Friday, May 15, 2009

I am sitting here in MesoAmerica for the last time. Weird. I can't really focus on anything in the future, as much as I want to see my friends and family, but how much I am leaving behind.
Our closing banquet was fabulous. It was at Ram Luna which is a restaurant up in the mountains over looking San Jose. The city looked gorgeous all lit up at night and it brougth to tears thinking that was the home I had created for the past four months. The food and dancing were traditional which was fabulous. However, it was more fabulous to sit at a huge table with the 15 other students I have experienced this with and know that I can call each a friend and that we have a special bond that cannot be recreated.
Yesterday, Caroline and I traveled back to Cartago and Orossi. It was a great last adventure to run around and be tourists. That night I played with Ana Lucia for four hours straight. We have been playing whatever game we can invent every spare moment we have. I am going to miss her giggle and that bright smile of hers.
Today, Jessie and I traveled back downtown to San Jose for the last time. Correction - the last time this semester. I will definitely be back to Costa Rica. We also made sure to get a casado (rice, beans, plantains, salad, eggs, and a fresh juice). It's really hard to say goodbye to all of our favorite things, places, and people.
I am going home tonight to love on my family and pack up. I haven't packed anything yet, I refuse. I can't admit that I am actually leaving my home here.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

home is where the heart is.

I just turned in my last assignment of the semester. I feel relieved to be finished with all of my school work, sad at the realization that it really is ending, happy to be able to enjoy my family and the city the next few days, and overwhelmed at the thought of returning to the States.

Last night I was a penguin waddling in my living room, a princess dancing in the kitchen, a student names Paula learning in my bedroom, and a roller coast running throughout the house. I love Ana Lucia's imagination. We always have so much fun playing together.

We have a closing banquet tonight and we are all just going to run around seeing a few more sights, enjoying our favorite places, and taking in as much of this country as we can before we have to leave. I can't describe how it feels to know I am leaving a new home in Costa Rica to go back to my home in the United States.

I refuse to pack yet.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Once again I had an amazing weekend. Nothing we had planned happened, but all of the surprises were lovely. Mark, Charley, Mike, Wini, Martha, and myself were planning to go to Jaco for the beach. We could have left Thursday, but decided to wait until Friday afternoon so that we may finish up some final projects. The boys took a taxi and the girls took a taxi downtown to the bus station. We were right on time, so the girls got on the bus. However, before the boys got there the bus pulled away! We didn't know what to do, so we figured we could just meet them in Jaco. We got to Jaco, found a hotel for the 6 of us, shopped a little, and then went to the bus station the boys should have been getting off at. We waited, the bus from San Jose and the boys didn't get off. So, we went back to the hotel, got dressed up, and went out to dinner. None of us had cell phones or any means to communicate with each other, so we just had to let it go and hope they were safe. We met some really fun people and hung out that night. The next day we went shopping and out to lunch at this Taco bar. You were served just tortilla and meat and then you went up to the bar and put all of the toppings you wanted. The best part was that the seats were swings! You could swing while you waited for your food, it was just a really fun atmostphere. That afternoon was not that sunny, so we didn't even make it out to the beach. Unfortunately, Martha fell down the stairs at our hotel. She was hysterically crying and in a lot of pain, so we decided we needed to come back home to San Jose that night.
Sunday, I woke up to a giant breakfast with my entire Tico family. We had scrambled eggs, gallo pinto, bread & jelly, and cantelope. It was so nice to have one last huge breakfast with them since during the week all of us are running around getting ready for school. That afternoon I went to the mall with Eric and then to the internet cafe to get some more work done. It was just a normal relaxing day.
This week so far has been crazy! We are trying to run around town and see all of the sights one last time. And on top of that we have massive amounts of work to do and we need to prepare for our final exams. It's just a really busy time, but we are savoring these last few precious days because our lives as we know it are about to change as return to the States.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Friday morning I was sitting on a bench at a bus station, waiting for a bus that may or not come in the next three hours, in which I for sure wouldn't have a seat, but would have to stand for the 5 hour drive to Upala. I felt miserable and helpless, like I haven't lived here the past three months. We decided to visit Rio Celeste this past weekend and needed to take a bus to Upala to take a taxi to our hotel. It was labor day here in Costa Rica which changed the bus schedule. We had no idea how much that would have affected us until we had been to 3 different bus stations and taken a taxi to another town. After several weird encounters with taxi drivers, Oscar drove us all the way from outside San Jose to our hotel; well, almost to our hotel. The road from the highway to the hotel was full of rocks, so he let us out to walk (with our luggage) the rest of the way. It turned out to be 2K and all us a mountain. We must have looked awful when we arrived because the receptionist offered to drive us to our cabin. Our cabin is surrounded by pretty wild flowers, mountains, and cows. The receptionist, Jorge, became our new friend and took us to the village fair going on this weekend. There are a couple of rides, food, a dance hall, no tourists, and everyone knew everyone. It was so much fun!
We woke up early to go to Rio Celeste on Saturday morning. Jorge and his friend Max picked us up and drove us to the national park an hour (of backwoods, mountain) away. The hike was challenging and we spent the better part of the day making our way along the trails and river. I have never seen water so blue - it was magical! The legend says when God finished painting the sky, He cleaned his brush off in the river. And that's exactly what it looks like. This was my favorite national park I have been too. The only visitors were from Costa Rica, the land wasn't disturbed, and the river and waterfall were both nothing like I have seen before. We returned to our cabin exhausted. After showering and making banana pancakes for dinner, Max picked us up to take us to the rodeo that was being held at the fair.
It was obvious the whole town had come out to the event. We ran into lots of people we had met the night before. Jorge was also sure to give us the town gossip of everyone that walked by. It was fun to watch the cowboys ride and try to control the bulls. It was also a lot more entertaining being able to understand Spanish and laugh at the Rodeo clown's jokes.
I should have known the adventure would have continued throughout the ride home. We waited at the bus stop, a metal bench on the side of the highway, for a little over an hour. Luckily it was across the way from the pulperia and we saw a lot of people we had met over the weeknd ride by on their horse which was nice. We all felt like we fit in and were sad to leave Bijagua. The bus arrived and was standing only meaning all of hte seats were sold out. We stood for the first 2 hours of the ride then sat down in the aisle for the next hour where we fell asleep. Fortunately, two people got off and the men standing let us have the seats. We sat and rode the last two hours. Wini and I bought sandwiches a guy on the bus was selling for 500 colones ($0.80) each. There were delicious pulled beef (I think?) on fresh white bread with ketchup and mayo.
Overall, it was such a great weekend - by far my favorite weekend in Costa Rica. It was nothing like we had planned it to be which just added to the experience. For once we weren't staying in a hotel and surrounded by other tourists. It was just us and the great people of Bijagua, Costa Rica. :)

Thursday, April 30, 2009

I feel like we are at a really weird point in our stay here in Costa Rica. I have finally become completely comfortable taking a public bus anywhere, I can order food in a resuraunt and have exachanges made from what the menu offers, I can play with Ana Lucia for hours and speak and giggle about things in Spanish, I can have meaningful conversations with my Tica family, I can watch the news now and not have to ask questions, and after becoming comfortable with the way of life here and the language - it's time for me to leave? I'm not ready to go back to the United States. Please don't confuse this with me not being ready to see my family and friends, because that I am for sure ready! But, i'm not ready to go back to my face paced life, having easy access to the internet, carrying a cell phone around, driving a car, and being expected to have a plan 24/7. Everyone is counting down until we go home, but how about counting how many days we have been able to spend in this beautiful country and how many days we have been blessed with friends and family here. I don't want to count-down my life away and I don't think we should because May 16 will be here faster than we can imagine. Once that day comes the count down will be over and we will just have to count down until our next trip back to Costa Rica for we are going to miss things that we don't even recognize now as worth missing.

Monday, April 27, 2009

God's timing is always perfect. ALWAYS.

