Wednesday, March 19, 2014
I can't believe that this experience is already coming to an end. I have so many mixed emotions about it; it's a very strange feeling. Don't get me wrong, Michigan is the best of the United States in my opinion, and there are so many things that I miss and can't wait to return to…but I don't feel ready to leave Costa Rica yet. It's really sad to think about the fact that I may never see the people that I see basically every day again. Especially speaking of the international students; there has to be at least about 100 of us going to the same small, two building school that are going back to so many different places. It's almost been three months that I've been here, and it's sad to think about having to say goodbye. I would love to say that I will return, but that's not likely to happen in the near future. It's a conflicted feeling when you feel like you belong in more than one place. I feel like I haven't had enough time to do everything. I'm scared to come back to the states because things are just different here. For example, you can travel for crazy cheap! Once I land in the USA, graduate, and start paying off debt, who knows when I'll get the chance to travel like this again? To people thinking of studying abroad in the future: three months is not enough! To Spanish students looking to fulfill the study abroad experience requirement prior to graduation: choose Costa Rica! I have been learning in depth about the different dialects throughout the Spanish speaking countries (in-class and by meeting people). Costa Ricans use a pretty easy-to-pick-up dialect of Spanish. And the accent isn't obnoxious or anything weird like that! Also, ticos are super nice, which makes it easy for practicing outside of class and getting yourself out there and making new friends. On another note, I think that having been here three months I can now explain pure vida. EVERYONE SAYS PURA VIDA! I'm kind of jealous that we don't have a phrase that EVERYONE says like it at home. It means pure life, but it has a bigger meaning aside from the exact translation. It's another way of saying my favorite phrase: "embrace the chaos!" It can also mean: "well, I didn't plan on this, but what the heck?" Some may like to relate pure vida to YOLO. People say pure vida all the time, arriving late, leaving early, saying hello, goodbye, what's up, etc. How cool that it's culturally a "thing" to say pure vida to basically anyone at any time. It's just like, spreading happiness to other people and being nice to others just for the heck of it. ¡PURA VIDA! P.S. I'm sorry I don't have pictures to post, my camera broke :(
Monday, March 10, 2014
For future students looking into this program, something needs to be said about the school. It´s very different from Central. Veritas is a small private school with an artsy crowd. There are the international students, most of us taking some combination of electives and spanish classes; then there are the arquitecture, graphic design, fashion design, film, photography, and animation students. The school only consists of two buildings for 2,000 students so there is a sense of community at school because you see the same people every day. My classes are really small, the most people being 7. It´s cool that the teachers here make an effort to tweek the curriculum to be as beneficial and applicable outside of the classroom as posible for the students. They relate everything to culture, reality, our specific fields of study or future careers, politics, etc. On the plus side, we go on field trips (of sorts). I´ve gone to La Basilica and some markets, and I have friends who study biology and climb mountains and go to the rainforest with their teachers. For Spanish students looking to get their study abroad experience credit: COME TO VERITAS! The intensive Spanish classes offered are great! My fluency has improved so much in the last two months: I have actually had a few ticos tell me that my Spanish makes me seem like a tica! HAHA! That is an awesome feeling for people studying another language. Plus Costa Rica has one of the best dialects of Spanish, it´s easy to understand and pick up easily. But here´s the thing: to have the best experience abroad you really need to immerse yourself into the culture so you can get something really valuable out of it. You have to embrace the chaos and get out of your element to learn and adapt. You learn so much doing this. Moving in with a tico family gave me a whole new perspective on Costa Rican culture. Even though I´ve learned from living in San Jose that city life might not be for me, that´s ok! It´s all a learning experience. And being down here offers the super cool opportunity to travel to beautiful places for crazy cheap. I´ve found that the majority of Americans that I´ve met here were visiting the country then decided to never leave. And then I´ve met other people that finally left the States and adjusted to the idea that the world is big and needs to be explored. It´s awesome seeing people flourish like that. You just start to think bigger. :) There is a sense of an oasis here, things aren´t really ´´time is money´´ oriented and it´s totally normal to catch eye contact with someone and exchange ´´pura vida´´, which says it all. I´m actually getting pretty nervous to come back to the States because the wavelength that Costa Rican culture is on has its perks in easy and happy living.
Saturday, March 1, 2014
I have been blessed with the opportunity to spend time with my parents in Costa Rica! They had never left the United States before so it is so cool for them to be here experiencing a new culture! We drove into the mountains to get to Monteverde so we could fly threw the mountains on a zip lining canopy tour. The longest line was over 3000 feet! It was a blast!!! It was hilarious watching my parents go first, my dad just about had a heart attack before he went but after awhile we were basically pros! The last zip line was the 3000 footer and everyone had to go in pairs. I went with one of the staff workers so my parents could go together. The view was more than beautiful, I could see over all of the trees and mountains it was so liberating. Then watching my parents was great because this is probably, in my opinion, the coolest and craziest thing we've ever done together. It was so adrenaline rushing and cool feeling like you're flying.
