A Bittersweet Ending

Now that going home is in the very near future, I completely understand how my friends felt when they were a week and a half away from leaving. The little things that I used to be able to laugh off now suddenly take a bigger weight on my day because I know soon that I’ll no longer have to deal with it and then I become more ready to leave (not excited for all my packing though).

Things I am going to miss about Costa Rica:

1. My Tica Family: it’s hard to be in someone’s life for so long, with great value in the relationship and then never know if you will see them again. I hope with all my heart that we can keep in touch and when my Spanish improves, we can talk in-depth.

2. Being stress free: there isn’t much to worry about here. Even when buses don’t work out or we don’t know how to do something, there’s no reason to worry…it will all work out somehow, probably in a way we don’t understand.

3. Having time to explore every weekend: although it’s very draining on sleep, energy, and money it’s been incredible to experience new things every weekend. While I can still do this in the US, there are many more things eating at my time.

4. The rich Costa Rican culture and pride: These people are so happy to be Ticos. Win or Lose. In good times and in bad.

5. Sunset and mountains: Come on. Who doesn’t love walking outside and seeing lush, green mountains everywhere they go.

Things I am really looking forward to at home:

1. My family and friends: it’s been very lonely as of late since all my friends have left. I’m excited to be reunited with them and hear all about their wonderful summers.

2. Not having to smile, laugh, and nod my head in understanding for things I don’t actually understand and being able to be present in all conversations. I will admit that I am not always paying attention to conversations only because I don’t know what’s going on. Sometimes I’ll express that I don’t understand and if someone explains it to me in a different way and I still don’t get it – I’ll probably just smile and nod in comprehension. It will be nice to no longer have to do this and be able to talk my normal amount again (I’m sure everyone at home is just thrilled that I had all this talking energy built up).

3. Being able to eat only things I enjoy eating, the amount I want, and no gluten (who would have thought I’d ever say that last one): My Mama Tica LOVES serving me, which is so lovely. But I am excited to be able to choose what to eat and when I want it.

4. Being able to help: Its been so hard to lend a hand either because I don’t know what is going on or I can’t understand the direction. I can’t wait to be home and know how to help people.

5. My independence: Being able to drive, go places alone, understand how to get around, being able to ask questions for myself and accomplish simple tasks without needing to ask someone for a translation.

 

So Many Feels

What started off as a terrible morning, filled with tons of frustrations with my class and program, was quickly turned around by a quick vent session with my best friend and big. It’s crazy how talking to someone who means so much to you can completely turn around your day 🙂 I am forever grateful for all she does for me and for all the amazing days she has helped me have even when we are no together.


The concept of a waste of time is one that should be rid from someone vocabulary when he/she are abroad. Today I was going to get bus tickets for our trip this weekend.

I had checked the name and location of the bus station a million times.
I checked with people who had gone last week.
And I felt pretty competent in my ability to make the trek and it was very easy (bus to taxi, taxi to bus).

My roommate was on Skype with her boyfriend who she rarely gets to talk to due to an 8 hour time difference and so I said I had no problem going by myself. I’m sure you all know where this is going – you know I never have easy trips. Problems started when the taxi driver didn’t know where the stop was.  Then, when I finally made it to the station (which ended up being the same one we went to for another trip) it turned out you couldn’t buy tickets in advance. Thanks web articles. Talking solely in Spanish, I tried to communicate with the bus workers about buying tickets and making sure this was the only station to leave from. After getting the same answer over and over again, I decided it was time to give up and go home with complete confusion on how my friends bought their tickets early. Usually at this point, I would have been extremely mad about my time that was wasted with this trip, but instead I choose to look on the bright side and check an item off my Costa Rican bucket list: “exploring/traveling” around by myself here – sorry mom, promise I was safe about it. Additionally, I now knew the best way to get to the station on Friday. 2 bonuses from a rather unsuccessful trip.


Fear is the number one thing that holds us back, and when you say “yes” to things that scare you, you take back control of your life and open yourself up to infinite new experiences.

I’m type a. Don’t get me wrong. I like having a nice and best schedule, being very productive, things being on time and taking only the slotted amount, and things making sense. But when you’re abroad you can’t think like that. If you do, you’ll not only be frustrated day and night, but you’ll miss out on some of the best experiences. This might get annoying to some people on the trip worried about safety or logistics, but just let it be. If you keep a positive attitude and let all the frustrations go you’ll end up with a memory you’d never expect. Its pretty cool how things end up working out for the best.