This past weekend was exactly what we all needed. We traveled to Arenal which is home to the most active volcano in Central America. Our accomodations were at a resort that had a lot of activities and things to do meaning we didn't have to travel outside of the resort area to be entertained. I feel so relaxed and positive about my next three weeks of life/last three weeks living in Costa Rica.
Friday we all were so excited to have TVs and big, comfortable beds we spent the afternoon lying around and enjoyed being lazy. Caroline, Jessie, and I used the cloth skirts that were resting on our beds to play dress up. We each created a prom dress by wrapping the cloth around us. It was so much fun! We danced around and just laughed. We tried to get the boys to play along, and the did pick flowers for us, but that was about it. After dinner we returned to our comfy beds to relax more. It may seem pretty silly for us to stay in our hotel rooms while we are amidst amazing nature, but every now and then it's a nice treat to lay around.
Saturday a few of us woke up early to hike up towards the observation point. Apparently it offered a spectacular view of the volcano. It was 2K straight up, but lots of fun. We sat in this little shelter and watched the clouds float by and waited for the perfect view of the volcano. Afterwards we went to the animal sanctuaries on site. We saw ant farms, crocodiles, butterflies, frogs, iguanas, toucans, and fish. Later we went and played in the pools! There were hot springs and regular pools and a couple of waterslides. It was like we were all 8 years old again. Jumping off the bridges into the pools and going down the slides a million times. Then it was time to be grown ups and what a wonderful time it turned out to be - Caroline, Jessie, and I went to the spa. I had a volcanic ash body wrap, tropical fruits massage, and a tropical fruits facial. It was beyond fabulous. I felt so relaxed and my muscles were incredibly loose afterwards. I loved every minute of it. For dinner, several of us went into town, La Fortuna, and ate at the Lava Lounge. It was very touristy and high priced. It made us all laugh to see "Casado: A Typical Costa Rica dish!" on the menu for $9. A casado should be the cheapest thing on the menu as it always is everywhere else, usually about $2.50. We all jumped in the hot springs for the rest of the night. Sunday, we woke up early for breakfast and a few more hours of sunbathing and swimming. The drive home took the rest of the afternoon and all of us are turning into workaholics on all of the projects and homework we need to complete before the end of the semester.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

I have to admit this has been one of the hardest weeks I have had in a while. I know it's hard to understand how I am in Costa Rica surrounded by adventure and constantly being blessed with amazing opportunity and having a rough time. Well, I have had visits to the hospital everyday this week for some kind of test or another. Two blood tests, two stool samples, one urine sample, an ultra -sound, and several doctor examinations later and we are still unsure of what is wrong. I am currently taking three medications in efforts to ease the pain in my lower abdomen. I have been completely stressed out by the unknown and the constant Spanish-English conversations I have with hospital staff about how I am feeling. It's challenging dealing with all of this on my own away from my family. I am forever grateful for the support and love I have received from my friends here and my Tican family, but it's not quite the same. I long for warm water to bathe with and my own bed to take a good nap. Everyone else in our group seems to be having a hard time now too; they all seem ready to go home. I am excited for this weekend trip to Arenal Volcano because I think it will be a good pick-me-up. I hope we can all get excited for the last three weeks we have in Costa Rica before it flies by and we miss it. I am sure we will all miss it terribly.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

It's funny how often times in life the things we aren't looking forward to at all turn out to be the most rewarding. This weekend was another of our science field trips. We went to Cerre de la Muerte (Close to Death) which is a mountain about two hours from San Jose. Prior to going, I was told how cold it would be. My Tica mom said I would need to pack all of my jackets and that the people who live there have red cheeks from the cold. I just couldn't believe that here in Central America that such a place existed. On top of not liking science or cold weather, I am still sick. All of this combined being said, I just didn't want to go.
However, this may be one of my favorite excursions we have had. Saturday we drove to the site, but on our way stopped for a qucik hike. We made our way through swamplands on the side of a mounting to see the highest mountain bog in Costa Rica. It was a lot of fun for us to all be wearing our waterboots and slosh through mud and jump puddles that were up to our waist of muddy water. Then we observed hummingbirds at the feeder inorder to label how many of each species were present in the area, built nets to catch the hummingbirds early the next morning, and collected flowers in order to sample what flowers are being pollenated by the hummingbirds. That night was my sorority's (Alpha Chi Omega) semi-formal back in North Carolina. Everyone knew I was kind of bummed about missing it, so we all had a fake semi-formal in the research lodge. We picked dates and danced in the cafeteria, took silly pictures, and stayed up late just hanging out. It was actually a lot of fun! When it was time to go to bed, I was shocked at how cold it was. The research center didn't have any heat and it was in the 20's F. I slept with Caroline, under lots of blankets, wearing lots of layers, and was still cold. We had to wake up early the next morning to complete our hummingbird research. We observed another round of feedings, caught humming birds in our nets, dusted off their faces for pollen, examined the pollen found under a microscope, and then compared that pollen with the flowers in the area. My favorite part was holding the hummingbirds; it was so neat to have such a little bird in my hands. The ultimate question we were trying to answer was whether or not hummingbird feeders have an affect of the pollenation of flowers in an area. After packing up all of the equipment and eating lunch, we headed back down the mountain back to San Jose. Of course we stopped for another quick hike on the way. It was probably the steepest mountain side and we hiked to the top! It was so much fun encouraging each other and enjoying the gorgeous view once we made it. Our professor led a quick science lesson and then Eric taught people how to meditate. I separated from the group during the meditation to sit on the edge of the mountain top alone. It was so great to have such a spectacular scene surrounding me and spend some quality time with God. There have been countless times on this trip where He has just taken my breath away with the beauty He created and this was definately one of them.

Friday, April 17, 2009

It has been nearly another normal week in Costa Rica. The results came back from my tests at the hospital; the doctor found evidence in my blood that I have worms. I don't really know alot of details about the whole situation because Linda talked to him on the phone. He perscribed a strong medicine (only two pills) that is supposed to kill them off. However, I haven't seen the progress that I was supposed to have seen by now. I am still having a great deal of pain after I eat - I just want to get better. I do know that if it isn't treated quickly, there can be great danger; it's been just about 2 1/2 weeks of this now which is concerning. Keep praying!
I have just been running around San Jose in my free time to all of the different markets and restuarants. I even made a trip to a used book store to buy some books in Spanish to help me practice this summer. Mike, Eric, Charley, and I went to a Yoga class this afternoon as part of our last stitch efforts to dive into our environment here. It was great! I thoroughly enjoyed it; the boys were in some pain, but liked it too. I am sure it will be much more relaxing next time - it was a bit difficult to learn the positions, translate the Spanish, and balance all at the same time.
Today was my last day working at Escuela Betania. I am glad that I am finished because it certainly was stressful. I learned today that there aren't any substitute teachers. For example, the third grade teacher had to go to a worship service at her church today, so the third grade didn't have school today. It isn't until a teacher will miss a week of school that the Ministry of Education looks for someone to help cover the class. It is just incredibly different here.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Clinica Biblica

I have been sick and in a lot of pain now for almost two weeks, so the MesoAmerica director and I decided I needed to go to the doctor. The doctor that works closely with our school and insurance was working in the Emergancy Room today, so I made the trip downtown to the ER. I was very nervous because for one I don't like hospitals/needles and I also wasn't sure how much English would be spoken. I was greeted at the front desk and all of the paper work had been taken care of by the insurance company beforehand which made it easy. I waited for about 20 minutes, the nurse checked me out, then I waited for another 45 minutes to see the doctor. I had some tests taken and need to go back tomorrow to discuss the results. I was very impressed with how much English was spoken and hope that in the hospitals in the US equally as much Spanish is spoken. It's scary to walk into a hospital, sick and not knowing if the doctor will understand what's wrong. My director told the doctor that I understood and spoke Spanish, so it was mostly a Spanish visit; which was fine - it's always good to practice. Since Costa Rica is rivaling third world status I didn't have high hopes for the health care and hospital, but it seemed as nice as any in the United States and the service certainly was a lot faster.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Due to me being sick, Semana Santa craziness, and generally being worn out, Ellen, Mark, and I decided to stay in San Jose the last few days of Semana Santa instead of going to Panama. We have just pushed back the trip to May. It's been so much fun hanging out around the area though and I am so glad we did. Thursday we went white water rafting in the Pacuare River. It was only about an hour and a half bus ride. The rapids got up to a level 4 and our guide was awesome! He spoke Spanish to us the whole time so we could practice. Lunch was served on the river bank on top of a flipped over raft. At the end of lunch we saw some local boys that looked very hungry. All of our left overs went to them and I could tell by the smiles on their faces they were very excited. It was strange, Ellen and I started to speak Spanish to them, but they wouldn't respond. We thought maybe they were just shy, but it turns out they only spoke the local dialect. We always get so frustrated with people who automatically come up to us and try to speak Englsih because they think we don't know Spanish and here we were going up to these little boys speaking Spanish because we automatically assumed they only spoke that. Interesting to say the least.
Friday we went to downtown San Jose to see the processionals and all of the celebrations.
Yesterday, we deiceded to make a day trip to the beach! Puntarenas is less than two hours away and is where all of the locals go. It's really cheap, but really crowded and a bit dirty. It was fine for a day trip though. It was nice to just lay out and relax. I have never seen the bus station so crowded though. Buses were leaving about every 20 minutes and every bus was packed. There was also alot of traffic coming back to San Jose as it took us 3 hours. I got a nice tan though. :)
Today is Easter Sunday, but in Central America that means very little. My mom looked at my strangely when I asked her what time the church service was today. There isn't a special service today, all of the Semana Santa services were Friday and Saturday. I am still feel terribly ill and have pretty much laid in bed all day. I am going to the doctors tomorrow and hopefully they will be able to tell me what is the matter.

