Arrival, Liberia, and now Heredia
After spending a week in Costa Rica, so much has happened I’m not quite sure what to talk about first, so I’ll try to begin at the beginning.
The flights went perfectly well, but on arriving at the Liberia airport (whose arrival building is one large room), Kayley’s luggage was nowhere! We finally got it back on the 14th, I believe, since I didn’t know what address to give the people at the airport, but between the 9th and the 14th, Kayley had very little clothing and no toiletries except ones that I brought. We took a Taxi to our hostel for $20 after leaving the airport.
Hotel Guanacaste, the hostel, was not what we were expecting. I had made a reservation the previous night, but they had no record of it, since I was supposed to print out the confirmation page, which I couldn’t really do at the hotel or the airport, but I paid the $25 to stay the night. When we got to the room, there was no hot water for either the sink or the shower; since then we have become more aware that many buildings do not have water heaters (though Hotel Boyeros did!), but houses often have water heaters built into the shower head, which are alright. The room was very small and hot, and the fan that was in the room confused us when there was a button that said “shake” instead of “oscillate.”
We left the next morning to go to the Hotel Boyeros as soon as we could. We took a taxi that cost $8 to go probably 3 blocks, not knowing that the hotel would be so close. The receptionist at Boyeros was very friendly and gave us the keys to our rooms, which were blank white cards we were unfamiliar with. After many tests and much confusion, we learned that the cards have to be held near a certain part of the door to unlock them, and that there are card slots in the room that make it so that the lights will turn on. After other IFSA students arrived, we went to the local plaza and bought some food and water at the supermarket, as well as looked in some clothing stores, which were quite highly priced, Liberia being a bit of a tourist destination since it’s close to the beach. We had dinner with the rest of the group in the Boyeros restaurant for about $10 each (since they couldn’t separate the bill, everyone just gave the amount they thought their dinner was).
Orientation started the next day. We started with breakfast at Pan y Miel, who catered for us during orientation, consisting of food, juice, and some coffee usually. We then walked to the Universidad de Costa Rica, and we took a placement test and learned about what the Costa Rican educational system would be like. That evening, our host families came to pick us up, and my host mother, Doña Mélida, came last and spoke with Teresita (the program adviser, of course!) for a little while. It wasn’t the greatest first impression, but I later realized what a gift it would be to have her as my host mother.
The rest of that orientation week was mostly the same thing, with information and Spanish language classes. Food at my house was very similar each day, and indeed each meal. It was certainly not a bad thing, though, as I very much enjoyed the food. For just about every meal, there were arroz y frijoles (rice and black beans), in the morning mixed (called gallo pinto) and for the other meals separate; plantains (plátanos), fried when ripe and boiled when green; cheese, uncooked or fried (queso frito); a corn tortilla, or tortilla de maíz; and in the morning, scrambled eggs (huevos revueltos/picados). Because Doña Mélida was one of the older host mothers, we ate these more traditional foods; other families had things like hot dogs (perros calientes) or French fries (papas fritas).
Part of orientation was also optional dance classes, which were taught by… Doña Mélida! Everyone who participated really seemed to enjoy the classes, and on what would be our final night with our host families, there was a party at the university that included dancing for our families. One of the most fun parts was the punto guanacasteco dance which included bombas, which are short poems that the dancers recite after shouting ¡Bomba!, usually involving the men trying to woo the ladies and the ladies being assertive. After everyone started eating, the people playing the marimba (an instrument that resembles a large xylophone) played the song for the punto and the man who was playing the percussion part (which is basically scratching some object against another thing that looks like a gourd) recited some bombas; the first one must have lasted five minutes (ours were usually four lines), and though none of the students seemed to know what he was saying, it was very impressive and everyone loved it.
The next day, we brought our luggage to Boyeros and left for excursions. We first went to the Parque Nacional Rincón de la Vieja, which was a fun hike with, after a certain point, a huge downpour of rain, the kind where after a certain point, everyone just stops trying to avoid being wet, although the playful jealousy/resentment of the people who have rain coats continues. (We have photos of the trip, mostly of the trees, that Kayley will have to upload.) We went, mostly soaked, to a small restaurant that didn’t expect so many people to come, but we ate and then went to a hot spring, which had multiple pools of very warm water, a lovely change from the colder rains earlier in the day.
Afterwards, we went to the Ocotal hotel, which is a beach resort with two beds in every room (Boyeros had three in every room, I believe), so as is typical people, were complaining about having to share beds, which has never been a problem for me. Most of the other students went to a dance party after having dinner at the hotel, which Kayley and I didn’t attend, since I had, by this point, started to feel sick in a few ways. The next day, after hotel breakfast, we went in a lancha, which is a small ship, to sail into the Golfo de Papagayo. It was mostly uneventful, but still fun. Afterwards, we had lunch and then started the bus ride to Heredia; almost everybody slept for most of it, since no one had slept much the previous night, and we met our host families for Heredia.
Currently, I live with Doña Ligia, a first grade teacher; her mother Rosario, an abuelita viejita (probably best translated as little old grandmother); José, her son who is an optometrist; Gustavo, whose relation to the others I am still unsure of; Marixa, the ama de casa (housewife, roughly) who cleans and cooks when Doña Ligia is out teaching; Sebastián, the old dog (13 years) who is partially blind and deaf; and Chiqui, the 2-year old cat. I will have another post some other time with more about my family and plenty of other things, since this post resembles a long essay.
Kayley has not been able to make a post yet since, first, her computer did not work with the internet at her house in Liberia, and secondly, since her computer has, in the transit from Liberia to Heredia, been slightly damaged and won’t turn on. Additionally, the screen on my camera has been broken, but I believe it can still take pictures. While I am trying to fix the computer problem, I will try to lend her my laptop to make a post soon, though this week is also pretty busy for both of us. We go for our visas de estancia tomorrow, in the capital of the country, San José. ¡Ojalá todo vaya bien! (Hope everything goes well!)