A Love Letter to Gringolandia

18 Diciembre 2015

So, I’ve been talking about this Gringolandia post for a while, and now that almost everyone from Gringolandia has gone home for the holidays, I can finally sit down and write it!

(Actually now it’s 23 Diciembre, and I’m just finishing up this post.)

What is Gringolandia, you ask? Well, when I first learned about the apartment building I’d be living in, I knew that it had nine apartments. I also knew that the school was offering them to those of us who needed a place to stay. What I didn’t know, however, is that all the apartments would be rented by gringos who teach at my school, and we’d basically end up living on a compound.

Sometimes we refer to the compound as “the compound,” but its proper name is Grindolandia (I think Chelsea named it? I don’t remember). We used to call it Melrose Place, but we don’t have enough scandal for the name to be appropriate. Plus, it’s fun to call it Gringolandia because when I tell my tico friends about it, they crack up. (If you don’t know, “gringo” is a somewhat derogatory term for people who are not Hispanic or Latino.)

Some people might not enjoy living in a rather small apartment building with limited privacy. Indeed, it’s basically a dorm. But I for one love it, and here’s why!

Author’s note: I would also like to clarify that all the people I have met in CR are amazing, and this post is in no way meant to exclude the rest of them! I just have been thinking that living on a compound has been such a unique experience for me (it’s basically freshman dorms part 2), so I wanted to focus on that. But to everyone else, I love you guys! 🙂

Moral Support

I have already said in previous posts that moving to a new country is hard. But personally, for me it would have been much harder to deal with if I were living alone. Being surrounded by people in the same situation as me was a huge help during the adjustment. There was always someone around whenever I was feeling lonely, blue, or just generally confused. This really kept my spirits up, and on those days were I was a bit down, I bounced back much more easily than I may have otherwise. We’re all in the same boat, and we understand what we all are going through. So whether I’m looking for a patient ear to listen to me whine, a night of baking cookies to feel like I’m home, or just to be left alone to have some quiet time, the folks at Gringolandia provide it.

Our Whatsapp Group

One of my favorite things about the international community is the rampant use of Whatsapp. I used to be wary of it, due to the fact that FB owns it, and really they just let us use it for free to get access to all our contacts and data and ahhhh Big Brother is watching and why do they want all my data! But anyway, I digress. I guess I gave up that fight.

I am in a bunch of group chats (my favorite of which lets me keep in touch with the besties at home), and Gringolandia is one of them. We also have a couple others for teachers at school, but this one is used specifically for Gringolandia-related purposes (“Is anyone else’s water off?” “When is cable due?” “Guys what time does the bus come?” “Does anyone have <insert the thing we need here>?”)

I will admit that the conversations can get out of hand (*cough* Brian *cough*), but that doesn’t bother me. In fact, it just makes it all the more fun! I won’t provide screenshots or anything because what happens in Gringolandia stays in Gringolandia. 😉

Dinner and Games

The thing I hoped the most for when I learned I’d be living on a compound was people to eat dinner with. I imaged weekly communal dinners where we’d either go potluck every time, or each week someone cooked for everyone. While that hasn’t exactly happened, we are close. If you have read my blog before, you know that Amanda and I eat dinner together most nights, which of course I love. I always liked living alone in the States, but I never grew to enjoy cooking for one. I love having a partner in crime, whether it’s for the typical Smashburger or Hooligans debate, the walk to Papa Johns (of course with the cinnapie to top it off), or the trip to AutoMercado where we roam around randomly, both of us clueless as to what we should buy.

On top of dinners with Amanda, we have also started doing some group dinners, sometimes planned and sometimes impromptu. For example, a few weeks ago, I needed to harvest my basil, so I texted the group (see previous section) and told everyone to come by for pesto if they wanted. What started out as an oh-my-god-this basil-plant-needs-t0-be-harvested-STAT solution turned into a great night with bread, pasta, cheese, wine, and of course great company. Another time, Rebecca made us some seriously delicious chili (thanks, Rebecca!), and a bunch of us ended up sitting around on our patio eating, chatting, and enjoying the gorgeous Central Valley weather. This was also the night we solidified plans for our Gringolandia Halloween party, so it was productive as well as fun!

We have also had a few pizza nights, spearheaded by our friend Rob (thanks, Rob!). Pizza nights are great; Rob makes the dough, and everyone brings their favorite topping (except me; I like to bring the salad). Pizza nights generally include others beyond the compound, so it’s a great way to get together and hang out with lots of new friends. My favorite is when pizza night ends with Latin music, dancing, and chair spinning (more on singing and dancing to come).

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Yes, you see that right. It’s a motorcycle pizza cutter.

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¡Hay muchas pizzas!

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The stool-spinning contest begins!

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Celebrating my new futon with a pesto night!

Cookie Nights

We make a lot of cookies at Gringolandia. Thus far we have made chocolate chip (a lot of them) chocolate sugar cookies, peanut butter cookies (Rebecca does those), snickerdoodles, and accidental boob cookies (yes, they are as ridiculous as they sound). I was really excited the first time we made them because it forced me to go out and buy things like flour, sugar, vanilla, and other ingredients. It was a small thing but made me feel more like I was at home. I mean, who lives somewhere for like three months and doesn’t even own flour and sugar??? It also pushed me to eventually re-organize my kitchen cabinet (aka a glorified bookshelf), which was yet another step in making the place feel like mine.