Semana Santa

Here it is Easter Sunday and there is nothing different about Sabanilla. There aren't any celebrations, not a mention of today being a holiday, and just about every store is open. It's a bit hard to believe that this whole week has been full of a different life because it was Semana Santa, Holy Week. But, Friday is the main day of focus and celebration. Friday the whole city was shut down - only one bus was running, few taxis, no stores were open, and most families spent the day remembering/honoring Jesus' crucifiction. Ellen and I made our way to downtown San Jose to view the processions. I have never seen such an event in my life. To start with, Ellen and I were just about the only people wandering around downtown; streets that are usually packed with people were scary quiet. After finding a hotel resturaunt that was serving breakfast we made our way to Central Park to view the processions. I was overwhelmed with people as we crowded around the gazeebo. On stage were all of the characters of the Easter Story: King Herod, his wife, townspeople, Jesus, the two robers, and others. The persecution and trial was acted out and then the entire cast of characters marched throughout the city. I overheard a lady saying they were to march 100 meters. Most of the crowd followed the procession while music played and a steady drumbeat was given so that all could move at the same pace. Ellen and I, along with a few others, stayed around the church. We went inside the church and it was absolutely gorgeous. You could tell how important the church is to the city by the incredible detail of the building. After a while, the procession was returning to the church. Outside was the 2nd half of the day being portrayed. In the center of activity this time was three cross where statues were nailed down. It wasn't until within the past decade that the church stopped using real people. Yes, a real person used to be crucified for the processions. I was told that in remote towns in Costa Rica still continue with the sacrafice of a live man. I am just stunned by how much honor and emphasis is put on this entire week. It is such a different feel than in the United States. For my Spanish class, I have to write an essay about how I celebrate Semana Santa. Given that we don't celebrate the whole week, I simply wrote about how my family celebrates Easter. I have to say that although my family certainly keeps it a religious holiday, I was a bit embarassed by our celebration. I included buying a new Easter dress for church and the Easter Bunny coming. I am sure my Spansih professor will be blown away by such traditions. This week here hasn't been about eggs or chocolate or new things. It has soley been based around celebrating Jesus' life, death, and ressurection. What a beautiful week that an entire community could focus only on Him! While I have missed dying eggs and the normal festivities that go along with Easter in the States, it's been so humbling to be put in such a mind set of Christ this week.

Thursday, April 9, 2009


Costa Rica's visa only last for 90 days and in order for us to remain in the country legally, we had to leave the country for more than 36 hours. This wasn't an issue for me givenour recent travels, but my entire class needed to renew their visa. So, I just spent a few days in Nicaragua to renew my visa with my classmates and was blown away. Prior to our class trip, several people warned us about the stark differences between Costa Rica and Nicaragua. I didn't know that I would view these differences as soon as I crossed the border.
It was a 9 hour bus ride plus an additional close to 4 hours we spent at the border. The border crossing was pure chaos. Luckily, Carmen (a director at our school) took care of all of the passports, paperwork, and money which made it so much easier on us; all we had to do was wait around. My classmates were nervous and stressed that we were waiting so long. I just had to chuckle to myself and know that this couldn't even pale in comparison to this. They had nothing to worry about for it was all being taken care of for us. As we walked across the border, I am sure the temperature increased about 30 degrees. It was crazy how us walking 20 meters could make that big of a difference, but it did. While we drove down the road to Granada we past hundreds of shacks and more likely the poorest people I will ever see sitting on the side of the road. Our final destination was a top of the line Hotel Colonial where each of our suites were equipped with a California King size bed, two queen beds, and hot water for just two of us to share. We were all in shock that Elon had seleceted for us to stay in such nice accomodations. I was grateful for the treat, but found it odd that we had come to Nicaragua to experience something drastically different than Costa Rica, but were staying in such a luxurious hotel there was no way we would truly understand the differences. Never the less, we ventured around the town and got to know some locals, per usual. Sunday was a day for of tourism. We had our own personal tour guide who showed us key locations in the area. We made a visit to a former prison located in a fortress, Volcano Masaya, a potter's house to learn to make pottery, and ended with a boat ride in Lake Nicaragua. It was so much fun to take pictures and be silly with all of my classmates.
Tuesday was by far my favorite day. Leaving Granada early in the morning, we made our way to San Juan del Sur. We were told that we were staying at a five star resort, but we were all skeptical about how nice it could be given that it was in Nicaragua. As soon as we drove up I am sure each one of our jaws dropped. Our resort, Piedras y Olas (look it up online - it's amazing!), had three infinity pools, a nature reserve, and two resuraunts on site. We were assigned groups of five to stay in different villas. Wow. My house, La Casita de Dulce Vida, decided to cook dinner for ourselves since none of us have really cooked alot since we have been in Costa Rica. Having a nice homemade meal was the perfect way to end a day of lying by the pool. I woke up early the next day to lay by the pool for three more hours before we had to leave. It would have been nice to have a couple more days. It is always so nice to travel on class trips that Elon has put together because we always stay at nice hotels, all plans are made for us, and everything is paid for. However, I still like backpacking and roughing it too.
The ride back home to Costa Rica seemed a bit better than the ride over. Carmen ended up bribing some of the workers at the border to send oou passports through faster and we were done at the border in only an hour. Everyone was really tired, but we still loved being goofy and sharing all sorts of stories on the bus. Prior to studying abroad I knew I would ge to know Costa Rica better, but I had no idea how well I would get to know my classmates. I feel we all know eachother so well, except what kind of car we drive or cellphone we have. It's crazy to think they have become such good friends and none of us have each other's phone numbers! We all keep talking about how much we will miss each other and we still have five weeks left.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Getting back into the Tican routine has been much easier than I thought it would have been. I am thankful everyday for how comfortable I feel in my Tican home, at school, and with the Spanish language. I have loved hearing all of my classmates stories from Spring Break and to be able to hang out with everyone once again. We are all excited for our trip to Nicaragua this weekend. Although, I am a bit hesitant to cross a border on a bus. I know I will be surrounded by people that love me and are supportive.
I also am in love with my Spanish class. Caroline, Jessie, and I have such a great time. Now that we aren't having to worry so much about grammar lessons, we get to talk and just enjoy the language. Yesterday we had to give oral presentations about our spring break. I ended up speaking for 25 minutes! It's so much fun to just enjoy each others company. After Spanish class today, all of the education majors had to attend a speaker about the education system here in Costa Rica. The speaker only spoke Spanish. Linda came in to translate, but I didn't even need her to. It was actually more annoying than helpful, but not everyone in our class is on the same level so she had to. The speaker enjoyed us so much that he invited us to attend seminar classes he instructs each Thursday. The seminars are about Special Education and conducted in all Spanish. I think several of us are going to go and I am super excited!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Entries from Spring Break.

Saturday, March 21 - Guatemala City, Guatemala

And so it begins, a week of travel. I am so excited. Today was such a great start. My Tican mom called a taxi for Eric and I to take us to the airport. We hung around the airport and took the short 1 1/2 hour flight to Guatemala City. My mom reserved a night for us at the Crowne Plaza which offered a free shuttle service to the airport. After unloading our backpacks in the room and withdrawing the proper currency we headed out to town. We got in a taxi and just asked to go to a place to walk around and shop. The driver ended up being able to speak English. He had lived in Chicago for a few years, but just lost his immigration case and had to come back to Guatemala. He showed us around the touristy part of the city. We walked around, grabbed lunch, and then took another taxi to Central Market. One thing about Central American travel is that you should always find Central Market, it can tell you so much about the city, food, and people. Their central market was four floors and made San Jose's market look rediculous. It was so big in size and had so much more to offer. We also stumbled upon alot of really pretty government buildings. It's so weird to walk around here, there are people with guns everywhere. This is obvious different from Costa Rica as there we don't have an army. Aside from guns, the city is covered with these trees that are in bloom right now with little purple flowers. It's really pretty. After dinner we were going to go out, but we are enjoying our big comfy beds so much that we are just staying in and watched a movie. We haven't had beds this soft or pillows this thick in two months.


As our plane took off for Guatemala City I had a pit in my stomach. It wasn't nerves for the unknown, but rahter a sort of emptiness. I was leaving home. I have been saying the past few weeks how much Costa Rica felt like home, but it wasn't until I left that it all sunk in. I looked out the window on the country I have fallen in love with and tears welled up in my eyes. I don't even want to think about how bad it will be come May 16, when I have to return to the States.