The day continued to improve with an amazing dinner, it seems my Mama Tica is finally back to being herself even though another family member is sick. During dinner we got on the topic of the exercise parks in the neighborhood, so after dinner we took a walk to explore. After 10 weeks of being here, I just found out about these. It’s so comical how you can be in a place for a long time before you find out about spots that could easily become your favorite. For instance, the second park we went to is on a hill and has a great view of city. I am sure it is an amazing spot for watching sunrise and sunset (this is now on my roommate’s and I to do list).  This evening was filled with  so many laughs trying out all the different exercise equipment and I was so happy to finally get my Mama Tica out of the house. She seemed to get so much more energy, it was heartwarming to see!


Tonight, things got real when I realized I only had 2 weeks left here. Where has all the time gone? I may never understand why I am served potatoes and rice in the same meal and why there are no street signs. I may not be able to completely rid myself with frustration for my program or travels here, but one thing is for sure: I am so sad it’s all coming to an end.  I seriously can’t fathom how I only have 2 weeks left in this fabulous country.  My life has completely changed since I came here 10 short weeks ago. I still remember how awkward it was the first day: my host mom and I sat for 2 hours trying to communicate without being able to speak the language. And now, while we still can’t have in-depth conversations without translation help, I have learned so much from her, from her family, and from this country. It’s amazing to know when I leave,  I’ll always have a family and a place to stay in Costa Rica. It’s a constant motivation to learn spanish in order for me to be able communicate on new levels with my family.


Coming full circle: you never know what you can experience until you take a step outside of your comfort zone and being vulnerable. 

My Life in a Nutshell

Recently, I have found two quotes that sum up my entire life. From things not going as they should to spending days not being productive to dressing in cute clothes and being sad when you haven’t seen anyone that day to not living my day to the absolute fullest. What quotes define your life?

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The Hard Gets Harder

Moving into my last 3 weeks, last class, and last time friends leave has caused a lot of mixed emotions.

1.  On Saturday, I officially saif goodbye to all of my friends (besides one of my roommates – thankfully!) Yes, a new group of students came during the last 3 weeks and on Saturday (summer 3 and 4). However, it has been extremely hard to get to know the ones who are not in my class. I still have been able to have wonderful weekends and be with cool people – especially with my mom visiting me this upcoming weekend. Yet, the weekdays have become more and more low-key with each session. This is due to the fact that I have fewer people who I would go out with/hang out at night,  but also because there are really no more places I am dying to visit during afternoons.

I am still happy here because I have my family and my roommate and It’s so much less lonely than last summer. It makes  me really truly appreciate everyone who I still have in my life here. Even still, the hardest part, besides losing so many friends, is seeing my roommate unhappy. I know she has really missed her family this entire time and it has been doubly hard losing all of our friends. It’s hard to know exactly how to help her besides trying to stay busy. I know these last 3 weeks are going to fly by and will be amazing, but it is really challenging to no longer have the convenience of all my friends being here with me.

2. My Mama Tica’s cousin died of cancer this past Thursday and it has been really hard to see her go through this. While today things are definitely looking up, she seems to be doing a lot better and having more energy, it has been so difficult to know how to help her. We’ve been trying our best not to push her, but to do things to take her mind off of it. I am so glad she is doing better and am praying for her family everyday.

3. In a month, I will have already moved in to my chaffin, started training for VUcept and Tour Guides, and starting school in less than a week. WHERE HAS TIME GONE??

A Quick Apologie

Dear Reader (well, let’s be honest. Mom you are probably the only one reading this 🙂 ),

Why have I not posted in age?

Am I safe? Yes.

Have I been so extremely busy that I haven’t had the chance to write? Not completely.

Am I giving up on the blog? No.

My computer finally gave up on me about a week and a half to two weeks ago. I haven’t been able to fix it on my own and am getting Apple store help tomorrow. While I am able to write on my phone, it is challenging to edit and add pictures. Hopefully, I will be able to be connected again soon.

Again, sorry for the delay.

Much love,

Allanah

 

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A Change of Perspective

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After 2 months of living in Costa Rica, I have had a lot of time to reflect on my experience and on my life. Being in such a different culture has helped me discover the most important parts of lie.

1. Family life and selfishness

It’s been eye-opening being in a culture that values family so much. For example: it’s extremely common for kids who have moved out of the house and are married to eat most of their meals at their parent’s house. The way our host mom explains it – why wouldn’t they be independent, there is no reason. And this way parents get to see their children a lot.

