Wednesday, February 25, 2015


After a few weeks in Costa Rica, my host mom started calling me "Cindy María", since it just didn't feel right to her that I didn't have a middle name.  And, being a country heavily influenced by the Catholic Church, María seemed an appropriate name for her to give me.  (When I first learned I'd be living with their family, I was tickled to learn that I'd be living with three María's and two Luis's.  When I arrived, I found they used nicknames to keep everything straight--there was "Papa Luis" and "Lucho" for young Luis.  There was "Maru" for María Eugenia, "Eu" for Eugenia María, and "María" for the other María).

After I had dated Caleb for a while, I noticed that he called me "Lucia" when he talked with his friends and family about me.  When I asked him why, he said it's because my face is full of light (luz) and so they had chosen that nickname for me.  I was flattered, of course.  I definitely like "Lucia" much better than "wink wink", a nickname my family chose for one of my brother's girlfriends!

Laundry in Costa Rica

As I looked at myself in the restroom mirror after class one day, just before I was supposed to meet Caleb for a concert at the National Theatre, I felt badly.  It was a bad hair blonde roots were showing.  And a bad clothes day.  Since there wasn't much I could do about it at that point, I tried to put it out of my mind.  But, even so, I still felt a little insecure as I crossed the pigeon-filled plaza near the theatre.  When I saw Caleb in the crowd, I smiled and walked towards him.  He gave me a big hug and kiss, looked into my eyes and said "I like your face.  You are more beautiful today than yesterday."

I tried to explain the concept of a "motivational liar" to him, but he didn't really get it.  Whether his words are true or not, I appreciate him for saying kind and encouraging things to me every day.   

A culture of equality

"I heard there's an amazing couple over here, a gringa and a tico, who can do magic." the homeless guy said to Caleb and I as we sat outside the national theatre, waiting for the open air concert to start.

"Really?" we asked.

"Yes, they are able to magically make a coin from their pocket appear in my pocket." the man smiled.
And with that, Caleb pulled a coin out of his pocket and gave it to the man.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Happy as a Worm

Costa Ricans have a little rhyme to express being very happy: "Estoy feliz como una lombriz" (I'm as happy as a worm).  And they like to joke that if you aren't happy, then you've failed as a worm.  (Something like: "Si no estás feliz como una lombriz, estás fracaso como lombriz"). 

These last two weeks, I've been as happy as a worm.  Because so much has happened, and because my writing time is limited, I'm not going to be able to give you a blow-by-blow account of all my adventures ("de lujo en detalles"--a luxury of details, they like to say here), so I'll just summarize some of the highlights.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Chocolate Tour

"I just can't believe chocolate grows on trees!" my friend Alana said as I told her about visiting a chocolate plantation in the pacific rainforest.  Learning how chocolate was made (and sampling it along the way) was a real treat!

The cacao tree has lots of little flowers, like these, which are fertilized either by insects (typically producing 20 fruits per year per tree) or by human beings (up to 100 fruits per tree per year).

Treasure Hunt in the Tropical Rainforest

"We can't spot any birds or animals when it rains" my guide said "so we might as well just walk fast for the rest of the hike."

When I asked him why, he explained that looking for movement and listening for sound is the key to spotting the wildlife.  Suddenly, I understood how he could point out 20 different species of birds and animals in the 50-yard stretch between Tirimbia's parking lot and main building that I had walked past without noticing a thing (except the enormous plants that dwarfed us).

For instance, I was stunned when he turned his spotting scope on the top of a tree, and suddenly I could see the Iguana resting there.

Practicing Spanish on the Street

"¿Cual es la fecha hoy? (What's the date today?)" I asked a man on the bus in Spanish.  "I don't speak English." he responded. 

"¿La fecha? ¿en español?  (The date? In Spanish?)" I pressed, feeling a little insecure that my Spanish was SO BAD that he thought I was speaking English.  "Oh!  La fecha es..." he said, and I was relieved to be understood.

My friend Alanna and I have been laughing about this Mark Twain quote from Innocents Abroad:  "In Paris they just simply opened their eyes and stared when we spoke to them in French!  We never did succeed in making those idiots understand their own language."