Sunday, March 22 - Copan, Honduras

What a long day! We woke up at 3:45am to catch a bus to Copan, Honduras. Our taxi driver from yesterday picked us up just like he said he would. The bus was so nice - wide seats that reclined, burger king for breakfast, blankets, air conditioning, and TVs. I was a bit nervous about crossing the border because I had never done that before, but it was easy. We just stood in line, paid some fees, got our passports stamped, and were done. We really didn't have a plan for the day once we got to the bus station in Copan. We ended up chatting with a guy from our bus, Lance, for a bit. He was traveling alone and wanted some company. The three of us then ran into a Tuc Tuc (their version of a taxi) driver who spoke English as well. It turns out the driver, Daniel, had traveled to North Carolina. It really is such a small world! Daniel showed us a hotel that costs only $10 a night, so for me and Eric it was only $5. We dropped off our backpacks then headed out to the ruins. The walk to the ruins was gorgeous little path along the road. You could see all of the mountains and horses just walked whereever. The Copan Ruins were gorgeous. It was incredible to stand amongst the huge buildings that were built thousands of years ago. We found a sketchy worker who let us in the tunnels for half the cost which was exciting. This just added to my amazement; not only did they build big buildings, but the buildings were filled with an intricate tunnel system. I can't wrap my mind around an idea of how the Mayans were able to construct such structures with their techonology. It makes me think what people hundreds of years form now think of us and how we live our lives.

Monday, March 23 - Copan, Honduras

It's crazy how one city can be so similar and yet so different from another. We woke up a later than usual, 7:30am, and went out into town to get breakfast. There was hardly anything open! In Costa Rica, we get up with the sun - everyone does. We did find breakfast which was great before we headed off to swim in the waterfalls. Daniel, our Tuc Tuc driver from yesterday, took us up the mountain a good ways. We hiked this trail, crossed a suspension bridge he helped make, climbed over rocks, walked through a stream, and then swam in waterfalls! It was gorgeous. Out of no where I heard the water cascading down. Daniel told me the water that was in the waterfall was the same water the nearby towns drink. It was so clear and felt so nice. After splashing around for a while, Eric and I climbed the rocks that filled the area. It was so much fun; I felt like I was a 7 year old little boy. Once we were down playing, Daniel drove us back to the city. We took WARM showers and headed out to Central Market. This on had more essentials than touristy items for sale which I actually enjoyed more. I ate rice and veggies at the bus station for lunch. I'm now the bus which this should get us back to Guatemala City around 7pm. We are catching a 9pm bus to Flores. This ride is 9 hours which is why we are taking the overnight bus. I hope this won't be too bad, it's saving us a lot of time in the long run.

Tuesday, March 24 - Caye Ambergis, Belize

The bus ride last night from Guatemala City to Flores was worse than I thought it would be. It was much more of a public bus. The seats were small and it was mostly full. Eric and I were in the back and luckily the two seats next to us were empty. He ended up sleeping on the floor of the bus and I laid across the few empty seats. It was freezing for most of the ride and I woke up about every 45 minutes throughout the night. We arrived in Flores about 6:30am, this gave Eric and I the chance to take a 7am bus to Belize City. I had no desire to get on yet another bus, but we had to. We took that bus for 5 more hours. Once in Belize City, we had to take a water taxi for an hour and a half to Caye Amergis because it's an island. The water is so blue and the sand is so white. Our hostel isn't what we were expecting, but I am sure we can make the most of it. We did have delicious pizza tonight, which was a nice treat. I think tomorrow we are going to go snorkeling and maybe go to the other island.

Wednesday, March 25 - Caye Caulker, Belize

We went snorkeling in the morning. I haven't ever been real snorkeling before and I was completely blown away. We got to swim with sea turtles, all sorts of colorful fish, eels, eaglerays, and sharks! Our guide threw dead fish off the boat while we were swimming around and the sharks came up right beside us to eat. It was a bit scary. Then a few eaglerays that were probably 3 feet wide swam up to us and we got to pet them. It was such a great morning. Afterwards, we headed to Caye Caulker - the island next door. We wanted to try something new for the rest of the day and tomorrow. The hostel we are staying at tonight is amazing. It's full of backpackers and is so colorfully decorated.


I'm lying on a dock in Belize. The sun is shining, the crystal blue water is ripling below me, and the cool breeze causes the palm trees to sway. What? How is this my life right now? I almost don't want to journal about it all. I feel it's almost like a secret; if it ever gets out it will somehow become less magical. For magical is the only word I know to describe this. I am constantly finding myself at a loss for words in awe. Awe of the kindness of others, the places surrounding me, and the strength I am finding within myself. We have had only a vague outline of our trip and have simply followed our hearts. That sounds so cliche, but it's our lives now. Here I am a girl from North Raleigh living out of a single backpack, staying in whatever hostel has a room, and loving every minute of it. I feel at peace with who I am which I haven't felt in a while. I feel confident in the decisions i'm making and I feel confident in God and his plans for my life. Why shouldn't I? Look how special His blessings are in my life as of late.

Thursday, March 26 - Flores, Guatemala

Last night Eric and I tried to go buy our bus tickets for today, but the lady wouldn't sell them to us. She said there has been complications at the border between Belize and Guatemala and they have closed the border to buses. We didn't know what to do. We tried to find information on the internet, but couldn't. I asked our waitor, but he didn't know anything about it. However, a man overheard me and Eric talking about it and said he had heard the same thing on the news. We took an early water taxi back to Belize City early this morning in hopes that things had been settled.
I couldn't even look out the window, let alone write a journal entry while on the bus from Belize to Guatemala. My mind was numb, my heart was racing, and my stomach was churning. I had no idea what to expect during our travel or even worse what was to come upon our arrival in Guatemala. I had begged the ticket salesman to let me use his computer to send an e-mail to my mom that we were going to make it over the border. As soon as I saw the eight e-mails telling me not to go back to Guatemala I regretted it. My ticket was bought and I was skimming the last e-mail when the bus pulled up. I fought everything inside of me and got on the bus. The entire two hour ride to the border I fought back tears. It was weird to be in my position and know the dangers that faced us and observe all of the other travelers that hand't a clue. I felt obligated to tell them, but I also didn't want to stress them out.
Everyone piled out and formed a line at hte migration desk. As we got closer to the front I saw the sign "$37.50 Belize." Oh no, it was so much more money than it was to get into Belize.We searched our bags for all of the currency we had to trade fro Belize Dollars. It came up to $34 Belize. We were at a loss for what to do. The man we were exchanging with said he would give us enough to get one of us across to go to an ATM to get more money. Eric had to go because it was safer for him to get in a taxi alone. I sat on the ground outside of the migration station - the feeling of watching him walk across and being stuck is indescribable; I felt so empty and hopeless. Somehow at the desk, Eric got confused and the teller got confused - we both got across. Eric then got in some random man's car and went to the ATM five minutes away. He reutrned and we paid our dues. I was relieved to get back on the bus, but only until I realized that now we were in Guatemala; the country I wasn't supposed to be in. I knew Flores was in the North and away from the danger. But, I didn't really know. Two hours later, we made it to Flores. After finding a hostel, we went to an internet cafe to contact our families. I got Sherry to call my parents and tell them to get on skype. She let me know how bad the violence had gotten and how the people of Guatemala wanted a state of emergency delcared, but the president wouldn't do it. She said we had to leave. I found a flight out of Flores and $342 later, we had a safe way out. I was relieved to finally have a way home and to be in contact with my family.

Friday, March 27 - Tikal, Guatemala

Despite the stress of hte past 36 hours, we wanted to enjoyed today as much as possible. And that we did! We took a 7am bus to Tikal which was about an hour away. It was much different than the ruins in Copan. In Honduras the ruins were very much in the open, but in Tikal we were hiking in a forest and then all of a sudden come to these majestic structures. They were all such great surprises. It was also neat to see the buildings that hadn't uncovered yet, because they appeared to be ranom hills in the middle of the forest. I was once again blown away by the Mayans. I can't wrap my mind around the fact that they were able to build these structures with such little techonology. The pictures of these ruins don't do them any justice, but to stand there in person next to so much history was incredible.
We were worn out from the sun and hiking around the ruins, so we had an easy afternoon. We meandered through Flores, which is a little city on an island in a lake, to see what we could find. We saw the top of the church and figured it was in the center of town. Following the steeple, we found it and were right! Luckily enough, today the school was having a music concert in the middle of town square. We sat around with the parents and listened to the kid bands. It was great. I had the most amazing dessert from a street vendor as well. It was a layered shaved ice: ice, sweet milk, bananas, ice, sweet milk, pineapple, and then blackberry juice. It was delicious.

