I can’t quite fathom the fact that this past week marked one month since I arrived in Costa Rica. I can’t begin to express how much I have learned and grown in this last month, nor can I put to words the beauty I have encountered on my travels so far. But, in the very least, the last four weeks have brought me closer and closer to calling this place home.
Part of the program fees – which I guess I can’t be mad at for being cheaper than actual tuition in my US University – covered three pre-planned excursions, as well as an optional day-trip excursion the first weekend: white-water rafting down Río Pacuare to the east of San Jose. The first full excursion took me to Arenal Volcano, where I explored caves, hiked, and swam in La Fortuna waterfall. The following weekend I drove farther west to Monteverde, where I warmed up with zip-lining and a Tarzan swing in the morning followed by the highest bungee jump in all Latin America, 470 ft. With each excursion I crept that much closer to the Pacific, the beach. Seeing as I’m from San Diego, California, I was coming home.
I looked forward to the fourth and final excursion since I first learned of it. We would travel to Tamarindo, and I would get my wish of seeing my first Costa Rican beach after living here a full month. Arriving that Friday night, I meandered onto the beach after dinner at the hotel and dipped my feet in the familiar salty surf. I couldn’t help but feel accomplished, like I hit a milestone, that I made it here (despite the fact that it had been planned probably months in advance). I couldn’t quite grasp the fact that other friends of mine were just visiting the Pacific Ocean for the first time, or others who had never even been to an actual beach before. For me, the smell of salt, the sound of the lapping waves, the feel of the cool water welcomed me home.
I had made my way closer to the Pacific with my weekend excursions over the past month, and I welcomed my first welcome home by spending the entire Saturday at the beach, repeating the all-too-familiar routine of soaking up the heat of the sun and diving into the uniquely similar crash of the waves to cleanse the sweat off my body. Rinse, lather, repeat.
The day ended, and I shared a warm night in Tamarindo with great friends, waking the following morning to share my “knowledge” of surfing with a friend for her first time. We celebrated her ability to actually stand up, and soon enough our short time in the water came to an abrupt end. It was time to pack up and say goodbye to my small sample of home.
I arrived in San Jose lamenting my departure from the beach. As the bus stopped to release me near my Tico Parents’ house, I stepped out only to be immediately and embraced by my Papa Tico with a tight hug and a booming and excited, “hola, mijo,” as he assisted me with my belongings. He would ask “como lo fue?” eagerly and genuinely wanting to know how I enjoyed more of his country. We walked back to the house where I was greeted by the other members of my immediate Tico family and their extended family. Delicious food was shoved toward me, and I lost track of time in conversation – with actual complete sentences now – replacing my loss with belonging. For the first month I was blinded by my longing to visit a beach that I overlooked the impact of my family and their home, my new one.
Although I’ve finally found my niche here in San Jose, the significance of this discovery of my acceptance comes from the very fact that it’s been a whole month. With this being said, I’m that much closer to home in the sense that I only have about two months left. I’m incredibly frightened at how quickly the time has soared, but at the same time, I wouldn’t change any part of it. I know that my past experiences have set me up to make the most of my remaining time here. I look forward to my remaining time now that I’ve made the transition of establishing my home here in Costa Rica, to continue the rest of my time expanding relationships and creating vivid and life-changing memories.