It wasn’t easy but I got here in the end. As I arrived late night on 17th Jan after a grueling 33 hour long flight, the feeling hadn’t really sunk in that I had flown to almost the opposite corner of the world for a semester in Costa Rica. There were so many questions popping in my head that it was practically impossible to not feel anxious or nervous.
But, thanks to my loving family here in Costa Rica which consists of my mom (Karla), my little 10 year old brother (Josue), my SOL-mate Gabriel and a very caring dog (Zoe), I’ve felt as if I found my second home. I never would have imagined that I would have gotten along so well with my host family. A special thanks to Janiva (our SOL director in Costa Rica) without whose help I wouldn’t have been able to come here at all.
The transition from a traditional Indian guy to a Spanish student in Costa Rica was huge. We are literally worlds apart. But to my surprise, we aren’t much different at all. The food, the concept of family, the belief in god, it’s all pretty much the same. For e.g. the most commonly eaten dish here “Gallo Pinto” is a dish which is known as in India as “Rajma Chawal“. The uncanny similarities go way beyond this, but that is for another day.
Alright, so moving to my first day in Costa Rica, 18th Jan, I met my SOL-mates who I must say are an incredible bunch of people. It was an incredible gesture on their behalf to redo the welcome tour of Heredia on the Sunday afternoon. That very moment there and then, I knew that I was with a bunch of special people who’re going to make these 4 months an unforgettable adventure.
Monday, the first day of my classes went down fantastically. Our professor Adriana Gamboa is a fantastic teacher. She was very helpful in helping me ease into our class, in which I had already missed a week. After class on Wednesday, we got a chance to go on a traditional cooking class.
We drove out of town for 30minutes to a beautiful town called Alajuela arriving at an even more beautiful house where we’d eventually learn how to cook Chimichurri, Platanos, Tortillas, Gallo Pinto and also brew some homemade coffee. It was a culinary dream to have a chance to learn how to cook traditional Costa Rican dishes.
On Wednesday night, a few of my SOL-mates introduced me to a Tico friend (Term for a local person) whose name is Oscar. Having dinner with Oscar, his local friends and some other SOL-mates was amazing. I guess every Tico/Tica I meet are very pleasantly surprised to know that I’ve come all the way here to study in Costa Rica.
Thursday after class we got a chance to do some volunteering. As it turned out, I had signed up to volunteer in a pet shelter home outside of town. It was a fulfilling experience helping out at this pet shelter with their daily chores. Later on that night, we planned to go dancing in a Local dance club called “Tipico Latino”. What transpired after getting there was something I might never forget.
As the night rolled on, more and more locals started coming in and eventually took over the dance floor after us “Gringos” were done with our down-trodden kindergarten version of Salsa. And they literally blew away our minds. Never have I ever seen normal people do Salsa with such passion and such finesse, not even on TV.
It left all of us awestruck, guys included. My respect for the Salsa multiplied many folds. It was like a few group of Latin Americans showed us what this dance really is, and hats off to them literally.
Fridays sailed by pretty smoothly as I decided to take it easy after the classes as I was pretty tired and quite frankly still dazed by the sight of Ticos moving like water down a stream. Also, I had one eye on the Volcan Poas trip that we had lined up for Saturday.
On Saturday we went to an amazing place called the Volcan Poas, one of the few active volcanoes in Costa Rica. Statistically speaking on earth our director told us that only 1 out of 34 million people get the chance to see an active volcano. You could literally smell the sulphur from a mile away. This stat got us pretty excited, but our excitement was a bit short lived as when we reached the viewing point of the volcano crater, all we could see was cloud cover and mist that had covered the Volcano.
But luckily, just as we were about to leave after an hour of arriving at Volcan Poas, a strong gush of wind came and blew away the mist, and just for that very one minute we got to see the crater of the Volcano. It felt like mission accomplished to all of us who were waiting in that chilly, windy and damp weather for one look at that elusive Poas crater.
On our way back home, we made a few stops, first on to a local shop to buy Queso Palmito (Special rolled cheese) a product of the province of Alajuela. This province is also famous for its beautiful pastors and fresh strawberries.
And finally, Janiva had a surprise for Megan as it was her birthday. We stopped at the garden of Humming Birds where we brought a cake, played the guitar and sang songs for her. Seeing so many humming birds in this garden was a precious moment in which we felt very close to Mother Nature.
With this day, I completed my first week in Costa Rica, and if the coming weeks are anything like my first week, I’m surely going to have few of the best months of my life here. And as they say in Costa Rica, Pura Vida!