Rice and Beans and Whatever That is…….

There are interesting combinations of meals here. See if you can guess if it’s breakfast, lunch or dinner!

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La Selva

Standing in the middle of a rainforest at 10 pm at night with a flashlight as the only thing guiding me, surrounded by all sort of unfamiliar animal noises and the uncertainty of wherever or not my life was at risk was a very thrilling experience. Our tropical ecology class had the privilege of spending the night at La Selva, which is a biological reserve in the rainforest. It was such an incredible experience. We got to have hands on experience with the wildlife and nature and enjoy the different interactions with plants and animals. We arrived on saturday and went for a hike after lunch. Of course it started down pouring as soon as we started our nice little walk. Let me just tell  you that trying to take notes in the rain is a lost cause. Pencils just don’t write well on soggy, wet paper. I guess we shouldn’t have been as alarmed as we were when it was raining because, I mean, it is the RAINforest. Wendy, our professor is quite the expert when it comes to the wildlife here in Costa Rica. Following her around and hearing about how everything works together was very entertaining. I still don’t understand how one person can know so much about plants. I just couldn’t do it. She knew where things would be as well. Right at the beginning of our walk there was a post that had a small hole in it. The first thing she did was shine a flashlight inside it and sure enough there was a bat roosting in there. Honestly, how she knew that is beyond me.

At night we took a hike in the pitch dark. We came across insects that are way bigger than they need to be. It was like wildlife on steroids. I’ll never forget the giant spider web we came across, it was taller than our professor. We saw bullet ants the size of my pinky finger, caterpillars the size of my foot and walking sticks the size of my forearm. I was a nerdy little tomboy growing up and so this exploration brought me back to the memories of my bug catching days. There is just so much to see, and at night there’s a whole different life out there. When we go to bed is when many creatures awake. We also saw a baby wildcat. It got spooked by the lights and so it was too hard to tell what type it was, but it was still cool.

The next day we had our presentations. We got to show off all of the sweet knowledge that we attained through this experience by getting into groups and presenting for 15 minutes on different locations in the rainforest. I learned so much more this weekend than I thought. It’s really cool to see what we learn in the class room and experience it in the real world. It’s fascinating to hear about the different interactions, adaptations and habitats in the rainforest but it’s an incredible opportunity that the school provides by allowing us to actually travel and see it in person. We are so fortunate to have the chance to see this and I can tell you now that this is an experience I’ll want to remember. When else can you say you got to go for an adventurous night hike in the rainforest? I can check that off the bucket list!

Things to prepare for

Upon coming to Costa Rica, I really wasn’t sure exactly what it would be like. I knew it would be different, but I wasn’t sure what to expect. In some areas, I have seen just exactly what I thought I would. Some things, though, are a little strange and weird to get used to at first. So here are some things that came as a bit of a surprise to me.

Attention everywhere

If you’re american and a woman, expect to be honked at. A lot. Every time I walk somewhere, I get honked at at least once or twice every minute. Sometimes more. People will give you much more attention than you are probably used to in the states. It makes me feel like a celebrity at times, but sometimes it comes across as just straight up creepy. Men will stare, women will swear. It’s crazy how much attention you’ll get just because you’re “gringo”. There’s nothing you can do to hide it. I guess it must be written on my forehead or something. Sometimes the attention is a bit much and I almost want to tell them to take a picture since it will last longer.

Pura Vida

People here are very laid back. They have the saying “pura vida” which means pure life. If you know anything about Costa Rica, I’m sure you’ve heard the word before. Not only is it a saying but it’s a lifestyle. I tend to be very orderly and worry about things going smoothly, but here they just let things happen on their own. Everyone has much patience. “Tranquilla” which means calm down was something I was told very often here. You learn how to calm down more so than you may be used. be sure to be open minded and not to have high expectations when it comes to time and deadlines.

Gates on everything

There is much security here on just about every building. There are huge gates that make each house look and feel like a prison. I can tell you right now I can go to bed at night feeling confident that there won’t be an intruder getting into this house. Nope. You need multiple keys to get in. It’s nothing like my house in america which I can just walk right into as I feel. No need to bring a key as I come and go. So while you’re here, please don’t forget your keys.

