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.