Sunday, March 28, 2010

My friends and I made it to San Juan del Sur, Rivas, Nicaragua by 2pm on Saturday, March 27th 2010. We had left San Jose, Costa Rica the previous night at 11pm and it was supposed to have taken us 6 hours to get here.
I think the fact that it's Semana Santa and about half of Costa Rica is populated with Nicaraguans made it so that we came on the busiest weekend of the year.
We had to take a taxi from the town the bus dropped us off in- who knows what it was called, they were terrible at communicating what was going on- to San Juan del Sur. It took us 20 scary minutes to arrive as our taxi driver was very nice but slightly crazy. Along the way, we witnessed a dog almost get run over but with the luck of fate slipped right between the wheels of the one car and just had its tail grazed by the next before making it to the other side of the road alive! It was quite a disturbing but relieving sight.
The town we finally made it to, however, was well worth the wait. All five of us are staying in the Hotel Estrella at only $6 per night, with a view of the sea and less than 50 metres from the beach.
San Juan del Sur is small but quaint. The people are friendly but can be hard to understand as they eat up their words. One of its attractions is that it is not filled with tourists, which gives it a more traditional and uniquely cultural feel.
There are many restaurants and bars lined up along the beach, which seem like they would be a lot of fun at night! We almost found out just how fun the nightlife here was, until we fell asleep at 6pm after our dip in the cool and refreshing ocean at sunset.
I get a feeling today is going to be a great day...sunny, hot and filled with potential for an amazing time. After all, it can't be too hard to beat yesterday's shittiness... Here's to a wonderful day :)

Monday, March 1, 2010

La Arribada

I arrived in San Jose, Costa Rica at 7:40pm. Since it was night time, it was hard to tell what was about to be my new home for the next three months looked like. For some odd reason, I didn't get the butterflies-in-my-stomach feeling of arriving in a new place.

While I had thought I had made it to my destination in plenty of time, I waited in line to get through customs for the next 45 minutes. I was supposed to meet an ISA representative at the airport by 8pm a the latest so that they could pick me up and take me to Veritas University where my new host family would then bring me to my new home. ISA had said that if anyone showed up after 8pm, they would have to find their own way into town. It looked like that was what I was going to have to do.

As I stepped out of the airport's automatic doors, a tall, tanned, dark-featured man asked me where I was going: "¿Adonde va?", to which I responded in broken Spanish that I was looking for an ISA employee: "Busco un empleado de la ISA."

To my surprise, he pointed in the direction of where a group of gringos were standing in a group amongst a sea of suitcases. (The term "gringo" refers to whomever is non-local, or non-tico. These often stick out like a sore thumb with their white skin and light features such as blonde hair and blue eyes). It seemed like these were about to be my friends for the next while. As I had previously learnt, they were all from the United looked like I would have to represent Canada all on my own.

One of the people was from South Carolina and had the typical Southern accent I greatly enjoyed; another was from Pittsburg and had lived in France for several years...someone I could practice my French with!; another was from I forget where but had bright blonde hair that I could only imagine wouldn't quite allow her to fit in as a tico... I was pretty white from the beginnings of winter and my long-lost summer tan but I figured that my darker features would help me blend in more easily.

While we waited for the last person to arrive, we asked each other get-t0-know-you questions: Where are you from? What university do you go to? What's your major? Have you ever studied abroad? Finally, the last person, a soft-spoken girl from California, showed up and we hopped onto the bus that would take us to the university. There, our host families were waiting for us to take us to our new home.

When I got off the bus, my tica mum, Maritza, waved me down, smiling and hugging me. A tall, blonde girl with a leather jacket followed closely behind her. She introduced herself as Jenn and said she was from Kansas. I expected her to have a thick accent but she didn't. Maritza showed me to my new room, which was quaint. It wasn't very big and had a single bed, but it had the basics: dresser, closet, bed-side table and desk. I really wasn't disappointed with my new living accomodations, until I saw Jenn's room, the grand suite in comparison to mine, with a double bed, big TV, wide windows, ceramic floor and a closet that took up an entire wall.

I mumbled something about it being unfair under my breath, then convinced myself that I wasn't going to be spending much time in my room anyway, because I'd be too busy being out and about and soaking up the culture. Even so, I figured I came to Costa Rica to live a simple life, not to be pampered.

My first night's sleep in my new room was not one of my best, as I tossed and turned all night, aware of all the unfamiliar sounds around me. Cars honked, insects buzzed, birds chirped, the house dogs barked-chihuahas, why did they have to be chihuahas?- and the house cat Calipso who usually stays outside but comes in for food- apparently at the crack of dawn- woke me up.

I met the dogs: Tino, the papa dog who is your typical dumb-struck chihuaha who will run into the [locked] glass door, fall backwards from the impact, and then try his luck again; Jade, the mama dog who is quiet and sweet but is nevertheless ugly by definition because she is a chihuaha and then the two most adorable puppies in the entire world- of which I took about one hundred pictures- who are so cute that one cannot comprehend how they can have chihuahas as parents.

My first breakfast consisted of gallo pinto, a traditional breakfast dish that consists of rice and beans, with a variation of onions and tomatoes. I found it to be quite tasty. Jenn and I got ready for our first orientation meeting, which we ended up being about 15 minutes late for, but that's not big news. It turns out were were running on tico-time which, in North America would mean to be late, but here in Costa Rica means to be right on time.

It looked like I was going to get by just fine here...