Fascination during Orientation in the Cafe Nation
Sitting in my plane seat on the way to Costa Rica, being teased by the clouds that would allow me only periodic views of the Central American world below, I couldn’t help but be excited. I expected to be a little more nervous, but the whole process of going through airport security, being checked at customs, and having to find a taxi ride to Hotel Bougainvillea after all that went incredibly smoothly. I couldn’t have imagined a better hotel for our first night in Costa Rica – it was beautiful! From the colorfully thick gardens to the elegant meals they provided to the cloud-like beds (almost) all of us enjoyed, it was obvious from the beginning that IFSA was going to take care of us. The other hotel we stayed at in La Fortuna was equally as luxurious, with a hot springs/bar we enjoyed without hesitation. It also helps that Teresita, Yanori, and Xiomara – our 3 counselors for orientation and the next 5 months – could not be more helpful, caring, and just plain out-of-the-way nice.
The first week of orientation found us in Monteverde, which is about a 3 or 4 hour bus ride west of Heredia, and several kilometers above it. It was extremely and consistently windy, but zip lining through the cloud forest and soaking up the culture through our family stay, walks through the town, excessive coffee drinking, Spanish classes and dance classes/Latin nights were only a few of the things that made us ignore the gusty inconvenience. The sunsets were unforgettable, and being able to look at the brightest moon of 2010 from that altitude through a telescope was indescribable. My family, consisting of Oscar (father), Xeonny (mother), Oscar Esteban (son, 14) and Xiomy (daughter, 6) Fennell, was more than accommodating.
Their home was certainly small, but I enjoyed my stay there immensely. Oscar and I made “Dulce de Bananos” as our dish for the last night with all the families, and I told the story of my first motorcycle ride that took us to the supermarket to get the 40 bananos for the 3 dessert pans, along with the preparation and ingredients of the palatable “postre”. With the comic relief of Oscitar and the unmatched cuteness of Xiomy, it was hard to say goodbye, but the Hotel del Silencio del Campo in La Fortuna softened the blow.
Our stay in La Fortuna was short-lived, but well-received. It included a short trip to a waterfall whose combination of sheer power and natural beauty I’m not sure I’ll ever see again. Jumping into the pool of falling water and swimming toward it with all my strength only to stay in place was exhilarating. We also randomly saw participants in a “campo travieso,” which is like a rainforest ultramarathon that involves travelling 220 km in 5 days, running through the water and that part of the forest! I decided I would probably have to train for the next 7 years just to be able to walk through it… those guys (and girls) were ripped!
As for my current circumstances, I am thoroughly enjoying my stay here with my family in Heredia. Don Luis (father), Marielos (mother), Julio (brother, 27 on Thursday), and Armando (brother, 20) make up my family, and everything is great! Don Luis has a thesis for his PhD he’s been working on for 5 years and he wants me to proofread/revise his summary that has to be in English… quite a task! Marielos stays at home and cooks, cleans, and does laundry 3 times a week! Am I in heaven?!? Everybody is super nice, very accommodating, and I am able to portray somewhat of a personality with the little Spanish capabilities I have, which actually is harder than one may think. More to come later on details with the family, but suffice it to say that it may even better than ideal. Orientation continues for us tomorrow in the capital, San Jose, and classes start on Monday. Also, with the presidential election this Sunday, the countless flags and buzz around the country excites our time here even more!