Open windows

Windows here are much different. Some houses don’t have windows that close, they’re just always open. My house has windows that look like shutters. it’s not just one solid hunk of glass with a frame that slides open, it’s about 10 different pieces of glass that open like blinds. It’s an interesting concept and works well to open it. Except, be careful. One of the panels in my room broke and now each night I get to have a war with the mosquitos as I try and sleep. Bug spray is my new perfume. Be sure to pack your deet.

Rice and beans

At my house, it is rare to go a day without rice and beans. I wake up  just about every morning to a plate of gallo pinto, which is a delicious traditional plate in Costa Rica. I knew they ate rice and beans here, but I wasn’t expecting it to be every meal. Prepare to eat your bodyweight in rice and beans.

Depending on others

You really can’t do much without needing to depend on others here. Most host families don’t own a car and so getting somewhere as simple as a supermarket or mall may require the dependence of a taxi driver or bus if you’re not willing to walk a half an hour or so to get there. You also have to depend on your host mom to make your breakfast for you and dinner as well. Having a say in what time you eat isn’t much of an option for you when you’re staying with a host family. What is on the menu is always a surprise at my house. It all depends on what mama tica is in the mood to feed us. If we’re lucky, it’ll be rice and beans.

Learning the language

My host family doesn’t know english, but it seems like just about everyone else here does. It’s not hard to find someone who speaks your language. It’s nice at times, however I’d encourage anyone studying here to go out of your way and try to surround yourself in spanish. You’re here for a limited amount of time so take advantage of it. Meeting tico’s at universidad veritas is not as easy as it would seem, but if your spanish is good enough you can for sure do it. Making a tico friend should be your motivation to learn spanish. I only took one month of spanish here, but even so I’ve still learned so much, just by spending time with my host family. It is very frustrating at times but don’t let that discourage you. I’ve had my fair share of moments where I’m just not in the mood to speak spanish. But seriously, just challenge yourself.

Missing the little things 

Some people may be the type who know they’ll get homesick, others may go into this experience not expecting to get homesick at all. I am someone who thought I was not going to miss home all that much. I’ve been here for 2 months now and I can say that I’ve experienced a little bit of homesickness but I’d say that mostly I miss the little things. Small things like peanut butter, my dog and driving are a few. Instead of dwelling on the things you miss from home, go out and experience the cultural things that you’ll miss when you get home.

Taking it in

So much happens while you’re abroad and although the cliché sayings tell you that it’s an experience you’ll never forget, I’ll tell you right now that you will forget it if you don’t take time for yourself and journal or reflection it. Do something while you’re abroad to document your time. Sometimes I’ll Skype my friends and or family and I won’t even be able to remember what I did the week before. So do yourself a favor and write down something each day, take lots of pictures and take time for yourself to reflect on your time. It’s a unique experience and you’ll thank yourself later.

You, My Friend, Are Blessed

Sometimes I question if it’s possible for us to understand how blessed we are.

I really don’t think I have the capacity to count all of the things that I take for granted on a daily basis. The list is endless. Picture this:

You’re a 16-year-old boy living in one of the most dangerous communities imaginable. You live in small house made of scrap tin barely held together with a few nails and boards. There’s no air-conditioning even though the average temperature is 90 degrees and humid. Not only do you live in this nice little shack, but your family doesn’t own it. It’s actually rented out and it costs your family about $200 to live there each month. How can your family afford to live in such an expensive house? Well, selling her body as a prostitute is one of your mom’s few options for paying this expensive bill. She’s pregnant with a strangers child, there’s really no one out there who will hire her. You’re not alone either. Four other families also live in this house with you.

You had a dad, but he was shot and killed by a boy the same age as you. In fact, your father’s murderer lives in the same house as you. He sleeps in the room next to you. seven-year-olds carry knives, 5th graders own guns and life is seen as worthless. You hope one day you can have a job that pays a high salary, therefore your dream job is to be a drug dealer because you know that they make the big bucks. If you can’t be a drug dealer, then your next option is to be an assassin because it also pays well and doesn’t require an education. You used to go to school but everyone knows that school doesn’t get you anywhere in a town like this. You can only think of one person who has made it to the 9th grade. Good for them, but you know that they’re never going to get anywhere. No one can get anywhere from a place like this.

Unfortunately, a place like this exists.

