With only a month to go and final exams looming, things are starting to become more and more bittersweet. I am happy though because I don’t feel as though I have taken these days for granted. I truly believe I have grown as a person and learned a ton from this experience… Hey, but let’s not get too melancholy yet. There is still loads of time! Read More »
Student Blogs & Vlogs | College Study Abroad Programs, IFSA-Butler
Saint Patrick’s Day is a week away and it’s been a while since I last wrote, so I thought I would take a moment to fill you guys in on what’s happening here in Limerick.
In my last post, I explained that I was playing for a soccer team in Tipperary, Cloughjordan F.C.. It’s been a lot of fun training with the other guys and getting to know some of them. It’s about a thirty minute trip to where we train so I catch a ride with one of my teammates, Simon. Simon actually went to the University of Limerick and studied Mechanical Engineering. Luckily for me, he lives nearby in Annacotty, Limerick so he drives me to and from practices and games. Other than being a genuinely good guy, he’s a great soccer player… Probably the best on our team! He has kind of taken me under his wing at practices because I am one of the younger guys on the team. It’s cool to think that not only soccer, but sports in general, enables people like myself to forge relationships with those whom they otherwise wouldn’t. Being able to play soccer in Ireland has certainly made my study abroad experience that much more authentic. I’m glad I made this decision.
My time spent in Belfast, Northern Ireland was great. The Antrim Coast Tour was the most aesthetically satisfying sightseeing I have ever done. Views from the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, Dunluce Castle and the Giant’s Causeway were stunning, to say the least. Some of the places I had the pleasure of seeing have been filmed in the popular series, Game of Thrones. However, the best part of the trip was the Black Taxi Tour. In traditional style, Black Cab drivers brought us throughout the Shankhill Road and Falls Road communities, which to this day, are divided by a 40+ foot wall with gates that are locked at 7 p.m. every night. “The Peace Wall” as it is known, divides the Roman Catholic (Separatist) and Protestant (Loyalist) communities. This wall was constructed to try and keep the two sides from waging war on the other during a period of time coined, “The Troubles”. This is the common name for the ethno-nationalist conflict in Northern Ireland, which started in the late 1960’s and was said to have ended with the signing of the Good Friday Act in 1998… Although violence between the two occur sporadically to this day. I had the pleasure of signing my name alongside thousands of other names on the Peace Wall. Underneath my name I wrote the phrase 26+6=1, which stands for the 26 counties in the Republic of Ireland and the 6 counties in Northern Ireland to form one Ireland. That was one of the most profound experiences in my life, it really resonated with me.
Last week was Raise and Give (Charity) Week at the University of Limerick. It is a great cause which raises money for four separate charities. The weeklong event is comprised of not only charity, but fun activities and a bit (a lot) of partying! I had a great time with some of my new Irish friends as they showed me how to “do” RAG Week the right way. The highlight of my week was probably going to see the DJ’s Dzeko & Torres. They are big back home in the States so I thought I’d go just to say I saw them. I’m glad I did because I had an awesome time. It would be great if I could try and implement something similar at Franklin & Marshall College; I’ll have to think about that.
Another great experience I had was visiting the historic Thousand Park which is the home to Munster Rugby. Munster is known for being a powerhouse in world club rugby. Although this season they’re middle of the road in the Guinness Pro-12 Rugby League, it was cool to see a live match. Munster faced the Newport Gwen Dragons and won with a squad which was comprised of reserves due to the ongoing Six Nations tournament in which Ireland is in. Many of the Irish National Team’s players also play for Munster at the club level… But international duties always comes first.
Like I said earlier, it’s about a week until Saint Patrick’s Day. I think I am going to stay here in Limerick and enjoy myself. I’m looking forward to seeing my best friend, Matt and potentially two other close friends, Greg and Conor. Matt is currently studying in Copenhagen, Denmark while Greg and Conor are studying in Glasgow, Scotland. It will be great to see them. Other than that, I look forward to spending some time with my family over Easter break and seeing more of what Ireland has to offer. Other than that, I am pretty busy with school work which will be taking up some of my time before I head to Amsterdam with Matt at the beginning of April. I am so excited for that trip!
Talk to you guys soon!