While this is very different from America, it’s extremely heartwarming that Ticos most important thing is family. It really makes me rethink how much I always want to travel and do activities, when really I should be spending more time at home, being there for all the important life events, and making sure to always be updated on daily life.

Note to self: I don’t have to give up my dreams of traveling, but I can take some time traveling continental US with loved ones. Since I can remember, I have traveled more outside the US than in it.

2. Fitting in

One of the biggest reasons I wanted to be abroad for so long is to be fully immersed with in another culture. There is a huge difference from being a tourist, a traveler, and a resident of a country. Regardless of which title you have, there are always “dos” and “don’ts”.

I have tried to adapt my way of life while in Costa Rica to fit in: I speak Spanish (to the best of my abilities) when communicating, I don’t wear shorts out  of the house only pants, skirts, and dresses (I will, however, admit I occasionally break this rule when it is really hot), I eat almost all of my meals at home, I travel on public buses, I live simply (heck, my computer has been broken for a week now and besides being able to write blog posts – it’s not a big deal), I am fine with taking cold showers, I don’t throw toilet paper in the toilet, and I visit places that are a little off the beaten path. Nevertheless, there are still a few things that will make me stand out until (and if) I become fluent in Spanish and completely adapt to a Tico’s way of life:

1. I am extremely pale:  yes, some Ticos are pale but they also have flawless spanish accents. 
2. I have blond-haired:  even fewer Ticos have blond hair but the ones that do fit in every other way. 
3. I have blue eyes: even less Ticos have blue eyes, combined with the other 2 people may question is they are Ticos. Then they will talk and all will be right with the world. 

I know that regardless of where I go, I may look like a foreigner. Yet, I can still try my hardest with every other aspect.

Note to self: I really should stop wearing workout clothes on weekends. Regardless of the activity – riding a bus, hiking, going to the beach – Tico’s will look presentable. This is definitely the hardest “rule” for me.

3. Safety

It has been very hard living in a country where I am not supposed to walk around by myself or anywhere at night, even with a group. For starters, it’s been a really strange change after living in Hong Kong last summer. Hong Kong  is one of the safest places I have ever been and I was able to walk at any time of day/night by myself. Secondly, I’m a very independent person and while I love company, I also want to be able to do things on my own if there is no one else who wants to do the same activity. Even a walk to the gym, which is around the corner from my house, is scary at night. If I have my roommate with me, I usually feel safe, but it is a risk not taking a 1 minute cab ride.

Note to self: I must live in a safe neighborhood when I settle down.

4. Traveling to Latin America when I am young

I never imagined myself traveling to Sweden, China, Hong Kong, or Costa Rica. I’ve always wanted to travel around Europe and experience that way of life. But yet, I always find myself in other countries, that are far less traveled too. The way I see it, especially with Costa Rica, I have the rest of my life to travel to countries that fit my desired way of life. However, when I am older and taking vacations I probably won’t enjoy traveling to countries that are not as glamorous or easy to navigate. Thus, while I am young, I should take advantage of being in these types of countries.

Yes, transportation is an absolute nightmare and figuring out how to get anywhere is like solving the hardest math problem you’ll ever have, but PURA VIDA MAE. This is the characteristic of the country you are in and there is nothing you can do about it. So suck it up and go with the flow or else you are going to hate the time you have here.

Note to self: Appreciate the simplicity of planning and traveling at home. In fact, appreciate all the small things you never thought you’d miss.

5. Being the constant

When I signed up for my program, I was under the impression that there would be around 20 kids who would be spending the full 12 weeks with me. In reality, there were two others in my session who are here for 12 weeks, 1 who is here for 15, 2 who were staying for 9 weeks, and the rest stayed 3 or 6 weeks. Out of session 2, there are 2 people staying 9 weeks (meaning they leave the same time as me), 1 staying 12 weeks, and the rest for 3 or 6 weeks.

While, I do have session 3 and session 4 kids to befriend, I have had to say goodbye to over 50 friends, listened to their complains and wishes to go home when they were a week away from departure, and had to continuously make new groups of friends. Yes, the last statement is not always a huge problem; It’s always great meeting new people. However, the problem lies in the fact that the first 3 weeks anyone is here is filled with programmed activities making it hard to bond with the new kids who are making their own groups or meeting anyone from the new group who is not in your group. Its been a running joke with everyone that I won’t have friends when they leave and telling the new group to “BE MY FRIEND” :).