Saturday, March 28 - Flores, Guatemala

I am in love with Flores. I love the peacful nature of the land and the kind hearted people. I found a language school there that is pretty cheap and you get to stay with a homestay; I for sure want to go back and study. I woke up early and sat out on the porch, watched boats sail by, and wrote in my journal. Once Eric woke up, we went for a boat ride around the lake. Our driver told me all about the island near by and what each town was known for. Yes, he only told me and not Eric because he only spoke Spanish. He was surprised by how well I understood and spoke the language which made me feel good. After our ride, we went to lunch at a local pizzeria and then headed to the airport for our series of flights (Flores-Guat City-San Salvador-San Jose) home.
All of our flights went smoothly and I am safely back in Costa Rica. It was so nice to grab a taxi and see familar sights as we drove back home to Sabanilla. Overall, the week was filled with so many smiles and wonderful moments. I suppose even the moments that seemed less than wonderful only made the others so much more enjoyable. God was with me through it all which is the greatest blessing of all.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Today I had my fourth practicum at Escuela Betania. While the kids may be behaving slightly better and the English workbooks have arrived from the Ministry of Education, the school still isn't a place for great amounts of learning. I am dumbfounded everytime I leave by what I experience. I know it's making me a stronger future teacher and individual, but it's hard sometimes to recognize it in the moment. I am excited to buy school supplies for my cooperating teacher to use. Linda is giving me some money from our budget to purchase things that the students need, such as pencils. It's crazy to think these students need so badly basic pencils. I can remember when I was in Elementary school I had to have the best kind of pencils and wanted all of my school supplies to match...what a different world we live in in the United States.

Time has flown by so fast and it is already time for spring break. I am so excited! Eric and I are traveling to Guatemala, Honduras, and Belize. I feel confident in my planning and Spanish ability - I am sure it's going to be a great trip! I can't wait to return home to Costa Rica and tell everyone all about our exciting adventure of a lifetime. :)

Thursday, March 19, 2009

dinner like the States.

My host family and Eric's host family are actually related so we decided to have a large family dinner last night. Eric and I wanted to cook for our families and it seemed like the perfect opportunity to combine forces. He made hamburgers and an attempt (failed) to make french fries. I made deviled eggs, butterfinger chocolate cake, and macaroni & cheese. It was so much fun to be in a kitchen cooking foods I actually know how to make. [One of our GST assignments a few weeks ago was to cook with out Tica moms which proved to be very difficult as all of the foods don't have a definite recipe and ingredients I am not used to.] After we were done cooking, I got a little nervous that my family wouldn't like the food. I couldn't have been more wrong - they loved it! "Que rico!" "Es delicioso!" "Buenisimo." - this is all we heard for the entire dinner. My mom wants the recipe for deviled eggs and the cake I made. Her and my grandmom (Eric's mom) are planning on making deviled eggs for Semana Santa (Easter). I am so glad we spent the extra money and had such a great experience with our families. It was rather difficult to find hte ingredients and we did improvise on several things. It was also very expensive because several of the ingredients were imported; our final bill was 32,000 colones which is about $60. The excitement of our family and introducing them to our culture was well worth it.

As I got ready for bed last night I thought about the night and how excited my family was to try new foods, but then I began to feel bad about it all. The food was so expensive that I know they won't eat any of it on their own. The bottle of relish for the deviled eggs was $7. My family isn't able to afford that on their own. It directly relates with tourism in Costa Rica. Yes, Costa Rica has a great tourist stream, but the attractions are things that Ticans aren't able to aford and experience. It just makes me sad that these people I have come to love so much won't experience the things I am, as I will only be here for 4 months, even though they live here. I want them to experience all of the things they have heard me talk about.

Monday, March 16, 2009

smell that fresh mountain air.

This past weekend our entire group went to Monteverde which is a quaint mountain town about four hours from San Jose. There is one gravel road, lasting about an hour off the main highway, that is the only way to get into town. Monteverde is home to one of five cloud forests in the world; pretty impressive. Everywhere I looked was picture perfect. Outside of my hotel door I could see miles of just foothills, mountain, farms, and in the far off distance the ocean. It was gorgeous.
Saturday morning we all woke up early for a 7 am hike through the cloud forest. Our guide's name was Adrian and he was awesome. He had great stories about hiking and everything that he has seen. We were able to peek inside a hole on the side of a mountain where a giant tarantula lived. Just a few meters down the trail we stopped to try and see a quetzal which is one of the most sacred birds of Central America. It's very rare and has irradescent feathers. We waited about 15 minutes without seeing anything and then out of no where flies in a male and a female. It was unbelievable! The electric feathers against the miriad of greens in the plant life was lovely. I had seen a few in pictures and wasn't that impressed. It wasn't until I saw the quetzal perched on a tree before my very eyes that I understood how magnificent this bird is. After regaining our breath and taking lots of pictures we ventured forward and completed our hike. We went to lunch at this little resturaunt tucked behind trees. It was Ellen's birthday and Linda (the director of MesoAmerica) had arranged for a birthday cake to be served. It was traditional cake from Costa Rica and tasted quite different than the birthday cake I was expecting. The cake tasted like cornbread and the icing was more like a marshmellow fluff. None the less, it was yummy. In the afternoon we went ziplining! We took a ride to the tree tops, climbed tall metal stairs, clipped a harness to a wire, and sped off to the next tower. At times we were more than 500 feet off the ground. It was absolutely breathtaking. I can't find the words to describe how it felt to "fly" above tree tops in a cloud forest. The views were amazing and even though we got pictures, they don't even give half of what the sights actually were like. I will never forget that feeling of being so free. Once on my way across the tree tops a bird flew with me. When I got close to the next tower it spun and fly higher. Amazing.
Sunday we all relaxed on our porch overlooking the valleys. I love that our group is so close that any 16 of us can sit down and have a real conversation, not just surface level talk. We talked about all sorts of things, packed up, and made our way to the bus. We ate lunch in Santa Elena, a nearby small town, and made our way back home.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

I am living quite the Tican life now. I haven't the desire to be on my computer or watch television. I don't want to eat anything greasy or that is quickly prepared. I crave rice. I enjoy my 40 minute walk to and from school each morning. Meeting people on the bus is lovely. Waking up with the sun adds so much life to a day. I THINK IN SPANISH. It doesn't bother me to not flush toilet paper. I notice how beautiful nature is. I read El Nacional (thier newspaper) each morning. I can't imagine a meal without drinking fresh juice.

Yesterday was quite eventful. There were three earthquakes, but I only felt two of them. The first I was sitting at lunch and felt the ground shake, I ask Eric if he noticed and he said it was only him moving his chair around. False. The other eathquake I felt was later in the afternoon and the ceiling rattled. We are all safe though. It's scary to think how out of no where the earth shakes. It was also interesting to see the people of Costa Rica and their reactions. Many went into panic as in January they experienced a huge earthquake. Then last night I went to my first official soccer game. I say official as we have watched and played in many pick up games throughout the country. Saprissa is our local team for San Pedro and they played Liberia. The stadium wasn't nearly full, but there was still so much energy in the stands. It's crazy to see an entire community in come together to celebrate their team. This isn't like anything in the States. Even though I hadn't previously been a soccer fan, I got really into it - yelling in both English and Spanish. Overall, it was a great day! But, what day isn't great here?

