Communication is a vital part of any trip abroad and life with a host family, without it, we would be lost. Conversation is the key to understanding not only the culture, but the key to SURVIVAL! It all went by in a flash. I arrived Sunday morning, hours before anyone else in the program. After taking a shower and grabbing my camera, I was ready to be like Dora the Explorer. I had a backpack with essentials and I decided to wander around in the beautiful garden at the hotel. I was in paradise–the sights, the sounds, the smell and even the taste of the air was unbelievable. Later on, I met my study abroad Coasta Rica program mates and we spent the whole night getting to know each other. What a variety of faces, colors, sizes, shapes–we were as diverse as the flowers in Costa Rica! The next day was full of incredibly helpful meetings about the host family, the study in Costa Rica program, the country and health topics. In the evening, we all rounded up our bags and we were off to San Pedro to meet our families. How exciting! As soon as I met my sweet, amazing family, I had a sense of relief from all the worry and uncertainty of living in another country. My family was so eager to meet me, get to know me and share their own lives with me. My mom told me all about rules, meal times and family schedules so I can get used to it all and feel as comfortable as possible. At the end of the night, my four year old brother told my host mom that I am the best “gringa” that has ever stayed with them! That night, something truly puzzling and exciting happened, I found myself thinking alone in Spanish! I was copying down some phone numbers and was counting out loud in Spanish without an ounce of awareness. The whole night I continued thinking about what I would do, what I had done, where I was and how I felt–all in Spanish!
One of the moments that I remember most from my first day was her explanation of the shower, I got the just of it, a few words here and there. It was such a blur because I was still caught in the rush of being in a completely new, foreign place. She said something about cold water, how you have to turn the shower on and then off a little. I got a huge culture shock upon realizing that the water was completely cold! Go figure. I joke about how it took my breath away, but really, it took my breath away. My body reacted to the cold and I needed to take my inhaler shortly after to relax my breathing! Imagine that. The next two days of showers were no better, although they did serve me well as a sort of “cup of coffee,” as I took them in the early hours of the morning to wake up. This next part is the crucial part of my third day with my family. As I sat down for dinner, I thought I would ask for advice getting used to the cold water to make conversation and to seek help. She said I must be doing it wrong, the water is not supposed to be cold. She offered to help me run the shower the next day, and finally I could breathe again–literally. ¡Pura vida!