Week three was an exciting and bittersweet week for the students. They have been ziplining and they got to spend another week with their homestay families. They also got to participate in more service around the community like hosting a morning of fun and games for local children! However, this was also when they had to return back to campus at the end of the week. They really are becoming more integrated and involved in the surrounding community, which makes San Luis feel a little more like home everyday. These are some excerpts from the students’ blogs for their service learning class, reflecting on their experiences this week in service and in homestays:
“Sunday was the happiest day with my host family. Everyone was either
outside walking, playing cards, invested in conversations, cooking and
eating, or watching the superbowl (Madonna put on a great half time
show.) I felt like I was at a summertime party with my own family.
There wasn’t a moment of discomfort even though I barely spoke the
language that was spoken the majority of the time. Next week is Alex’s
(their son) wedding. It is 20 minutes away at a bar in Guacimal. I am
invited, and the bride to be requested that I be the photographer. I
am so grateful for how effortlessly I have been accepted as a part of
the family. These people knew nothing about me 2 weeks ago, and now
they truly care about me. Aidee (my Costa Rican mom) has the biggest
and most open heart. She cares passionately about people, animals, and
the land. Simply being around these people is making me a better
“So I don’t even know what number day this is, but I’m writing as a final farewell to my wonderful Costa Rican family. I just finished my very last day with them and I feel so sad just thinking about how I won’t be able to wake up every morning, stumble out of bed with crazy hair and sleepy eyes and hear Marina tell me “usted es muy linda.” (you are very beautiful). They have treated me just as I could have ever asked for. From putting up with me being sick, leaving me be when I need to sleep, looking over my shoulder as I do my homework and correcting every Spanish mistake I made, to really welcoming me into their family, teaching me to cook, to ride a motorcycle (as of today), to play even when I’m exhausted and letting me win at “make pairy” for once. (which is a SUPER fun card game I plan on teaching you guys back home; they mean to say, “make pair.”) Entering into this program as a whole I never really gave the homestay process a second thought. I didn’t think that it would be a big deal or effect me that much, I could not have been more wrong. The experience has taught me to be independent, to fend for myself when literally no one around me speaks a lick of English and to open myself up into a family so differently, culturally, than mine. I am so thankful that Marina works at UGA and I can see her everyday and Emmanuel whenever he comes and plays soccer. As for the rest of my family, they have already welcomed me into to coming to visit any time and they’ve offered to stay here when I have my second homestay later in the semester.
Like anything there were definitely bumps in the road, but I think that they teach us a lot and make us smarter and stronger. Por ejemplo (for example) in terms of improving my Spanish (which still needs a TON of work), I’ve gotten so good at, at least, trying to get my point across.”
“With dirty hands and sweaty clothes we returned to campus. Working at Don Victor’s coffee farm was a great experience because it really contrasted the work we did at the nursery. Farming isn’t all intricate and time consuming working, like weeding, it is also grueling and powerful lifting that may not take long, but expends a lot of energy. No wonder Costa Rican’s are able to eat large amounts of white rice 3 times a day, everyday, and stay fit. This lifestyle of hard physical work is gratifying, and the dirty hands it produces are something to be proud of.”
“The last day I spent with my Costa Rican family we went down to Guacimal to the river. On the river bank there was a huge ledge that my host sister Estephanie and her cousin Silvia were having a great time jumping from. I was terrified to jump in; there were some dangerous looking rocks in the river. As I stood there debating whether or not I should jump, Estephanie came up to me and said, “It’s okay. Just jump. It will be fun.”
My time in Costa Rica has been all about taking reasonable risks and having new experiences. Sure, there have been challenges, from cold showers to large insects, but the rewards have been huge. This trip, and the homestay in particular, is an opportunity to try new things and to really be engulfed in Costa Rican culture and family life. On Super Bowl Sunday this year, I went out to a bar with my Costa Rican host family and watched a riveting game of futbol, the Americas favorite past time. Now at first I was a bit upset. I don’t know anything about soccer, and I absolutely love American football. In fact, I haven’t missed a Super Bowl since I was thirteen. But then I remembered, I am in Costa Rica. Costa Rica. I can watch Super Bowls in the US every year for the rest of my life, but when is the next time I will be able to watch a soccer game in Costa Rica with a wonderful family, patient enough to explain to me what is happening? After giving myself this little reminder, watching the game really was great fun. I didn’t know which team to support, but the excited cheering and yelling was contagious. When I look back on this day, I will not think about how I missed a Super Bowl, but rather how much I enjoyed that time with my host family. I am beginning to find that life outside of my comfort zone isn’t so scary. It’s actually pretty great once I dive in.
Just for the record, I did end up jumping into the river. It turns out those rocks weren’t so dangerous after all. And just like Estephanie said, it was fun.”