Hmm, where to begin with what I didn’t expect. I guess I’ll start at the beginning.
-I didn’t expect to sleep a wink last night…I did in fact get 4 hours of sleep however. I certainly didn’t expect to jump out of bed this morning and not actually feel tired until 8pm tonight.
-I didn’t expect to make my Philly to San Jose flight when the flight crew in Albany announced that they were de-icing the plane. I did in fact make my flight and had time to change out of my leggings and ballet flats and into sandals, AND call Jen, Evan, and my Mom. Great success.
-I didn’t expect to meet another girl on my flight who was from New York (Ro-cha-cha) and studying at UNA. We didn’t meet until the end of the flight, but it’s nice to already know someone. Plus we had great teamwork in getting bags, carts, and other tasks that are horrible to do alone.
-I didn’t expect to have trouble at the immigration desk…they had to double check my forms, see a return flight, I almost panicked. I need yoga. I feel like Costa Rica will have yoga somewhere. This makes me happy. I wonder if I could take a yoga retreat…can you imagine how peaceful? Okay anyway…
-I didn’t expect to see a younger (30s) male picking me up at the airport. I wasn’t aware there was a whole lot of family in the picture. My awesome 80 year old host dad, Leon, was there too. If he’s 80 I’m 10!
-I didn’t expect Heredia to be so city.
-I didn’t expect to have two bedrooms and an entire floor of the house to myself.
-I didn’t expect my host Mom to tell me she cooks, cleans and does all my laundry…plus addressed my fears of going out and partying and coming home late (“just take the RED TAXIS!”)
-I didn’t expect them to love me because I speak so much Spanish
-I didn’t expect to hear that they have hosted about 15 exchange students (and I believe rent out these rooms when not in student use)
-I didn’t expect to hear that their first exchange student married their daughter and they now live in Colorado (i think that’s adorable).
-I didn’t expect to be able to walk to campus after I saw where it was earlier.
-I didn’t expect the campus to be so large…or so ugly…sorry, I had to be honest.
-I didn’t expect Heredia to have that dirty, gritty, loud feel that I see in Central American cities.
-I didn’t expect to feel so sad or start bawling on the phone with my mother (that is going to be one expensive phone call).
-I DIDN’T EXPECT TO HAVE INTERNET!!!!!!!! Thank you whoever for letting me on your wireless….and thank goodness for a mac so i can rest easy about being on it!
Okay so where to begin?
I’m laying here in my new room for the next 5 months. Well, it might actually be 4.5. 4.7? Who knows. I guess to backtrack, I should give some depth. I arrived in Costa Rica at 2PM , met another UNA student while getting off the plane, and had a relatively easy time getting out of the airport and finding my ride. Easier than Chile, Argentina, and all US airports. My “brother” and”dad” met me at the airport…30ish and 80 respectively. We got in their honda and I felt like I was pulling out of the Managua airport, which made me feel at ease, comfortable, and strong. Pulling out of the Managua airport always meant something amazing was about to begin. I can’t tell you if I felt that way the first time, I’m sure I was nervous, but I don’t recall. Feeling the hint of similarity in this situation however, made me feel right at home and downright excited. I love the buzz of Central America. The crazy traffic, the landscape that most would deem bleak since they don’t look past the cosmetic. I love that so much of Central America is, well, ugly, draped with gorgeous mountains in the background. I even love the trash that’s everywhere (yes I know it’s bad for the environment, it’s just part of the package with me). I love the smell, I love the vibrance. So driving “home” I was happy. Turning into Heredia surprised me. The city was much larger than I had expected and given that I had heard it was a bit of a dive for entertainment, really didn’t expect much. Instead, college bars were pointed out to me and the typical sites mixed with surf shops provided a rush of excitement.
Getting “home” was even a happy endeavor. I mean this house is pretty alright by Central American standards. Two floors, nice kitchen, dining room, sitting room, living room. Airy downstairs, pretty garden backyard. A small dog out back. Pretty okay in my book. My “mom” seemed nice, and she was also excited at how much Spanish I spoke. Feels pretty good to have Costa Ricans tell you your Spanish is great. I’m still just brushing the dust of though, just they wait.
