I’ve made it: San Jose, Costa Rica! I can’t believe I’m actually here. Compared to the 42 hours it took to get to Zanzibar, my 8 hour plane process felt like heaven. Besides a slight mishap involving the spillage of bright purple yogurt all over myself during my layover, the travel went smoothly and I made it to San Jose without a problem! Natalia, our TA, was waiting with three other girls outside, and we all took a small bus to the hotel that we’re staying at for our first two nights. Walking around the city in the evening, I was shocked at how urban and modern it is—I honestly almost feel like I’m in the US considering all the Pizza Huts and McDonald’s and even Dairy Queens that line the streets. However, there’s still a distinctly Central American vibe to the city in a way that I just can’t explain. Maybe it’s the bright colors of the buildings or the way they all have swirly iron gates or even just the smell of the air and the way that everyone is wearing jeans and leather jackets as they walk through the central square. MAJOR culture shock moving from Zanzibar to San Jose! Oh, and did I mention the city is surrounded by beautiful mountains?
The really awesome thing about my program is that we’ll get to experience all aspects of Costa Rica, not just the capital. Tomorrow we leave bright and early for our first biological station—called La Selva—which is a four hour drive and right in the middle of the rain forest! We move around about 6 times between 3 biological stations, the capital, and Nicaragua, so I’ll get to see everything from the rain forest to the city to the rural villages to another country altogether! When we do our home-stays for a month in the capital, we’ll take 5-hour intensive Spanish classes each day at the Costa Rican Language Academy. Today after orientation we headed over there to do a 15-minute oral placement interview that they are using in addition to a written exam to figure out which class is right for each of us. Oh my god, it was so embarrassing and hilarious at the same time. I’ve studied Spanish since I was 6, but after speaking strictly Swahili for the past 7 months my brain has stopped thinking of Spanish as my go-to second language: instead, it retrieves Swahili first! During the entire interview, I kept switching between the two languages, and eventually got so confused that I couldn’t even remember which words were in which language. Luckily my interviewer thought it was amusing, so she worked with me every time I had to correct myself. Anyways, I ended up doing much better than I expected so I was really happy to learn that all those years of Spanish really have ingrained it in me! In just a few minutes we’re headed out to a “welcome dinner” to eat some good old rice and beans- can’t wait to keep you all updated! I’m so glad to be back in Central America- is it possible to feel like I’m at home in three different continents? Pura vida, les amo a todos ustedes!