Monday, March 9, 2009


Saturday morning I sat at my kitchen table and told my parents how much I didn't want to go on our science field trip. I was optimistic prior to getting our schedule which was jam packed with hiking and research in the rainforest. My dad was making fun of me talking about all of the bugs I was going to have to touch and my mom was comforting and let me know she was going to have a good dinner waiting for me when I return on Sunday night.
When we arrived to at the Tirimbina research park we were surprised with being able to stay at the hotel instead of the research center - this saved us a two hour hike to get to the station. At first I was excited, but quickly kind of bummed out given that I am here to grow, not stay in hotels all of the time. We set down our stuff in the rooms, ate lunch, and got dressed fur our afternoon hike. Most all of the girls sported spandex, big t-shirts, and huge rubber boots; which is actually super comfortable. We hiked all along this path and went over a bunch of suspension bridges, including the largest one in Central America. It was amazing to see all of God's creation in full force. I was blown away by how impressive nature is and how much enjoyed myself. We had some free time. Caroline and I went on another hike to where all of the chocolate trees grow and we are the only ones that hate chocolate! It was actually interesting to see how chocolate is made and where in nature it comes from. After dinner we went on a bat tour. We learned how they caught bats, how they live, how to tell them apart, and then we got to pet some! So neat!
Sunday was my favorite day by far! We went out to the research center to gather our data for our sciencec reports. It's hard to rememer that I am here for school. Again we sported our spandex and huge water boots. We got to the river that was only supposed to be 6 inches and it was between 3-4 feet! The earthquake that happened in January has completely changed the ecosystem and economy here. Crazy. Ellen and I were the first to walk in the river. We held hands to try and support each other because the rapids were so strong. It was so much fun to play in the river with everyone. Our teacher let us hang out while she decided to what to do about our research. We tested some of the water samples which was difficult because of the rapids. After collecting for 1/2 an hour we classified the organisms we found. Our professor needed us to find a different stream for the classes in the future to research. We hiked a little further down and found another stream that didn't seem nearly as deep. Again, Ellen and I, held hands and ventured into the water. This time everyone else stayed on land and just watched. While we were dancing in the river, it started to rain. It was so magical! I can't describe how amazing it was to be in the middle of the rainforest, splashing in a river, being rained upon, the sun shining, and being surrounded by luscious green. I still get chills when I think about it.
I am now back safe and sound in Sabanilla and can't wait to return to the rainforest in Monteverde in 4 days! :)

Friday, March 6, 2009

It has been the ongoing joke since we arrived in San Jose that we are all in the 5th grade. it started with us waiting to be picked up at school by our moms and having them walk us to school the next day. Then we all proceeded to wear backpacks everywhere and plastic watches because we don't have cell phones to tell us the time. We ate what was put in front of us and had minimal conversation due to lack of vocabulary. All of our outward activity pointed to an awkward 11 year old.
However, in our reading for GST I came across a quote that explains this better. In the story, "The Chumico Tree," boys are playing a game in the dirt. The author writes, "Each hour turns into a whiff of time, a triumphant cry, a wild joy." He was referring to the joys of childhood games. Our time here is flying by and filled with similar joys. We get excited to go to the grocery store and are proud when we ride the bus by ourselves. How lovely it is to feel free and be continuously excited by the "small things" in life.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Yesterday was a really hard day -out of no where I got really homesick. I had been fine the past 4 1/2 weeks, but then I thought how I have 14 more weeks left. That's kind of a lot. I feel much better now. Being homesick was actually a blessing. I got to understand the support system I have here in Costa Rica. All of the other students in my group checked on me to make sure I was feeling okay, even those that I am not terribly close to. It was so nice to know that even those who I wouldn't consider one of my closest friends, I am able to open up to and have a genuine conversation with. Conversation is so important for the human soul. I also got to connect with my host family a bit more. They could tell I was sad and asked all about my day. My sister and I watched a movie (it was in German and the subtitles were in Spanish which was a bit tough..) which was nice. Then this morning my mom made me apple-pancakes for breakfast to cheer me up and they were so delicious.

It's getting harder to stay connected with people back home and other friends I have abroad. The only time I have internet access is during the day. Now that we are all so comfortable living here, the time in between and after classes we want to spend walking around the city. This isn't completely a bad thing, I am just a bit worried about what it will be like when I return to the States in a few months.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Boat fail.

I know this post seems long, but I promise it gets better as it goes on!

This weekend was the perfect mixture of sand, sun, wonderful plans, and crazy surprises. Mark, Eric, Ellen, Rebecca, Zach, and I traveled to Puntaranas and San Lucas Island this weekend. Puntaranas is the closest beach to San Jose, so it is where a lot of the locals go. It was pretty quiet Friday, but Saturday there were a lot of people. We just played on the beach, walked through the markets, and relaxed with each other. Saturday night we went out and ended up meeting 3 really nice Tico guys. They were very surprised that we could all speak Spanish and they liked working on their English while speaking with us. The guys took us to a Salsa club and showed us how to dance! It was so much fun! My guy was named Diego and he was probably 23/24. He loved to dance and sang along to almost every song. I am always so amazed when we go out by how good of dancers the guys are here. I love it.
Sunday we took a yacht tour of San Lucas Island. The boat was gorgeous and it was a nice hour long ride to the island. In the morning we toured the prison that was on the island. This prison was so intense; for a while there were 17 men living in a 6x6 room. The conditions are said to have been terrible with suicide and murder being common. This prison was operating until 1992; so recent! It was so interesting to learn about the differences in prison systems and our guide was really nice and enjoyed chatting with us. We headed back to the boat for lunch and had the most delicious fish cookout. All of the food was so fresh.
After lunch the six of us went snorkeling. There was a lot of wind, so the water wasn't super clear. We did get to swim around an old ship wreck which was neat. Then JD, the captain, took us out to another part of the island. We snorkeled, swam around, and looked for shells. Then the fun began...JD started the engine, and then it just stopped. We didn't have any gas! He tried tinkering with the boat, but it just wouldn't start. We got out the oars and tried to paddle, but there were only two of them and the boat was just too big. JD said he had to just swim, we were out on a secluded part of the island over two miles from the yacht we departed from. Never the less, JD jumped off the boat and started swimming! The six of us at first were just really calm, we played in the ocean around the boat and told stories and jokes. But, after a while we started to get was getting later and we knew he had to swim a long way. Thank goodness he made it and the bigger yacht came sailing towards us. It was kind of embaressing to be the only white people on the boat and to have lots of Ticos staring at us as the captain and crew rescued us. I am just glad we made it safely! I suppose it makes for a good story; I have never been marooned on a boat in the middle of the Pacific Ocean before.
We sat in so much traffic on the way back to San Jose that it took four hours instead of the normal two. We were all so hungry that we stopped at a McDonald's before heading home. Whow knew the menu would be different? I got a Pollo Guacamole, which is a chicken sandwich with tomato, onions, and guacamole. It was delicious! Also, an interesting thing about it was that you had to show your receipt to a guard before you could use the bathroom. Well, I had my receipt sitting on the table from where I had gotten my food. All of a sudden this man comes and steals it! Yes, he stole my receipt to go to the bathroom! How crazy is that?

Thursday, February 26, 2009

This time four weeks ago, I was beyond nervous waiting for my host mom to pick me up from school. I hadn't met my family yet and had only been in Costa Rica for a few hours. I can't believe I have been here for a month already - time has flown by! I was talking with my host mom yesterday about how fast the days have gone by. She told me how sad she was going to be when I left and what a joy it has been to have me in their home. I couldn't even tell her how sad I was going to be to leave Costa Rica without tearing up.
I have rode a horse on the beach, hiked in a rainforest, watched the sun set, came within 2 feet of a wild monkey, observed all sorts of wildlife, traveled on my own, slept in a hammock, wondered around downtown San Jose, rode a bus to no where in particular just to see what was there, eaten so many different fruits and veggies, made great friends with my classmates, missed my family and friends from back home, met the most interesting strangers, adjusted to no internet car or cellphone, am okay with taking cold showers, developed an enjoyment of listening, and so much more.
This place has truly changed my heart, mind, and soul in just a short amount of time. I don't even know all that will come of the next 11 weeks..

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

mi vida

I am sorry I haven't updated in a while, this weekend/week has been crazy. Because I have so much to say, I am going to write in bullet points and you may pick and choose what you would wish to read. Or if you really love me, you can read the whole thing. :)

Thursday night I went wtih Eric, Rebecca, and my professor & her daughter to the National Theatre. We saw The Dream which was performed by the International Ballet Company. The show was good, but not at all like what I was expecting. The curtains opened to a rock band and a single metal ring hanging from the ceiling. It was more of a mix of modern, cirque de soleil, ballet, and rock. The theatre itself was absolutely breathtaking and I am glad I got to experience going to a show here like I do in America.

Friday night we all tried to go bowling, but it was a 40 minute wait. After an hour and a half of playing pool, the lanes still weren't ready so we left. We all went to this little resturaunt in our neighborhood which, of course, was delicious. We met some other Americans studying in Costa Rica for the semester. It's so much fun to meet new people!
Saturday for lunch a few of us had a picnic at this, what we call, a chicken hut. It's a rotissiere chicken resturaunt that is open to the outdoors. Four of us bought a whole chicken, that came with tortillas, chips, and juice for lunch. It was so delicious! The man at the resturaunt really enjoyed our company and enjoyed talking with us for a bit.

After our chiknic, we went to the Children's Museum. The building used to be a prison and then was turned into a museum a few years ago. All of us were immediately taken back by how pretty the outside was, it looked like an old castle and as we walked through the front hall it was as though each of us lost 10 years and were little kids again. It was so much fun to go through the exhibits which were all in Spanish and play the different activities. We got some great pictures.

Saturday night my family got school supplies ready for Ana Lucia. We decorated a folder and an old shoe box to put an extra change of clothes in for her to keep at school. It's always so impressive to me the different ways people down here conserve all of their resources. Nothing ever goes to waste.

