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Monday, January 27, 2014

Mamma Ticas

Since arriving, we've been hosted by two families. Our current accommodations are great, we've got a private bedroom, bath, and even our own dining table. We've currently got 8 roommates in what resembles a hostel more than a home stay (we join the family for breakfast and dinner, but otherwise we all stay in our quarters upstairs).

Though this is all wonderful, nothing can compare to our experience with our first Mamma Tica (a term for Costa Rican women--men are Ticos. These aren't derogatory terms but are used colloquially), Maria del Rosio. She was a gracious host and has found a permanent place in both of our hearts as an adopted Mamma for life.

Despite the language barrier, we learned that she was genuine, warm, welcoming, gracious, fabulously domestic, and kinder than we could have ever dreamed. We arrived late one Thursday evening, not having a clue whether or not we were even in the right place. Maria welcomed us, showed us our room, and even gave us some cookies and crackers before we went to sleep--we were so grateful.

On our last night with Maria we (well, Justin) made dinner for Maria, her husband Fabio, and our other three roommates--some lovely college students from Indiana. It was the first time we all sat at the table together, as we students were usually served before the family ate. It was great to express our gratitude, share a recipe, drink wine, and celebrate community. Afterword Maria stayed up with us and our roommate Mollie looking at our wedding photos, sharing stories about past home stay students, trading English and Spanish lessons, and really enjoying one another's company.

We owe Maria a visit (or several!) before we leave, though I'm certain it won't repay her for our warm reception into Costa Rica. Thank you, Mamma Tica! We love you!!

And now, some pictures from the home of our first Costa Rican family:

Our room

Pita, the oldest, most crochety cat you ever saw (he was 21)

Mellie and Diana, Mamma Tica's granddaughter and daughter

Mellie showing off the living room


Mellie sharing her sunglasses

and her silly faces :)

Maria, Diana, and Mellie

Fabio, Mellie, Maria, and Diana. Fabio LOVES this picture (and for good reason, too!)

Making dinner

Fryin' up the chicken tenders (they were SO good)

Our San Jose family: Ali, me, Justin, Maria, Mollie, and Chandlar

Friday, January 17, 2014

Costa Rica, Week One

We've been in Costa Rica for just over one week. What a whirlwind its already been! We have already taken tons of pictures, met many wonderful Costa Ricans and Americans, completed a few days of Spanish lessons, retrieved both of our bags from Delta (finally! It took four days for Justin's to arrive and seven for mine to get here), spent about $450.00 USD of Delta's money buying things we needed while we waited for our bags (ok--I didn't NEED the curling iron, but Delta deserved it! I hardly bought anything before I decided to get it!), and generally had a wonderful time. So far, we've traveled to Liberia, Curabande, San Jose, San Pedro (we live here--its a suburb on San Jose) and Cartago, a beautiful little mountain town.

Costa Rica is surprisingly not as different from the US as I'd expected. Don't get me wrong, the Bed and Breakfast we stayed at for the first two nights was completely Costa Rican, all snuggled into the forest, with a cacophony of bird songs to lull us to sleep every night, but San Jose? Its a city. And with that comes fast food, consumerism, high prices (similar to the US, much to my dismay), bad traffic, lots of restaurants, and generally people everywhere. I feel like there are less tress here than back home in Seattle. We did travel to a small town called Cartago on Sunday, but other than the journey there, even that felt a lot like a regular town.

Some things I love about Costa Rica:

  • Everyone is VERY patient with you when you **try** to speak Spanish
  • People are so polite
  • People have cell phones, but aren't constantly on them (except maybe on the bus)
  • Coffee flows like water
  • Speaking of water, you can drink it out of the tap here--wonderful!

Some things I didn't expect

  • People are really stylish here, even in the small towns. I never expected to feel like I needed to dress UP on a backpacking trip. I hope people are more laid back at the beach, where we'll be next week.
  • Its much colder here than I expected (I had to wear a sweatshirt and long pants today).
  • Cell phone plans are SUPER cheap (we're getting ripped off in the states)
  • For the most part, the showers are warm
  • It is very clean, no one piles up on motorbikes with their whole family and their dog, people are very educated
  • This is, in short, a developed country (if you ask me)

Later this week I'll write about our wonderful host mamma, Maria del Rosio, and how I wish I could pack her up and keep her in my pocket because she's just so sweet! Until then, here are some pictures:

Our "room" at the Bed and Breakfast, where we spent our first two nights.

This is Lola. She was more like a cat then any dog I've ever met. 

Justin by the pool

Cool street art in downtown San Jose

Beautiful old church in Cartago that was never finished due to earthquakes. 

The front of the church, including an odd obelisk. 

The view from my (Crystal's) classroom at Maximo Nivel in San Pedro.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

We've arrived

Hello all

Our phones don't get service but we arrived this afternoon. Both of our bags got lost in the shuffle so we likely need to stay in Liberia one more night and get our bags tomorrow or the next day. We are safe, stinky, tired (20+ hours of flight/layovers), and happy. Our hostel is beautiful--they even have up Christmas lights! We have a tent with big foam mattresses and can hear dozens of birds calling from everywhere.
We got ripped off by the taxi driver on the way over here but now we know better ;). Between or travel insurance and Delta, we will get some money to buy clothes and things for the next day or two. We have all of our shower stuff and the hostel provided cute little soaps and towels (thank god!)
The most serendipitous part of the trip so far was earlier today when our flight into Atlanta was considerably delayed. Once we landed and pulled into our gate, we had to switch because the retractible walkway was frozen. Justin and I had about 28 minutes to board our new flight and were certain we'd miss our plane. As our luck would have it, our new gate was the same gate we were departing from, so we had time to buy sandwiches and pee. The Universe is on our side!

Setting up for dinner

Settling In

That's Cookie. We hear she speaks Spanish.
During dinner Justin said he kept feeling like he should get up and help--This place reminds us both a lot of Molly Ward Gardens. Feels like a little piece of home.
We love you and miss you all