Days 15-19 in San José

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Aye, what a tumultuous weekend!

It all began on Thursday, the day of our exam. My classmates and I agreed that this one was a doozie, and we left feeling exhausted and fried. There was no time to rest since we only had two hours to pack and maneuver our way through downtown to get to our bus station. Fortunately, we timed everything correctly and made it to our bus with plenty of time to spare. We were on our way to Puerto Viejo!

I had little part or say in the planning of this weekend’s trip, but I don’t think it could have been planned any better. The majority of our group stayed in a hostel (yes, a hostel, scaaarrryyy) called Rocking J’s. Not only did we read commendable reviews online, we also heard many great things about the place, and when we arrived, we could see why.

For starters, English. I know I’m on a study abroad trip, but you don’t value your native tongue until it’s spoken to you for the first time in two weeks. Most of the employees at RJ’s either came from the U.S./an English-speaking country, or they managed to learn a good bit from their customers.

Also, it was so clean. Granted, hostels are not supposed to be a five-star experience, but ours was pretty clean compared to the ones our other friends stayed in. There were no cockroaches or litter in the rooms, and the hostel had strict behavior codes that they heavily enforced. I’m not big on the hippie/surfer vibe, but it grew on me a little bit during my stay. There’s funky artwork and thoughtful poetry painted everywhere amidst the mosaic tile work and swinging hammocks.

You read that correctly. Hammocks.

Now, my roommates and I opted for bunk beds, and others chose twin beds. But I can’t knock the hammocks because they’re just so comfy. If you opt for a hammock or a room with no lock, you are given a fairly large locker to stash your stuff throughout the day.

And I almost forgot the food. My gosh, I haven’t had pancakes that good even in the states! I was extremely reluctant to dine anywhere else. In fact, I don’t think I did…

I sort of lost track of time during that weekend, By day, we were either at the beach (no sunburn this time) or meandering through Puerto Viejo, which is a touristy yet charming town that definitely appeals to Americans.

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I don’t think I’ve seen darker sand…

At night, we were stupid exhausted, so we’d trudge back to the hostel and eat a late dinner. If we felt up to it, we’d stay up and watch a soccer game with some of the other people staying there. I met an incredible range of folks, from Canada to Germany, Seattle to New Zealand. I enjoyed those nights of sitting in a group at a picnic table, just getting to know each other (and bumming bug spray from each other. My gosh, the mosquitos are terrible in PV!). Sometimes, RJ hosted some fun events, such as a fire show:

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That was fantastic.

It seemed as though time had stopped in Puerto Viejo. Now that I think about it, Puerto Viejo is the closest thing to Neverland you’ll find outside a book. Everyone of all ages and backgrounds was there, but no one was progressing. Divorcees, high school drop outs, baristas, lawyers, and more had fled there to escape the curse that we call “growing up.” Was that a bad thing? Not necessarily. But all children must grow up, so on Saturday afternoon, we packed our things and journeyed home to San José.

Because we hadn’t had a “lazy” day yet, my roommates and I decided to separate ourselves and veg out on snacks and Netflix. We only moved from our beds for meals, and that was totally fine by me. This picture of my bestie sums up our day:

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Oh yeah, we reached that level of laziness.

Monday came, and we got our test scores back. We were all pleasantly surpassed with A’s, but we have our suspicions that our professor took great pity on us. As I sat at my desk and pretended to understand the imperative verbs she kept throwing at us, my mind wondered back to Puerto Viejo, a land of never’s. You would never grow up, you were never be bored, you never knew the time… Image

And you would never let your fears stop you from an adventure.

 

Be back soon!
Caitlin

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Days 10-14 in San José

Hola from Costa Rica! Here I am basking in another rainy, “wintry” day here in San José.

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Ah, our first weekend in beautiful Costa Rica. Our program offered a weekend excursion to Tortuga Island, and of course we said yes! I highly recommend taking a day cruise out to one of these islands. We were fed breakfast and lunch and were given the chance to ride a banana boat and go snorkeling. Calypso Cruises did a fabulous job!

Oh, and Tortuga Island? Stinking beautiful.

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We loved the beach so much that we came home, then woke up early the next day to embark on a journey to Jaco. Jaco was an okay beach, but we met some fellow Americans who stuck with us throughout the day. Because it was Sunday, I decided to make my church right there on the beach. Earlier in the week, God had given me 2 Chronicles 3 to read, and its irrelevance confused me. I jotted it down anyway, but there at the beach, I flipped to it again and found verse 8:

“Then he made the most holy place…”

Solomon was building the temple in this chapter. Now, I know the beach in Jaco doesn’t compare to the splendor that was Solomon’s temple, but I knew God told me that brick walls and a worship band and an audio system weren’t necessary. So right there on the shore, I sang all the ocean-themed worship songs, then prayed as I walked through the tide, and read Ephesians 5 on my beach towel. I know there’s a parable that says it’s folly to build a house on sand, but my goodness, my little sand church was wonderful to me!

