Pura Vida 1: June 8, 2005

This “Pura Vida” series is a set of e-mails I sent around to my friends and family when I was traveling and living in Costa Rica in 2005.  I made no edits, just simply wanted to post them here to get my little travel blog started…

This is from June 8, 2005.

My new house in San Jose, Costa Rica

I moved in with my host family this past Sunday morning after my brother/ travel companion left to go back to San Fran.  I was picked up by a friendly Tico (what the Costa Ricans call themselves) named Wilber who took me to my new house.  When he first came to get me, he spoke to me in Spanish and I answered him back in Spanish.  Thinking that he doesn`t speak English, I tried my best Spanish on him and all the way over to my new house, we spoke in Spanish….  only to find out later that his English is

nearly perfect!

Yahaira's studio downstairs

Well, it was good for me to get started in Spanish as my hostess does not speak English at all.  I was very lucky to get a great hostess.  She lives alone (with a small dog named coqueta) a block away from my school.  She is a beautian and she works at home.  Her beauty shop is set up downstairs (where your livingroom would be) along with the kitchen and a bathroom, and there are two rooms upstairs with a full bathroom.  She set up one of the rooms for me with a double bed, a night stand, a LARGE closet with locks, and a small TV.  I tried to watch CSI last night.. in Spanish.  I understood next to nothing.  Anyway.  She is my age!  She started her business about a year and a half ago, after working at a salon for someone else for 6 years.  She is from Nicaragua and because she worked at an Italian restaurant in San Jose, CR for 4 years when she first moved here, she speaks Italian.   She`s very sweet and is, extremely fortunately for me, a good cook.  I´ve had really great meals and she makes sure that there is some kind of fruit or a salad at every meal. We talked about how we both like to cook.  She is planning on making me her lasagna next week.  I am also very lucky in that there is no shortage of hot water and the water pressure in the shower is good- it is afterall, a beauty salon.  Most of the other students talk about how they miss having a lot of hot water at their host homes…

My Spanish school in Costa Rica, Intensa

Now, my school.  It`s set in a residential neighborhood and is actually quite nice. Because INTENSA (the name of my school) has a relationship with Texas State University in the U.S., there are a lot of students from that school here trying to get Spanish language credits.  I have, however, met some really interesting people and we`ve been trying out different local restaurants for lunch everyday. My lunches have been anything from a quiche with a small salad to a plate of grilled chicken with rice and beans…  all for less than $3. On Monday when I was registering for my classes, I met a guy named John who appeared to be the only person who`s older than me.  In fact, he is the only person older than me here.  He is travelling through Latin America with his daughter, Stephanie, who is a Fulbright scholar.  Stephanie will be dancing with a Costa Rican modern dance company for a few weeks and while she`s doing that, John is taking some Spanish classes.  They are here in San Jose until next Thursday and then they are going to Panama.  John is a lawyer from Boston (he went to Harvard law with Joel Klein) and is interested in everything Latin American.  Since his daughter has a dance practice this Saturday, he and I are planning on going to a few museums together. I´ve also met a nice Korean guy whose Spanish name is Salvador.  He´s been here for the past 2 months and is working/ interning for a company here.  When my teacher found out that I was Korean, she immediately took me across the school yard to make an introduction. Very funny.  Salvador´s Spanish is really good (he said he also studied it in college) but since he doesn´t really speak English and my Spanish isn´t very good, we communicate in Korean.  He´s planning on being here until September and he promised to take me to to a few Korean restaurants in town.  He told me today that there is a Korean restaurant run by a Korean grandma and her food is good.  Yum!

My classes have been challenging but really interesting.  On Monday they gave me a placement test- a quick question and answer session in Spanish- and I was placed in level 5.   I guess I learned a lot more than I thought in my 30 hours of classes at the Cervantes Institute. There are 3 of us in my class and we study for 4 hours in the morning (8AM to 12PM) and then again from 1PM to 3:30PM.  By the end of the day, my brain is all jumbled up and fried.  BUT, ìt really is a lot of fun and like a big nerd that I am, I`m really enjoying it.  I try to use a new vocab word or a new tense or a phrase with my hostess when I get home.

Believe it or not, I practiced yoga almost every other day while I was traveling with my brother and I´ve been doing it everyday since I moved into my host home.  Thank you Janice for the yoga book and the yoga cards!  I was surprised to find out that a guy in my Spanish class also does yoga (he´s memorized his yoga tape and he does it at home every night) and there is woman (a student from the U.S.) who is a yoga instructor back home.  We are going to try to get a class together here at the school for those who are interested.

OK.  That’s all I have on my school so far- it`s only been 3 days afterall.

I was going to write you about my trip around the country first but the whole e-mail ended up being about my school.  I´ll write you separately about my trip.  It was really amazing.  I´ve never seen so many shades of green.  Stay tuned.

By the way, it´s rainy season here and it rained on Sunday and again yesterday afternoon…  for hours and hours and hours.  It´s the kind of rain where no matter how big and strong your umbrella is, you get soaked within 30 seconds.  It´s truly incredible.  I hid out under a roof of a restaurant for a few minute yesterday afternoon for the rain to subside a little.  Even a local woman came over to hide for a while but after about 5 minutes, we both knew that it wasn´t going to stop. We ran as quickly as we could with our useless umbrellas.  I´m surprised that this whole place isn´t completely under water. But the next morning, it´s as if it never rained at all.  The sky is as blue as can be and it starts all over again.  Just incredible.

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