5 Marzo 2016
¡Hola! It’s been quite some time since I last posted! But you know what they say…no news is good news! I think the less I post, the more I feel like I’m living a normal life instead of being on some surreal adventure that always has me on edge. Ever since I got back from winter break, I have felt so much more at home and adjusted here in Costa Rica. So, lots has been happening, but I guess I haven’t felt the need to write because it’s all felt so much more normal!
Originally this post was going to be a list of all the ways I feel better adjusted this year, but when I sat down to brainstorm and outline it (yes, I brainstorm and outline my blog posts), it felt boring. Therefore, I have decided to make this a generic catching up post instead. I know I never wrote the sequel to my Ometepe post, but I’ve decided to let that one go. All it was was a story about sleeping in a creepy hotel and having very stressful experiences figuring out bus schedules. Don’t worry, you’re not missing much.
So, without further ado, here are a few mini stories about other things that have been going on here in beautiful Costa Rica!
When we were in Nicaragua, obviously I needed to speak a LOT of español. Which, of course, was awesome..learning Spanish is why I moved to Latin America in the first place! However, I was really glad to be forced to speak so much in emergency situations that week because I think it made something click in my brain. Before break, I felt like I had hit a bit of a Spanish plateau. I was conversing well with cab drivers, but really all I could do was have really basic convos about how long I’ve been in Costa Rica, the fact that I was from NJ, etc. I think the fact that I speak so much English here in Costa Rica gave me a safety net that I could fall back on when I needed it. In Nicaragua, I didn’t have that net, so I was forced to pull words out of my brain that I didn’t know were there, which in turn pushed me past some of the fear I was holding on to about sounding stupid when I talked. I am still by no means anywhere close to fluency, but I have noticed a difference in my abilities in the past couple of months, and it’s very exciting.
Getting better at Spanish has given me newfound motivation to learn even more, so the ladies of Gringolandia and I have been studying much more. We make tons of flashcards and quiz each other, which has been helping a lot with vocabulary. Oh, and now I can FINALLY speak in the past tense (preterite, imperfect, and past perfect (still with lots of mistakes, I’m sure, but at least now I know the rules)), which has been fun to practice, too.
One goal I had for my return from break was to exercise more. Sure, I walk a ton here, and I may have lost a few (very few) pounds since moving, but last year I wasn’t doing anything on a regular basis, and I had stopped running altogether. It’s frustrating to know that I have run two half marathons, and now I’m not sure if I can do a 5k. Also, I finally found a chiropractor, and he has instructed me to lift weights and go for long, sweaty (yes, he specifically said I must sweat) walks. So, Amanda and I decided to get ourselves a little home gym!
We went out and got a kettle bell, dumbells, a big exercise ball, a medicine ball, and a jump rope. We found an app that does interval timing, and we started doing gringaerobics at the compound. It’s super fun, and now we warm up for gringaerobics by going for a run. I’m still not at the point where I can run long distances, but it has felt really good to get out there and run around the neighborhood. Besides the physical and mental benefits of exercise, I feel like it’s one more thing that’s helped me feel adjusted here. I feel like running in your own neighborhood is one more thing that makes it home.
I haven’t been out of the country again since Nicaragua (although Lollapallooza Chile is coming in two weeks!!), but we have been doing some fun day/weekend trips. For Rebecca’s birthday in February, a few of us (actually the same few who went to Nicaragua) went to Playa Bejuco (a beautiful, almost-empty beach near Esterillos) for the weekend. It was quite perfect. We stayed in a beachfront place and had a great pool to relax in. I ended up getting a little sunburned on the last day, which led to some chills that night, but vale la pena. It was a super fun weekend! This also helped with the whole adjustment thing because we took the bus and figured out the schedules and everything all by ourselves. I feel like for each new bus I take I gain one more level of freedom. Since I don’t have a car, it’s sometimes easy to feel trapped, but learning the public transportation system is definitely freeing.
