They say one in a million people see an active volcano in a lifetime, and this week I was lucky enough to see one on a clear, sunny day. When we started our ascent to see the crater, we made jokes about what everyone was looking at: all we could see was clouds beyond the railing. Within seconds though, the clouds disappeared and a gorgeous view of the volcanic crater and surrounding mountains lay in front of us. It was truly a breath taking sight. The pond of water was a brilliant shade of turquoise in the middle of the rocky crater. We were truly blessed for being able to see such a rare sight here in Costa Rica. The clouds almost always impede the view of the tourists (and travelers).
By visiting Poas national park, we got to see more of the natural side of Costa Rica. The forests is called a cloud forest, and much of the ground is covered with moss. Our director showed us how the moss absorbs the water that falls almost instantaneously. It was amazing to see how much nature adapted to the tropical climate here in Costa Rica.
This week we also volunteered at an animal shelter. It was the best stress relief I can imagine. They had a room full of dozens of kittens. Within minutes, I had a least 5 kittens on my lap who had crawled up my legs to cuddle. They kept waddling over one another to compete for attention. After talking to one of our directors, I learned there are a lot of cats here who do not get homes. It was sad to think many of the kittens we saw would never have a family to look out for them. It was difficult to not take them all home with me, but I do not think it would be good to bring a dozen kittens into my host family’s house.
This week we also felt our first earthquake. We were sitting underneath a tree at the ULatina when we felt the ground start to shake. It felt almost as if I were next to a highway and semi was driving by on a bridge. The sensation was very strange to me because Missouri is not a place of high activity. This one was only a 5 on the scale to 10, but it was still a very new and interesting experience. Unlike what movies would have you to believe though, no one ran screaming in panic. It was as if nothing had happened. Only us gringos kept talking about it afterwards.
Culturally, I had the chance to go to Puriscal for a baby shower with our host mom. The theme was Minnie mouse for baby Amelia! The party was at a huge farm with fruit trees and a huge pool. The party was full of typical foods from Costa Rica. We had rice, meat, hominy soup, turtle eggs, empanadas, and tortillas. I liked some of the food, but there are somethings (like the raw eggs) which will be a once in a lifetime experience for me.
Within all the crazy parts of the week, I think a lot of us have started to feel some homesickness. One of our solmates is leaving for home this week, and we all started thinking about our own homes. For me, it started getting more difficult when my local baseball team started approaching post-season. While it’s hard to think of the things we are missing at home, I know my time here is precious and finite. Luckily life here is so beautiful staying upset is difficult. However, it is strange to think about all the things we don’t have in a different country. I’ve learned in just a month how many things I take for granted in the US. Luckily my solmates help me deal with everything that comes up. My roommate and I made a southern style dinner today for our host family so we could have a small piece of home during our time here. We almost started only one fire, so things could have gone a lot worse (people use ovens as storage here… next time we will check before we turn it on).
As far as classes go, we already took one final and have moved on to the next class. While my Spanish classes are great, my painting class with locals is amazing. This week we started working on our projects that we are painting for the end of the semester. My professor is supportive and lets us use her materials when we need them. She even gave me some of her nail painting studs to work on my project. She just asked I return them at the end of the semester. I was amazed by her generosity.
This first month has been amazing! We have explored the country, went to a baby shower with our host mom and tried many new foods, and learned more Spanish. This month has gone by in a flash. I cannot wait to see what else Costa Rica has in store for me.