Well lads, it’s been exactly a month since I have arrived here in Ireland. One month… already? How could that be? People I spoke to who have studied abroad warned me of how quick the time would go, but damn, I did not think it would go this fast. Regardless, I am having an absolute blast and truly enjoying my time here in Limerick. I’ve been able to become very comfortable in UL and like I said in my last post, classes are going smoothly thus far. It’s been great to stay with my Aunt Antoinette and cousins Gemma, Jodie and Mark on the weekends when most of the Irish students go home themselves. They live not more than 5 minutes down the road and have treated me like gold since I have been in Limerick. Mind you, I only met them upon arriving here. Their hospitality and good nature has been something I will never forget. The majority of students who study abroad don’t have this luxury so for that, I thank them.
Tonight I look forward to playing some soccer with Cloughjordan F.C. located in Tipperary. It is a bit of drive so the manager has arranged a ride for me. I am still trying to get involved with a local club here so tonight should be a good chance to show what I’ve got. The manager told me that they are current North Tipperary Premier Shield champs, number 2 in the Premier League at the moment and Tipperary Cup finalists the last two years… I will let you know how I fair!
I have a tripped planned to Belfast, Northern Ireland this weekend which I am looking forward to. I am very excited to see the differences between what I have seen in the Republic versus the British influence in the North. I will definitely be taking photos and posting to Facebook and Instagram, so keep a look out for those. This trip includes a full day excursion of the North Antrim Coast. We will stop at the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, Dunluce Castle and the Giant’s Causeway, three of the country’s most spectacular sights. The next day I am especially excited for. We will be taking a “Black Taxi Tour” to get a feel for what life life was like during “The Troubles”. On the tour, the local taxi drivers will bring me to both Catholic and Protestant parts of the city to explain what life was like during the conflict.
Crazy to think that a quarter of my experience is already over, but I cannot wait to see what the rest of my time has in store for me. Definitely looking to make a few trips elsewhere, but I will keep you posted about that!
Until next time.
Well the first week of classes is quickly come to a close. I am really starting to find my way and settle in nicely. I never thought I would actually say this, but I truly find all of my classes intriguing. I am excited for what lies ahead academically. In particular, I am excited for an Irish history class that I am taking which focuses on the Irish struggle for independence from Great Britain. I have always been fascinated by my Irish culture and I couldn’t think of a better class to take while here in Limerick than that one. In addition to this, I am very happy to be included as a Kemmy Business School student. Kemmy Business School is one of the best in the country and it is an honor to have the opportunity to take classes and learn from some of the best professors.
On another note, I played my first competitive soccer match in a few years last night with Shannon Town A.F.C.; it was a blast. I was so happy to be out on the pitch playing the game I love. While I am here in Limerick, I will certainly be looking to fulfill some of my leisure time with this team. It’s composed of men all ages, which is something new to me. In fact, I happen to be on the younger side of the spectrum! Nevertheless, I look forward to making the most of this opportunity!
Hey world, and thanks for tuning in. I hope things are going well for you, wherever you may be I’m sure you’ve all been quivering with anticipation since my first post where I mentioned Uruguay, and so now, after long last, I shall finally write about it.
HOWEVER, my one disclaimer is that the pictures that you will be shown are not mine, and they have been shamelessly stolen from sites on the Internet. I took some lovely photos while I was in Uruguay, but managed to lose my phone on one of our many bus rides, so all of my photos were tragically lost. That said, though, I’m going to try and include photos of all of the places that I went, so you can get an idea of my visual journey. But anyway, on to Uruguay! Dale aventuras!
Uruguay is a gorgeous (albeit a tad bit more expensive than Argentina), peaceful, and fun country, and it is only a quick jaunt over the Rio Plata from Buenos Aires, making it a popular destination for many Argentinians with the means to travel there. IFSA had set everything up for us (and very generously too, I might add), and as this excursion was one of the three times that the entire program group got together (the other two times being orientation and our closing ceremony), it was pretty fun to see everyone in the program who I hadn’t seen in a while. We had all come a long way from our overwhelmed selves during orientation, and I enjoyed hearing of everyone’s unique scene in Buenos Aires.
