Monday, January 12, 2009

Stories and Introductions Part 1

Alright, so my very first experience with San Jose was as follows:

I arrived in the San Jose International airport on time near one o’clock on January fourth. After about an hour of search for the white sign with my name which I was told to expect, I gathered that there had been a problem and quickly figured out that when I had packed my computer- on which I had saved all of my emergency information- I’d forgotten to turn it off and it, therefore, had died on the airplane. Conclusion: I was stranded.

What followed would be extremely complicated to explain, but the bottom line is that 2 hours, 10 secret suppressions of panic attacks and countless friendships with strangers later, I made friends with a girl who was friends with a guy who worked in information and just happened to be friends with someone who worked at Veritas University where I was headed. The man he called coincidentally works not only at the school I was looking for but in the smallest office on campus which coordinates everything for the independent students (which I am) and came to get me 25 minutes later. I’ll be honest; when he got there I couldn’t help but wonder if I was being an idiot for climbing in some strangers van in another country who spoke no English at all. It occurred to me as I sat in the front seat watching him load my suitcase in the trunk through the rear view mirror that for all I knew they were collaborating for some kind of human trafficking business and I’d crawled right into the trap saying “thank you”. But at that point there wasn’t much I could do, so after assessing my surroundings, determining that the only nearby object that could possibly be of use to me in a struggle was a pen half jammed in the seat cushions which would be most wisely implemented in the throat as I would most likely have time for only one strike and then make a run for who knows where, I resigned myself to the possibility I was making a mistake on the basis that I was absolutely sure this was the most real adventure I’d ever had. Twenty minutes later I was making broken conversation with Victor, the driver, in Spanish and feeling unbelievably guilty for having imagined stabbing him since he turned out to be an adorable little man who loves bragging about his daughters and spent half the drive on the phone correcting the details I would have had to fix by coming unexpectedly. My Host family had been expecting me the night before and assumed I had dropped out of the program when I didn’t show up so when I finally arrived at the house with Victor they weren’t home. Victor took me a block down the street to Guiselle’s house who hosts students as well to wait until they got home from church. Guiselle already had a student there named Kelsey Moore. After talking for an hour or so we figured out that since we had the same last name the school had sent our flight information to the wrong houses because she had gotten there the night before, had no one to pick her up, and learned after taking a taxi to their house that her family had expected her on Sunday afternoon. Both of us had been stressed by all the complications, but it all turned out for the better because Kelsey’s luggage had been lost and we just happened to be the exact same size in everything so I left her some clothes and razors etc. and we both had a friend to walk to school with the next day. More than that, we are both here as independents and were placed in the same exact class for intermediate one- which is actually saying something because they have about five classes for each level to keep the classes as small as possible (we have only nine in ours).

Luckily, Kelsey got her luggage back after only three or four days and we know we can borrow clothes whenever we want. So here she is on her first day back in her own clothes:

I don’t think anything’s made me feel more competent than being more isolated and helpless than I’ve ever been in my life- lost in another country with no phone, no address, no familiar human anywhere within reach- and managing not only to solve the problem on my own but help someone with a worse problem along the way.
…for this and many other reasons I haven’t even had the chance to write about yet, this was absolutely worth fighting for through the last 12 months of my life.``

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

No Soy de Aqui...

For those of you who are yet uninformed, I am presently studying in the beautiful capital city of Costa Rica, San Jose.

However brief my experience has been so far, I already am certain that this is the most glorious adventure of my life as of now- and I still have so much time left!! I'd love to recount the nightmare of arriving at the airport, but I have the feeling that story will require a separate blog of its own... and I'm just getting things going right now anyway...

This is what I’ve learned in my first 24 hours abroad in Latin America:

1) I no longer wonder where all the beautiful men on earth have been hiding out.
2) I no longer wonder where the most gloriously hospitable families in the world live
3) I’m much more comfortable with my Spanish than I expected to be, but not at all where I wish I was
4) Costa Ricans greet each other with a kiss on the cheek if the greeters include one or more female- men greet with a handshake because it is a high contact culture
5) “Tico” is used to refer to Costa Ricans, but I’m not sure if they use it for any other nationality of Latino
6) Ticos virtually never say “no” to anything… only a very unenthusiastic “yes” which must be politely interpreted as a “no”
7) Addresses in this country involve nearly no numbers. You write something like “400 meters south of the old post office” (which may or may not be a post office anymore) on a letter and- by some miracle I could never understand- it gets there. That’s how you direct the taxi drivers as well. There are very few streets with names and very few houses with numbers, but even those that have them are never used.
8) Taxi drivers are creepy
9) Costa Rican men are beautiful
10) Costa Rican men are VERY beautiful

My host family consists of my Tico mama, Mariam, and her daughter, Marcela (and son, Javier, who visits in the evenings for dinner). The only one I have a picture of right now is Mariam:

They’re the most beautiful and generous family I’ve ever met! Marcela speaks nearly no English though she understands it very well- she and Javier both speak very slowly and evenly which makes them much easier to follow than most, though I suspect it’s intentional which I appreciate very much. Mariam works to help me understand as well but has a bit thicker accent which, though slightly harder to understand, is good for me to hear for pronunciation practice. She gave me a welcome present with which I enjoy the famous Costa Rican coffee on a daily basis:

I felt terrible because I had every intention of bringing my family a thank you gift and then completely forgot. But I think it’ll be better this way because I can get to know them and what they like and then leave a good bye present they'll actually enjoy.

This is my room and I’ll get more pictures of my school and family soon.

Anyway, if you're checking in you must care about me, so I probably love and/or miss you.
Wish me luck in my adventures!
For now..... Hasta luego!