Then last weekend, I was actually supposed to come home for a slightly secret trip to see my bestie’s new baby, but Spirit canceled my flight (don’t fly Spirit!), and I couldn’t go. I was super excited for the trip and bummed when it didn’t happen. So instead, Amanda and I had an impromptu getaway to a nearby city called Cartago. I had been to Cartago before (I wrote about it in my post about Costa Rica driving), but we figured we’d do some more exploring. Again, we took the bus (one more terminal under my belt!), which was cheap and fast (only about 45 minutes).
We mostly just walked around, which was cool because we stumbled upon these really cool ruins in the middle of the city. We also found tons of pigeons, which apparently are so used to humans that you can catch and hold them (I didn’t touch them, but Amanda got a couple!). Of course we headed to see the basilica, which is basically obligatory when in Cartago, and then we took a cab to the Lankester Botanical Gardens, which were beautiful! At the gardens we explored a Japanese zen garden, the cactus/succulent garden, a huge orchid collection, and more. It was a great way to spend the day!
As you may know, most of the expat teachers here have moved here without their friends and family (we do have teaching couples here, but the majority of us are on our own). This has brought us together to form our own little family, which is awesome because there’s always people around and things to do. It’s also cool because my different expat friends introduce me to lots of other people, including ticos, so I am feeling like part of a larger community, which of course is one more thing that has helped me to feel adjusted.
First, I am in a book club with a bunch of the ladies here, which has been really fun. We’ve already had our first two meetings, and we are quite proud because we actually did talk about the books! In case you are looking for some new book recs, you can check out November 9 or Hopeless by Colleen Hoover (our January picks) or Attachments by Rainbow Rowell (our February choice, which is one of my favorite books that I loved rereading for our meeting). Personally I didn’t love Hopeless, but a lot of the other girls did. I haven’t started the new pick yet, but I need to soon! We are reading The Sex Lives of Cannibals, which I promise is not as dirty as it sounds!
Let’s see…what else? I went to two more Saprissa games, which were fun. The first was with our new friend Andrew, who we met during our travels in Nicaragua. He ended up couch surfing with us for a few days when he passed through San Jose. Having a house guest definitely helps with adjusting because all the sudden you become the expert on your new home! It was fun to take him around to some of our local haunts (I love that I have local haunts), and we had a great time at the game. These recent games were definitely not as crazy as the one I saw back in September, but they were still super fun. I love that I live within walking distance of the stadium; it’s so fun feeling like part of the fútbol culture. Oh, and speaking of words that sound like fútbol, we also had a Super Bowl party! It was great to still get to practice the tradition of sitting around eating while not paying attention to the game!
I also went to my first language cafe a few weeks ago. My friend Brian was going, and I tagged along to check it out. Basically it’s this weekly event at which people sit around, eat, and practice different languages. Obviously I was practicing Spanish, but there were people there who were practicing French, English, and German, too. I really enjoyed chatting with strangers in English and Spanish, and I definitely want to go back! And not just because the food was delish (although I’ll admit that’s part of it)!
One other cool happening was a traditional Chinese New Year celebration. Brian is Chinese, and he organized the night for us. It was good to have him explaining the traditions and customs because most of the speaking was in Chinese. They had translations to Spanish, but the place was ginormous and noisy, so it was really hard to hear. I loved seeing the traditional dances, dragons, and outfits, and of course it was great to taste the food! It was served family style, course by course. I didn’t count exactly, but I would guess there were at least 10 courses! We had everything from soup to chicken (head included) duck, beef, fish (also with head), shrimp, and more. It just kept coming. Aside from the shrimp (I just can’t do it), I think I tried everything. We were chuckling because really only one dish (sweet and sour pork) looked or tasted anything like what we have come to know as “Chinese food.” This was the real deal, and I loved getting to experience it. (Although I’m not gonna lie…I’ve had a hankering for some basic lo mein ever since). Oh, also, the tea was amazing!
Well, I guess that’s about all that’s been going on (or at least all I’m willing to share in public! haha). Overall everything is great, and I’m very happy. My favorite few days have been the ones with rainbows in the sky all day long, so I figured I’d end with a few pics of them! Not a bad view, eh?
Thanks for reading, and pura vida!