Our boat cruised across the river, fueled by caffeine and the excitement of 80+ American students, and we were in Uruguay in no time! From the dock we hopped on a couple of big buses to our first stop: Colonia! Our host and program director, Mario Cantarini, had generously offered his house for us to stay and frolic, and that afternoon was probably one of my fondest memories of my trip so far. Mario’s “house” is a boutique hotel/lemon farm/place so beautiful I could see myself getting married there, and it was only a few blocks away from a beautiful beach on the Rio Plata. Heaven. We feasted on emapanadas, choripán, fresh fruit, pie, artensanal bread, and some of the most delicious meat I had ever eaten. We splashed around in the pool, played soccer on the hotel’s front lawn, and then cooled off by sprinting down to the beach and jumping into the river. At the end of the day, we bussed into the center of town (Mario’s place is on the outskirts) to check into our hotels for that night.
Colonia has a ton of history and is a World Heritage Site, and we took a tour to check out some of the old (they’ve been around since the 1600’s) buildings. The town was super safe, quiet, and peaceful. Stray dogs (who are neutered by the city so that overpopulation doesn’t run rampant. Fun fact) run around, barking at cars, and the air buzzed with the sound of birds and insects. Some good friends and I feasted on paella and jazz music, and then went down to the river bank for stargazing, fireflies and good conversations. After the breakneck pace of Buenos Aires, the peace and quiet of Colonia was cool water to my parched and chapped nerve-endings.
The next day, we were up early again to scamper off to Punta del Este, which is one of the biggest resort towns in the area, and was much more built up and touristy than Colonia. Argentine author Rodolfo Rabanal describes it thusly: “Los turistas se marañan sus calles peninsulares durante el verano. Pero en invierno, edificios telar vacío, como si en los talones de una alerta atómica, mientras que barrido gaviotas y cormoranes negros que anidan en las grietas de mejillones rellenos de caminar por las calles” (“Vacationers snarl its peninsular streets during the summertime. But in Winter, buildings loom vacant as if on the heels of an atomic alert, while scavenging seagulls and black cormorants that nest in mussel-filled crannies walk the streets.”) As we were there in the fall, the streets were mostly free of the snarling vacationers, and it was a pretty odd experience to wander the hotel-laden streets that seemed to offer everything except people.
We certainly, made the most out of Punta del Este, though. IFSA (praise be unto Them) put us up in some sweet digs that were equidistant from three different beaches, and they also paid for some spectacular restaurant meals of fresh calamari, fish, and carne de vaca (the former two are some delicacies that are uncommon in Buenos Aires, and they were happily welcomed by my palate). Punta del Este has some gorgeous beaches, the Dedos de Punta del Este, and some very fun beachfront nightclubs. Shenanigans, surfing, and silliness ensued for the next few days, among which included: Bodysurfing in torrential rain, meeting a professional-level breakdancer and dancing with him and a club, and spending a lot of time in the complimentary hotel bathrobes. Before I knew it we were back on the waterbus to home sweet Buenos Aires. It had been an amazing adventure in a gorgeous country, and despite the comparably terrible exchange rate, I can’t wait to get back to Uruguay. But, until then, there is always LOLLAPALOOZA (see my next post 😛 )
I hope you enjoyed this blast from the past, and I assure you that one day I’ll catch up to what I’m doing currently. Classes have been excellent so far, though. I’ve watched a truckload of excellent peliculas, spent many an hour toodling around on REAPER (a free sound-editing program) building “sonic stories”, and have met a bunch of fascinating and diverse South American students.
Here is some game time footage.
What better thing to do while in South America then to play futbol (soccer)? Some workers at the resort we were staying at for orientation organized a game. There were fans and little kids holding signs for both los Estados Unidos and Chile. It was a great time and definitely a highlight of the trip so far!
January 13th, 2011 in College Study Abroad | Comments Off on Soccer Video by
Here is a soccer video. Last one of the day. I have a few more to upload but I have other things I want to get done today.
Edit: So wow I found this floating around in my drafts folder. I thought I posted it. Its from about the middle of the semester.
So right near my dorms there is not much to do. There is a round-about called Izzbit Saud and down Izzbit Saud is this street market. I’m not sure how to describe it. Some parts are dirty, brutish affairs. Some things make you question how everyone in Egypt hasn’t died from salmonella or some other kind of food poisoning. But others are perfectly clean and vaguely trust worthy. They have all kinds of fruits. Most of it seems legitimate. Others make me turn away because of all the flies.