Wednesday, February 19, 2014
This last weekend I went back to Puerto Viejo on the caribbean side of Costa Rica, aka Rasta Town! But this time I traveled all on my own. It´s really cool that you can hop on a public bus and get across the country for only ten bucks. I suppose that there are places like that in the United States, but not so much in Michigan. I stayed at a hostel called Rocking Jay´s and I have never been anywhere like it before. It was right on the beach and basically integrated into the outdoors because I stayed in a tent for only 8 bucks a night. There were a few rooms, but most people stayed in hammocks. This type of hostel allowed me to meet some really cool people from all over the world. I especially became closer friends with a few ticos. I absolutely love when you first meet someone and you can just sense how genuine and similar they are to you, it´s like destiny or love at first sight in a friendship or tribe-like way. I basically spent the whole day Saturday reading from one of my yoga books and doing yoga on the beach. That night I ran around the town and beach listening to reggae (you won´t find any music genre different from reggae in Puerto Viejo) and having a gay ól time with new friends. Starting all of these new friendships got me thinking about people in general. At CMU we have a pretty big group of international students, but I have never really become friends with any for some reason. I had never really noticed that before. The ticos here are really nice and welcoming to us international kids here. They hang out with us and help us with homework and everything as if we were never going to leave. I had never even thought about doing that for international students in Michigan. It really makes you think about what it´s like being in another person´s shoes. I´ve found myself feeling really lucky having the opportunity to learn from people of all cultures. Especially so in Puerto Viejo, I met so many backpackers just dedicating this time in their lives to traveling and exploring the world with friends. How amazing! On another note, despite missing my dearest friends and family, it has been quite liberating being on my own in a new place the last two months. Basically without a phone or social networking tools, people have to come and find me instead of contact me from afar. It was weird at first, but I´ve come to like it. Especially after having started this experience on a heart-breaking note, it´s been great to find some peace of mind and grow by adapting to my environment and building up a new circle of friends. Now I would like to share something that I read during my chill beach day this weekend in Yoga, by Ernest Wood: ´´Independence leads to the greatest happiness and the most felicitous conditions of existence on earth. Health, beauty, peace, prosperity, and every reasonable felicity result from the same ethics, mental disciplines, and type of endeavor as lead to a future free from the restrictions of earthly life.´´ ¡Pura Vida!
Wednesday, February 12, 2014
Being in Costa Rica the last 6 weeks has taught me more about latin-american culture. There are a lot of little things that are accepted differently between Costa Rica and Michigan (I can't really speak for the entire United States). For example, punctuality. People in Costa Rica run on what is called "tico time" which means basically not on time. Very different from the states where "time is money". At home, I was always taught that to be on time was to be five minutes early; in Costa Rica, however, being ten minutes late is being on time. Not only does class always start late (which I'm not exactly complaining about), but in general people run on tico time. I find myself getting annoyed at times when it takes more than ten minutes for my coffee to be served and 45 minutes to get my sandwich, but it's just tico time. It's only a difference in culture and it is totally normal here to run on a slower and more relaxed schedule. Another thing that I've been struggling with adapting to is staring. I've always been told that staring is rude. But not down here. People will stare and stare for thirty minutes even after catching eye contact (when in Michigan people would usually stop staring). I feel strange at first but then I just think "it's just a cultural thing". It's bizarre how people do little things differently across the world. And the ability to be aware of these differences and accept them is something important. People should step out of their comfort zone and realize that "their way" or "their culture's way" isn't the only way. Instead of getting frustrated with the way people do things different from yourself just salute the beauty in all and say NAMASTE! On another note, I went to life in color last weekend. It was supposedly the biggest paint party ever. I have to say it was the most fun I've had since I've been in Costa Rica.
Wednesday, February 5, 2014
First of all, completely embracing the chaos as usual, I spontaneously decided an hour before the group left to sign up for the Panama trip. I have only been on one spring break trip in my life and Bocas del Toro was like a spring break town! It was different and crazy and awesome all at the same time. We got to the border to cross a bridge that was literally falling apart, there were loose boards and nails sticking out all over and I could have dropped anything and lost it for forever. This was the bridge that connected Panama to Costa Rica. It still blows my mind. We then had to take a boat taxi to the island where I stayed in a hostel with one of the coolest people I've met so far on this trip. This experience has given me the opportunity to meet people from all over the world, which is phenomenal. I learned that it is characteristic of Panama to have people dressed up like devils running around messing with you and whipping each other? ‘Twas different but really fun to mess with them back! The best part of the weekend was on Saturday when we went to the dolphin bar, they were so majestic. My roommate in San Jose taught me that dolphins have the exact same brains as humans, but with an additional part, so maybe dolphins are the mythical mermaids of the universe? Food for thought! I had my first experience snorkeling which was SO COOL! I also did some more meditating while floating in the ocean, it is my favorite! There’s no better way to meditate for me. We next went to a beach on another island to see a ton of starfish. On Sunday we went to Red Frog Beach in the National Park, although I didn’t see even one red frog. It was still really nice, the waves were crazy huge and were a blast swimming in and getting wrecked by them. I did some yoga and dancing in the sand then rented a hammock with a friend and drank coconut juice and just admired the view. There was this rock formation of sorts that the volcanic ash made and the water crashing into it was too cool and then it would empty of water in a waterfall like way. Guess you'd have to be there. ciao for now:)
Tuesday, January 28, 2014
¡Hola! I went to Tamarindo last weekend which is on the Pacific ocean. It was so beautiful! And really nice; kind of expensive because it was a bit of a tourist town. But the night life was alive and thriving! I met a lot of really cool people from all over the world. I learned how to surf so I can officially cross that off of my bucket list. "Check, check!" I'm not going to go into details on this for the entire world to see, because the circumstances of the situation were honestly pretty dumb, but I did witness and somewhat participate in saving someone's life in the Pacific ocean which was crazy. Below are some silly pictures of me and my new buddies Jen and Alex having a gay 'ol time surfing all on one board at the same time! :P