The other week we went to visit this community with YWAM. I’m just going to bluntly say that this was the most messed up places I’ve ever visited. If I didn’t believe in a God who makes all things possible, I’d tell you that this is a place where all hope is most likely lost. There is a “church” in this community called Luz Del Mundo, meaning light of the world. This “church” is actually a cult with a significant impact on this community. The false teachings of this cult has impacted more than 100 families. The leader of the church refers to himself as the lamb of God. They teach gender inequality which is reflected in the community.

Women have absolutely no rights, not even to their own bodies. It’s very disturbing. Seeing this community has torn my heart in many ways. Not only does it break my heart for this community, but also for God. This village is feeding off of lies. So many lies.

In February, a new church was planted. This church is led by two women, Lara is the woman that we got to meet. She gave us a tour of the town and gave us a brief about the new ministry. The impact that the Church has is very small, but the vision is for there to be significant change within this community over the next ten years. If there is one thing you should pray about, it is for this community called Sinai. They need all the prayer they can get. Pray for the men especially. there are no male role models in this community.

Some women here are just now starting to discover their worth. The very small and new church has begun a few groups to get the community involved. When I say small I mean small. Last month a sewing club was started. Four women signed up for this sewing club. There were no machines and no fabric. Somehow, the day before the club started Someone donated four sewing machines and over $2000 worth of fabric was given to them. How great is God? Seriously. Now, when I first heard that they started this club, I was puzzled. I never would have thought that something like this could make an impact in someones life. Now I think otherwise.

After going to class and learning how to sew, a woman finally finished her first project. It was an apron. Something rather simple, however the woman was overwhelmed by it. She couldn’t help but sob after looking at what she had made. She never thought that she would ever be capable of creating something beautiful. This is just one example of how scared these women are. They truly believe that they have no value to contribute to society.

One day, they went to town and passed a church where Lara’s sister had gotten married. She pointed it out and the girls were in disbelief. The fact that people actually get married and that its possible to have a loving relationship was a foreign idea. Not one of these women knew their father. The asked her how long they were married for and when they found out that they got married 15 years ago and are still together, the women wept. They seriously cannot comprehend and they were overwhelmed by the fact. How crazy is that? Something as normal as marriage is unknown to these people. It’s incredibly sad.

The things we take for granted each and every day, these people will most likely never experience. I find myself in a negative state of mind. Here at my tico home I’ll complain to myself about the stupidest things like how I have to eat another plate of rice or wait a half an hour before I can take a warm shower. Who the heck am I to complain about such minor issues when there is a community less than a half an hour away who doesn’t even know what a hot shower feels like. They would go through a lot of trouble just to be able to have enough to put a plate of rice on the table each day. Talk about a first world problem!

We complain about some of the most ridiculous things.

I keep catching myself complaining about dumb little things and each time a negative comment comes out of my mouth, I can’t help but feel horrible because I know that I have nothing worth complaining about. I have been reflecting on all the blessings I have in my life. I can’t even count them. We have no idea what we have. We have no idea what people don’t have. Trust me, the fact that you had the ability to even read a blog post is a blessing. The fact that I’m able to write it is as well.

We are beyond blessed.

Forget-the-Day-Troubles

Giving Up Control

Giving up control. It’s easier said than done. I hate having to give up control and having to trust others. Being here, I’ve been learning to let go more and more. Pretty much nothing is in my control. I don’t have control over when I wake up, I don’t have control over the language I can speak in my own (temporary) Home, I don’t have control over how much rice and beans I eat, Heck I don’t even have control over what my name is here. My host mom still thinks my name is Hellen! ( I don’t know what’s worse, being called Hellen or getting to a point where I actually respond to it…). Yet, life here has been so good to me. I’m learning simple lessons, but honestly those are the lessons we need to be reminded of.

Today, I’ve actually realized that I’m more go with the flow than I was when I got here. Usually when I need to get somewhere fast, I don’t stop for anyone or anything. Today while I was feeling a bit rushed to get where I needed to go, a woman stopped me and asked if I spoke english. Rather than pushing her aside and ignoring her, I actually listened to what she had to say. She’s looking to host students from the university and I just so happen to have a friend looking for a new home stay. I had her jot down her number and that was that. We’ll see what happens but it made me think about how easy it is to just ignore people and just block them out. You never know what they need unless you give them the time of day. Everyone’s worth your time. Had it been a creepy old man though, that would be a different story-I don’t want to get taken or anything.

