First of all, all I can say is I have never seen so many dogs in my life! They literally just wonder the streets, and I swear EVERY house has at least one. Mine doesn’t…But the rest have enough to go around.
The past few days have been crazy. Good crazy. On Saturday morning we had a small orientation at our hostel (El Escondite) until about 2:30. A bus came and picked all of us up, which wasn’t easy because we had a LOT of luggage. We went to our school site to meet our host families. We were all VERY nervous from not knowing exactly what to expect or who. We came into the building and stood in the middle of all of these people sitting in chairs. It was so awkward. Everyone was talking, we were looking at each other like “God help me”, and then one by one a person would understand the name on our chests and one by one we went off. My mom was helping with the food and drinks so she wasn’t in the room at that moment, but she found me soon enough and gave me a looooong long hug. She introduced me to her granddaughter Ariana who speaks English so we talked a little, but not much. It was very awkward. Then after being fed more food, we left with Ariana’s mother who came to pick us up.
My house is very small and my room is about the same size as my kitchen and living room. My mom did a lot to make it perfect for me and I’m so grateful. She is so nice, but I will admit it’s been really difficult trying to communicate. She speaks very fast and while I try to understand as much as I can the first time around, I usually don’t.
I unpacked actually really quickly and then met my neighbor, Cody. He graduated from Eau Claire in May and has been living here next door (with my Mom’s niece Nathalia) since June. Saturday night I went with him, Nathalia, her 7 year old Mateo, and her father to a “repaso” I believe it’s called. I may be wrong though. Cody was under the impression that we’d be there for a couple hours at most and told me I didn’t know what I had gotten myself into by agreeing to go. Turns out he didn’t know what he had gotten himself into either. Apparently a “repaso” is very, very common. Family members gather at a specified members house for a prayer. What they are praying for, I couldn’t tell you but it was quite an experience. We got there at about 7, and at about 7:15 a mariachi band showed up and began to lead the prayer service. There was a small nativity scene prepared in the front and chairs lined one on top of the other. I kid you not, at least 70 people were there. All family members. For an hour the mariachi lead everyone in praying the “Hail Mary”. It took me at least 30 minutes to figure out what prayer they were saying. After that, the family whose home it was started passing out a dish called arroz con pollo – rice with chicken. It came also with chips and beans and then later some coleslaw. And after that an eggnog, which I cant remember the name of, and then after that a jello dessert. For three more hours, the mariachi played and people danced. I was so tired that I didn’t dance but it was really fun to watch. By the time we finally left it was after 11.
On Sunday I went with my mom, Maria Elena, to an outdoor fruit and vegetable market. We met up with her sister and her daughter Carol and her two small children Jimena and Vladimir. Another girl in the study abroad program, Elizabeth, lives with Carol so she was there too. It was very interesting to experience and helped me practice with understanding the conversion of dollars to colones (which is the monetary unit in Costa Rica). 500 colones is just a little bit less than a dollar and most of the things in the marketplace were three for 500, some things were per kilo, but most everything was very cheap. This was where I got my terrrrible, terrible sunburn.
When we got home, my mom’s daughter Jency (don’t know how to spell it) came over for lunch with Alex who is one of the guys in the study abroad program. He lives with her. We ate lunch together, Cody too, and then when we finished, Alex, Cody, and I went for a walk. While walking, Cody saw some friends and we went with them to one of their houses. Then, a few more of their friends came, and then a couple more who were host brothers to a couple other girls in the program. After sitting around talking in English and Spanish, and taking shots of a really nasty Costa Rican liquor, we went to ANOTHER girl’s host families’ house to watch the Vikings-Saints game. Some of the Ticos (Costa Rican guys) went to buy food for everyone so that we could grill out. I watched half of the first quarter and then spent the rest of the game outside with the Ticos who weren’t interested in American football. I felt like my brain was about to explode after an hour from all the Spanish, and mostly slang of course, but it was really good practice and they were all very patient with me, while still having quite a few laughs at my expense. Ask if you want more details.
Then today was our first day of “class”. We had to take a test in Spanish to see what level we were all at – it was 15 pages long at least. It was terrible. None of us were stressed out about it, we just couldn’t believe how long it was. After that, we divided into groups to do a scavenger hunt around the city near our school site. Basically we just had to find some stores. It was not the most enjoyable experience for me because we were walking around in the sun for 3 hours and I, being already really sunburnt, was wearing a black long-sleeved zip-up sweater to protect myself.
Some notes on culture : Everywhere we go, people stare. When we’re walking on the street, 9 out of 10 cars honk at us. It’s really awkward to walk and see people craning their necks to stare as you go past or looking back if they walk by you. We had to walk past a construction site this afternoon and all the workers yelled things at us. I heard several times in English “WE LOVE YOU!” I know it’s one of those things that won’t get better with time, like communicating with my family, so I just have to get used to it. Also, I have never eaten so much in my life!! I’ve eaten three full meals all the days I’ve been here so far, and I’m pretty sure it’s not a “Welcome” gift. The amazing thing though, is I am never hungry in between meals. At home, I eat a meal and 15 minutes later I want to eat again. Today I ate breakfast at 7:30 and when it was time for lunch at 12:00, I could have easily waited another 2 hours. Everything is so good. It’s probably been the best part so far.
Sorry this is so long but I’ve had a lot to catch up on. If you cared enough to read it all then I applaud you. Until next time!