You can buy live rabbits and chickens. But presumably the rabbits are for eating and not for cuddling, which is sad because they all look very cuddly. As we walked down the street one kid held up a headless chicken and says to us “Hey Americans?! You want buy chicken?!” It was funny. There are also pharmacies and sweety/pastry shops and we buy falafel and fool from a little hole in the wall near the top of the market.
I played football/soccer with all the kids from my floor on a regulation size stadium. It was so much fun. Egyptians take football seriously. They would stop the game every 5 or 10 minutes to argue about a foul or something. I was ok with it because I’m out of shape and after some serious running I would need a breather. But it bothered the american kids to stop all the time just for a pickup game. I’m not very good at football but I guess I’m pretty fast because I could keep up with everyone. Robert, one of the IFSA students, and Dean and Morgan, two private students, ended up joining the rugby team. I would love to play but I’d just get wrecked. Rugby is like football without the pads. Dean is built like a tank and he got hurt the first night of practice. But John, another student here, is taking me to this gym he found on Monday and I’m going to get a membership and a trainer. Get all buff and whatnot for when I go to Dahab. (This didn’t really happen. The gym was small and sad even though it was in a nicer club, so we only went a few times. I remained squishy and unbuff for Dahab).
We went out dancing for another Egyptian kid’s birthday. It was kinda funny because we went to this westernized dive bar called the Mermaid and almost nobody drank. They played the strangest imported American music too. At one point they played You Are My Sunshine. The music got a lot better once they stopped trying to play American stuff and started playing dance music. EVERYBODY danced. Even me and I generally avoid dancing (of course I was also the heaviest drinker at an extremely alcoholic 3 beers in 4 hours). It was crazy amounts of fun. I’ve never been to a bar or party in general and had that much fun. What made it even more interesting from a sociological perspective is that there were only 4 girls there and only 2 of them were good looking. So the guys mostly just danced with each other, or formed a circle while one person showed off in the center. I thought it was interesting because I can’t imagine that ever happening in the states. Men are too afraid of being accused of homosexuality to dance with other dudes.
The whole Alex IFSA crew and I went out to this fancy fish restaurant. It was really nice and we thought it was really classy. Then Trevor noticed the cat sitting on the windowsil next to me watching me eat my fish. I had fresh caught sea bass. Everyone else had red snapper. My giant 2 pound fish, my drink, my appetizer of ..deep fried shredded shrimp balls.. and my share of the appetizer spread cost me $14.05. In America that meal would have cost me 50 bucks. Afterwards we walked along the Korniche and found this juice bar. Juice is not the right word for it though. Its more like a smoothie. But it was delicious.
As far as my daily intake is concerned, breakfast is a couple fried eggs, this tough but thin pita pocket, and fool. My fool comes in different consistencies from the careteria depending on .. who knows what. Sometimes its thick like refried beans. Sometimes its thin like chili.
Dinner every night was chicken and rice, or kofta and rice, and some kind of vegetable stew. It was good, but after a while it got old eating the same thing every day.
Right in the midst of all the craziness of tons of Costa Rica study abroad program projects, assignments, and exams, my mom and grandma come to visit- a nice break from it all. What my mom’s main objective was, aside from seeing me, was to go zip-lining. She had heard I had an amazing time when I went in Monteverde, she had seen pictures and made up her mind. So I get up early June 2nd to take a bus to San Jose, then another to the airport in Alajuela. Some of the thoughts passing through my head were…Wow, I’m really going to see them…They are actually coming to visit me while I’m studying in Costa Rica! So after an hour or so of waiting till their flight was due in, I caught myself standing up in front of the glass window with my face pushed up against the glass, hoping to catch a glimpse of them before they caught a glimpse of me! As soon as I saw my mom and grandma walk into the area with the glass window, my heart jumped up, I couldn’t believe it, they were actually HERE!
