Oh good grief, I haven't posted here for ages. All right, hello, still in Costa Rica for another week, and just got back after spending three weeks in Ortega, a small town in the Guanacaste provice of Costa Rica. Actually, "small" doesn't really do it justice. It's a scant grid of three streets going one way and five going the other, dirt roads, chickens running everywhere, herds of cattle driven past every morning, and fifty-odd stray dogs because spaying and neutering cannot exist here.
I...wow. I don't even know how to address this. I mean, I feel like I've been there for years. Every day was like a week at home. I loved some parts and hated others. I can't describe everything. I'll just start listing stuff.
-I saw wild scarlet macaws in a tree less than ten feet away from me, on a day when I had forgotten my camera.
-Children threw rocks at all the animals, because that was how you treated animals here and because there was nothing else to do.
-My host mom made a homemade kind of cheese called guahala, or guajala, or gwajoula, or something like that, that was one of the most delicious things I had ever tasted.
-A man on a horse came around to deliver milk every morning.
-I have never sweated so much in my life. I would wipe my arms and immediately, immediately, they would be covered in so much sweat it looked like I had just dipped them into water. I strongly missed the feeling of just taking clothes off to change, instead of needing to peel my damp clothes off.
-We went on a boat ride on the nearby Palo Verde river and we saw tons of crocodiles and fed oranges to white-faced monkeys that hopped right onto the boat and onto my head.
-I need to learn how to make gallo pinto the way my host mom made it.
-Gallo pinto (rice and beans) is served as the main part of every single meal, including breakfast. When I told my host mom that we didn't really have rice and beans that much in the U.S., she looked horrified and asked me "What do you eat?!"
-Learning a new language makes you stupid. You find yourself saying things like "I like this food! I like this TV! The man on the TV is being very funny! He talk funny!" because you don't know what else to say, and every single conversation is an awkward guessing game. You understand two words out of any sentence and have to try to figure out what is being said, and formulate a reply, based on those two words. And, since you're mostly silent or talking like an idiot, well-intentioned people begin to treat you like an idiot. Lots of conversations where they do things like hold up a cup and say "THIS IS A CUP!/Yes, I know that's a cup./YOU DRINK WITH IT! DRINK! *mime drinking*/Yes, I know. It's a cup."
-Also, my host mom and her friends strongly adhere to the if-they-don't-understand-it-just-say-it-louder theory of interlanguage communication.
-Dora, the four-year-old niece of my host mom, mostly lived with us and decided I was her Best Friend Ever and we played lots of games that didn't involve much talking on my part. Her favorite phrase is "Molly, quiere jugar?" (Molly, do you want to play?) She's real rough on her toys, though. Broke a lot of 'em, and when I let her play with Nip, the beanie baby cat I brought along, she bit Nip's nose off when my back was turned. I didn't let Dora play with any more of my stuff after that.
-I went horseback riding up a very steep hill. I remember horseback riding when I was little. This was not like that. I felt like I was constantly falling off this horse, and the horse didn't like me and kept trying to bite me. It was still fun, but my butt hurt for a week after.
-Multiple classmates saw chickens and pigs killed in front of them. Most couldn't handle it, especially when they were offered chicken or pork for dinner later.
-I miss hot showers so much. And reliable water service. Water got turned off for no reason in the middle of the day when all you wanted was a shower. Three showers a day or more. It was so hot.
-Mamone (gumball) trees have hundreds of wild parakeets in them at all times.
-They cook meat with fat in Ortega, and my host mom would give me these huge hunks of ham sitting in huge pools of fat for breakfast every day along with the gallo pinto. It would just sit in my stomach like a weight for the rest of the day. I will not miss the giant chunks of fat-dripping meat at all.
-I was so used to seeing scared starving dogs in Ortega that when we came here to Playa Tamarindo and I saw a fat happy dog, I was shocked and felt like crying.
-I am really sick of people staring at me all the time and hearing people saying stuff about "gringa, la gringa" wherever I go and knowing they're talking about me. And the perverts who think American women are easy and yell stuff at you while you're walking by. Oh, and the guy who danced with me at the going-away party who seemed okay until he started leaning in and saying, in bad english, "I love you forever. I love you, baby. Pura vida, tuanis, eh?" That's not how you treat women, I don't care what the culture is.
-I heard howler monkeys every single day, and saw them a few times. They are tiny black monkeys that sound like huge homicidal gorillas, and they sleep on tree branches with all their limbs hanging down and it's pretty cute.
-Iguanas kept running around on the house's roof, making a racket like the roof was collapsing. Iguanas can really book it if they want to.
-There was no working shower in my house. Instead, there was a bucket. You filled the bucket up with cold water and you dumped it on you. I thought about Homestuck every time I had to use the bucket and kind of giggled inappropriately.
-There is no library, and people don't really read here. Everybody said that their host families gave them weird looks when they started reading something. My host mom, for the first week, seemed to take me cracking a book as an indication that I was bored, and so she would make me sit on the front porch and plop herself down next to me and try to talk to me until I stopped trying to read.
-GECKOS WILL NOT STOP POOPING ON MY BED. I never even saw these guys in my room. They were like little geckos ninjas. Every day, they'd come in, poop on my bed, and leave. I know it was geckos because I've seen them in other rooms and I know what gecko poop looks like. Yes, geckos are hella cute but NOT WHEN THEY POOP ON MY BED THEY AREN'T.
-I missed the internet so freaking much.
-I don't really have much of anything in common with any of the other students, and can't really talk with any of them. I've been very lonely, although I love the experience.
-Once I got my lines in Spanish down, I was able to do a pretty good job teaching the local kids about drugs and alcohol and getting them to laugh and have a good time. It's nowhere near as easy when you can speak the language, but kids are still kids, wherever you are.
-There were some messed-up group dynamics in my group. I'm not going into detail here 'cause I don't want this to get out and hurt anybody, but it was stressful and I'm glad it's over.
-People just walk around with machetes in the country. Big ol' scary machetes. They're tools for gardening and farming here. My host family bro climbed a tree and hacked down some coconuts with one. I kind of want a machete now.
-There were some really, seriously, horribly poor people there. There would be shacks that would be abandoned in the U.S., things that were ancient with rotting timbers and leaning and gaps in all the boards and not big enough to be more than one room and there is nothing inside, and people would be living there.
-I got so sunburned last week, and I am so brown now. I managed to avoid significant tanning up until then, but now..I haven't been this brown since I was a kid and didn't know what sunblock was. I am nervously eyeing all my moles in fears that one will suddenly sprout tentacles and turn into CANCER MOLE WRAAAAAGH!! Besides that, though, I kind of like the tan.
-I got stung by a jellyfish yesterday and may have seen a baby octopus in a tide pool today. This is not an Ortega thing, but I wanted to say it. Also, I am now ever more terrified of jellyfish.
-Gah, I don't know what else to type. Ortega was greatly interesting, but also depressing. There were very poor people and lots of problems and severely mistreated animals. There was also delicious food and laughing kids and a thriving culture. There were mosquitoes and huge bugs at all times and in all places, and little restaurant/stores called sodas or poupourrias that would sell you juice boxes for sixty cents or ice cream for thirty cents. I loved it and hated it and didn't want to leave and wanted to go home. I don't know.
One week left, and I need to write the final 15-page paper in this week, and start picking up all the stress I dropped off when I left for Costa Rica. I'll be glad to come back, even if I'm sad to go.
Unrelated: Yesterday I found out that the sequel to American McGee's Alice game is out. I screamed so loud that half the class came over to see what I was freaking out about.
NEED THIS GAME NOW.