Leaving Costa Rica was an interesting experience in itself. My family drove me to the airport (they did this and let me stay in their house for additional time after the program ended, such nice people!), and everything in the airport went well: we paid the tax for leaving, then checked our bags, went go through security, and walked to the gate. Thankfully, our gate was the very first one after security. We had no problems at this airport; it wasn’t as big as the international airports in the US (we had seen Newark and Houston, two of the largest ones), and it wasn’t a single large room like the airport in Liberia. We bought a tamal before getting on the plane; tamales are a mixture of dough, vegetables, and meat wrapped inside a large leaf. Our plane actually left around the expected departure time, which was unlike our airport experience when leaving the US.
On the plane, we were tempted to buy one of the overpriced snack or sandwich options, but we were delighted when they began handing out free ham, egg and cheese sandwiches for breakfast! The plane ride wasn’t too long, around 5 hours, and we mostly just spent the time talking.
We arrived in Newark airport and passed through a security thing, where the guy looked at our customs declarations and asked some questions, in a creepy way. We found our bags and took them past the customs checkpoint, where another guy looked at the declarations and asked what kind of food we were carrying; we told him we had coffee, candy, and salsa Lizano. You may be as confused right now as that guy was; we explained that it’s a type of sauce. Specifically, it’s the kind of sauce every tico uses when making gallo pinto, and they put it in everything else. It’s delicious, and I still haven’t found any in the US, though as I said, we brought a little bit back.
Then they just let us go through. We were expecting a thorough opening and searching of all our baggage; we had made detailed lists of every single item that we didn’t leave with, and the prices of those items, and all they did was ask what food we had and look at the six-line explanation of what we brought back. It was quite a relief.
We were also expecting problems with some of the items we were bringing back; Kayley and I each had a machete in our checked baggage. We had been told by people there that these would be taken away from us, and that we should hide them in our things (though, to me, it seems like concealing something like a weapon would lead to more trouble than just having it! They have x-ray scanners anyway!). When we got home to check our baggage, they hadn’t touched a thing, and my two-foot long machete was just lying on top of everything, where I had left it.
(One of our cats, Shadow, enjoying the spoils of war.)
Kayley’s family drove us home, and we felt the weird guilt of speaking English, when, for the entire length of time we were in the program, we almost exclusively spoke Spanish, whether by necessity or, when our group was together, by the repeated instructions of Gaby (our Spanish teacher) and Teresita (one of the program directors).
We’ve been missing a lot of things from Costa Rica; Kayley will certainly tell you many of them. Since I haven’t had pinto since we’ve gotten back, I haven’t had any very satisfying breakfasts, except one.
I’ll leave you with that image, and I’ll just say that spending this time in Costa Rica has been a great experience for me. It’s a great way to get to know new people, places, and things if you get the chance to do it; I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunity to have studied abroad, and Costa Rica, along with all my tico and gringo friends, will always occupy an important place in my heart and memories. </cheesybuttrue>