Saturday, May 14, 2016 & Sunday, May 15, 2016
I was lucky to arrive safely for my departing flight at the Houston airport around 5:00 PM – it started raining and flooding before I made it to the airport and Houston floods can turn deadly in a hurry. I was supposed to land in Heredia, Costa Rica at 9:30 PM (10:30 Houston time), but my flight was delayed two hours. I was very nervous and shed quite a bit of tears because of the people I was leaving behind in Houston. I also didn’t know what to expect in Heredia, and arriving in the middle of the night didn’t do anything to help my discomfort.
I finally arrived in Heredia at 12:15 AM (ish); I met the other students on my flight outside of the gate and we walked together to baggage claim. It was nice having others with me since I was in a new and unknown environment. After we grabbed our luggage, we had to wait in a long line to have it scanned. We then went to customs, which was much simpler than I expected it to be. We just handed the worker our passports and ticket papers and we were on our way to find the Sol directors.
Including me, there were 5 students on the bus and one by one we were getting dropped off at our host parents’ houses. Sha* got dropped off first and he nailed it. He said “Hola mama Teresa!” which was then followed by a nailed it arm sign. Next way Tae* and Aly* who had a sweet older Tica mom. Next was Gab*. All the mothers were so welcoming and happy to see their summer children. I was the last one on the bus, and was very nervous. I lived much farther from the others – in a different neighborhood, actually. About 10 minutes later, we made it to my Tica mom’s house and she was pretty much everything I could have hoped for. She quickly gave me a hug and was very inviting. She showed me my room and the bathroom (it was close to 2:30 AM at this point, so there wasn’t too much conversation). I went to bed pretty quickly and set my alarm for 6:00 AM.
Sunday, May 15, 2016
I woke up at 6:00 AM. Since I came in so late, I didn’t meet my Sol roommate the night before. Instead, with my skill of awkward situations, I knocked on the bathroom door while she was getting dressed -_-. Luckily, she seemed nice though (and she is!). Afterwards, I got ready for the Sol orientation. At 6:45 AM, we ate breakfast together and spoke in Spanish (eek!). My host mom was so sweet and outgoing. At 7:30 AM, we left the house with our packed day bags and our mamatica walked us to school with the other two Sol chicas who lived three doors down. We lived farther away than most, so our trip took about 20-25 minutes, but we found our most people lived 5-10 minutes away. When we arrived at the school, we were separated onto two buses and headed to Volcan Poas. On the way there, we got to see what the majority of Costa Rica looked like – a bunch of forest and nature. It was quite beautiful, and it was also refreshing to see that a country still valued nature (unlike the United States, in my opinion). We arrived at Volcan Poas, which at the time was cloudy and lightly misting (bring a rain coat with you everywhere!!). We didn’t see the crater that well, so one of the pictures is when I went and the other is when my mom went on a clearer day.
Afterwards, we went to the hummingbird garden, which was super pretty! The Sol directors got us all strawberry smoothies (there’s water smoothies (which is kind of like a slushy) or regular dairy smoothies). The water smoothie was really good!
We had dinner at home and then went to bed fairly early for the first day of school!
(It’s currently May 28, 2016 and I’m writing the below from memory, so that’s why it’s so short – I promise I had more fun than the paragraph portrays!)
Monday, May 16, 2016
We walked to school on our own today. At school we had orientation and we did an ice-breaker with the other Sol mates. Then we met our teachers at 9:00 AM and started the first day of class. Everything was a bit overwhelming, everything was taught in Spanish (at least in the upper levels), which is something my school didn’t prepare me the best for (but it got easier!)! Oh, the first day of school, we take a “placement exam” to see which level we should be in – I would suggest brushing up on some verb tenses! Usually, people only get moved up, unless they ask to be moved down. After class, we ate lunch and were given instructions for the scavenger hunt. This was one of the first learning experiences I had – usually scavenger hunts are competitive events to see who can finish first. Not here! That was a challenge that I had to remind myself, but it was fun and a good learning experience for me – pura vida! We walked back home after school, had dinner, I showered, and then went to bed.
Tuesday, May 17, 2016
Second day of school! After class, we had our cultural class. It was a cultural cooking class about 30 minutes from the University. It was a beautiful house and place! We had cas juice, which is my favorite juice here – so refreshing. We also had gallo pinto, platanos, pico de gallo and some other cultural foods! I helped make the dough for one of our last dessert dishes (I can’t remember the name of it, but it’s served with syrup and is fried).
Wednesday, May 18, 2016
I remember starting to feel semi-settled in by now. There was a solid routine that was easy to follow, which was kind of nice. For preparation purposes, I should probably mention that one part of Cost Rican culture is “cat-calls;” a lot of cars hunk and guys yell out of the cars, but they never do anything. I would still suggest walking in groups though! I remember being really afraid of packing shorts at first, but I honestly don’t think it makes a difference of what you wear; you’ll get cat calls either way, just ignore them.
Thursday, May 19, 2016
On Friday, I had a presentation that was due, so I spent most of the evening and night working on my presentation. It was a free topic and I spoke about my University. It just had to be 5 minutes and completely in Spanish, so it wasn’t too bad!
