Reflections at the halfway mark
September 11, 2013
67 days I’ve been in my new home of Costa Rica.
67 days until I go back home the U-S-of-A.
I have a lot of mixed feelings about that revelation, some of them clichés but all genuine.
It feels like both an eternity and a blink of an eye since I arrived in Guanacaste just over two months ago days ago. Like any expanded period of time with a routine (wake up, go to school, come home, eat lunch, do homework, etc.) the days start to blur together. I wonder sometimes what I could have filled my time with for two whole months without going insane.
Then I remember what I did, and it makes a clearer picture.
- I lived for a week in Liberia and feel comfortably at home with an amazing host family in Heredia.
- I went 85 hours straight without Internet (not of my own volition, but welcomed nonetheless).
- I traveled with my parents through the jungles and the cities, as their translator and guide.
- I’ve seen beautiful volcanoes, lagoons, the densest of rainforests, and the most beautiful views.
- I’ve seen more animals and flowers than I can count, and I know I’m only scratching the surface.
- I learned how to fly.
- I witnessed a pilgrimage of thousands of people.
- I’ve watched more soccer than I had before in my life and felt the rush of a game-winning goal.
And it’s not enough.
Before I left the States, I wanted to learn Spanish, explore as much as possible, try out international journalism and make friends.
I’ve made friends (even in classes where I only understand every other word). I’ve learned (some) Spanish. I’ve seen so much. I did do journalism while doing my internship, though I haven’t reported international news to a U.S. audience as a true international correspondent.
But each goal could be fulfilled more, so the checklist is nowhere near completed.
At the same time, I’m homesick. I miss my family, my friends, my girlfriend, my roommates, English, reliable Internet, TV, the hammock on my D.C. balcony, iced coffee, engaging classes, days without rain, sidewalks without potholes, nights without the howls of packs of dogs.
But at this juncture, with just over two months left, it feels like both too much time before I’m back and not enough time to do everything I want to do.
It’s that dichotomy that has actually saved me to a certain extent. Orientation with IFSA Study Abroad warned me about “the crisis,” when I would hate everything and everyone just from sheer anxiety and homesickness for a solid two weeks.
I have had moments where I have been stressed, usually when homework gets as high as Volcán Arenal (see what I did there?).
But I know the road to stress. I’ve been down it. It’s an ugly place.
So I know how to turn around, and quickly. A jaunt on Facebook. Hanging out with American/tico friends. A Skype chat with American friends. Reading American news. Reading American books. Going for a run or a swim. Watching TV. Listening to music. Eating some ice cream. Checking stuff off my to-do list. Studying on the quad, like a normal student.
Any and all of these have put me back on track without a second glance. I’m quick to realize how crucial it is that I appreciate my time in Costa Rica before it becomes a memory.
I’m hoping I never hit an extended crisis. There are more moments than I can count where I just have to stop, breathe in, and say, “This country is amazing.” I hope those never stop.
I only have 67 days to take advantage of everything there is to do. It’s a huge task, and I occasionally despair when I miss those opportunities, like celebrating in the streets of Heredia after Costa Rica made the World Cup. Or when my friends go to Manuel Antonio and Puerto Viejo while I’m home doing homework.
But just like the rest of my study abroad, it’s a double-edged sword, both too long and too short, too strange and too familiar. It’s a huge task, but it’s one I can’t wait to accomplish.