For anyone who doesn’t know anything about San Jose, one thing you should know is that the streets are busy. Traffic laws may or may not exist here, I’m still trying to figure that one out. There are no speed limits, at least that I know of. People don’t always stop at stop signs. Traffic laws are taken more as suggestions. My first week living here, it would take a ridiculous amount of time to cross just one street. I’d stand at the curb wondering if crossing this street would be the last thing I ever did. Now, crossing the busy streets of San Jose is childs play. Although I may or may not have had a few near-death accidents with red taxis (the movie elf is right about taxis, the red ones here don’t stop), I’m not even phased by the absurd traffic here at all. I can tell how used too it I am by seeing the new students and how it freaks them out to cross the streets. I’ll be walking casually across the street and realize that my friends are still waiting on the other side for an opportunity to cross. It’s definitely something to get used to, but hey, you just gotta trust you’ll make it across. I really don’t believe that God sent me here to get hit by a car. Just look both ways, right?

Traffic is one thing I’ve faced with no problem, busses on the other hand… that’s a different story. When I was told we were going to have to take the bus in order to get to the YWAM base, I told myself I’d rather walk. Turns out, it’s a bit too far of a walk for this young gal. Even the distance runner in me doesn’t want to try. Guess what we did today. That’s right, we took the bus! I know it probably doesn’t sound like a big deal, but here in Costa Rica that was something that stressed me. Busses and Taxis. If you could only see how many busses come through here, it’s very overwhelming. Do you have any idea where you could end up if you got on the wrong bus here? Not only that, you could be dropped off in the middle of some strange city you’ve never heard of and surrounded by a population of people who don’t speak your native language. I’d have to rely on my basic spanish to try and get home. Granted, I am more confident in my spanish than I was when I first arrived but I still wouldn’t want to take my chances. In order to get to the base though, I have to do it. So I got over myself and decided to just trust. Trust that God wants me to get to the YWAM base and that he’ll make sure I get on the right bus at the right stop.

Surprisingly, it was much easier than I thought it would be. When people give you directions here, it’s really confusing to get used to. Places don’t have distinct addresses. They use landmarks to pinpoint locations. For instance, my address is actually just a sentence of directions from the university. So, in order to get to this bus stop we were told to get on the Santa Maria bus across from the KFC which is past two stoplights, up a hill, around the corner from the ISA office and blah blah blah, you get my point. You have to pay attention when you walk. Although a bit overwhelming, we found our bus right where we were told. Without even questioning the bus driver, I hopped on the bus and prayed that God would reveal where we ought to get off. Abby hasn’t been here for as long and so she was relying on me to lead us to the base. Why in the world anyone would trust me with getting us somewhere beats me. If I didn’t have God to rely on, I would be hospitalized for anxiety. The only thing that gets me through is reminding myself that God is in control and He brings us where he wants us. He wanted us to go to the base today and so He led us there. We got off right where we needed to and actually got there 45 minutes early. Moral of the story? Be willing to give up control. Just trust.

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Abby and Me facing our fear of the bus

New Places and Faces

It has officially be a month since I’ve arrived here in Costa Rica. I am finished with my spanish class which is nice because now I don’t have a 4 hour morning class every morning. I’m excited to have mornings open and am hoping to be able to go to the YWAM base for DTS classes. For anyone who isn’t familiar with DTS it stands for discipleship training school and it’s basically a tool used by YWAM to train their missionaries and educate them on different topics. At least that’s how I interpreted it based on what I’ve been told. We haven’t started working with YWAM yet, it’s taking awhile for things to get organized here however I know that that’s part of the Costa Rican culture. They’re so laid back to the point where it seems as though nothing is a priority when it comes to work. It comes across as lazy at times, but it’s a cultural thing. It’s the opposite of how I am because I usually am the one to arrive early whereas Costa Ricans typically show up 30 minutes to an hour late. They call it “Tico Time.” I’ve been so eager to work with YWAM, but patience is a virtue. I’m just excited that my new roommates are here and so we’ll get to hopefully start serving soon! Last week a group of us did get to go to an orphanage and volunteer. We sorted through a pile of random donations that the orphanage had received. There was so much to sort through and a lot of really horrible things to leave at an orphanage, it was mostly just trash and couldn’t be used. The kids were very crazy at the beginning and the environment they’re living in is very dangerous. There were rusty rakes and nails everywhere. Pieces of tin lying around with broken glass lying around for the kids to step on. They were climbing ladders and jumping on the roof. We didn’t get to spend too much time with them at first, but then when we finished sorting through the large pile we had lunch and got to wash toys with the kids. They calmed down and were pleasant to be around. There was one girl who was very violent and hard to be around. We got her involved in the cleaning and it didn’t take long for me and my friend Leslie to take her energy and gear it towards cleaning. We got her excited about the project. We’d shout “Más agua más jabón!” (more soap more water) and somehow it turned into a song/ chant. She was loving it. After cleaning most of the toys and equipment, we had been there for 4 hours and so it was time to leave. The kids there are adorable and if there’s another opportunity to return I’ll for sure go back. It’s crazy that this is place is home for these kids. They don’t know any different. Although this place seems very dangerous, it’s still more safe than the streets, which is where these kids would be if there wasn’t an orphanage here for them to stay. It breaks my heart. 

