Monday, September 15, 2014

Welcome to the Pura Vida

Hey everyone! I'm back after a wonderful summer break in Minnesota where I spent tons of time with family and friends at home and on the lake. Now, I'm 10 days into my new adventure in Costa Rica! Here's what I've been up to...

I arrived in San José, the capital, on a Friday. The owner of my small hostel, Michael, was able to pick me up directly from the airport and drive me to the hostel himself.  He told me there was a protest going through the center of town, so we would have to drive around it using back roads which took about an hour instead of the normal 20 minute trip. I was happy to be back and practicing my Spanish again, and Michael assured me that I was speaking very well which is nice to hear after a couple of months off. However, as we continued to talk I started picking up on some of the words that Costa Ricans favor that are different from the Castellano Spanish I've been using the last two years. Here are some of the changes I've been working on in the last week or so:
  • using the formal "usted/ustedes" to address others instead of "tu/vosotros"(which also changes how I conjugate many of my verbs)
  • saying "mucho gusto" instead of "de nada" for you're welcome
  • saying "mae" instead of "tio/hombre" which translates to bro/dude
  • asking for the "factura" and not the "cuenta" when asking for the check
  • using "tuanis" instead of "guai/chulo" for the word "cool"
  • the most important is using the phrase "pura vida" which can mean hello, goodbye, welcome,

    take it easy, have a good day, you're welcome, EVERYTHING. It directly translates to "Pure Life" but it's not just a word here, it's a way of life. It represents their loving, caring, laid back lifestyle here that results in the highest quality of life possible.
Anyway, those are some of the main ones but the different words just keep coming! I know it will take a while but I'm sure I'll have this new tico Spanish down soon.  Speaking of "tico", this is the word used to describe Costa Ricans. Okay... now that I've had my language tangent, let's rewind back to San José. 
After I enjoyed a much needed afternoon nap, I got in touch with another girl from my program that was also in San José for the night. We met for dinner and planned to take the bus together to Sámara the following day. Between our long dinner convo and the long bus ride to Sámara, I learned that this girl's name was Nini, she's from Denmark, only 18 years old (super brave!) and we were going to be roommates once we got to Sámara because we both chose the same living option. I can't tell you how nice it was to have for those first 48 hours because we experienced all the culture shock together. Our 5 hour bus turned into a 7 hour bus ride because a small town between San José and Sámara decided to block off a street during a protests, so our bus could do nothing but wait idelly for 2 hours in a traffic jam. By the time we arrived in Sámara it was dark as the sun sets promptly at 6pm everyday in Costa Rica. It also happened to be storming but luckily as soon as we got off the bus a beautiful blonde girl came running up to us asking if we were Nini and Steph. She turned out to be our landlord Javi's girlfriend who was visiting from Germany. She was an absolute saint for waiting 2 hours for us just to help us get to the house. Because of the rain, we took a taxi to the house. Although it was dark the first thing I noticed is that Samara was a lot smaller and more remote then I was expecting. It's a town of less than 2,000 people that is full of tourism due to it's incredible beaches. Sunbathers and surfers alike are attracted to this quiet beach town because of it's amazing shoreline, great weather and laid-back atmosphere. Finally we arrived at our "cabin" which is a small place with two rooms, a tiny bathroom (one shower temp only), and a very basic kitchen attached to the living room. It also comes with a hammock and two bikes! The place is extremely basic, but I've learned to love it! My favorite part is the giant sliding door at the front of the house, which we leave open when we're home to let in some fresh air and enjoy the chorus of animals that can be heard from our little house. After we dropped off our bags and got a tour of the house, we headed into the town for some dinner. Soon after dinner we came back and crashed after our long day of travel.
Sunday we spent unpacking, grocery shopping and getting settled into the new apartment. I also went out with my landlord Javi and his girlfriend Christina for a couple beers and "bocas" which are like tapas because they come free with a beer. They told me all about Sámara and I quickly learned that the things I've worried about the last couple years are nothing like my worries now. They warned me about the stingrays, scorpions but most of all the crocodiles that live in the river in town... haha don't think I'll be swimming there any time soon. But luckily the ocean is safe because it's waves are relatively small and the riptides aren't very strong. Later on Sunday Nini and I cooked our first dinner together which turned out to be a little more difficult than we though considering we only have one pot, two pans, two plates, three forks/spoons, one cutting knife, one serrated knife, two classes two cups and two bowls. That's it. We've had to get creative with some of our meals and we're learning how to work around it. After dinner we went to bed and I was admittedly very excited for the first day of classes the following day. 
The first week of classes went really well! We were introduced to our three teachers (all americans in their upper 30s or so) and my fellow classmates. I have 8 classmates comprised of 4 americans, 2 canadians (one french), one kiwi and one danish girl all spanning from ages 18-50! We immediately clicked, which is a good thing because we're currently spending 40 class hours a week together plus a lot of time outside of class too. We started teaching on Wednesday, the first week we taught two lessons in teacher pairs. The English classes we give are free to the public, which is a great deal for everyone. The first two lessons we're a little stressful since we're all so new but we were excited to celebrate our successes come Friday! All 8 of us went out for dinner, a few beers and dancing at a bar on the beach. We had such a good time that the night ended with all of us taking a little dip in the ocean. 
Saturday three of us went into Nicoya, the closest big town of about 20,000 people. It's only 45 minutes- 1 hr by bus and less than $3 per way. There we were able to buy some of the stuff that isn't available here in Sámara, Nini and I bought a few new things for the kitchen (spatula, strainer and tupperware... woo!) The only downside is that we all got motion sickness on both ways of the bus ride, but luckily it didn't really amount to anything. Saturday night Nini and I had everyone over to our place and one of the classmates brought his guitar. We had a few guitar players in the group so we just passed around the guitar, sang, and had a good time. Sunday we all went to the beach for the day! We even had a local who helped us get coconuts and chop it open with a machete so we could drink the coconut water and eat the inside. So delicious, fresh and FREE! Later on we watched the independence day parade (celebrated today, September 15th) which was comprised of a small drum line of school children and local families carrying handmade paper lanterns which we're festively decorated with the Costa Rican colors, flags, etc. It took about 15 minutes for the parade to make a small loop around the main block in town.  Nini and I walked with the parade a had a great time! After that we met up at a bar for "free pizza night" where you get two slices of pizza with every drink you order. Quite the deal if you ask me. 
Now it's Monday and we're back to school mode. Tomorrow I teach my first lesson on my own and I couldn't be more excited! There's so much I still want to blog about but I'll save it for another entry. Until then, pura vida :) 

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