Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Day 1: Arrival in an Unfamiliar Place

"The rewards of the journey far outweigh the risk of leaving the harbor." -- Unknown
I'm currently sitting here in my pajama bottoms and a sweatshirt. I haven't been like this all day of course, went out earlier in the day to a movie (saw "One Day," another great Anne Hathaway film!) and got frozen yogurt. A lovely day :) Anyway, a sweatshirt is a must-have right now because it is quite chilly... Oh, summer in the PNW is an interesting one, though I think now seasons are beginning to change...

Before time gets along, I want to write about what happened each day in Costa Rica. I am not quite sure how to do this but I guess I will highlight what we did each day and go from there...
With that said, let me take you to San Jose, Costa Rica... On August 10th, Mom, Leonor and I left PDX, changed planes in Denver and arrived in Costa Rica about 5AM. The flights to CR were uneventful, thankfully, and enjoyable. Two of my favorite parts of that journey: seeing Mt. Hood in such great detail and then seeing lightning storms on and off (more on the 2nd flight, the one to CR). I never knew lightning could be so many colors- I saw very yellow kinds, blue and white. It is amazing how something that can be potentially destructive can be so gorgeous from a different perspective...

When we arrived in CR, it was the start of a very long and fairly emotional day. As we waited at the aeropuerte for the taxi to pick us up, we stood outside for a few minutes. I watched the sky light up as the sun climbed higher in the sky. I also was quite intrigued with the different sounding birds that were all over the place. They made loud squawky noises, a reminder that I was somewhere totally new and unfamiliar.

When the taxi driver picked us up, we headed south to Cartago, where Leonor lives. The first thing I noticed was the strong smell of pollution as we drove through the city. As we drove through the main part of San Jose, I saw many buses, lots of people waiting for buses, and walking to various places. Most people I saw were dressed nicely since they were going to work. After all, we were going through the city early Thursday morning. Something else that fascinated me was how many people were out exercising. We drove past a big park area and I saw lots of runners. While we drove to Cartago I continued to see many people out running. As I learned later on and as I experienced, Costa Ricans make the most of the daylight. The sun rises around 5:30 and sets close to that time everyday. Thus, people have to take advantage of the light and that means rising and shining early.

We arrived at her house around  6:30AM and were greeted so warmly by Leonor's mother, Daisy. She said the sweetest things to us in Spanish (I understood a few words) and gave us big hugs. I was so touched from her kindness. We were then escorted through the front door, which isn't used that often (like us, they use an alternate door for daily business). Once we crossed the threshold, we also entered a whole new culture. And that began the process of immersion and and culture shock.

Mom, Leonor and I put our bags in our room and then sat down at the table for a breakfast specially prepared for us. One of Leonor's sisters and her mother got up very early to prepare a typical Costa Rican breakfast.

On the plate you see gallo pinto (beans and rice), scrambled huevos (eggs), fried plantain/platano (banana) and fried  queso (cheese). In addition to those foods we had papaya and fresh squeezed orange juice. What a feast! I was so overwhelmed just from the journey that it was quite the adjustment to have to eat new foods with people watching me. Thankfully I enjoyed everything but at that point was feeling so emotional (felt like crying all day - kind of like little kids when they get up from a nap and cry for no reason) and wacked out that it was difficult for me to finish everything. Oh well. They were incredibly gracious and loving. They just appreciated us trying their foods and were happy that we liked most of it. I loved gallo pinto!

After breakfast, I think we took showers and then went to the shopping center near Leonor's house. Mom wanted a calling card and we needed to get CR currency. We also went to the grocery store with Leonor, which was a fun cultural experience. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the different labels in Spanish, different products, saw several items that we have in the U.S., and seeing items labeled with the price (in colones).

Here you see Different: Liter bottles, Labeling: Colones price & Familiar: COKE! It is everywhere in Costa Rica.
We returned back to Leonor's home after the shopping adventure and rested for a little bit. Not long though! Oh what a day! This day seemed never-ending. I got increasingly more "zombie like" but managed to function-- that's just what you do; go, go, go!

In the afternoon, Leonor took us to see the Leonardo da Vinci exhibit. Crazy enough, this exhibit had been at OMSI over two years ago and I did see it briefly. At the time I was on a field trip with 5th graders and they busted through the exhibit in minutes. I always wanted to see it again but it didn't happen. So funny enough, I get to see this great exhibit again but everything is in Spanish. So both times I wasn't able to get much out of it BUT I was able to see everything again and thoroughly. I enjoyed it!! da Vinci is such an interesting individual.

Finally, the main event in the evening was that I got to meet Leonor's niece (my age) who I have communicated with off and on over the years. When we were younger we wrote letters to each other. At the time she was learning English so Leonor wanted her to practice. Anyway, I got to meet her and her two younger brothers (one is closer in age and the other is a little younger). At first I was overwhelmed in meeting them but then it got better. Eugenia and her brothers took me sightseeing around town. I got to see amazing buildings that are lit up at night- the best was Basicalica de Nuestra Senora de los Angeles (will be pictured below). Funny thing, I was a bit nervous going with them because of my limited Spanish but we had a great time. Eugenia is great with her English... And as soon as we got in the car, the brother closest to our age (Ale) started speaking a mile a minute in English! I thought, "What?! You speak English?!" haha Sadly, I couldn't communicate with the youngest but I think he comprehends English, just doesn't speak it. 

Picadillo - fine cut meat & vegetables  

After touring around town we came back and had a delicious meal... And eventually, I did make it to bed.

What a day and what a night! The day that never seemed to end. Whew. A great first day though! I feel so blessed for meeting the people I did- they have touched my life forever.

More to come on this journey.... Stay tuned! 

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