I’m really sad that my two roommates Alex and Qili are gone because they’ve been great to live with and great to get to know. One month with them went by way too fast. When they were leaving and saying their goodbyes it gave me a weird feeling because I realized that I have three more months here until I get to go home to my family. No way am I ready to go home, but when they were talking about going home and all the things they were excited to do when they got there it just gave me a weird feeling. It was nice because while they were leaving I had an excursion to Panama to look forward to. I was blessed to have some great roommates who I got to know pretty well over the course of our excursion, Candice and Carolyn. Candice has been here for three months and for the entire 3 months she’s been in Costa Rica she has challenged herself to speak only in spanish. She broke her spanish streak when we went to Panama, but hey she wasn’t in Costa Rica anymore. She’s a great and admirable person and I’m inspired by her discipline. Even when people would speak to her in english she would reply in spanish. She really secluded herself from the other students but at the same time, she’s improved more than anyone else. Carolyn has been here for two months now and she and I went to Irazu one weekend. I’ve spent a good amount of time with her and she’s a pretty laid back person. She just likes exploring and trying new things so it was fun going to a volcano by ourselves that day. In Panama we had a great weekend soaking up sun (maybe too much sun). The first day we went out early in the morning and watched dolphins from our boat. We then got dropped off at this gorgeous island and no one else was there and so it was just our large group on this deserted island. It was really cloudy that day but as soon as we got to the beach, we had so much sun. It was as if our island was the only one that had the sun shining on it. We then went snorkeling in the crystal clear waters and finished it off by seeing a sloth. Honestly though, I don’t know if I believe in the sloth because they knew exactly where it would be. how the heck did they know that sloth would be there? I’m suspicious. I was more interested in the mangrove trees anyway. The next day we went to starfish beach for the day. The water was so calm that there were no waves. we saw starfish and swam around and enjoyed another beautiful day. We ate at a restaurant that had fire dancers and it was super sweet. I was never allowed to play with fire growing up because it’s dangerous but maybe someone forgot to tell these people. There was a woman hula-hooping with fire! How is that even possible? Someone please explain this to me. We got back the other day and it’s a good thing we left when we did because there are earthquakes right on the border of Costa Rica and Panama. The Earthquakes and Tsunami in chile are pretty bad but we’re not having too much of an effect here. We have had a few earthquakes the past two days but not strong enough to do any damage at all.

After being in Panama I was very excited to get back because over the weekend, after Alex and Qili moved out, two new roommates moved in. Their names are Abby and Diamond. I’ve been praying for some more down to earth people and literally that’s exactly what God gave me. I just met them the other night but I have some great first impressions and I’m excited to get to know them and to see how God uses us. Yesterday we went to the store and picked up some groceries. We wandered into a really sketchy bank and were too terrified to try and take out money. None of us had our passports anyway and so we just bolted out of there. I have a feeling we’ve got a great three months to look forward to. Last night Ingrid and Camille came over and we were laughing so hard at some language barriers.  Mama tica was in a really goofy mood. Muñeca got a haircut and he’s half bald now. Diamond is allergic to dogs and so muneca can’t come into the house anymore so he’s stuck outside staring at us through the window. Pobre Muñeca.

