Pura Vida, Broken Phones, and Real Living

“Of all the books in the world, the best stories are found between the pages of a passport.”

Another week has passed here in Costa Rica, and what a week it has been.  This time, sitting down to blog, I hardly know where to start.  Every day here feels like about five.  If you’ve ever had one of those days where, at the end of it, someone mentions something you did that morning and your reaction is “Wait. I thought that was like two days ago!”…well, that’s how it is here.  Every. Single. Day.

This last week was an intense one, in many ways.  It definitely brought the transition from tourist to student.  I have Spanish for four hours every morning and an intercultural communications class in the afternoons.  Plus, on top of it, I started my service learning last week. I had homework in both classes every day…including a forty-five minute presentation for intercultural communications.  Then, on Tuesday, my iPhone, which had been struggling for the past week, decided that it didn’t want to function any more.  So, I’m phoneless, which also means cameraless–the part that is by far the more frustrating.  I hit a point of exhaustion with the language for the first time.  And two days after we got back from our time at a volcano, my legs are still pretty scraped up (allbeit rather more tan), and every time I try to take the stairs, my muscles are convinced they’re being asked to perform some new type of torture.  All that in a week.  But so, so much more.

This week, I got to spend time praying with prostitutes on the streets of this incredible city and seeing what Jesus is up to right here in San Jose.  I survived mid-terms.  I explored more of this new city and began to have deeper conversations with those around me–both in Spanish and English.  I HIKED A VOLCANO, had a too close for comfort encounter with a jumping pit viper, salsa danced, and explored the city.  I swam in a hidden rainforest lagoon.  I spent an entire weekend waking up to the breathtaking views of the rainforest.  I swam in hot springs and went down some of the most fantastic water slides ever.  I’ve continued to love the food.  My mama tica is an incredible cook.  Not having my phone has forced me to push myself in new ways and get out of my comfort zone at a totally different level.  We found a Starbucks (don’t judge, sometimes, we all need a taste of home…), and for the record, their drinks are wayyyy better here.  I’ve expanded my Spanish vocabulary, made new friends, and now flag down taxis and cross the hectic streets without batting an eye.  It still feels like a dream.  I wake up every morning and have to remind myself this is real life for me, right now.  I feel so beyond blessed to be here.

The Costa Rican mantra is “pura vida”… pure life, or life purely.  That’s truly how they live…and it’s teaching me a lot.  I’m learning to let go and roll with the punches.  How to value the postives in American culture (like how we sure know how to get things done) but to also recognize that I need to slow down more and appreciate the simple things in life.   Pura vida. Costa Rica doesn’t give you a choice… you can fight it, but you’ll be miserable. Or, you can let yourself embrace it and go into every day, basically knowing that nothing is going to be the way you planned it.  It will, however, be a breathtaking adventure that will challenge and grow you in ways you never expected.

Pura Vida,

Anna

Life Lessons, As Taught By Cold Showers, Toilet Paper, and Breakfasting Iguanas

“You will never be completely at home again.  Because part of your heart will always be elsewhere.  That is the price you pay for the richness of knowing and loving people in more than one place.”

So much can happen in a day.  Yet weeks can fly by so quickly.  It seems incredibly surreal that I’ve been in Costa Rica for nearly a week and a half now.  From taxi drivers to city explorations to beach days, I honestly have fallen absolutely in love with this country.  Its also been amazing to see how fast our group of students has bonded.  There’s been a lot of laughter…and even a few tears.  Honestly, I can’t even begin to think about the idea of leaving in a few weeks.  Of course, not everything is perfect, but through the good–and the challenging–I’ve learned so much.  In just a week, I feel like I have grown in so many ways.  

Flexibility.

Throwing toilet paper in the trash can?  Really? Who does that?  Never knowing whether the shower will turn on to a nice, normal warm stream or stay at a frigid temperature the entire time? Sitting at breakfast, an iguana decides to wander up and join us? What. (We found out later that the staff regularly feeds them.)  My “comfort zone” right now is growing exponentially, but that’s such a huge part of what makes this whole experience so incredible.  It’s taught me to roll with the punches, be okay with not having a perfect plan, and, above all, recognize that tico time really is a thing.  Costa Ricans are much more relational and polychromatic.  They are not going to be tied to a clock like Americans are, and while this is a foreign concept to me a lot of the time, it is also a refreshing one.  We Americans could benefit from spending a little less time looking at our watches and a little more time investing in others. 

