Settling In & First Impressions


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Published: November 7th 2011
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This is a long one! Much has happened in 2 short days and it already feels like we've been here forever (yet at the same time there is still much to get used to).

Our flight from YYZ to SJO was good and relatively uneventful. We watched 2 movies - Bad Teacher (not great) and Friends with Benefits (pretty cute). It's funny... throughout our time in transit it still felt like we were in Canada. We proceeded through customs and immigration without issue, and even collecting our bags at the carousel felt familiar. When we stepped out of the terminal however, we finally started to feel like we were someplace new. It was a bright and sunny 20-ish °C - quite different from the 0°C weather we had left a few short hours before! We were asked every few seconds whether we needed a taxi, and as we waited for 2 other volunteers we observed the fiasco across the street, where it appeared that a large palm branch had fallen on a woman's head! (She received an old-school-style head-wrap bandage and seemed to be doing OK).

After leaving the airport we were driven to the Maximo Nivel (MN) office (that's the local company that organizes our volunteer work) and given a tour. The office is very nice - spacious, bright, and with all sorts of amenities including complimentary coffee whenever you want (thank goodness!) After the tour we were taken to our host family's residence - home for the next 4 weeks! - introduced to some of the family members, and given lunch - rice with veg/chicken and beans. We spent the rest of the afternoon getting settled and letting it sink in that we are actually here! Dinner consisted of the same rice/beans medley as well as some impromptu Spanish lessons from our hosts. In addition to being extremely friendly and welcoming, they are also very good teachers - we are already learning and improving our Spanish. They managed to give us some marriage advice (all in Spanish, with the help of some charades) as they have been married almost 41 years and seem to have some good strategies!

Yesterday morning we enjoyed a delicious breakfast consisting of rice and beans, as well as fried eggs and, of course, coffee. Our hosts have a large aviary in the back of the house where they have many "sparrows" (not sure if they are actually sparrows) which it appears that they breed. We had the pleasure of witnessing the morning feeding, where our host actually fed some baby chicks by hand. It was amazing! (Hopefully some pics/video to come). After receiving a lesson in getting around via public transportation, we were invited to attend a church service with our host family on the occasion of their grandson's first communion. While it was difficult to understand exactly what was said during the service, it followed the same format that we are used to for a Catholic mass back home, so we didn't feel too lost. In fact, the picture-taking of the kids after the service was as hectic (if not more so) as we would expect at home (especially from the paparazzi Cox family! 😊 Afterwards we enjoyed a traditional lunch celebration with the extended family before returning to MN for our orientation. We completed a Spanish placement test which we both essentially failed! (Thankfully Spanish classes begin today). After a brief walking tour of the area it was already dark (5:30 pm) so we decided to head home for dinner and relax.

This morning breakfast included rice/beans, fried plantains, and a delicious tortilla con queso, as well as fresh pineapple (which was to die for). Today is our official first day and later this morning we are going to visit our school, Escuela Francisco Gamboa, for the first time. Seeing as we left our jobs and are on perma-vaca, it will be strange getting up early each day and falling back into a routine. That said, being awakened by chirping birds every morning rather than a blaring alarm clock isn't much to complain about!

So, some first impressions...
- The driving is only "un poco loco"... still fairly structured and not as crazy as we might have expected. However, pedestrians do NOT have the right of way!
- Apparently Costa Ricans think that a meal is not complete unless it includes rice and beans (not just an observation; we were actually told this). On the positive side, at least we know there will be something that Liz can eat at every meal!
- The Costa Ricans are very passionate and accomodating people... willing to go out of their way to make us comfortable!

We will try to post some photos soon!

All our love,
Liz & Chris

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7th November 2011

A common thread....
Hello there! It seems rice and beans are a common thread! Super.... bulk, fibre, protein, and vitaminds - all good.... if maybe a little gassy? Loved reading your first away blog.... so pleased to read about all the positives.... am so excited for you both.... nothing profound to say, just wonderful to hear what you are doing, and how friendly and helpful everyone seems to be. Your host family sounds lovely. Good luck tomorrow at school!!!!! Mum xo

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