Looking back, I don’t remember my expectations of Costa Rica. I was too excited about going to actually imagine what it would be like to live there. If I had expectations, they were probably visions of intrepid adventurers with safari hats and machetes hacking through pristine forests in search of jaguar cubs and a cure for cancer. Or, laid back beach life with relaxed inhabitants and tranquil waves lapping at white sandy beaches. I can’t really say if these expectations are true or not. I can just give my first impressions…
When I arrived in Liberia:
Flying over Liberia, I already noticed something drastically different from the States. The city is dark at night! There were lights, but not many, and not bright. Next impressions: the climate is a sauna and I can’t understand a single word of Spanish. Having studied five years, I would have expected to be able to understand the majority of our program director’s instructions. Unfortunately, the opposite was true. She may as well have been speaking in Mandarin.
It got better:
I stayed in a hotel the first night and then met my first host family the next morning. A little explanation is in order. Our program has orientation in Liberia, a medium sized town near the beach in the Guanacaste province, for a week with one host family. We stay there for a week taking language and dance classes. Orientation ends with a party for the host families. After, we move to Heredia, part of the Central Valley, to stay with our permanent host families and go through another week of orientation.
So, after a few days of living with my host, I could understand, well, better than before. I still felt like a complete dunce. Luckily my host “Tía” has a niece that lives with her. She seemed to understand how completely deficient my Spanish was and spoke to me at half speed with small words.
Although I understood very little, Tía invited me to come back and visit during vacations! My host cousin also invited me to visit her in Santa Cruz. Road trip!
Our week culminated with a trip to Playa Coco (Coco Beach) on one day, and a trip to Vulcan Rincon. The volcano was amazing! The tourguide was exceptionally easy to understand. We hiked through three microclimates, climbed trees, and saw mudpots.