Un Día en La Vida – Costa Rica

Lizzie Jespersen is a student at The University of Texas at Austin and an official API Student Blogger. Lizzie is studying abroad with API this summer in San Joaquín de Flores, Costa Rica.

It is 6:30AM when I wake to my alarm on a typical weekday, and when I am tempted to throw my cell phone in favor of morning bonding with my pillow, I’m reminded by the town’s own alarm of honking and activity that half of San Joaquin is already awake. If two months ago I had been told that I would be spending the first half of my summer waking up for 7AM classes, I would have gotten a good laugh out of the impossibility of it. Even more impossible is the part of me that actually enjoys my out-of-character life as a morning person.

When I finally drag myself through the motions of showering, brushing teeth, and dressing, I leave my room and get my first taste of morning sunshine. My bedroom is attached to this room, where my mama tica does the laundry in the sinks to the left. The room is open to the outside, and the tiny yard is where the parrot cage is kept and my mama tica hangs the laundry out to dry. It is also frequently my late-night obstacle course: after coming in through the front gate (which I lock twice behind me – security is a big deal here), I feel my way around the house and over wood planks to this entry so that I don’t walk through the main hallway and wake up the rest of the family. When it rains, as it frequently does here, I will sometimes perch at the table with a book and enjoy having the sound of rain so nearby.

My five-minute early morning walk to class looks a lot like this. I spend the majority of it performing a balancing act on the edge of where the road meets the dirt sidewalk, evaluating the pros and cons between getting run over (roadside) or getting my shoes muddy again (sidewalk). I also make a game out of counting the obscene amounts of honks and comments that I get from men who drive by – something that I am still trying to accept as just a part of daily life here, as any Costa Rican woman or gringa will confirm.

Really, though, this walk is one that I have loved since day one. By the time I’m Institute-bound, San Joaquin has already begun to stretch its legs, and I am usually one of many others making our morning debuts into the sunshine. My walk is peppered by teenagers on their ways to school, wandering dogs, the colorful houses, runners, discarded coconuts, and enough motorcycles to serve as yet another reminder of why I love Costa Rica so much.

To the left here you can see the gate to the Instituto San Joaquin de Flores, where I spent four hours in classes every day Monday – Friday this past summer session. The picture to the right is the entryway. The whole Instituto is so enveloped by greenery and flowers that it feels like you are spending your time in a botanical garden rather than a school building. There are tucked away benches and walkways throughout the span of the two buildings that create the Instituto, and every classroom or lounging area is open to the outside through huge windows or open doors. 

Welcome to Intermediate I & II, which I can thank for some of first semester’s most hilarious, frustrating, ADD-inducing, and bewildering moments. Oh, and I learned a lot of Spanish here, too. Our class was the Institute’s smallest of the session, so my three classmates and I were very tight-knit and comfortable with one another, which meant we were both comfortable using Spanish around one another and calling one another out for terrible logic during discussions (of which there were many, thanks to our professor’s passion for animal testing, human rights, and the whole spectrum of controversial issues). Weekly exams, presentations, arguments, fiestas, fieldtrips, and all, this class was an important part of my study abroad experience for the first session.

Our favorite part of the Instituto?  The masses of fresh frutas that are put out for us every day! I’m pretty sure that my fruit intake has at least doubled since arriving in Costa Rica, and the Instituto has been my main supplier. There is also coffee brewed every morning, and couches on this deck where a lot of the students lounge between classes. I’m guilty of falling asleep on one of these couches during one or two class breaks.

After traveling within different parts of Costa Rica, one quirk in particular has stood out to me in each of these places: the town church and futbol field are always, always, always adjacent to each other. This is fitting, as Catholicism and futbol are the two religions of Costa Rica. I have yet to walk past San Joaquin’s futbol field and see nobody on it, even if it is just a lone player. The square that contains the futbol field and the church are the centro plaza of the town, and many of the main stores and restaurants are just below it.

For somebody who wants to put off having children for as long as possible, I’m awfully obsessed with them. That must be how I wound up volunteering (read: getting dragged around in a whirlwind of tiny grubby hands, zombie games, tag, princes and princesses, and exclusive clubs) twice a week at one of the kinder (kindergarten) schools in San Joaquin. I have loved interacting with the children and seeing the differences in school systems between Costa Rica and the States, even at such a young level. It has also given me plenty of opportunities to laugh at myself and the fact that even these 5-year-olds are beyond me in their Spanish comprehension.

I would be misleading you if my day-in-the life didn’t include rain. Lots of it. As the one student “incorrigible” (not my choice of words) enough to neglect to bring, and then refuse to purchase, an umbrella, I consider myself an expert on this topic in particular. Other than the sky’s penchant for waiting until I begin to make a trek across San Joaquin to split open, I actually enjoy the rain. It’s constantly cleansing, refreshing, and giving new life to all of the beautiful green colors here.

Our favorite nightcap is tiny local second-story bar, which would be a relatively quiet tico haunt if it weren’t for us gringos. I wouldn’t be surprised if the majority of their summer income has come from our weeknight take-overs. There is amazing nightlife in Heredia and San Jose if you know where to look, with ticos and ticas abound, but when convenience and money were an issue, this bar has still been the source of a lot of great nights for us. 

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  1. It’s Beautiful place! Nice pictures! 😀

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