Appreciating the Little Things

We spent the weekend in Playa Tamarindo, which was absolutely fantastic.  Our program gave us the opportunity to stay at a four-star resort.  Our room was pool side, huge, and beautiful…and the thing that sent me around the room squealing with delight was the fact that we actually had a reliable hot shower.  We had an incredible weekend and took some incredible excursions.  Yet, honestly, one of my favorite parts was getting up early on Saturday morning and going down to the beach by myself, taking a long walking and having some quiet time with Jesus.  A vendor, a lovely woman from the Dominican Republic, approached me, and we ended up talking for quite some time…all in Spanish of course.  Moments like that…they seem small, but they make learning the language and spending time here even more rewarding.

Just Do It.

No, this isn’t a Nike commercial…but they had the right idea. Jumping in with both feet has made my study abroad experience so far more rewarding than I ever thought possible.  I spent half an hour talking to an 82-year-old native Costa Rican in a supermercado.  I met a taxi driver who does impressions of American accents better than any American I know.  I’ve tried foods I never knew existed.  I’ve dived into the ocean. I’ve snorkeled. I’ve met incredible new friends.  I’ve learned much about another culture. I’ve learned to stick up for myself and hold to my convictions in new ways.  I’ve learned how to dance the salsa (okay, that one is still in process…).  I’ve seen sea turtles in the ocean and monkeys swinging from trees right in our hotel.  Truly, I feel like God has opened door after door for the most incredible experiences.  Some, true, haven’t worked out quite as planned… But usually, those are the greatest stories.  

I am falling hard…for the people, the nation, the culture.

Pura Vida, 

Anna

First Impressions and Falling in Love

“Our destination is never a place but a new way of seeing things.” -Henry Miller

Today is day 3 in Costa Rica, and I already know it’s going to fly by so quickly.  This morning, I woke up to an open window and a light morning rain.  I could hear passerbys chatting away in Spanish.  When I look outside, I look across the rooftops, and I see mountains in the distance.  Basically, I’m absolutely in love. Already, I have learned so much! 

First off, the language.  I had not used much Spanish in a while, and I was rather nervous what that would mean for my time here.  Then, I got here, and I found myself immediately in several situations where I was the one being looked to to speak Spanish for the group. To say it is a learning curve would be an understatement, but already, the words start to come a little faster.  The language is beautiful, and I love hearing it everywhere we go.  We went to a Costa Rican cafe for the first time yesterday and ordered in Spanish.  

Then, there’s the people.  Waiting for my connecting flight in Houston, I met five other students on their way to the same program in Costa Rica.  It was one of those moments where we just “clicked”.  Definitely a God thing.  We braved customs together and already have plans for grand adventures and exploration.  It is una mezcla fabulosa (a fabulous mix).  The entire program is composed of a group of so many interesting people from all over, and each one has a fascinating story.  I look forward to getting to know them all better in the coming weeks.  Of course, I have to mention the Costa Rican people as well.  Their friendliness and warmth had us feeling at home from the first moments they met us at the university.  Hugs, cheek kisses, incredible food, and warm hospitality. They truly have done all they can to make us feel at home.  Not to mention, my normal obsession with Mexican food is finding beautiful fulfillment in Costa Rican cuisine.

Of course, I have to mention the country itself.  I live in an adorable two-story mint colored house.  Almost all the houses are different colors, which I find enchanting.  San Jose is a mixture of old and new.  The majority of it is not composed of buildings necessarily beautiful in the traditional sense, but all together, their impact is to create a charming and inviting place.  We took a tour yesterday, and I absolutely fell in love.  I also can’t wait to explore on my own and get outside of the city. It is still strange, though, to realize I am in a place where I can drive down the street, and it is perfectly normal to see a sign that says, “Volcano ahead, 52 km”.

Today’s day two of orientation.  So, I’m running off to a fabulous Costa Rican breakfast and another full day.

Tenga un buen dia,

Anna

PS The first round of pictures to come!