Day 1, Dec. 26, 2016
Left for Newark airport at 2:45 a.m. Of course, upon arrival, my suitcase was 3 pounds over, so I had to fix that, and squeezed by at a close-call 49.5 pounds! Departed for Fort Lauderdale around 6 a.m. Then, departed from Fort Lauderdale to Costa Rica. Landed around 1:45 p.m. (which is actually 2:45 p.m. because they are an hour behind due to not observing day light savings time). Couldn’t find the SOL people and was bombarded by Taxi Drivers. Eventually found Angie. Amy, myself, and another #SOLmate were quickly put into a car to be taken to our host families. The driving in CR is similar to NYC. Almost crashed a few times. We eventually made it to a neighborhood called Mira Flores. We met our Mama Tica (host mom) Cecilia. She was so excited to meet us. She made us a banner in our room saying “bienvenidas Amy and Kylie,” which means welcome. The house is adorable just like Mama Tica! Mama Tica made us sandwiches for lunch that afternoon, but before lunch Amy and I gave her our gifts. Mine was a thirty one bag embroidered with teaching icons and her name (courtesy of Brenda’s Embroidery) and a Bloomsburg pen and sticker. After lunch, Mama Tica took us for a walk to our Universidad that we are studying at this break. Then, we walked across a long cat walk to the mall (Paseo de las Flores). She took us around the stores, naming different items in Spanish, then we walked back home. She made us a delicious dinner (chuletas de cuerdo, broccoli y arroz). During dinner, we met one of her daughters, 2 grandsons, and her neighbor. After dinner, I wanted to get a shower. I had some mishaps with the shower and the hot water so that was interesting. After my shower, I went to sleep because I was exhausted from traveling all day.
Day 2, Dec. 27, 2016
For orientation, we were assigned a scavenger hunt. We had to find the office depot to make copies of our passports and to exchange our US dollars for Colones (the exchange rate is approximately 548,00). The conversion is actually kind of hard to understand so thankfully there is an app that can do it for me! After completing the scavenger hunt, the #SOLmates roamed the mall, looking at souvenirs, and trying to figure out how much everything costs. After that, we split up by neighborhood and went our separate ways. Tonight we had a variety of different foods (pork loins with gravy-like salsa that had mushrooms and black pepper, white rice with seasoning, yuca [super delicious and nutritious, pictured on the left with Mama Tica], and creamed spinach soup which had about 5 different vegetables in it, but I didn’t catch everything she was saying). We sat out on the porch tonight to eat. It was very tranquil. Everyone passing by said hi, whether our Mama Tica knew them or not [and let me tell you, she knows just about everyone]. Today was interesting with the public aspect of being immersed in the culture, but it was culturally eye-opening. It was different to see the way the people interacted with foreigners like myself and fellow students, some nice, some not so nice, just interesting. Also, Mama Tica gave Amy and I a very inspirational speech and a quote to live by. The gist was saying to love yourself, enjoy yourself, love life, etc. PURA VIDA! But she kept saying “yo me amo” which means I love myself. She said we all have eyes, noses, arms, etc. and we are all equal so just love yourself, nothing else matters. It is very inspirational because I went on this trip to not only finish my Spanish minor and be immersed in the language and culture, but also for myself as a reward for my hard work in school, work, and play.
