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La Vida Tranquila de Costa Rica

So here I am.  Sitting in the only air-conditioned café in Santa Ana, Costa Rica writing this blog while it’s a sweltering 90° outside and I have never been more content.  I’m one of the 12 Aquinas students here (the only male mind you) who are so blessed to be studying abroad in “the happiest place to live in the world.”  We bid farewell to our loved ones on January 13th and hopped on a plane to this tropical Central American country where most of us are taking 17 credits worth of classes. The following is a summary of the highlights of our trip and how our lives have been changed forever.

After our plane landed, we were escorted to our homes where we met our families who would be hosting us for the next four months.  It was immediately apparent that this wasn’t merely a job for these people, it was a completely new lifestyle that they were so excited to accept.  The overwhelming love and generosity of our families started on day one and hasn’t ceased since.  But more on that later.  In order to ease our transition, we visited Manuel Antonio National Park for our first weekend before classes started.  This is one of the most visited destinations by tourists and it was easy to see why.  Sloths littered the canopy of the tropical forest while Capuchin monkeys fought with raccoons over sandwiches left unattended by “los gringos.”  After hiking for a while we were greeted by the 6th best beach of the Americas- La Playa Manuel Antonio.  This is the beach that occupies daydreams during February chemistry lectures or during that third hour of a late-night quad.  The crystal-clear blue water with a gentle ocean breeze that whispers a welcoming invitation to jump in the lapping waves that softly kiss the bright white sand… I digress.  Needless to say, it made our ideas of paradise a reality.

Every single weekend consisted of a new adventure and the one that was most anticipated finally arrived- white water rafting on the Pacuare River.  Now, white water rafting isn’t anything that we can’t do here in the states, but doing it in what National Geographic called the best place to go whitewater rafting in the entire world?  That’s pretty special.  Our guide’s name was Roberto, although his fellow guides like to call him Osama Bin Laden for reasons we didn’t really want to inquire about.  But anyways our two boats with six AQ students in each began the 18 mile journey over 38 Class I-Class IV rapids with high spirits and dry clothes.  This four hour adventure consisted of holding on for dear life while still managing to haul our boat over the rapids forwards, backwards, sideways, and yes even while we were standing up (thanks Roberto).  Definitely something we will never forget.

These are just two of the plethora of thrilling activities we took part in and both are things that any “banana tourist” can do.  What we have the benefit of witnessing, is the immense sense of culture and pride that emanates from the people who call this place home- the tikos and tikas.  I’ve heard horror stories from other people who have studied abroad in the past to countries other than Costa Rica and some said that their host parents did the bare minimum to provide for their stay.  And knowing this makes me so incredibly blessed to be in a place where you literally are part of the family.  At least three meals a day are cooked for us daily, laundry is taken care of, our rooms are cleaned, our beds are made even after we’ve already done are best to make them PERFECTLY, we get to go on even more excursions because our brothers and sisters and parents want to spend time with us, and we are invited to every single family function that takes place.  What’s even more admirable than the pride they take in hosting strangers is the emphasis they place on family.  In stark contrast to the United States, children live with their parents until they get married and buy a place of their own.  They don’t look for the quickest way out.  And even after they tie the knot they look for the home for sale closest to where they grew up.  It’s a beautiful thing to walk down a side street knowing that every house on that street is owned by a member of the same family.  It’s so difficult not to go on and on about the level of happiness and love that sweeps through the towns of this indescribable country.  So I’m going to stop myself now and end by stating that if everyone knew to the fullest extent what the 12 of us have experienced thus far, Costa Rica would lose its sense of tranquility because every single person on the face of this earth would move there in a heartbeat.

If we left right now, we would bring back with us souvenirs for our loved ones, tan skin and light hair, but most importantly a longing to live a simple life.  One where insults were taken as a sign of love and the only thing you need to get you through the day isn’t Starbucks coffee or what’s his name on the Bachelor, but rather the anticipation of a beautiful sunset.  But we are far from being ready to leave so lucky for us we still have two more months of living la vida tranquila de Costa Rica.

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