Latin American Studies Program, Fall 2016
I have arrived and am now enjoying what will become the new normal for me here in Costa Rica. The Latin America Studies Program students all met together for the first time Tuesday night. Wednesday we had orientation and moved in with our host families!
My family is absolutely wonderful and they’ve adopted me in without any hesitation. Just like in the US I have two sisters here – Andrea and Victoria – as well as my Papa Tico, Marvin, and my Mama Tica, Xinia. The first night we went around the neighborhood meeting their family and at the end of the evening my Mama looked at me and said, “Eres Hannah Montero Barboza.”
Hearing her last name with my name has been so symbolic of my experience with my family thus far – I’m part of the family. Between the family meals, cafecitos, walks around the neighborhood, and evenings by the TV they’ve given me more than I can ask for. I’m learning what “Montero Barboza’s do,” like whistle loudly as you approach the house to be let in or link arms as you walk down the street because her family is always known for being together. I feel so special to be included in such a joyful, loving home.
Now simply because my family is wonderful has not meant a perfectly smooth transition by any means. Costa Rica is different from any place I’ve been before. I love difference theoretically but sitting in it takes some getting used to. Here’s my favorite story that epitomizes my attempts and failures, yet joy in being here:
It was Thursday afternoon. I was feeling a little bit overwhelmed and my go-to stress relief is running, so Victoria and I dressed and headed out to the neighborhood. Contrary to the popular notion that Costa Rica is sunny 24/7, it actually rains every afternoon/evening here; but the rain had already stopped. As we started running it began to sprinkle a little bit, and then a little harder, but we figured it was just a passing drizzle. It poured. It started raining so hard that we couldn’t run without falling and our 30-minute run turned into an hour-long walk in a torrential downpour. Victoria and I returned sopping wet with puddles in our shoes to my Mama Tica waiting at the door smiling with towels but quickly shooing us directly to the shower. We still get quite a number of laughs from this story, but it’s so characteristic of me. I try to do life exactly how I’ve always known, but here in San Jose, and it just doesn’t work out. But hey, now I understand the golden rule: “Siempre tenga una sombrilla.” Translation: Always carry an umbrella.
I’m sure as the days unfold I’ll have even more stories of blunders I make, Spanish words I butcher, and cultural practices I misunderstand, but I want to believe trying and failing is much better than never having stepped outside my realm of comfort. It also helps that I live with four patient teachers that never seem wearied from my questions or bizarre habits.
Hannah Gross, Wheaton College