We decided we would stay in San Jose Tuesday to Thursday, then Friday we would head to Manuel Antonio for the weekend- the land with beautiful beaches, a flourishing national park and zip-lining, the perfect combination. Tuesday after the flight and the drive back to this cute little pension we stayed in, my mom and grandma were pretty much beat. Tuesday, my mom and I wandered around San Jose a bit and ate inside the Mercado Central at the end of the pedestrian boulevard. Wednesday was a very big day, we had planned to walk around San Jose, see a short tour of the University of Costa Rica, see the Evolution Boxing Gym, meet up with my Tico family to have some snacks and coffee and finally, go to the US vs Costa Rica World Cup Qualifier at 8 p.m… So we ended up doing it all and when we went to visit my host family, my host brother was so excited he couldn’t stop running around, he may have been just as excited to see them as I was! That day, he was even cuter than usual, if that’s even possible! We had coffee, empanadas, and tamal asado- all traditional dishes prepared by my host mom’s sister. It was delicious, my grandma, mom and I couldn’t stop eating!
Afterwards, we stopped by the pension to relax and get grandma comfortable because my mom and I were headed to the game! Waves of red and blue everywhere, not for the US of course but I was there, wandering around in my red and white USA jersey. The stadium was absolutely crazy, after walking up and down rows and isles; we finally managed to find seats in the middle of it all, in the sea of red and blue. Although I obviously wasn’t playing, I could feel the energy brought on by the Costa Rican crowd, and I was intimidated! It was so loud I could hardly hear myself think and the stands shook so much that my mom and I couldn’t help but make jokes to deflect our hidden preoccupations about the stands holding up. I found myself saying things like “They have got to have had games that were more rowdy, like when Mexico would play here or something…” As soon as the National Anthem started playing for the US and I thought I would be the only one singing it, I noticed there was a good solid fan base of about 50 people on the other side of the stadium wearing all white for the US, much good that was doing me! The whistle blew and from that moment on, I think I tried to block from my memory to protect myself, one goal after another and it was 3-0 in a flash. Despite the fact that the US put in a PK in extra time, I felt disappointed and embarrassed for the team, lucky for me, I brought a shirt underneath my jersey…Only kidding, its just one loss! So we headed back to find lil ol’ grandma waiting up for us, having watched the game with the owner of the pension!
Thursday we took the official tour of the National Theatre which was absolutely amazing, the amount of detail and time they put into its construction is astonishing. We ate some “casados,” or traditional Costa Rican plates and then relaxed in the pension because the next day we were off to the beach!
Friday morning we got up, got ready, had breakfast and were out in a flash. The tickets to and from the beach were only about $14 total for each of us, to experience a tropical, white sand, clear water beach! After what seemed like a short 3 hours, we were there, so we hopped off the bus and found this neat little trail that lead us to our cute hotel. We had a little room with a little t.v. and a little kitchen and a little balcony, it was just perfect for my grandma, my mom and I, three little ladies! We relaxed and walked around the beach area that was sprinkled with splashes of red, green, orange, blue, yellow and white towels, hats, wraps, hand-made boxes, shirts, souvenirs etc. We found a BBQ place by the beach and got some “casados” with chicken and ribs and spilt them between the three of us. We stayed in and watched soccer and basketball as a nice ending touch to the day.
Saturday morning we woke up really early and got an early start to the Manuel Antonio National Park. As we walked through the jungle trails, it was amazing the wildlife we ran into. We saw a deer trotting alongside us, a toucan amongst the lush trees, bats hidden under shrubs, monkeys, monkeys, monkeys all over. We saw groups of howling monkeys, white-faced monkeys and titi monkeys all over the trails. I kept saying, “I hope I see a sloth, I want to see a sloth, I’m looking for a sloth…” as I scanned the trees while walking. It was nearly impossible to do all the multitasking I wanted to do. I wanted to look up and around as I walked forward and kept an eye on my mom and grandma, but since the road was a little bumpy, I found myself looking up, pausing, checking on my family and then continuing on. Some parts of the trail were more treacherous than others but when we arrived at Playa Manuel Antonio, it was more than worth the walk. It was this amazing little paradise with bright blue waters flushing through this opening in the mountains and jungle. We were literally where the ocean meets the deep jungle and it was absolutely amazing. It was like a scene straight out of Lost; only we weren’t trapped there on an island, although we may have wished we were! As we sat under this beach tree that was neatly shaped almost horizontal to the water like a bench, we noticed that a few people had collected under the tree next to us and were pointing up into the branches at something. It was a sloth- the most beautiful, ugly sloth I had ever seen, actually the only sloth I had ever seen. I saw the sloth I was looking for, it was kind of funny because I just kept pointing out the fact that in the hour and a half we were there, it didn’t move at all! The more and more time I spent here, the more I realized the country’s motto, “Pura Vida,” even the animals lived by the motto!