This park demostrates all four land types here in Costa Rica. I didn't really enjoy it as I thought we were in a park viewing lands that we were living in, which is just a bit silly to me.

I went to Catholic mass with my family Sunday night. It was all in Spanish and the priest spoke rather fast. I concentrated really hard, which is certainly the way I should pay in church all of the time, in order to understand. I also had to copy my family in their actions with standing, sitting, and kneeling. I am so glad I went and I think my Tican parents were glad I went aswell.

My classes are getting a bit tougher with certainly a lot more work. It's so hard to sit inside at a table when I look outside and see a gorgeous landscape. I just want to be outside and play all day!

Friday, February 20, 2009

oh, public school.

Since I am an education major, while in Costa Rica I am expected to complete a practicum in a local school. Each Friday I must observe/help a teacher during the school day. I have been placed at Escuela Betania which is a public school about a 5 minute walk from MesoAmerica. It is known as one of the poorest schools in the area and its student population is declining rapidly as more families are moving away from San Jose. I am working with the English teacher which is perfect as back in the States I want to teach English as a second language. Throughout the day, I see each grade(1-6) for 45 minutes.

Because public school is so over crowded here all of the classes are on a different schedule. For example, the fourth graders go to school on Monday from 7 am - 3:30pm, on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10am - 5:40pm, and on Wednesdays & Fridays from 7am - 11:30am. It's really hard for parents and students to keep up with.

Today was my first day of my practicum. Even if I descrcibe in full detail about what I experienced, there is no way I could capture or recreate it all. This school is nothing like I have ever experienced before and I don't dare compare it to anything in the States.

To begin on simple observations - the building, classrooms, and supplies are vastly different. One must wait outside the locked front gate for the guard to walk by and let you inside. All of the paint is peeling off the walls, there are a lot of cracks in the tile floor, some windows are broken, and all of the walls are very thin. When I walked inside the classroom, I found 25 student desks, a teacher's desk and chair, one cabinent, and a chalkboard. One or two rooms had a poster hanging on the walls. There was minimal teacher supplies and I couldn't find any textbooks. My teacher had a country manual from which she copied all activities (that would normally be made into worksheets) on the chalkboard.

Although a lack of supplies may seem to be the biggest problem facing this school, it isn't. A lack of classroom management far exceeds a lack of supplies on the issues scale with this school. Today I have seen students physically beat each other during a lesson, students yell at me/each other/the teacher, students run around the classroom during a lesson, and an entire class not finish what should be a 5 minute activity during the 45 minute class due to disrespect and lack of effort. The amount of patience my cooperating teacher has, and is expected to have, is astounding.

My practicum today has made me seriously rethink my plans to return to Costa Rica for my student teaching...

Thursday, February 19, 2009


I can remember how in the US I used to get so frustrated with people speaking Spanish because I thought they were mumbling. It was much harder to understand their Spanish and it was a lot more frustrating. However, now that I have been speaking with lots of different people here and learning the language in a whole new way I have come to believe otherwise. The Spanish language lends itself to said "mumbling." The words are formed to blend together and roll easily across one's tongue. I love it. I love talking to new people on the bus, a taxi driver, a shop owner, or a person on the street.

It seems as though everyone from America's favorite saying from Costa Rica is "pura vida." It means "great" and Ticans use it in almost every conversation for all sorts of reasons. My favorite saying has become "con gusto." This means "with pleasure" and Ticans say it as a sort of your welcome. I am astounded at the graciousness of the people and that every act is done "con gusto." I am trying to make it sort of my challenge to do all that I do for others with pleasure and feel genuinely so in my heart.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Otra Vez

Last night was by far my favorite night in San Pedro. I have gotten in the routine of leaving school at 5pm to get home with 20 minutes before dinner. I do my Spanish homework and then join the rest of the family for dinner at 6. Last night we had delicious carrot, avacado, and potato soup with crackers. The crackers were the first packaged food I have seen in my house since my mom makes everything from scratch. After dinner, my mom taught me how to cook Picadillos de Papas. It's a very typical dish in Costa Rica and is served with beans, rice, or tortillas. It has about 10 ingredients ranging from meat to cilantro to a chili paste only found here. With so many ingredients to be chopped and prepared it is quite labor intensive, but she told me it was the easiest dish to make. It's the first dish her mom taught her to cook and she was excited to teach me how to cook. It actually turned out to be very tasty and my brother was impressed. After cleaning up a bit, I played with Ana Lucia. We played soccer, hide & seek, basketball, and wtih our teddy bears. It was so much fun and I loved learning new words from her. When she had settled down a bit (she did start Kindergarten this week, so she's been more ready for bed), we put her pajamas on and watched "Quien Quiere Ser Millario" (Who Wants To Be A Millionaire) with the rest of my family. It's brand new to Costa Rica and is the latest craze. It was so much fun to try and interpret and answer the questions. I even got the 1.000.000 colones question right! My family was surprised.
The best part of the whole night was finally feeling like I belong here. I have felt a great sense of belonging at school with all of my classmates, but hadn't quite got there with my family. I am so glad to have been able to connect with my family as much as I have.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Hammock #3

This past weekend in one word was rejuvenating. I have never before felt so alive and calm at the same time... A group of about 15 of us traveled down to Puerto Viejo this weekend. It's a small, hippie, beach town on the Caribbean side. We left our neighborhood at 5:15am to make the 5 hour ride to the beach, some of the group left the night before, but I stayed home to hang out with my family some because I hadn't been home all week hardly. When we arrived we paid $6 to rent bikes for the whole weekend. This was the main transportation there ever though the roads were far less than well maintained and had so many potholes. We unloaded all of our stuff in our lockers at the hostile, threw our bathing suits on, and went straight to the beach. The sun was so much hotter than any beach in America. We stayed at the beach the rest of the day.
I have to desribe the hammock hostel because it is unlike anyplace I have ever been, let alone slept at. There weren't any walls anywhere, the pathways, sides of bathrooms and such were lined with colorful mosaic tile. We slept in a hammock for $5 a night. There were two large areas with about 50 hammocks in each. Everyone who stayed there were all so nice and from all different walks of life. I loved talking to new people and hearing all about where they had been and where they are going.
Saturday morning we got up to go to a surf competition down the road. It was so cool to see people doing what they absolutely love to do. I got a competition t-shirt and felt like I belonged (not really!), kind of. That afternoon it rained so we played cards and took naps. Rocking in a hammock and listening to the rain and waves crash made for the best nap I have ever had in my life. It was Valentine's day so we went to get dinner from a lady who was grilling skewers out of the back of her truck. It's so weird to think that last year I got all dressed up and went to B. Christopher's for dinner and this year I ate off the side of the road and hadn't even showered in two days.
Puerto Viejo was so far from anything I have ever experienced before that it pushed me in a whole other realm of living that is completely unexpected. To meet so many people without a care in the world was inspiring. I am so glad I took a chance, let my guard down, and truly experienced life this weekend.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

National Museum

Today has been so nice. We only had Spanish class today, where we played a trivia game and listened to Shakira (all in Spanish, of course), and then for our global studies class we went to the National Museum in San Jose. I was astounded by the museum, it was full of so much history I knew hardly anything about. I just wanted to read every placard and examine every artifact. I am for sure going back later, and probably by myself, so I can spend however much time I want walking though. It was interesting to see the paralells to some of the history museums I went to last winter term on history study tour. For a while, it felt like I was walking through Ellis Island again - especially in the prison area. There were sad pictures on the wall and all of this graffiti that was so detailed.
I was most surprised to find that all of the tags on the walls speaking of historical events were in both Spanish and English. I felt like a guest in their (Tican) museum and should be expected to read in Spanish. Mostly because that is our philosophy in America - if you come to our country, you should speak our language. I ask Stephani,who is our middle-man type of person between our school here and Costa Rica, about how Ticans felt having English becoming a more promenant language in their country. She said it was fine because that way more people could understand what occurred here in Costa Rica. It interests me to find the parallels in what America is going through with immigrants and how Costa Rica is dealing with the same issues. I am pretty sure I am doing my final global studies project on immigration.
We are headed off to Puerto Vieja this weekend and I am so excited! It's a beach on the Carribean side of the country and is supposed to be beautiful. I am sleeping in a hammock hostel, which I am kind of nervous about, but we are all doing it together, which means it'll be fun. :)

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Watch with glittering eyes...