Friday, May 20, 2016
Gave my presentation today! Even though I was nervous, I ended up doing okay. I messed up on a few words, but spoke fairly okay, and ended up getting a good grade on my presentation. Our group had a city tour of Heredia after class. We visited the market, which was an AWESOME experience. We split into groups and each found a different fruit, some of which are pictured below. The market was huge and the fruit was so cheap compared to the United States. Afterwards, we went to a small cafe and tried the fruits that we found in the market.
And as always, I got to experience all of these things with my favorite chicas! 🙂
Saturday/Sunday, May 21-22, 2016
We had to be at the University at 7:30 AM for the weekend excursion. This weekend was the excursion to Manual Antonio beach and the National Park. We stopped on the way there and saw a river with a bunch of crocodiles in it and many of us bought a coconut at the souvenir shop, which was quite refreshing on the warm day.
The hotel we stayed at was really nice (thank goodness!!). We gathered our things and all left to walk through the national park. I unfortunately didn’t see a sloth, but some others did, so look hard! The beach at the national park was beautiful and the water was fairly warm. I also go to see some cute monkeys swinging from trees.
We returned to our hotel and got dolled up for dinner because we were bored. We ate a seafood place, which was quite good! I ordered tuna, potatoes, vegetables, and then my friend and I split a tres leches and chocolate cake.
It was so good after such an active day! The next day we went white water rafting, which was a blast! We saw a waterfall up close, and it was so beautiful!! It was an exhausting trip and I was starving, so the huge plate of food afterwards was perfect 😀 We returned to Heredia around 7-8 PM and took a taxi home and ate dinner. I did not want to go to school the next morning -_- Sleep please?
Monday, May 23, 2016
I was not ready for this week. We had an oral poem presentation, written test, a PowerPoint presentation, and a debate. But I just wanted to sleep.
Tuesday, May 24, 2016
My recited poem went well! After class we took a bus to tour San Jose. We found a shoe store, and I bought two pairs of shoes for $23 J (#winning). It was a neat city, and I really like how pedestrian friendly it was compared to Heredia’s downtown. We then looked in souvenir shops, and there was a ton of cool things (the one picture in the middle is a personalized business card holder).
Wednesday, May 25, 2016
My presentation went all right and the test was kind of hard. After class, we had a dance class. I mostly re-learned that I don’t have rhythm and can’t count, but it was fun and a good experience, especially for those people who do have any amount of rhythm or ability to count, but at least we looked cute!
Thursday, May 26, 2016
I prepared for the debate, which was on Friday. This week was an exhaustive one, and I was quite ready to sleep for 3 days.
Friday, May 27, 2016
Luckily, the debate went well. It’s always less nerve-racking with a group of people!! I decided today was going to be a lazy day for me, so I went straight home and took a siesta. There was a futbol game that night – Venezuela versus Costa Rica and a lot of students went to that game (we won!). I packed and went to bed at 9:30 PM – finally more than 8 hours of sleep (yay)!
Saturday/Sunday, May 28-29, 2016 (finally writing this on the day it has actually happened)
We were all ready to walk to school with our overnight bags and such, but our neighbor’s mamatica called a taxi for us. I talked in Spanish to the taxi driver, while he spoke English to me. It was cool! After the loooong bus ride, we stopped at La Fortuna, which was a beautiful waterfall! We climbed approximately 500 steps down and swam in the water and took pictures (of course). It was death climbing back up though. I really hope I’m sore tomorrow to make me feel like the stairs were worth it (it was!). Oh, just a tip – eat lunch after you climb the stairs – you’ll thank me for this.
Afterwards, we visited this little city that had a lot of overpriced souvenir shops. However I did find this little fruit shop and bought a pineapple for close to a dollar, and the lady cut it for me too. There was also this fantastic coffee shop – I’m not one who is big into coffee. It usually makes me feel bad and I’m not a big fan of the aftertaste, but this was hands down, the best coffee I have ever had.
That Saturday evening, my girls and I got dressed up for dinner! Unfortunately, we finished early, so we actually ended up spending some time in the hot springs (so much for straightened hair). About 30 minutes later, we went to dinner, which was so yummy! Plus, they had a fondue, which was magical. Us three went back to our rooms after dinner – we were all so tired.
The next morning, the volcano picture above was our view from the hotel window ❤ It was so beautiful.
Tuesday, May 31, 2016
Today we went to the Toucan Rescue Ranch! I loved it ❤ There were toucans, SLOTHS, BUNNIES, owls, monkeys, and a bunch of other rescued animals. The hardest thing was being SO close to touching a sloth and not being able to because you don’t want to get them sick. Literally the most selfless moment in my life.
Friday, June 3
Today was the last day of class (WOO-HOO)! I was fortunately blessed with an amazing professor, so it was actually bittersweet. We performed our skit in front of Advanced 1 and the Literature class, and then we were done! Here’s a picture of our beautiful class (still representing that cougar red Friday):
After class, my friends and I went to the mall. We bought some make-up and I bought some shoes for La Rumba that night! Afterwards, my roommate and I came to our house to eat lunch. Later all of the girls came over and we got dolled-up for the dance! The club was okay, but the company was the best part. 🙂
And some random pictures of food ❤
Ready for Session Two!