The Victories of a Foreigner

Trip Start Jan 21, 2013
Trip End May 07, 2013

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Flag of Costa Rica  , Province of San Jose,
Monday, February 4, 2013

We arrived at our home stays last Wednesday but it seems like we have been in San Jose for much longer.  For being so close to everything, I was surprised at how large and beautiful my house is.  The first conversation I had with my host mom was quite overwhelming.  Not only does she speak incredibly quickly but she doesn't know any English.  I panicked when I realized she couldn't tell me the Spanish word for something I didn't know.  She is an older woman whose six children are off on their own so it's just the two of us. Dinner was delicious but there was way too much food.  I explained that I don't need that much to eat but she hasn't really cut back.  

Thursday was my first day at the Costa Rican Language Academy.  My host mom accompanied me to show me how to take the bus to school.  I was pleased to discover that I had been placed in a class designed for those who are fine writing in Spanish but need to work on their speaking abilities.  The program is incredibly intense because we are getting college credit even though the class is only two and a half weeks.  In addition to the Spanish I'm inevitably learning in San Jose I also have class 5 hours a day, six days a week.  Becoming more fluent has always been a goal of mine but that doesn't mean I wanted to do a 20 minute oral presentation on the second day of class!

CRLA is a pretty big school full of international students.  They have been great at making us feel comfortable and helping us plan activities outside of class.  During the lunch break I found myself staring at someone who I thought looked very familiar.  I went with my gut and asked him if he goes to Holy Cross.  Sure enough we had met at our pre-departure meeting!  I couldn't believe I managed to run into someone from my small school of under 3000.  

Later that night my friends and I decided to venture out into the city.  Everything proved to be much harder than usual.  We had never called for a cab and did not know where anything was, including each other.  Also, the downgrade to pay-as-you-go phones has greatly slowed down texting and calling.  However, the night was worth the effort!

Each day has resulted in small victories.  Although these accomplishments are nothing more than daily tasks, everything is much harder as a foreigner.  I've gotten to the point where locals understand me pretty well; however, this leads to an overestimation of my abilities so they speak with the speed they are accustomed to.  

Whenever I struggle I get my friend to help because she's a native-speaker.  I imagine she'll view her Spanish-speaking abilities as a curse by the end of the semester.  After much practice, my friends and I have learned the ways of the taxis and buses.  While this is essential, it's much nicer to walk home from class when it's nice out.  Today we stopped at a cafe which is likely to become a daily stop on the long walk. 

I hope I get tanner so I'll blend in better.  Having blonde hair isn't exactly common here.  Yesterday a bunch of people from my group went to Jaco Beach and I definitely took that goal a little too far.  My Spanish professor enjoyed using my sunburn for examples in class today.  Despite the sunburn it was really nice spending the day at the beach.  Sure it was incredibly touristy but it was nice to see so many Americans and hear a lot of English.  The water was also incredibly warm.  I'm excited for what we'll do on the upcoming two-day weekend!

I'd probably have more pictures if I was carrying around my iphone around but at least I don't have to worry about breaking this phone.  I plan on bedazzling it and taking quality shots with its incredibly limited pixel count, much like the days of middle school.  
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