The reason cookie nights are my favorite is that it becomes a social event, with people popping in and out, tasting the dough and the completed project. It’s definitely a fun and delicious way to bond!

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Making cookies is always a good time!

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Buying the ingredients made me feel like I was home, except for the fact that chocolate chips are $10/bag!

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Sometimes this is a messy process.

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I swear we did not mean for them to look like boobs!

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Umm…they usually come out better than this.

Judgment-free Zone

As I alluded to earlier, there is basically no privacy at Gringolandia. Everyone pretty much knows what everyone else is doing all the time. If anyone were to have dirty little secrets (hypothetically speaking, of course), everyone would know them. And luckily there is no judging at Gringolandia, so whatever hypothetical, quirky habits we may or may not have, no one would say boo. Which would be pretty awesome, hypothetically speaking. But that’s all I’ll say about that.

Singing and Dancing

Our building is basically in the middle of nowhere, residentially speaking (can you speak “residentially?” Anyway). We do have some apartments behind us, but I don’t think they can really hear anything. So basically we can be as loud as we want without having to worry about it.

(To be honest, even if we did live near neighbors, I don’t think it would matter because Costa Rica is just generally loud all the time anyway, especially in the city with all the motos!)

So, we sing and dance. A lot. We gather in apartments to sing. We send each other audio files of us singing. We drive down the road while singing. We do have a few favorite songs that are on our frequently-played list, but really we just like singing anything. I’m sure we sound ridiculous, but I for one don’t care! Remember, there is no judging at Gringolandia!

We also dance a lot there. As I mentioned before, sometimes our pizza nights end in dancing. Sometimes we end up doing the salsa during our parties. And sometimes a few of us may or may not rehearse the Thriller dance for three hours so we can have a three-person flash mob that we end up having to perform four times because half the people didn’t realize we were having a flash mob. Just saying.

Perhaps I have a video of said flash mob, but if I do, I won’t be posting it here, that’s for sure!

Open Doors

I mentioned earlier that Gringolandia is basically a freshman dorm. The number one reason I feel that way is the open doors. We are extremely lucky to live in the Central Valley, which means we basically have perfect weather all year round (despite the rain, which I had wanted to write about in a post called “When It Rains, It Pours,” but I never got around to it). Furthermore, we are above the mosquito line, so we don’t get many bugs (and the ones we do get would come in regardless of whether or not the doors were open). That means we can leave our doors open, which I love. My apartment is in a pretty central location, which makes for less privacy but more traffic. As an extrovert, I thrive on social interaction, and I love keeping my door open so people can come by whenever if they feel like it. And when I need me time, I just close the door and no one bothers me! It’s great. It pretty much feels like I have a bunch of roommates, only we don’t have to deal with the annoying parts of living with people, like sharing a bathroom or leaving a mess in someone else’s space.

Neverending Cups of Sugar

You know how sometimes when you need a cup of sugar, you have to find a neighbor who is home and able to give you one? Well, at Gringolandia, there are infinity metaphorical cups of sugar whenever we need them. When you move to a new country, you aren’t going to have every single thing you might have had in your old home. However, when you have nine friends living in such close proximity, you can pretty much get your hands on anything (except a power drill [if anyone reading this has a power drill I can borrow, please let me know!]).

Whether someone is looking for a hammer, casserole dish, change for big bills, or actual cups of sugar, all it takes is a quick text on Whatsapp, and someone usually jumps in to help!

Good People

If it’s not clear by now, I love living at Gringolandia, but the biggest reason is, obviously, the people! When you throw 10 people (sadly, we are now down to 8, but Tracey and Ivan are still honorary members) in one building, who knows what sorts of drama can ensue. Fortunately, nothing too crazy has happened so far…but I guess there’s always next semester! I figured it’d be fun to end with my favorite memory with each Gringolandia resident, and then some photos. So, here you go! In order of the layout of the building…

  • Bridget: Her constant kindness and neverending willingness to loan me clothes during the Great Baggage Fiasco of 2015 (#GBF2k15 #neverforget). Also her dance moves and when she sings like Cher.
  • Amanda: Obviously there are too many to count, but a few highlights are roasting marshmallows on my stove, flipping her off the hamburger couch (many times), and our very strange habit of saying the same thing at the same time.
  • Tracey: Her uncanny ability to calm me down when I am building into crisis mode. Most notably the first time I ever met her (at the airport in the midst of #GBF2k15) and when I accidentally paid $500 on a flight I had a United credit that I forgot to use. Also the gift of her bathing suit was clutch!
  • Ivan: Our side conversations that typically happen at parties, when we somehow or other end up chatting about music and other things. Plus his inappropriate comments in our group chats are hilarious.
  • Rob: His email about the leotards (way before I even met him), the fact that he brought a horse mask to Costa Rica, and finally nailing the turns in dance class!
  • Brian: My twin, my mae. Our deep convos when I need them the most, as well as our photoshoots during which we attempt to be fierce (but apparently not fiesty).
  • Rebecca: Our fun adventures exploring San Jose (we figured out the buses!) and Sámara, and her unwavering patience as I learned to drive in Costa Rica.
  • Chelsea: Our last weekend before break, with the one thing that she knows what it is but I can’t write about it here.
  • Lindsey: Our recent bonding, particularly over that Hermione pun (which I sadly can’t remember now) and being Linked Out!

And lastly, some fotos!

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2 thoughts on “A Love Letter to Gringolandia

  1. Pingback: ¿Casi Tica? | The Lamp Life

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