

Sunday was a very early morning. My roomate Kalifa and I went to the 'Feria' with our Mama Tica.  The Feria is basically like a giant farmer's market. It was really cool! Mama Tica gets almost all the food for the week here. She uses a baby stroller to carry it all, and our host dad comes and loads up his motorcycle to help carry some of it back. We were going to head to the beach after, but we were tired so we stayed in San Jose instead (which turned out to be good because it rained at the beach). We went to church with our host mom and later watched the finale of a telenovela (like a Spanish soap opera) which lasted two and a half hours. lol.

Today, since we didn't have class, we headed to the Supermarket in search of bacon, because I wanted to make BLTs.  Well...3 supermarkets and 4 hours later, I got my groceries and bacon (which, by the way, they do not eat bacon here really and it cost me a small fortune. trying to make a BLT in Costa Rica = bad life choice).  And I got a really cute dress, we may have made a little detour to an outdoor mall :) And then it rained here while I was walking home from somewhere this That's really rare for this time of year though.

Since it's March, I start a new Spanish class tomorrow.  This month's class for me is "advanced conversation" which makes me sound way better at Spanish than I actually am, but basically we talk and work on speaking and conversation skills in Spanish the whole 4 hours, which will be really helpful.  Speaking is always more difficult than being able to understand someone.  I'm also going to sign up for a cooking class that's once a week, where we learn to make some Costa Rican dishes :) I'm planning on going to Nicaragua for two weekends this month and probably a beach the other one.  And then I'll be home! Wow, that's crazy.  But for now, off to class..yay.  haha :)

Monday, February 21, 2011

Playa Hermosa & un poco violencia...

This weekend started with Friday, when I went to lunch at CafĂ© Mundo, a really good restaurant in San Jose. One of my friends’ parents was here so we had a nice lunch with them -and her parents were so sweet and paid for us all.  It’s always fun to meet people’s families, I feel like it gives you a better idea about them, too.  

Friday night, we had a baking night with some girls at my house, and we made CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES and some fruit pizza concoction that was actually really good! It was kind of an invention. And I can’t describe to you how happy I was to eat a chocolate chip cookie. They don’t have them here, and the couple times I have seen them they just are not the same.  I am considering buying a whole package to make for myself  though, I secretly hate sharing my chocolate chip cookies haha J That was a fun girls night and my host parents liked having people over. 

After the girls left, my roommate and I had the BEST time with my host family.  I can’t really describe it, it’s kind of one of those ‘you had to be there moments’ but it started out with us just talking with our host family and somehow we got onto the topic of jokes.  We studied jokes in my Spanish class and it’s interesting how sometimes jokes are hard to understand in another language—because at times, you can understand all the words but there are cultural aspects which don’t make sense, so the joke isn’t funny.  My professor explained it that her husband is from the states and likes to watch Saturday Night Live.  She’s fluent in English, so she understands all the words, but it’s just not funny to her.  But anyways, my host family starting talking about jokes.  And occasionally if I don’t understand things in Spanish I kind of do the ‘nod and smile’ and just pretend I do (ok that happens a lot) but this time I was determined to understand.  We ended up talking and laughing over the same joke for probably 45 minutes because for the life of me, I could not get it! I knew I was missing something.  Eventually the light broke through and I understood ha, but we had some good laughs over it, it was great.  Like I said, you kind of have to be there, but it was one of the best times I’ve had with my host family.

The next day, I left for la playa.  Some friends and I took a couple hour bus ride to Playa Hermosa near Jaco, Costa Rica, where they had a surf championship a couple years ago…so that can tell you what the waves were like…huge! They were so powerful, I’ve never seen anything like it.  I didn’t go out very far at all into the water, and my knee is pretty scraped up from just being pushed into the sand-craziness! It was a gorgeous beach -"Playa Hermosa" definitely lives up to its name as "Beautiful Beach"- with black sand which got everywhere though, ha.  The hotel didn’t have any rooms left so we got to stay in a loft house which was cool, and cheap too! Only $20 for the hotel pp, which is just about 5 bucks more than you’d pay for a hostel, and way nicer with breakfast included. Saturday we hung out on the beach all day, ate, and swam and the pool.  The next day we kind of hung around our hotel and had a grill-out. It was fun and a beautiful beach, but I was exhausted this weekend and coming back. I’m definitely sleeping more this week!  

And funny story: I have slapped 2 boys in the face in the past 2 days.  There’s a perfectly good explanation, though, sort of…

It all starts with this game called ‘Ninja’ (which is awesome by the way, if you haven’t tried it you need to!) where you stand in a circle, assume a ninja pose, and one by one, go around the circle and get one move to try and hit someone’s hand using your hand and only one movement.  So fun!  This weekend, we played at the beach and one of the guys had his hands by his face and I couldn’t really see because he was to the side, so I was going for his hands, but WHACK! I felt so bad, but it was pretty funny.  The best part was probably a couple tica ladies watching and I saw their faces just go to a ‘oh my gosh!’ expression.  I know they were thinking “these crazy gringos…” haha. 

Then today in my Spanish class we played Ninja too (I know, great class) and similar thing happened AGAIN only to a different kid.  Oops.  I think it’s a sign that I need to stop playing Ninja…watch out! Haha.  This class gets a little violent…it’s the same one where the other day we were playing cards and I started bleeding. 

But we have fun –well, at least those of us that aren’t getting slapped in the face, haha.