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My Parents’ Visit to Costa Rica

When I was planning for my year-long study abroad in Costa Rica, I told my parents that I would probably come home for Christmas. They quickly put a stop to that notion, saying, “No, no. Don’t visit us…we’ll come visit you!”

My parents were here for ten days (December 16-26). I tried to squeeze in some fun activities for them so they could see Costa Rica a little bit, but I didn’t want it to be an exhausting trip either, so there were also some afternoons in which we simply had a cup of coffee and chatted. We also spent a lot of time with my host family too.

My dad, always the adventurer, kicked off his vacation in Costa Rica with gusto and went for a short run in Heredia. He got lost. (Don’t tell him I said that.) He eventually made it back via two policemen, a kindly tica at another hostel, and a cab driver. But I am not sure what I would have done if he had been gone for much longer. Maybe it is better not to speculate.

The day after my parents arrived they came over to my tica family’s home for coffee in the afternoon (a very common mini-meal in Costa Rica). Although I had feared a long, awkward afternoon, it turned out to be a lovely visit. And it wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be to translate between my tica family, who don’t speak English, and my parents, who don’t speak Spanish. Once, I forgot to translate and turned to my parents and started repeating in Spanish everything my host dad had just said. After five words or so, I stopped, confused at what had just happened and why my parents were looking at me so strangely. A chorus of laughter followed.

Most of my presents from my parents came later, but early on they insisted on giving me one of my Christmas presents early—the movie A Christmas Carol. It is a holiday tradition in our family to watch as many of the movie adaptations of this classic story as we possibly can and then compare them to the original book by Charles Dickens. So we all piled on one of the beds at the hostel and watched Scrooge’s character transformation for perhaps the hundredth time. It is one of my favorite memories of my parents’ stay.

While my parents were here, we were able to take a short trip to the province of Guanacaste. The plan was to go and see the leatherback turtles at Playa Grande, because it is the high season for when the females come to lay their eggs. At the Parque Nacional Marino de las Baulas (National Marine Park of the Leatherback Turtles) at Playa Grande there is the opportunity to hear an educational talk and then, if a female leatherback comes up onto the beach, take the tour to go see the turtle lay its eggs. Unfortunately, there was a nearly-full moon during our stay in Playa Grande. Unbeknownst to me at the time, when there is a lot of moonlight, the turtles don’t often come up. So we didn’t see any turtles.

While the original purpose of the trip was a flop, we still enjoyed ourselves. We had time to relax, wander around, read, and enjoy some delicious food. We also took a tour of the mangrove swamps up the estuary between Playa Grande and Playa Tamarindo. Crocodiles, howler monkeys, crabs, fish, and a variety of birds were amongst our discoveries during our two hour tour.

During my parents’ stay, we went to San Jose a couple times so that my parents could visit the artisan market, the gold museum, and the jade museum. We also spent a couple lazy afternoons in Heredia and I took my parents on a quick tour of the Universidad Nacional campus too.

We spent Christmas Eve with my tica family and some of their extended family. I was initially very nervous, because not only would I have to be translating for my parents, but much of the extended family I had never met before. Fortunately, my “brother-in-law” (my tica sister’s husband) speaks English and he was kind enough to spend almost the entire evening with my parents and me. It was a huge blessing, and it was a lot easier for me to enjoy the evening.

We also spent the afternoon of Christmas day with my tica family. It was a very simple and pleasurable afternoon. We had lunch, took a short siesta (my dad very much enjoyed their hammock on the back patio), and then had coffee with tamales later that afternoon.

Ten days is a fair amount of time, but it flew by very quickly. It was definitely a pleasure to have my parents come for a visit and I believe the trip allowed them to better understand my life here in Costa Rica and everything I am learning during my time here.

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