Sunday morning we woke up and my mom was charged up, nothing could stop her now. The canopy tour was today and we decided to go with “Selvatica” which included transportation to and from the site in nearby Quepos, 2 to 2 and a half hours of zip-lining, lunch and snacks and a finale ending with a dip in the crisp waters at the waterfall near the site! My grandma came along for the ride to hang out in the beautiful forest cabin where lunch would be served. My mom and I suited up and we were off! She was so excited and kept telling me, “I wish I had done this EVERYDAY!” She was smiling from ear to ear, like a kid in a candy shop, the whole time as we zipped from line to line and tree-top to tree-top. Nothing gave me more inner-peace and happiness than to see my mom doing this wildly extreme canopy and loving every minute of it. Each and every day that went by I found myself realizing how quickly time was going by.
Next thing I know it was Monday morning and we were on the bus home. After the trip home and a last day in San Jose with my mom and grandma, it was time for them to go. I could tell that the two of them wanted so badly just to stay here the rest of the semester with me, at least until then! My mom wanted to go backpacking around the country and my grandma wanted to go on a canopy tour. If there is one thing that tells me, not only did they have a great time out here with me, but also that we have to make our way back out here as a trio, as three generations of Johnson-Dixon women, on a Costa Rican adventure!
Where do I begin to explain all of the amazing times I’ve had and wild adventures I’ve embarked on? I’ll tell you about Monteverde, classes, birthdays, soccer (which they call futbol 11), futsal (known as futbol 5) and finally top it off with Puerto Viejo. The last few weeks have been absolutely crazy and have gone by so quickly so I sit here trying not only to conceptualize it all, but futher to reflect on it all.
Wow! Monteverde, it was beautiful and relaxing. The four hour trek up to Monteverde was fun, we got to meet our Spanish professor, a really cool guy, and got to enjoy the view. We arrived at the Institute of Monteverde which is this beautiful little plot of land propped way up into the mountains. Later, we met with our families, and as usual, the most kind and sincere people. My host family had three kids, a 14 year old girl, 11 year old boy and a very enthusiastic and playful 2 year old boy. From the first day I arrived, till the day I left, the 2 year old would say, vamos! vamos!, (meaning lets go!) as he played with cars or crayons or anything. Something amazing happened the second to last night I was there, I sat there as my 11 year old brother played music and I talked to him and to his sister about what I like to listen to, and for about an hour he would show me some songs and I took my ipod and hooked it up to the speakers to show them some songs and at the end of the night, I felt like we all bonded. Also, there is no way in this world that I can neglect to mention the day that I went on the canopy tour…AMAZING! For just about $30 I went on a 3 hour adventure zip-lining through the trees and swinging into the jungle. I have so many unforgettable memories from that week in Monteverde.
I have six classes total- two Introduction to Law courses, two Introduction to Education courses and two IFSA-Butler study abroad Costa Rica program courses. I started off my first day of classes at 7am, woke up around 6, showered, got dressed, ate and I was on the bus headed to class. I must have asked about 5 people where the Law building was but finally managed to find it about 5 minutes past 7. I sat in the classroom feeling so out of place, yet somehow, comfortable. All was well as the professor introduced herself and told us all the expectations of the class, but it came to my surprise that she asked us all to introduce ourselves, one-by-one, stating our hometown, year and why Law interested us. As I saw the people before me stand up and recite their histories, I saw my life flash before me as the realization hit me. I would be speaking publically- in Spanish! All my years of hard work in the US prepared me for moments just like this one, and if I was lucky, I would not be associated with the usual “American accent” when I spoke. As soon as I said my name and my hometown, Los Angeles, all eyes were on me. It went by so quickly and smoothly that it almost felt natural. No sweat! Thankfully, the rest of the day I did not have to introduce myself, but I thought if I did, I would be ready. After my two morning classes, I decided to show up and introduce myself to the women’s soccer coach so with any luck, I could train. I did just that and trained the two hours with the team that afternoon, everyone was so nice and welcoming. The rest of the week went pretty smoothly, when Thursday rolled around and I had my Law class again, it was a little difficult at first to keep up and take notes as the profesor spoke. I felt discouraged by that so I went into the office to talk to one of the staff members, she suggested I borrow a classmate’s notes and photocopy them. What a relief, I thought, I CAN do this! I just finished the 3rd week of classes and have already completed many assignments, spoken in front of the class many times and read tons and tons about all my classes. Look at me now!