Day 3, Dec. 28, 2016
Today, we woke up to yet another delicious breakfast. (see picture) Amy and I met Nikki and walked to class. During class, we learned about the different theories of the continents’ movement throughout time. I am definitely still trying to get a hang of the speed of the professor’s speech. After class, we took a bus (CRAZY DRIVING!!) to the city of Heredia. It was a quaint little town, full of people. Our assignment was to find different, unusual fruits in a supermarket. That was interesting because there were so many different stands of fruits, and everyone person I asked said they didn’t have mine (of course, no one had my fruit!) After buying the fruit, we walked through town to the oldest church, built in 1797. It was the center of town, so there were many people around. After touring the church, we continued our way through the town to a café, where we were given a choice of a fruit smoothie or cold cappacino (I don’t like coffee, so of course, I chose the smoothie). We sat around the tables and tried each unusual fruit. I did not like most of them, because some smelled like trash, had a mushy or super crunchy texture, or had a bitter, sour taste. (see below for different fruits and pastries). After fruits, we tried 3 different pastries, and then, we were left to our the city in groups. My group got ice cream at a popular shop across the street. Then, since it was pushing time to get dark, we headed for the bus stop, stopping along the way to look at shoes and jewelry. Then, we got on the bus, shared photos of past experiences with each other, and talked about home life. After we got off the bus, we walked through the mall in hopes of finding souvenirs, still no luck. Tomorrow will hopefully be exciting. Our group is planning on going to the ruins nearby. Stay tuned!!
Day 4, Dec 29, 2016
After visiting the Basilica, our group headed the other way towards the ruins. Along the way we stopped and ate quesadillas. The ruins were decorated beautifully with flowers all over the landscape. After we visited the ruins, Amy and I bought Mama Tica flowers as we headed for the train station. Throughout the city, I saw prostitutes and pimps, sleeping dogs (literally just laying along the road), and had an funny experience at a chicken shop. A friend ordered ice cream and received onion rings instead, and another friend that ordered ice cream received orange tea. Needless to say, I don’t think they are the best at ordering ice cream. We took the bus back to our town and had a connection along the way. It took almost two hours. I thought I was going to barf! We eventually arrived back home, walked Clement and Nikki home, and ate dinner. I don’t really know what I ate, but it was delicious! It was sort of like a lasagna without noodles, and zucchini on the side. We talked with Mama Tica for about an hour. Now, I am off to an early night’s rest because we go white water rafting tomorrow and have to be up at 5:15 a.m. Sweet dreams everyone!
Day 5, Dec. 30, 2016
Today started off at 5:50 a.m. We met at the University and took a bus to a town called Limon about 3 hours away. The ride was miserable. I got so nauseous. When we arrived in Limon, we began the adventure of the day: White water rafting! It was absolutely amazing. We rafted down the Rio Pacuare. Our tour guide’s name was Juan. He was hysterically funny, but made us feel completely safe at the same time. First, we picked a team name: Team Rapids. Then, he gave us all the commands we needed to know to keep us safe throughout our journey. My favorite call was Oh Mierta! (you’ll have to figure out what that means for yourself ) The trip was 29 kilometers, approximately 3.5 hours, and had beautiful scenery (stay tuned for pictures) At times it was really scary; we lost 2 people off our raft. Luckily, it was a safe area. However, during a class 3 rapid, a girl fell off the raft in front of us. Thankfully, our team cameto her rescue before she got sucked into the class 4 rapid. All in all, the trip was so much fun!
Some interesting cultural aspects
- Ticos do not follow road signs or stop lights (they will go directly through a red light or stop sign without even looking or giving a care in the world. They also drive really face and in the middle of two lanes. The roads are also really bumpy which doesn’t make the rides any easier.
- When using the toilet, you are NOT allowed to throw toilet paper in the toilet, it must be thrown into the trashcan.
- When showering, the hot water is produced by an adapting shower head with heating coils, so the water isn’t very hot, and there isn’t a lot of pressure.
- Ticos always wear shoes around the house.
- The money is called a colon. The exchange rate is about 550. So, 2,000 colones is approximately $4 in USD.
- I have also noticed with our Mama Tica, she always makes the shape of a flower on our breakfast foods (i.e. Pancakes), and she always has the neatest presentation of foods on the plate.
- Instead of de nada (you’re welcome), ticos use con gusto (with pleasure).
Kylie Goodling is a senior speech language pathology major, Spanish and linguistics minor, and ESL certification student spending this winter studying abroad in Heredia, Costa Rica. Through SOL, she is studying Latin American culture and civilization while living with host mom Cecilia.