Monday, February 6, 2012

Estoy aqui

And so my next adventure in Costa Rica begins! I am usually horrible at keeping a diary or staying in touch when traveling, but am I going to do my best to keep up with my blog. I arrived in San Jose two days ago, the city where colorful tropical trees contrast with barbed wire and graffiti, where traffic laws are just a suggestion, and street signs are nonexistent. I stayed in the same hostel where I did for two weeks this summer. The only faces I recognized were Claire the cat and Sonia the maid; most of the staff has changed. It was still nice to stay somewhere familiar, though. I felt preemptively homesick and nervous a lot during the last few days before leaving Arizona, but that all disappeared once I got here. “You're traveling alone? Isn't that scary?” a cab driver asked me yesterday. I shrugged and replied, “No, not really.” Traveling far from home by myself feels rather like jumping into freezing water. I just have to close my eyes and jump in, then I adjust pretty quickly.

The hostel is in an old house that the owner inherited from his aunt. It was built in an elegant 1930s style and seems to attract more than just your average tourist. I had dinner in San Jose with a goofy guy from Texas who is here for nine months to teach English and a conservation biologist on his way to work in Panama. He was hired by Tortugero to coordinate a project in Bocas in which local people will be trained to monitor the sea turtles and show them to tourists. The idea is to prevent local people from harvesting the turtles or their eggs by instead setting them up with jobs that benefit the turtles. I learned about a similar project in Kino Bay, Mexico when I studied there last year. I love meeting fellow nerds. He and I had a lot to talk about and learn from one another. It was also exciting to see a glimpse of where my career might take me after I graduate this May. The biologist has traveled all over Central America working on conservation projects. What a life!

I took a bus yesterday from San Jose to Quepos, on the Pacific Coast. We wound through the forest, getting lower and lower and hotter and hotter as we approached the sea. It is going to take a while to adjust to the heat. Its in the mid-nineties during the day, plus a decent helping of humidity on top of that. It is crazy to think that just a few days ago I was watching snow fall outside my window in Prescott as I packed my bags. Yesterday I met the family I am going to be staying with for the next three weeks. Kattya, a kind lady with an easy smile, met me at the bus station and took me back to her home. It was not what I was expecting, based on my previous home-stay experiences. She and her husband Juan own half an apartment building. I have a whole room upstairs to myself, complete with a bathroom and little kitchen. When staying with other families the experience was much more cozy, staying in a spare room of the family’s home. I will definitely appreciate having my own space while still having meals and socializing with the family and other students. There are two other students staying here right now, a German couple named Haike and Yügen (I am completely guessing at the spelling). I also met Kattya's two sons and Pinky, their boisterous little Chihuahua. Thanks to him I learned a new word from Kattya: “ruidoso,” or noisy.

Bright and early today I took a bus to Spanish school in Manuel Antonio, the neighboring town. I am grateful that for now the traveling is over and I will be able to get to know this area a little. With lush tropical rainforest bordering one side of Quepos and Manuel Antonio, and the ocean on the other, its not a bad place to be. I was a little apprehensive about taking Spanish classes again for the first time since I was a junior in highschool, but today was pretty easy. We went over a lot of things I already know and many more that I had forgotten. I hope that class gets more difficult soon, but for now it is good to review and fill in the gaps in my knowledge. My goal is to be nearly fluent by the time I return to the states in April. Being able to communicate in Spanish will also be very important to my senior project in the Osa Peninsula. Right now it feels like that is forever away, but I know that three weeks will fly by before I know it. Then I'm off to a different piece of paradise.

P.S. Mystery Science Theater 3000 is on google video! Amazing.

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