New Host Family, First Chess Tournament, and Possibly Peace Corps Bound!

After my host family change in early September, I’m happy to share I have been living with an incredible host family! I currently live with a host mom and a host sister. Both of them are so warm and welcoming. Both of them have an incredible sense of humor and I feel very cared about here. I instantly made a connection with my host sister, who is 18 and studies Medicine. We like to joke around the same way I joke around with my sisters back at home. My host mom has also helped me navigate through finding the bus station from Heredia to San Jose, and even walked me to school my first day! Since my arrival to this new host home two weeks ago, I have been so grateful for how comforted I have been since living here.

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My goofy host sister, Jenny and I!

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My sweet host mother, Maria and I!

Gallo Pinto (a very traditional dish of Costa Rica and Nicaragua) and plantains (also very commonly eaten in Costa Rica).

Gallo Pinto (a very traditional dish of Costa Rica and Nicaragua) and plantains (also very commonly eaten in Costa Rica).

My host mom is so sweet. Recently, I had to go see a doctor for an issue I’ve been having. The doctor prescribed me medication to take once every night, and my host mom always prepares it for me and checks on me. It has made me feel so at home, and since my last entry, I’m pleased to say that my “mal de patria” has immensely diminished.

The weekend of September 10th, I attended a national university competition known as JUNCOS, where universities around Costa Rica compete in various sports, including chess!

How awesome it was to have experienced my first chess tournament in Costa Rica!

I was so proud of all my fellow group members who competed! A fun fact: Costa Rica only has one current grandmaster (the highest title a chess player can attain). A group member from my host university, Universidad Nacional de Costa Rica (UNA) actually competed against him and they had a draw (for those of you who don’t know, that’s a pretty huge deal!). I can officially say I know someone who has played against a grandmaster and who is also among the top players of an entire country!

JUNCOS Chess Tournament 2015! My first time going to a chess tournament! It was so interesting watching university students from around Costa Rica compete!

JUNCOS Chess Tournament 2015! My first time going to a chess tournament! It was so interesting watching university students from around Costa Rica compete!

Carolina forfeited during her game, but she played with such viciousness! We were all so proud of her!

Carolina forfeited during her game, but she played with such viciousness! We were all so proud of her!

On my way to the Chess tournament, I stopped Parque Espana (San Jose). It's my favorite park in San Jose because of how peaceful it is.

On my way to the Chess tournament, I stopped Parque Espana (San Jose). It’s my favorite park in San Jose because of how peaceful it is.

A member from the club, Roberto, also invited me to his home for a small gathering and chess. It was the first time in Heredia I felt like I had a group of tico friends. While I played a game with a girl from our group, the guys were singing Spanish songs. It was truly a beautiful night spent with good people, and the best game in the world. And as of two weeks ago, I finally won my first game of chess playing against my group members.

One of the best evenings I've had in Heredia--passing the time with music and chess!

One of the best evenings I’ve had in Heredia–passing the time with music and chess!

I have also become closer with a fellow group member named Ariel. Ariel studies Business Administration at two universities, including UNA and another one. Ariel is also studying English, which is remotely comparable to my level of Spanish. He has been so helpful and patient with helping me review grammar in Spanish, especially concepts I have been having trouble with. This past day, he helped me review ser and estar (very basic verbs, I know, but I still have some confusion about when to use es or esta for usted/el/ella)! My other amigo tico, Alejandro, joked with me saying he has never met a gringo who can speak real Spanish. When Ariel was reviewing es and esta with me, he jokingly referenced Alejandro’s judgment as I incorrectly blurted out:

“El es feliz.” (A poorly conjugated way of saying “He is happy.”)

“No!,” Ariel exclaimed. “Gringos say ‘el es feliz’–but you know better!” We both laughed.

And as for mi amigo, Alejandro, he will see how beautifully I speak Spanish come May! I am determined to prove him wrong!

Mi amigo tico, Ariel! I treated him to ice cream after he helped me with my Spanish grammar!

Mi amigo tico, Ariel! I treated him to ice cream after he helped me with my Spanish grammar!

My Spanish professor's family invited the entire class over for breakfast and class lessons in his backyard!

My Spanish professor’s family invited the entire class over for breakfast and class lessons in his backyard!

My Spanish professor's family invited the entire class over for breakfast and class lessons in his backyard!

My entire Spanish class! (We love you Professor Atturo!!)

Something I have also grown to love about Latin culture is the passion for dancing! I decided to take a dance course as part of my study abroad program. I enrolled not having much faith my two left feet would get me very far, but our dance instructor took us to a dancing venue outside our classroom as part of her evaluation of what we have learned. I was so impressed with myself and had such a blast dancing salsa, merengue, and bachata! My moves are basic, but it really is all in the hips! I also love that all my tico friends either love dancing too or at least know the basic moves because when we play chess, we will usually put music on and I love dancing bachata in-between games!

As of October 2nd, I officially applied to the Peace Corps to volunteer in Peru and Guatemala. I would just like to say that as a requirement to apply to these programs, previous college-level Spanish instruction is a requirement. So I owe a sincere thanks to Gilman for opening this window of opportunity for me, because without studying abroad in Costa Rica, this would not have been a futuristic opportunity. As of last week of August, I have been using my time for all my postgraduate applications. Being a senior in university is stressful, but finishing applications does offer some peace of mind. To any other seniors studying abroad right now, here’s to the possibilities which await us upon our return to the U.S.!

On a closing note, Costa Rica does not celebrate Halloween! So as of late, I have been contemplating how I am going to spend my favorite day of the year! I was originally planning to spend it with American Horror Story and chocolate in bed, but as of late, I have been on the lookout for children’s books in Spanish with a spooky theme. I have not had any luck but maybe I will find a translated version of Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark online!

Wishing everyone a beautiful October, wherever in the world you are!

Yours,

Alexandria

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Filed under Alexandria in Costa Rica, Central America

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