Unfortunately, it meant that I was sunburned twice in two days, and by Tuesday, I was looking like this:

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(The one on the right is normal me). I suffered a lovely case of sun poisoning, and I was swollen for quite a few days. I had to give my presentation, go to the market, visit the museum, and generally be around people looking like Violet Beauregarde from Willy Wonka! (The Oompa Loompas are my roommates nursing me back to health! Ha! Source.)

The Oompa Loompas are my roommates, who helped nurse me back to health

So kids, ALWAYS WEAR SUNBLOCK. Especially when you’re closer to the equator.

Meanwhile, the Museo Nacional de Costa Rica was very interesting! My favorite exhibit was the indigenous Barbies:

"We bring the head of the enemy. Let the feast begin!"

“We bring the head of the enemy. Let the feast begin!”

The rest of the week was packed with school work. A few classmates and I put together a newspaper completely in Spanish. We’re super proud of it:

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And of course, what’s cramming without a little coffee?

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My lovely bestie getting some joe here at UCR

We’ll see how Thursday’s test goes!
Caitlin

Days 5-9 in San José

The weekend excursions were fantastic, but it was time to buckle down and get some Spanish credits!

 

Monday was our first day of class, and it was quite the headache. I knew the professor would speak entirely in Spanish, I just didn’t realize how difficult it would be to constantly translate in my head for five hours straight. Oh, and I forgot to mention that I broke down and cried during our placement test. Both the professor and I were very embarrassed.


At least my campus is beautiful!

At least my campus is VERY beautiful! 

After class on Tuesday, we went to El Teatro Nacional, a gorgeous theatre in downtown San José. I was amazed at all the ceiling art. Have you ever just considered how difficult that would be? It’s hard enough to paint sitting or standing, but I wonder what it’s like to lay on your back and do it! I bet a lot of paint drips in your eyes…

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Apparently, this was just added into the list of top ten ceilings in the world? Check it out here: http://www.ticotimes.net/2014/01/20/costa-ricas-national-theater-mural-named-one-of-10-great-ceilings-around-the-world. Our guide explained that different parts of the theatre were exported from different nations. The gates to the entrance are from England, the doors are from America, and Italy donated some beautiful mirrors featured upstairs. If you’re ever in Costa Rica, I’d highly recommend stopping by, or better yet, go see a show. We’re trying to get tickets now, but most of the shows are during our school hours.

My roommates and I are pretty studious people. We quickly formed a habit of returning home as soon as our academic duties were over, but we found out that everyone else in the program was staying in town to hang out after class. We did not want to seem antisocial, and we definitely wanted to be included in the group activities, so we joined twenty-odd 20-somethings to the movie theater to see the latest X-Men installment on Wednesday. I was pleasantly surprised that the movie was still in English and included Spanish subtitles (extra Spanish practice!). We had such a great time, and to answer a question from a male friend, yes, it was absolutely necessary to see Logan’s tushy in this movie.

It took me falling off the bus one time to get acclimated to the experience. I’m totally fine with being squished in the aisle or squished in the seat 🙂 My mind is less occupied by trying not to fall and more focused on the people around me. The ticos are such a beautiful people. I think it’s all because of pura vida. They have a grasp on how to live a life of purity and simplicity that all lead to joy, and you can see it physically manifest on their faces and overall attitude. They truly are the happiest people I’ve met.

Thursday was a nerve-wrecking day because I had to give a presentation entirely in Spanish. I got my score back but have no clue what I got. There were exclamation marks and smiley faces, so I’m thinking it’s something above a C…

Afterwards, we took an educational field trip to Our Lady of the Angels Basilica. The basilica was gorgeous.

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We were able to listen to the priest speak for a while, then we walked around the grounds. Then it was time to dash home and cram for an exam the next day.

After Friday’s exam, we had time to kill, so we explored our campus and found a fantastic bakery. Then, we settled down in front of the fútbol field and watched some ticos play ball. It was right there, sitting with my friends, a storm swirling in the clouds, and delicious bread in my hands, that I truly felt like I had found pura vida. There was a pure joy in the simplicity of the little things in life.

984115_850341744980478_445462596621297460_nOr maybe I was enjoying the campus swings a little too much 🙂

 

Till next time!
Caitlin