El bus esta muy loco! (And other things I've learned so far in Costa Rica)


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Published: May 31st 2013
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So far, this is a stable prediction.
Phase 1 – learn Spanish. Check!







Well not exactly, of course, but I have made a lot of progress. I’ve now been in San Pedro (just outside San Jose) for 5 days. On 4 of those days, I spent much of the day at the Costa Rican Language Academy (CRLA). I completed my course today, and in total I found it to be an excellent refresher to Spanish. My comprehension if Spanish has greatly improved (enough that I could participate in a cooking class that was completely in Spanish), and I’ve gained more confidence in speaking the phases and words that I do know. All it all, this phase was totally worth it.







Since my arrival in Costa Rica, I have definitely been enjoying the tango between feeling proud and satisfied at overcoming challenges with the frustration of incompetence. For example, in my Spanish class I felt 100% excited when I was able to communicate in Spanish with my classmates and professors. Yet, since I was in the most beginner of all the classes, all I needed to do was wander the school to be reminded that
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My school, from the outside.
I still have a long way to go. As another example, in order to get from my host home in Sabanilla to the CRLA, I had to take a city bus. For the first day, I had help from one of the daughters in my host family. But, from there on I had to take the bus by myself. I was SO nervous that I would do something wrong, and when I didn’t get lost once that first day I was filled with pride. The next day, though, I was a little overconfident. I got lost in people watching, and I missed my stop on the way home. Oops. Unsure of what to do, I rode the bus until the end of the line. Then, I waited for the next bus going back to my neighborhood. I solved the problem, but felt pretty foolish along the way.







Before I left, when I was talking about this trip with one of my best friends. I was telling her that, although I was nervous about going to a foreign country where I don’t really speak the language, I was confident that I would be able
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One of the common areas at the school
to problem solve. She reminded me that when we were in college, I was too unsure of myself to master the bus system at our school. As a result, I paid more in parking (and parking tickets!) than I paid in books, and I spent many unnecessary hours walking the streets as busses passed me by. I’m not sure exactly when and how I changed… Maybe it was living in DC? Maybe it was surviving Emma’s death? Maybe it was the accumulation of countless risks, successes, and failures? Maybe it was all those things and more? But, what a difference a decade makes!







Although I will be in Costa Rica for more than 3 more weeks, here are some things that I have learned about the San Jose area:






The weather is crazy. In a few short days, I have experienced an earthquake, torrential downpours, and bright beautiful sunshine. The weather forecast has been the same everyday: Scattered thunderstorms. Morning high of 82F with temps falling sharply to near 60F. Winds S at 5 to
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Break time!
10 mph. Chance of rain 50%. What that means in reality is that it is gorgeous, sunny, and temperate during the morning. At about lunchtime, it starts to rain. The rain last anywhere from an hour to all the rest of the afternoon and into the evening. Then, the evening is cool and breezy.Getting anywhere is an adventure. First, the drivers are crazy. “Pedestrians have the right of way” is definitely not a guideline here. On the roads it’s survival of the ballsiest. If you are a walker that means “make sure no vehicles are near, and then move as fast as you can across the street”. Second, there are not consistent sidewalks, and there are deep trenches and holes everywhere. Those made sense as soon as we had our first heavy rainfall – the trenches filled, keeping the roads relatively clear of standing water. Third, they have a “unique” directional system here in Costa Rica. Instead of street names and addresses, they use a complex system of “turn right at the gas station”. The address of my host family is literally “Sabanilla. del Supermacado La Cosecha 100 sur, 200 este, 175
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Practicing with food, numbers, and restaurant vocabulary...
norte, casa #706”. This means that my house is supposedly 100 meters south, 200 meters east, and then 100 meters north from the Supermarket La Cosecha. However, to complicate things, the 100 meter really means 1 block. So, it could be 25 meters if it’s a short block or 150 meters if it’s a long block. What?! Plus, what if you don’t know where that particular supermarket is? I asked my host mother what the name of our street was, and she told me that it didn’t have a name. As another example, my school’s address is “Barrio Dent, de Autos Hyundai 200 mts norte u 150 mts oeste”. For someone as directionally challenge as I am, it would take a LONG time to get a handle on this city.




The people have been so nice and welcoming. Of course, my host family and everyone at the school has been awesome. But, people on the street, in the shops, on the bus, and in the restaurants have all been so patient and understanding. I’ve been encouraged to practice my Spanish, and people seem to
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One of the other 3 students in my class, with the teacher.
really respond when I try (even if it’s laced with mistakes). I am definitely grateful for the generosity and patience of the strangers here.


Today I’m going out to a local bar for some drinks. I hear the pina coladas are amazing. Then, tomorrow I’m getting picked up at 5 am to take the bus to La Fortuna. I’m traveling with a couple of my friends from the school, and I’ll return on Saturday. Then, I leave on Sunday to go work with the turtles!!


Additional photos below
Photos: 19, Displayed: 19


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What I see when I walk out the door of my host family, very secure.
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The front door of my host family.
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From outside the garage.
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This is my street...
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Cooking class. Empanadas where the shell is made of plantains. Delicioso!
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Finished product.
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A vegetarian restaurant, finally!
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Trying a local juice -- think lime and basil -- it was so good.
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The local mall.
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Sophia, a new friend.
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Amazing flowers for sale by the road.
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Two other students in my class. My teacher was a better Spanish teacher than she was a photographer.
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I took this as an example of the trenches, in the far left, you can see my bus stop.


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