Friday morning we made the 4 1/2 hour bus ride, for only 100 kilometers, to Manuel Antonio. It's a very tourist-y beach on the Pacific side of the country. We stayed in a beach front resort and it was beyond amazing - the scenary all around us was breathtaking from the moment we stepped outside of our rooms and we were all very excited to take warm showers. As soon as we got there all of us threw on our swimsuits and ran to the beach. After watching the sunset, we went out to dinner at a little diner, and then went dancing.
Saturday was one of the longest and full days. Everyone in Costa Rica gets up early and all of our bodeis are simply used to waking up at 6 am to start our days; being on vacation didn't even impact this. We woke up at our normal time and headed out to get breakfast. Then came a guided 3 hour hike through the rainforest of the Antonio Manuel National Park. It was so neat to see all of those animals (sloth, monkeys, crabs, etc.) and plants that I have seen in textbooks all my life in person. We stopped our hike at the beach and played for the next few hours. Meg, Ellen, Caroline, and I left the rest of the group and hiked a little farther only to discover a sort of "secret" beach. It was only about 25 meters long in total and had the most amazing rocks to climb and get different views of the ocean and jungle. We skipped lunch and went straight to horseback riding on the beach! It was amazing and our tourguide, Roberto told us all about life in Costa Rica. Despite crazy scheduling issues, it was perfect timing as we got to watch the sunset as we rode. That night we went to El Avion, a resturaunt that was built from an old CIA plane that crashed. The food was very American and filling and I didn't feel good after I had eaten because it wasn't as fresh as the food from my house in San Pedro. That night we went out into the city and went dancing which was so much fun. It was such a good day to bond with our whole group.
Sunday was simply us tying up loose ends at the beach and driving home. The roads here in Costa Rica are very narrow and curvy. I got terribly car sick and was miserable the whole way home. Which coming back home, to not my house in Raleigh, really was an eye opener that I am going to be here a long time. It was the first time I didn't feel like I was on a vacation.
I am going to post pictures on here later, but my internet is being weird. So, check back!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Today has been really hard. I have been concentrating so hard on what everyone says around me in Spanish that my mind is on overload. I haven't been able to speak in Spanish or English very well which is frustating. Tomorrow we are leaving for Antonio Manuel which is a super nice beach. I hope that a weekend "away" will help.

"If that's what it means to be crazy - to live life everyday as if it matters - then I don't mind if we are insane." Revolutionary Road

We went to see that movie at the mall last night. It was so good and cheap! A ticket was only 1000 colones which is less than $2. There were a lot of Americans aswell, which is alwasy excited to meet someone new. It's weird how being American instantly makes you friends here. It's mostly because we are obviously not from here given our skin tone and language.

Wisdom sits in places.

That was the topic of discussion in our GST class today. We discussed how each place has a history all of its own and that we must make conscious effort to uncover even the simplest hidden stories...

I am not going to upload a lot of pictures on here because it takes a really long time with our internet. But, here are some and a few links to see more pictures of my where-abouts.
This is one of the views outside of my Spanish class; since it has been raining each morning there have been lots of rainbows!
This is a commonly seen skyline as we walk home from school. Gorgeous!
-> Photos from my first two days: airport, my house, and school.
-> Photos from Cartago, Volcan Irazu, and Orosi.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Just yesterday I was boasting about the fact I had spent five days in Costa Rica without eating one, single bean. Which is impressive since all of my classmates had eaten them constantly. I suppose God was listening, as last night for dinner I ate bean soup and this morning I was served the tradition pinto gallo (rice & beans) for breakfast. Both weren't as bad as I was expecting, but will take time to enjoy. The food is completely different in taste and texture than similar foods in the US. I was trying to explain to my Tican mom the differences, but it's difficult; something just must be observed or tried for oneself.
It been a bit tough adjusting to having classes as well as being in a foreign country where everyone is so relaxed. We just want to hang out and walk around town, but eventually we force ourselves to do our homework. I love having Spanish class first thing in the morning. We have it Monday - Thursday for a little over an hour each day. Our professor is amazing and it is only myself and Caroline in the class, so it is basically private tutoring. I get so excited when I go home each night and can use new words with my family and make less gramatical errors. I am also taking an Environmental Science class. The professor is so passionate about her field area and it certainly translates into her lectures. She also used to be an Elementary school teacher and says that some of her class can be translated to use in our future classrooms. Aside from Education class that I start next week, I am taking an upper level Global Studies class. In this class we are examing the Tican culture and state of the country. Our assignments inculde journals, observations, and research; all of which are going to be appreciated when I return to the US and want to remember all that I encountered.
Today was kind of a gross day; it's very windy, about 75 degrees, andit rained this morning. For the first time we took the bus instead of making the 30 minute walk to school. This turned out to be wonderful as we made a new friend! I walk everyday to school with Mark, who lives five houses down from me, and we were chatting on the bus about our classes. Well, this girl tapped him on the shoulder and asked us where we were from - in English! It turns out there is a group from University of California school system taking classes at the University of Costa Rica. We exchanged names and told each other where we live and are planning on hanging out. It's not that easy to make new friends when you don't have a cell phone number to give them for them to call. I am sure we will see her again soon, as she lives near our neighborhood.
I wake up each day (at 5:45am on my own, without an alarm, and not really tired) so excited for all of the things I will experience in the day. I feel as though my outlook on life and daily happenings is so positive and all of the glory goes to God.

Monday, February 2, 2009

It is truly a humbling experience to be in a foreign country unknowing of the culture, language, and customs. I have to listen intently to even the simplest of conversations and I copy what I see local Ticans do all of the time. I am completely at the will of others most of the time. Although, this is frightening it has truly given me a new insight on the world around me. It's crazy to think on day four I have already gathered a new understanding of everything. I have been removed from my nice, comfortable life in America where I attend a private university, have a loving family and friends constantly around me, drive my own car, own my own laptop,bathe in warm water and talk nonstop. Here my family does not own a car, all 6 of us living in the house share one bathroom (located in the middle of the kitchen, in the center of the house), there isn't internet nor hot water, and the electricity isn't the best. Even with all of that, they are the most welcoming people I am sure to ever meet. They offer the best of what they have to me and are constantly patient in my speaking Spanish while taking genuine inerest in my life back home in North Carolina and here in San Pedro. I have tears in my eyes just thinking about all that we, myslef included, take for granted in America. I can only pray that upon my return to the United States, I carry with me the gratitude and sincerity of the people I have come in contact with here.
With this sudden drop in a completely different culture, I also have seen such a greater need for me to teach, English as a Second Language, in America. I can't imagine how a young child feels having to go to a new school, with different people, and constantly being looked down upon having currenly experienced a similar situation. I know these children have such potential; they just need a little patience and exra care.

Friday, January 30, 2009

I don't know how this post will sound because I am so in awe and astounded by the people and culture that surrounds me that words escape me. We arrived yesterday safely in San Jose. As we went through customs, all of our jackets came off and the girls put their hair in ponytails as it is 82 degrees here. There were tons of people pressed against the outside glas of the airport waiting to pick up loved ones; everyone was hugging and shouting. I have never seen a city quite like San Jose before. There are lots of buildings, cars, and even more people. The people are so welcoming, but it is very obvious who the "grengas" (Americans) are.
I absolutely adore my Tican family. I have a mom (Marita) who stays at home, a dad (German) who attend the university and works, a 16 year old sister (Dali) who is in her last year of school, a 14 year old brother (German) who loved his UNC hat I brought him, and a 4 year old sister (AnnaLucia) who is precious. Anna Lucia and I watched Over The Hedge in Spanish last night which was a lot of fun after we had a delicious dinner. Which is another thing that I love here, hte food is delicious. I have already had the most amazing fruit and juice. It's amazing how fresh they are. No one can ever call me a picky eater again as anything that has been put in front of me, I have eaten and enjoyed it.
Tomorrow we have a free day and I think we will go walk around San Jose throughout the markets. Although, I have only been here for 24 hours, I am completely in love with it all.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Here we go...

Hello all! This is a blog I set up to capture all of my many adventures while studying abroad in Costa Rica. I cannot believe the day is finally here, but I am leaving in less than 24 hours to spend 108 days abroad. I am beyond excited, nervous, hopeful, anxious, and pretty much every other emotion one can imagine. One of the aspects of the Teaching Fellows program at Elon that I loved while I was a senior in high school was our opportunity to study abroad, but who knew the past year and a half would have flown by like it did. Everyone keeps reminding me that I will come back a whole new person and will change in ways I can't even imagine -what a scary thought; to change in ways I can't even imagine. While I have hardly anything packed and a million errands to run, I think I am ready. I am ready to open my eyes, mind, and heart to a new culture.

I hope others may enjoy my journey of self discovery, cultural connections, and amazing adventure. In Costa Rica, the main goal of all locals is to live the "pure life" meaning one that is simple and enjoyable. I can only dream of capturing such a spectacular life philosophy during my stay, so...Pura Vida!