After a lunch of beans, rice, fish, and salad (hello perfect), we talked and my “mom” asked if I wanted to rest or take a walk. Okay, given my 4 hours of sleep (I didn’t sleep at all on the plane), I really should have said rest. But hell no! I’m in Costa Rica, it’s sunny and warm, I want to take a walk! She walked me to campus which is about a 15-20 minute walk. It’s bumpy and traffic laden, and I feel that I might be fearing for my life or at very least risk of tetanus each day I walk, but I’m thrilled I can walk to school. What a great way to start the day…sun in my hair, a little “exercise” if you call it that. Granted, I’m not excited to return to the land of cat calls, stares, and other things, but I realize my blonde hair set me up for that at birth.
After passing burger king, taco bell, pizza hut, and mcdonalds, campus was in front of me. Okay, I’m not going to lie…for someone like me who loves things to be aesthetically pleasing…not good. As I walked deeper in however, I saw some patches of grass that resembled the beloved quads of Roanoke College, and i felt a little better. However, I think the discomfort was setting in. Maybe it was the small-talk, maybe it was my need for beauty, maybe it was the fact that it’s a Saturday and I saw lots of kids out sitting at the bar having a beer and I just wanted to be doing that too, or maybe it just finally kicked in that I’m here for 5 months. I started to feel down. I controlled it well. I examined the stores, the casino, the bars, all the places I’m sure I’ll be frequenting often starting Monday, but it wasn’t helping. The bus ride did little to help too. I couldn’t decide if seeing a Wendys was a good thing or a bad thing.
I went upstairs to my room to make the promised, costly, phone call to my mother and tried to hold it together…but it’s my mom, and I’m a bit homesick, and the floodgate opened. It’s not that I don’t want to be here, it’s just a big change. I was looking around this empty room and feel like I was stuck here, and I felt lonelier than I’d felt in a long time. I miss home, I miss my bed, I miss my parents, I miss my dog, I miss my job, I miss the ease of things, I miss my friends, and I miss having the world at my fingertips all the time. These are all things that will fade with time, but tonight, all piled together, they felt terrible.
So I cried. I cleaned myself up the best I could and rejoined my “mom” and “dad” but like any good parent, they knew. I respected them more for knowing, and even more for understanding. They knew I missed my mom, and of course my mom missed me. When their daughter left, Zaidy (my host mother) was a wreck. So I calmed down significantly, knowing they’d seen this same hurt in 15 other students, all of whom made it out alive. I gave them their gifts, and after some talk, excused myself for bed.
As exhausted as I am, I knew one thing that would help. Unpacking. I hung clothes up in my room, I laid my books out on the shelf, I plugged in my clock, slung my jacket over a chair, and then it felt a little better. The walls are still pure white, but it was an improvement. I wanted to stop unpacking but every time I tried, I wanted to keep going. I lined my shoes up, I folded and sorted my clothes and laid them on the shelves, and I placed my things in the bathroom. I’ve learned this about myself…I need to make things feel like a home. I go crazy if I live out of suitcases, and if I feel like a visitor in my own room, I’ll never get by. I have to nest I guess. The last thing I did, and this is a little weird, I changed the sheets and put my own set on. I felt like I needed one thing that felt like home. Great decision. Great decision to bring my prayer shawl/glorified teenager blanket as well. So I’m not fully unpacked, but I’m close. It feels better.
I turned on my computer simply to maybe write an entry in word, and imagine my surprise when…I had internet!!! A small little thing that seriously made me feel so much better. Knowing that everyone was an e-mail or a skype call away just made things better. I expect some sadness tomorrow, but as my host parents said, by Monday when I’m meeting all the other kids, I’ll forget I was ever sad.
So yes, I’m humiliated. Big adaptable, international relations, independent katie broke down and hurt. But I guess if I didn’t, there might be something emotionally wrong with me since this is pretty much the first time I cried. So now I’m in my new bed, listening to car alarms, cicadas, music, and babies crying, and trying to grasp that this is my life until June 19th. How bizarre.