March 11th was my little brother’s 5th Birthday! Our family decided to throw a huge Birthday Blowout Bash for him with 60 friends and family members, right here in our very own back yard that weekend. They rented a jumper and bought a pinata for the little ones and my host mom ran around the week before running errands left and right for hours. I helped with decorations, name tags and I packed the goodie bags too! They were full of peanuts, barriletes, gummies, yogurt candies, a toy and crackers, it was so hard not to just dig in and eat the candy! I would have to say that my favorite part was the desert, a delicacy ticos call “granizados” (I call them heaven). They are made up of shaved ice with flavored syrup, powdered milk, cream and sometimes topped off with a scoop of ice cream. Mmmmmm.
Since the first week of classes I have been training with not only the soccer team, but also the futsal team! I’ve been able to practice at least 3 times a week between the two teams. The girls are so friendly and happy to help me with my Spanish or my soccer. The coaches are completely understanding with me training on both teams and deciding which sessions to a attend. It all seems to click here and all though I’ve had my bumps along the way with Spanish words being mixed or misunderstood, I’m getting by very smoothly. I recall that the first Monday of classes and soccer training that two events helped me grasp a new expression. First, I was in the restroom between classes and bumped into a girl and said “perdon” (which is like excuse me). She replied “tranquilo,” and in that moment I realized its another way of saying “its ok.” Later that same day, in training, I bumped into a girl and knocked her over, I said “sorry” (which they also use in spanish). She replied “tranquilo.” Thoughts raced through my head and I was not sure if that meant “its ok” or if it meant “calm down” (which is the main translation of the word). So that evening, in IFSA-Butler Spanish class, we were given an opportunity to ask questions, and in that moment the professor clarified that it was meant to be understood as “its ok,” and not “calm down.” What a relief!
Last weekend, a few of my friends from the program decided to organize a trip to the Caribbean coast, to Puerto Viejo for the weekend. None of the four of us had class on Fridays so we decided to take the bus out on Friday morning that way we could have more time on the beach. We got there in the afternoon and walked around for about 20 minutes until we found the perfect place to stay. Hostel Pagalu, just 5 min walk from the beach, free internet, an open kitchen, a dorm with two bunk beds and hot water in the showers. At only $9 a night, what a steal! Friday night we ate out at this cute little sea side restaurant and went wandering around until we found this nice open air place with live reggae music and delicious appetizers. Saturday was pretty low-key, it sprinkled a bit so we stayed in the hostel most of the day and decided to have some pizza for lunch and cook our own dinner. After lunch we went to the supermarket and bought our dinner for about 3 bucks a person-grilled hotdogs with onions and peppers and homemade guacamole with chips. It was so delicious, I can still taste the guacamole! Sunday morning my friend and I decided to rent snorkeling gear for the day at only about 1.25! We all walked out to the beach, laid down our towels and I went over to the reef to explore. I only had to go into the water about 20 feet before I saw a colorful array of fish and sea creatures near the reef. I even saw a jelly fish!
My family is so amazing, my mom cooks delicious food, my dad loves to watch soccer games and can talk about soccer for days and my little brother is absolutely the cutest and sweetest little boy I’ve known. Everytime I would surprise him with a piece of my candy, he would somehow always have a piece of his candy to treat me with. I remember him telling me to close my eyes and when I opened them I had a sweet gram cracker with four little marshmellows and coconut sprinkled on top in my hand. Since then, I’ve been looking for those crackers in the supermarket because it was just about the perfect combination of coconut, marshmellows and cracker imaginable. All in all, I have had an amazing time since I’ve come to study abroad in Costa Rica here and somehow it all feels so normal and so right. I feel as if I’ve lived here before (although thats definitely not the case!). I feel like I could definitely live here one day, in this beautiful country, with these beautiful people. There is nothing like PURA VIDA!