This upcoming weekend we’re going to Arenal. It’s an active volcano here in Costa Rica. I believe we’re staying at a five star hotel, I’m not going to complain about that. I really can’t think if I’ve ever even stayed at a five star hotel. Apparently there’s going to be hot spirngs, a pool, all you can eat buffets, a spa and not to mention we’re staying in the mountains. (sorry to all my friends and family in Minnesota, I’m not trying to brag). I am looking forward to it. For those of you who are wondering, yes I am studying and yes I do go to class. Yesterday was my first day of Tropical Ecology. Today is my first day of  my other two classes, International Economics and International Relations. My documentary appreciation course will be starting next week along with our partnership with YWAM (hopefully). 

 

Culture shockers

Only wealthy people can afford to shop at Walmart.

You will rarely/never hear the word no

No one in my host family speaks english

People drive really crazy,  as if traffic laws don’t exist or anything

It’s nearly impossible to be served a meal without rice. Or beans.

There’s a spread that looks like yogurt… It’s not…

Windows in Costa Rica don’t have screens

Bonito Día

Last saturday I stayed back instead of going to Puerto Viejo with the rest of the people in my program. It was really nice staying back because I really wanted to spend some time with my tico family. As usual, I had no idea what they weekend would entail. Mama tica and her family members always try and talk about making plans with me and all I can really do is nod my head and say “Si”. That morning we woke up and after a nice plate filled with gallo pinto (rice and beans) and a plate of seconds. That’s right. I asked for seconds. We then hopped in a taxi and off we went. I invited my bud Victoria who also stayed back this weekend. She got to experience the confusion that I go through just about every day here. We weren’t sure where we were going or what patinar meant, but about 5 minutes later our taxi pulled over and across the street was the patinar place. On the building was a sign with roller-skates on it. So, we went roller skating. For the first half hour it was just me, Jefet and Victoria skating. Mama tica doesn’t skate so she sat and enjoyed watching us stumble around. We made a few videos of us skating, there’s a pathetic one of me skating and dancing around. After awhile Ingrid and her daughter Camilla joined us. Ingrid faced her fear of skating. She once was pushed down/ got beaten up while she was skating a few years back and ever since she’s hated it. I couldn’t even imagine going trough that so props to her for getting back out and trying again. She spent the entire time clinging to the wall and I’d have to help her cross over everyone in awhile. We spent about three hours skating. The whole time Camilla was gripping onto my arm as though her life depended on it. Mama tica kept telling me that I didn’t have to skate with Camilla the whole time and that I could go and skate around on my own but honestly I can go skating anytime I want back home and Camilla probably doesn’t get to skate all that often, if ever. So I didn’t mind at all. By the end of it, I know I had gotten a good workout out of it because I was stiff and sore. After many laughs, a few wipeouts and pure exhaustion we headed out.

After we went skating we crossed over to the mall on the other side of the road. San Pedro mall is a rather unique mall and it’s “sketchy” according to Victoria. We’re not sure how this happened but there was some sort of miscommunication because we went into the mall and mama tica asked me if I had my llaves (keys) and when I told her I forgot them at home she gave me her set and started walking away. Victoria and I exchanged mutual looks of confusion and realized that we were being ditched at the “sketchy” mall. Thank the Lord that Camilla spoke english because we were able to tell her that we had no desire to be left at that mall and we wanted to go with them wherever they we going. To this day I still have no idea why we almost got left there it was one of those language barrier situations I guess. It was funny. We ended up taking a taxi over to another mall. I really don’t know why we went to this mall instead but it’s called Multiplaza and it’s much nicer. There was a coca cola promotion going on and they had some stationary bikes in the middle of the mall for people to use to compete for prizes. Mama tica made us do it and so we looked ridiculous, but we won a pair of free sunglasses and some coke. I then made mama tica do it and it was so funny. I took a video of her on the bike and when I showed it to her she loved it. she won a large coca cola jug and she was more than proud of it. We walked around for a little bit and when we were done we headed over to her daughter Kimberly’s house. Mama tica tried to invite Victoria but she wasn’t able to go because she had to get home to her host family’s house for dinner. Mama tica called over a taxi and basically shoved Victoria into the taxi, spoke some really fast spanish that was so confusing it sounded like gibberish and then the taxi whipped out of the parking lot. Victoria’s face as the taxi drove off was priceless. I have yet to take a taxi by myself and I really don’t want to but I’m sure one day I’ll have to. Soon after that we ended up in our own taxi and off to Kimberly’s house we went. She lives in a very nice part of town about 20 minute away. Her neighborhood is gated and you can tell that it’s nice because they don’t even need to lock their doors. Kimberly came home with about 20 bags full of groceries from Walmart. It’s a funny paradox because here Walmart is REALLy expensive and so only the wealthy people can afford to shop there. Her husband then made some drinks and handed me something called a Mojito something. I don’t want to even know what it was but I took a sip because I didn’t want to offend him. I could tell it was some strong alcoholic drink . It tasted nasty, and didn’t want it at all. They asked me if i liked it and I didn’t know hot to politely say I didn’t want it. For some reason whenever I need to communicate something I always forget the words I need. The first thing I thought to say was “No quiero estar borracha.” Which means “I don’t want to be drunk.” I wasn’t trying to be funny but the family thought that was hilarious and even the next day they brought it up, still laughing about it. I didn’t have to drink it and mama tica just smiled and took the drink away.

