My first two weeks were spent in the "suburb" of Heredia, north of the capital city San Jose. Here I lived with a spunky grandmother affectionately called my "Mamá Tica." (Tica or Tico is the name for any and all things Costa Rican.) Since it is winter here, it means it rains everyday. I don't mind this, though, since I often check the Texas weather report and witness dry days of 100+ temperatures.
I attend classes Monday-Friday for four hours. Class sizes are never larger than 6 students, so I am always staying engaged and vocal. The school (interculturacostarica.com) also provides daily enrichment classes in Costa Rican dance, cooking and culture, which I attended often in Heredia. After enrichment classes, I would either meet up with friends for a chat, work on homework or hop on a bus to San Jose's rock climbing gym. Those of you that know me, I'm sure, find it unremarkable that I am willing to ride a stuffy bus 30-60 minutes to tear up my hands in a dimly-lit boulder gym for a few hours. As it turns out, Tico climbers are just as chill, inviting and crazy as climbers in the states.
The original plan was to spend weeks three and four at Intercultura's Pacific beach campus at Playa Sámara. I assumed I would take a 4 1/2 hour sketchy bus from downtown San Jose to the coast on the Sunday following my second week in Heredia, but while the school staff was prepping me and a couple Montessori teachers about to head to Sámara with their ninth grade class, my plans took a turn for the awesomer...
The Montessori group was heading to Sámara for their next week of classes, as well, but they were getting a shuttle to Monte Verde for the weekend prior. This was all I had to know to use my dimple powers to find myself a seat on their shuttle. Over the course of 30 minutes, I reserved a bed at the field station they were staying at, approved my spot in the van, sprinted 10 blocks home, packed my bags, scrawled a hasty, poorly written Spanish explanation to my Máma Tica, and hauled back to the school to jump on a roadtrip with 6 ninth graders and two vibrant teachers.
As it turned out, were were staying at The Children's Eternal Rainforest (http://www.acmcr.org/childrens_eternal_rainforest.htm) on of THE MOST biodiverse places on the planet. After an insanely beautiful drive, we hike an hour through the rain to the field station we would be sleeping at for the next two nights. The field station was set upon a mountain bald overlooking the regularly-active Arenal Volcano, or as we called it "The Lonely Mountain." It was absolutely breath-taking. At the forest, we went on a couple guided hikes (one at night) and were blessed with the fortune of getting to listen to a FASCINATING presentation on amphibian decline by the leading frog expert in the world. Never have I been so inspired and captivated by science! We also got to go rare frog "hunting" with two of the other leading frog experts and found a rare glass frog two nights in a row! We even got to see his little heart beating through his skin. On our day hike, I spotted an elusive umbrella bird as well. A woman that had been working the in park for 3 years had never even seen one! On that Sunday morning, we hiked out of the forest and head to Monte Verde's original zipline canopy tour, which was, of course, a total ball.
After what seemed like an entire week's worth of adventures, the group of my eight new best friends and I arrived by shuttle to our new home of Playa Sámara, and boy have I been enjoying the beach-life since then! Classes here alternate between morning and afternoon to allow for plenty of beach time around the daily rain. My new Famila Tica is wonderful, and I am living at a soda (small restaurant) on the beach with a large garden always needing to be weeded. I walk or ride my bike (loaned to me by a new Tico friend) down the beach to classes every day. My Máma Tica is an INSANELY great cook, and the coffee here has healing properties it tastes so good.
I am actually trying to arrange an extra week of classes here before returning to Heredia for three weeks of volunteering at a local school for my final 3-weeks in Costa Rica. As a surprise to no one, I have made gobs of new friends here from about 6 different countries and all different ages and backgrounds and have concocted about 4 more future career paths to consider. hahaha
Basically, life is the same as usual in the strange life of Audrey Speicher, and I am loving and breathing in every minute of it. It will be a bit of a shock returning to Texas after this whirlwind, but I already feel refreshed and ready to mold the minds of all those little crazies coming to me next year.
I can't receive calls, but can ring you in the US for free or would be happy to video chat or otherwise if you would like to talk/scheme/muse/giggle, so just get at me!
Until next time.... ¡TUANIS!