The following mid-program reflections were written by the Costa Rica students. Stay tuned for more over the next few days.
The past five weeks have been such an amazing start to what I know I will look back on as an unforgettable experience. From the nightly family dinners, to the weekly visits to nearby aunts, uncles and cousins, I have really become a member of the Fallas-Hernandez family. My mother, Mirna, is extremely pregnant and due to have her baby boy any day now. It has been amazing to watch her continue her daily cooking, cleaning, and general family managing even with her tired, swollen body constantly taking a toll on her. My father, is always practicing his English with me and always comes home from his work at the Supermarket each night with lots of goodies for us to munch on. My 14 year old brother and 10 year old sister treat me as if I am their older sister and frequently take me to the plaza to play futbol and play with all of the town’s children. At the school I have been working in the kindergarten with the “niña” there named Saray. It has been to be greeted by all of the smiling faces each morning. I am looking forward to spending the next 4 weeks in Mollejones and am not looking forward to the day when I will have to say goodbye.
These past five weeks here in Costa Rica have been an amazing and sometimes bumpy ride. I have been living in a beautiful town in the mountains outside of San Isidro called San Gerardo. San Gerardo is a small farming community with dusty roads that you can expect to be filled with horses and cows. I have been living in a small pink house with a family of all women. My mother, Sandra, is 31 and had her first daughter, Astri, when she was 16. Astri is 14 and has two younger sisters: Glori, who is 13 and Karolay, who is 9.
Besides dealing with the colony of cockroaches who have found a home in my bedroom, one of the biggest struggles for me has been to connect with my 14 year old sister Astri. I have never had any problems connecting with younger kids, but connecting with a 14 year old in Spanish is a whole other story. I pushed myself to find common ground between the two of us, by either translating popular songs from English to Spanish, or just even braiding her hair before school. I knew though, that we would have to connect over something stronger than Adele, and that was boys. So one day when we were watching some boys play soccer I took the plunge and asked her which boy she had a crush on. And although she hesitated and replied with a quick, “No one,” her surrounding friends immediately jumped in to the conversation, and I can assure that I am now caught up with all of the San Gerardo 14 year old gossip. But although this may seem like an insignificant encounter, it really made all the difference. The next day when I was sitting on the couch reading, Astri came and sat down next to me holding a book that had clearly never been read before and read with me. Later that day, I came home and she had her hair done the exact same way as me and when I saw I think I might have squealed. The biggest moment was when we were walking at night and I linked arms with her. Something I had been struggling with in the beginning was that I didn’t feel like I could convey me true personality in Spanish and I think that having my sister see me be goofy and interact with other people showed her another side of me that wasn’t just the awkward American girl. And even though these were all just small steps, I am looking forward to the next weeks with her and connecting on a deeper level. And, I will do everything I can to reach my ultimate goal at the end of my time here, which is of course, a hug.