Teacher Journal: Jodi
Taught in Costa Rica
Costa Rica, a country characterized by biodiversity and friendly residents, has provided me with the opportunity to study, work, and travel. The multifaceted culture and environment encompassed by this Central American nation have captivated my varied interests and provided many unexpected experiences.
My first week in the Central Valley, while I was taking Spanish classes, was full of constant stimulation and cultural experiences. Ticos really do eat rice and beans with every meal and the weather is not as hot as you may expect in the mountains of a tropical country, but the people really are as friendly as the guidebooks describe. My initial concern about traveling alone was quickly allayed as I began conversing with others in Spanish, and later TESOL, class, with whom I could discuss real issues with and who had a common interest in traveling.
As soon as you begin to descend from the chain of mountains that traverse Costa Rica the heat and humidity remind you that you are in a tropical climate. However, the clear blue water of the beaches of Manuel Antonio, walking through the national park surrounded by nature and wildlife, the weekend market on the boardwalk, and the concurrent ability to have all the comforts of home, make Quepos an ideal destination to receive your TESOL training. The most rewarding part of the program was the appreciation expressed by the locals for the free English classes they received in return for letting us practice our teaching methods. Outside of classes the other girls in the program and I took full advantage of the nightlife in the area, which provides a mixture of bars in the open air on the beach and air-conditioned nightclubs with live bands.
Although hesitant to leave my new friends, by this point I had become fairly accustomed to change. As soon as I returned to Heredia I met my new host family, who seemed as nervous as I was. Although it was their first time accommodating a foreigner, they treated me like family. After a month I had received massages and tea when sick, learned how to cook an innumerable amount of traditional dishes, elicited advice about local travel, and practiced my Spanish every day that I was not traveling to a new destination.
After a month of interviews and further training in Heredia I am finally settled in the small town that I had pictured from the time I began considering what Costa Rican life would be like. It is hard adjusting to life here, especially with the start of the rainy season, but I may never again be able to enjoy a ten minute walk to work, weekend hikes on an abundant number of nature trails within, and a beautiful view from my porch.
My journal entry on February 5, the day I left home for Costa Rica, ended with, "I think this is the hardest thing I have ever done, but hopefully that will make it the most fulfilling." While I don't know whether this has been or will be the most fulfilling experience of my life, the memories will last a lifetime and the experiences have widened my perspective on a countless number of ideas, issues, and viewpoints.