For dinner we had Chinese takeout. Of course it was fried RICE (but hey, no beans this time). Ingrid joked about eating rat meat or something. I thought she was serious that we were eating rats, honestly at this point nothing would surprise me, but she was just joking. This family loves joking around. Kimberly drove us home after dinner. She has a five person car and so we had to cram into it. In the backseat was a carseat for her daughter Isabel and mama tica climbed right in. I was dying laughing. If I wasn’t so tall I probably would have had to sit in the carseat but the fact that she was just perfectly comfortable was just so funny. We were all laughing the whole ride home and mama tica pointed out that laughing is good for you health. When we got back she asked me if I had a fun day. She described the day as Bonito (which is pretty). Seriously, she calls everything “lindo” or “Bonitio.” It’s amazing how many things it describes. I guess her life is just filled with beauty. Anyway, our day had lots of exercise and laughing so it was a pretty healthy day if you ask me.

Wanted: anything but rice and beans

As you probably could guess, the food here is not exactly the same as what we eat in the states. Each day my meals are a complete surprise, although now I’m usually surprised if there’s not rice on my plate. My first few days here I had a hard time eating. I was not in the mood for rice, but then it hit me that rice and beans is pretty much all they eat here. Why the heck they eat it for breakfast is beyond me, but now I actually am starting to like it. I’m not a very picky eater but I’m someone who prefers variety. The one thing I didn’t like and could not drink was a glass of papaya juice. I thought I would like it but it was disgusting. I left it on the table untouched, I would highly not recommend it. Before this year I was not a very big coffee drinker at all. Couldn’t even stand the smell of it. After an exhausting semester and battling mono I just couldn’t stay awake during the day and so I had my first coffee. Ever since, I think I have an addiction. There are worse problems to have. You know what’s really good with coffee? Rice and beans….
Lately I’ve been craving anything that’s not rice and beans. My eating habits have been absolutely horrible the past few days because my friend Rachel and I discovered a place that sells Oreos and all sorts of sweets. Yesterday after our exam, Rachel, Victoria and I got together to catch up on some American TV. Obviously we needed to watch the bachelor finale. I’m never watching it again. Each year I tell myself I’m never going to watch it again. Spoiler: I probably will. After wasting 2 hours of our life we wandered over to a recently discovered grocery store. I never thought I’d be so happy to walk into a grocery store. They really didn’t have much here but it was still a glorious place. We were hoping to buy ingredients to make cookies, but they don’t have those here. Then I wanted to buy a tub of frosting. Guess what, they don’t have that either. Heck they don’t even sell peanut butter. Victoria and I spent a half hour staring at the collection of icecream (which was seriously only 3 small shelves of options). It was an overwhelming decision, but then we had a lightbulb go off in out heads. We decided to get cookies too! Best decision of the day. We ate icecream and cookies in the park. A lot of ice cream and a lot of cookies. No, no I don’t have any regrets. I was just glad that the ice cream wasn’t rice and bean flavored or something.