It really hasn’t been as bad as I had thought it would be. Yes, life during the week has become less social, but I still have great weekends and have been very lucky having 2 other roommates. And luckiest of all – one of my roommates is here the entire time with me. I really don’t think I could be here without her and to think I didn’t even know her 2 months ago.

Note to self: Don’t be a drama queen and deal with problems as they arise – not before.

6. The food

For the first time since I have traveled to another country, I really don’t have complaints about the food. Yes, I eat more eggs, hamburger meat, and fish than I have in my entire life, it’s incredibly easy to be gluten free here and all of it tastes good. There are only two dishes that I have been given that I had a hard time finishing; not a bad track record. Since everything is muy rica (a phrase meaning very rich that Ticos say about all of their food), I will miss it. Thankfully, my Mama Tica started teaching us a few recipes. Keep an eye out for photos and posts.

Note to self: Become a good cook, find a store that sells the correct products to make Costa Rican food, and share dishes with friends and family. Become “famous” in your family for doing so.

7. 12 weeks

In hindsight, there are many times where I think 9 weeks would have probably been the perfect amount of time here. But in reality, I am very fickle. We all get frustrated  especially with being with a select group of people everyday. Sometimes the frustration gets too much and all you wish is that you go home. But then most of the time, you see an incredible view, have an amazing moment with your family, or experience the Ticos welcoming home La Sele (or their soccer team) and you think “I never want to leave.”

12 weeks allows me to have more time practicing my Spanish, really become a part of the culture, and my family, and most importantly – feel more like I live here. It allows me to have some low key weekend where I stay at home or do day trips, not have every day programmed, and allow myself to be lethargic everyone in a while. Reason being because I am not a tourist and don’t have to squeeze everything into 1,3,6,7, or 9 weeks. I have now hit this sweet spot where I do really feel at home.

Note to self: Keep in contact with Mama Tica and the rest of the family. I will miss them all so much and know that I will forever have a second family and home here. Maybe one day I can return. P.s. Mom, I am so excited for you to meet them!!!

8. Nonverbal communication

What I find most interesting about the World Cup, besides the incredible plays, is the idea that all the players on the field don’t always share a common language. Being a past participant in international soccer games, I know that it is both a challenge and blessing to not be able to communicate fully with the other team. This idea relates directly to my study abroad experience, as I am living with a family that speaks little English while I speak only a small of Spanish.

It never ceases to amaze me how much we can communicate without words. While my speaking in Spanish is not great,  I can understand a majority of what is said at home (sometimes in class too) using context clues and non verbals. And in return, I am able to speak with people without using all the right conjugations  sentence structure, or words.  I have always wonder how people can form relationships without speaking the same language and then you experience that same thing and realize how much you can communicate and bond without understanding each other fully.

Final note to self: As with everything, there are definitely some parts of my trip that are less glorious than others, but at the end of the day – I am in Costa Rica and I can either spend my days frustrated with how things work or I can accept it and move on.
There is a big difference in happiness between the two.

This I Promise You

As many of you might be aware, I like to plan things. When abroad or anywhere new this usually consists of making plans from cool things I have read do. A lot of times, it is to some area or place I’ve never been. Due to that there are a lot of things I can’t promise to those who accompany me:

1. The day going according to plan
2. Knowing exactly how to get there
3. Knowing exactly what we are doing
4. Knowing how long we will be there
5. Everyone who RSVPs “yes” coming

While there are a lot of things that won’t go right, there is one thing that I can promise:

We will leave with a story, usually filled with funny, good memories.

However, this comes under two conditions:

1. You must come with an open mind
2. You don’t let the curveballs of the day/travel get you down

Thankfully, most people I have met here and on other trips fully embrace these mindsets. I know I do. Yet, when you are the one planning it, you always feel bad when things don’t go right. These past two days have been incredibly brilliant examples of how to
roll with the punches and end up having great times.

Tuesday

As a true Nashviller, I have been missing live music since I left Vandy. When I read about a popular jazz club (thinking it may resemble the Bluebird), I jumped ok the chance to go. After deciding with my roommates that it didn’t really matter which night of the week we went (we weren’t going to know the bands anyways), we made plans to go this past Tuesday. Because events are always better with more friends, we had around 10 others who said they would love to come. Everything was squared away, we had reservations for the 8pm show, we had directions to get there and back, and we had a group to go with.

However, our problems started from the second we made it to the first bus stop.

1. 5 people decided last minute they couldn’t come (a few forgetting to tell us)
2. The directions I was given to the second bus stop in San Jose were not exactly correct. Everyone we asked led us in a different direction. Thankfully, we were in a safer area and found the stop after only a bit of walking.
3. The first thing I saw when walking into the jazz club, was a guy in scary face paint.

