So far, Costa Rica is incredible! I arrived late Friday, after my plane was late taking off in Atlanta. Initially I was really nervous about leaving late, as my information packet said my ride from the airport in San Jose was not guaranteed if I was late! I had a glass of wine and felt much better. Sure enough, I was not able to find my pickup at the airport, so I found a Taxista who knew where the hostel was and off we went. I got there at about 10:00 p.m. and everyone was either sleeping or out dancing. I was pretty wired from travel so took forever to fall asleep.
The next day, Saturday, I met several other people at the hostel who would be traveling to Monteverde with me later that day. We went to Super Snack (not very Costa Rica sounding, is it?) for lunch and I managed to order off the Spanish menu. The problem was when the waitress asked how I wanted my huevos. Uh oh….this wasn’t in my high school Spanish class! Luckily she started giving me options. For the record, fritos is fried. Good stuff. We headed back to the hostel, which was in an absolutely gorgeous area. Everything here is so green! Because it rains….a lot. Anyway a little later we got picked up to ride up to Monteverde, the first place I’m staying. The drive was breathtaking-it is so gorgeous here! The first 2 ½ hours was highway driving and then we got off the road. The people of Monteverde have fought having a paved road here to keep the tourism down. Things here are so different....they're more concerned with the environment than with making money? Huh? It's fantastic. We gained a lot of altitude once we got onto the dirt road, driving up into and through the clouds, and every once in awhile we'd drive out of the clouds and see the mountains below sitting in them. I can't do justice to the beauty here, but will post a couple pictures. Unfortunately didn't get to take any from the van yesterday. Eventually, after some complications, I was dropped at my "family's" house. Maurin and Mauricio are the parents, and they have a 9 month old boy, Fabricio. We did some introductions and were able to make small talk (the what is your name, where are you from gig) but I wasn't really able to communicate more than that. We had dinner and I hit the sack early. All this Spanish stuff is hard work! It's really hard for me, being a chatterbox, to have a hard time communicating with people! Especially when you live with them. They're very nice and understanding (and good at playing charades!) but even though I understand most things, I can't tell them much!
Today I got up bright and early. That's what they do here. I walked to the school, saw the people I met yesterday, and took a written and oral exam so they could place me in the right class. It took a long time for them to finish testing everyone, but there is this fabulous plaza with coffee (!!) and it is covered but open-air facing a garden and with all windows on one side. It is a pleasant place to sit, and where I am sitting now, in fact! Once they had all the students placed we went to our classes. I am in a class with 2 other students and a teacher and a lot of it was more casual discussion than lecture, which was nice. Afterwards I signed up for all sorts of activities! Horseback riding, dancing, and best of all, a weekend trip to Volcan Arenal-the 3rd most active volcano in the world, according to the brochure! So I'll be pretty busy this week! Hopefully next week I can see the coffee plantation and do the Costa Rican cooking class. I just want to do everything here!
I'm actually having a lot less culture shock than I expected...I know Costa Rica is the most westernized countries, but still...walking to the school this morning I decided that I've probably never seen a single one of the plants I was walking by in my life. So that's kind of weird! But it has been fantastic so far. I forgot my raincoat though when I switched backpacks to bring my laptop to the school....so I shouldn't stay too much longer. But all is well, it's really easy to meet people when everyone here is pretty much traveling alone (one couple and one father-daughter pair here). The town of Monteverde is small and easier to walk than drive. Lots of my high school Spanish is coming back, too, which is a relief! I have a lot to learn though....oh yeah, and homework. Anyway drop me a line, I'd love to know how everyone is!