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When I got back to my house it was nearly dark. No one was home and it was kinda nice to have a quiet house to myself for a little bit. I just got the registration packet for next fall and started trying to piece together a schedule. Right now I’m having a few issues with my classes here because I’m currently taking only 2 that I need. We’re going to sort it out next week and I’m not too worried about it but I’m thinking about changing my emphasis in order to make it work better. I’m thinking about switching my communication emphasis in business to an emphasis in writing with a minor in journalism and media. I know, this is like the 3rd or 4th time switching but if I can’t get everything I need to take here. This switch would actually work better anyway. While I was going through my quarter life crisis and trying to figure out what I’m doing with my life, jefe came home and I was trying to explain to him my crisis. He thought I said I was leaving and then he told me he will miss me. But when I told him I’m here for 4 months he gave me a thumbs up. Then mama tica came home with Ingrid and her granddaughter. I taught her granddaughter “boom-snap-clap” and the cup song. I’m such a camp counselor. She loved it though. Then mama tica tried doing the cup song and it was quite the scene to watch. Then, it was time for dinner. Guess what we had! If you guessed rice and beans, you’re correct. Rice and beans are my favorite… Mmmmm. every. Single. Meal…. **sarcasm

The Muñeca

Yesterday I was laughing so hard at lots of things. My friend and I were eating Oreos while studying, but we ended up not really doing the studying part. We were in an odd mood and for some reason everything was funny. We were nearly peeing our pants laughing at literally nothing. The studying was not really happening but I took the exam today and it was a piece of cake, at least I think so. Sometimes you never know. Anyway, 3,000 calories later and nothing learned, I returned home and spent some time with my tico family. I can’t get over how much I have lucked out when it comes to my home stay. I know I keep talking about how much I love it but honestly I can’t get over it. They literally treat me like I’m a part of the family. Not only that but they also go out of their way to make sure I’m enjoying it here and feel like I’m at home. One of my friends from my program is staying with a host family that doesn’t even eat with her. It’s kinda funny and it’s something we joke about, but there’s no way I’d be able to handle that. I’m not introverted enough to eat by myself every day. Yesterday My host sister Ingrid was visiting. She has a house just a few blocks away and so we see her very often. Ingrid, mama tica and I enjoyed some freshly cooked plantains and coffee, an interesting combination. Ingrid burnt the first batch and told me that they’re not good when they’re black. That afternoon was one of the first times where I was able to actually understand what was being said for the majority at the table. I guess after two weeks of being here my ears are finally starting to adjust to the language. Although, it is still very confusing at times. The other day I thought mama tica told me we were going to visit a cemetery, but we ended up going to get dog food. Whenever we leave to go somewhere, I usually don’t know where we’re going unless it’s to church (Iglesia) or the university (universidad). It’s kinda like a surprise. I just have to follow and see if I was able to guess where we’d end up. Anyway, While we were sitting at the table we had good conversation and I was actually able to understand their questions and tell them about myself and what I’m studying and what it’s like in Minnesota. Ingrid then paid me a huge complement. She told me that she really liked having me here and that I’m different than some of the other gringas (americans). It meant a lot to me that she said that and it really melted my heart for some reason, as cheesy as that sounds, I feel the same way towards this family. Then mama tica asked me if i liked living here. She asks me this question about every other day. Then she asked me if I like her house. I told her I did, but then she said “Pero no le gusta mi muñeca” which means I don’t like her doll. I was very confused. The dog’s name is muñeca, but I like her dog. I pointed to her dog and said, “me gusta muñeca” but she was talking about a different muñeca. Ingrid started laughing really hard and I was more confused than ever. Then mama tica went upstairs and brought down a little ceramic doll/ decoration piece that I talked about in my youtube tour of the house. I made a really dumb comment about it and said that I thought it was kinda creepy and didn’t like it or something. I guess Ingrid saw it on Facebook and that’s how mama tica found out. I didn’t realize that it mysteriously disappeared after I posted my video. Mama tica took the little muñeca out of the living room because she thought I didn’t like it. I felt so embarrassed and really dumb for making a comment about it, but both mama tica and Ingrid were in tears laughing about it. When I apologized and told her it was just a joke and that I wasn’t serious, she assured me that it was okay. She then joked about putting it in my room during the night. I hope she isn’t offended, but I’m pretty sure she’s not. Based on how hard she was laughing, I can tell she got a kick out of my video and the whole situation. I think it’s hilarious, especially the fact that she went out of her way to take it out of the living room. Talk about great hospitality! I don’t know why I even said anything about it in my video, I honestly didn’t mean it at all. But hey, it makes for a great story and something to laugh about. But in all honesty, I really hope I don’t wake up one of these days with the muñeca staring at me. The thing is kinda creepy…

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