While Chelsea had to head home early due to a knee injury, she shared this reflection on San Antonio de Rivas with us.
There are 25-35 families (depending on who you ask) in San Antonio de Rivas. This method of counting families instead of individuals didn’t make sense to me until I arrived in town and realized that it wouldn’t make sense any other way. There is one road that runs through San Antonio which is paved about half the way up the hill and a quarter of the way down, but peters out into red dirt and rocks in the middle. Like branches on a tree, houses extend from this road and inside live hermanos and hijas and tíos and nietas and abuelas and many, many, many primos. You see, San Antonio is less of a small town and more of a large, extended family; my host mother said that there were “algunos pocos” that weren’t related, but I never met them.
The green mountains around San Antonio look like a storybook and coffee beans grow along the road and in lieu of a street address, my host family receives their mail at 100 meters from the soccer field. Birds fly into and out of the houses in the space where the walls don’t quite connect to the ceiling and there are always cows that need milking and early-rising roosters (and canaries) wake up even the soundest sleepers and no matter which house you visit you will always be offered a cafecito and possibly fried plátanos. On these visits (and Max and I made many of them during our first days in town) the families would inevitably ask: ¿los chicos? Están contentos? As nervous as our students were to arrive in a new town, the families of San Antonio were just as nervous to make sure they were happy here. We always assured them that yes, yes, absolutely the chicos were contentos, more than contentos. I said that San Antonio was special because of the family, and our students are so fortunate for the myriad lovely, idiosyncratic ways that the family has opened to them.
Damaris shows her love for Efren and Mike through food and Andrea likes to do Carly’s make up (although Emma’s too quick for her) and Juan and Soren’s host sister, Irene, will follow them up and down that hill wherever they go. Zoe and Abby’s host family gathered for Shabbat last Friday; although they didn’t fully understand the ritual they knew it was important to Zoe. Daisy, Makayla and Caroline’s host mother, taught them how to milk the cows and Jolene and Melissa’s host siblings keep them up always a little longer to play games or practice that day’s English lesson. Berta taught Carmen and Samantha to make cheese and made it clear from the beginning that two weeks are simply too short so whenever they return to Costa Rica they will have a home with her.
I left San Antonio a week ago after a knee injury forced me to return home for surgery. On my last night the students pulled off a surprise party with the whole town. Berta made a cake and the students made cards and hung tinsel (the only time my July birthday has been celebrated with Christmas decorations). Even the abuelos stayed out past their 8 o’clock bedtime, although they cleared out pretty quickly once the strobe lights came on. After the party Max played guitar on Felipe’s field and we sang along when we knew the words and one-by-one dropped off to sleep under the stars.