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4. The show really didn’t start until 8:45 – we were a little less than an hour early.
5. There were 3 bands that night and none of them were jazz…

Now you take that list and can see that pretty much everything went wrong. However, it ended up being a very fun evening. Although we were there incredibly early, we were able to get drinks and fries (that were served with toothpicks??) and talk.

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It was nice to be able to get to know a new group of people as most of my friends from Summer I are gone.

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The first band, a group of 4 college age boys, got on stage around 8:45 and even though it was Spanish rock, they were very talented and enjoyable to listen to. After our long wait and confusing evening, this definitely put a smile on everyone’s face (although there had already been several other comical moments). Around 9:15 another band got on stage – we had to brace ourselves for what we were in store for. The lead singer of this band was the guy in face paint that I had run into earlier in the evening. The thought running through all of our brains: oh shit, we’re about to hear Spanish Screamo.
After the beginning scream (scaring all of us), the band turned into alternative music. Although, not my preference of music, they were still good and the lead, as frightening as he was, had a great stage presence.

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While we had to leave around 9:45 to make it back before the last buses home and I felt awful for dragging people out and then only seeing an hour of music, the comment that made everything worth it: “I really would have loved to stay but I just didn’t want to pay for a taxi.”

The night might have gone completely off track but my promise held true: people had a good time and were happy to be out exploring local activities, especially at night.

Wednesday

A few weeks ago, one of our directors posted in our Facebook group about places to paintball near us. Paintballing is something I have always wanted to do, but never taken the chance. 1. It’s expensive 2. I have never had a large group to do it with it
And while there is nothing extremely Costa Rican about paintball, I had solutions to both of the previous problems. So again, I jumped on my chance to make paintball finally happen. Around 10 of my friends said they’d be up for it, we were going to invite everyone, and it was only $13 to play and get gear plus 50 balls and $2 for each additional 50 ball packet. I had called the arena and made sure that taxing was the best option from where we lived. They confirmed that it was close and we should taxi. So all was set, but of course if I am in charge things must go wrong:

1. Some of our friends backed out again at the last second and some never showed up to leave together
2. The arena ended up being much father than we expected turning into an $8 cab ride (expensive for Costa Rica)
3. We had no clue how to “check in” or where to go once we arrived
4. It was storming, of course

However, as usual, it turned into an extremely fun afternoon!

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1. Two of our friends walked in just as we were going over the rules with the ref. It was extremely comical and not the first time something like this has happened.
2. Although the rain made it really hard to see and limited the space we could play on (2 of the fields had two much metal on them), it made it much more intense
3. Who doesn’t like paintball or capture the flag – paintball style

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While I felt bad having people pay more for a cab (especially on our way home when we realized we could have bussed to Heredia center and cabbed from there), we all had so much fun and only ended with a few welts. In the end, the small stuff can’t be sweated and what we will remember is our ridiculous behavior: one of my teammates hanging near base and barley shooting for all 4 games; one of my opponents stepping on a nail; people being shot by their own teammates; my opponent trying to hide behind a wall but instead knocking it down and we all unloaded on him. So here is to going with the flow and making the most out of everything.

I am alive and I am living.

Mama Tica

While my goal may have originally been to learn Spanish, I think focus has changed immensely since arriving in Costa Rica. I wanted to learn Spanish so I could feel like a cultured citizen and gain an important life skill that would hopefully be useful for work and travel. But now I realize that I want to learn Spanish to be able to communicate with the hundred of thousand people I currently have a language barrier with. More specifically, I want to learn Spanish so that my host mom and I can really get to know each other and have a solid conversation without the help of a translator (even though my roommate is amazing!).

My tica mom has let me into her house and family for a 1/5 of my year. Even though we can’t fully communicate, I have learned so much about and from her that I can’t wait to see what the next 10 weeks bring. She is an incredible, caring, sassy, and intelligent woman. While she may have very simple days, you can tell she is happy when she is helping others and hanging with friends and family. She rarely lets us clean the dishes, she does our laundry almost everyday, she teaches us about Costa Rica, but most importantly she welcomed us with open arms.

She is the least selfish person I have ever met – giving as much as she can and asking for nothing in return. You can tell that she is a force for good in the world, always thinking of community service activities (mural painting and tutoring) to be done in the community. I am beyond grateful that I was placed with her. I am yearning for the time when we have our first real conversation!