This post comes from Emily De Jong who is from Hamilton College and is a Biochemistry/ Molecular Biology and Hispanic Studies Major. Emily is currently studying in San Joaquin de Flores, Costa Rica.
The bright light streams in from the window near my bed. The screeches of the lizards, barking of dogs, and chirps of the birds fill my room. It’s 6 am, an hour before my alarm is set to go off, and yet it feels unnatural to be asleep with so much beauty and life surrounding me. I remain in bed a while longer, allowing each of my senses to experience this new place. “I am living with a host family. I am taking classes in Spanish at an institute. I am in Costa Rica,” I think, trying to ground myself as I prepare for the inevitable new experiences, challenges, and adventures of the day. I roll out of bed to look out the window, taking in the expanse of copper metal rooftops, colorful houses, and looming mountains in the distance.
The sun is brightly shining, and I am already hot. We’re in the transition period between summer and winter here in Costa Rica; a hot morning means a rainy afternoon. I make sure I have my rain jacket and umbrella, although I know that I’ll be soaking wet by the time I get home regardless. After getting ready, I head downstairs for breakfast: rice and beans, eggs, a plate of fresh mango and pineapple, and a large cup of coffee. My host mom, also called a mamatica, sits with me while I eat, and we discuss random thoughts about the weather, our differing cultures, or the other students in my group as they come to mind.
At 8:30 I leave the house to start walking towards the Institute. On this walk, I pass by colorful houses with gated patios and barking dogs. I pass by the other Ticos on the street, smiling or nodding or saying ‘buenos dias’. The smells from the family-owned sodas and fresh fruit stands tempt the coins in our pockets, but we know fresh fruit and coffee at the Institute await our arrival. As we reach the end of the road, we approach a large plaza of green grass, where elementary school children dressed head to toe in a soft blue play or sit with their parents and friends until the start of school. We turn, walking past the old stone church and continuing up the street until we reach the tall black gate surrounding the Institute and ring the buzzer.
The doors open, and we enter a tunnel of greenery, with branches, leaves, and flowers dangling down in our path. We exit this tunnel into a tropical paradise of trees and plants, colorful flowers, picnic tables, meandering walkways, and, of course, our various classrooms. Students trickle in through the green tunnel from their homes all over the city and flock to the table containing fresh fruit. The tables filled with students stumbling over a summary of their evenings and weekends in Spanish, each with a plate overflowing with fruit. At long last, we rush off to our various classes to slide into our seats just before the start of class.