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.
1. I've had several interesting conversations with Marino, the Nicaraguan guard who watches our neighborhood. One day, he wanted to exchange contact information. When I commented on his beautiful handwriting, he told me that he never had the opportunity to go to school. He was raised in the countryside in a large family, and because he enjoyed reading and writing, he practiced them a lot on his own. "I'm hardworking and honest" he told me "and with the help of God I continue forward." I'm not always able to understand everything he says, but as he continued talking to me, I thought he was inviting me to visit Nicaragua with him. He told me how beautiful it was, and how he had a truck there, and how he could show me the family farm. "Confí en mi" (Trust me) he said. "I don't understand" I said. And so he repeated, more slowly. "If you decide to visit Nicaragua, please let me know, I'd like to show you around."
And my heart was touched. Many Nicaraguans are illiterate, and many of them come to Costa Rica for work, which sometimes presents a problem because the Nicaraguan children aren't vaccinated and are several years behind their peers in school. For that, Costa Rica has built schools specifically for the Nicaraguan children near the border. Learning about this makes me very sad...I would like to change the world so every person has the opportunity to receive an education. Shame on governments that fail to give their citizens a basic education. This is one of the reasons I want to work to empower women and specifically mothers, because when women have resources, they use them for good purposes. Mothers who have resources often make sure their children have the opportunity to go to school. Women who are not mothers, like me, often use their resources to do other good things in the world.
2. I started dating a man named Caleb, who lives 2 blocks from me. We were introduced by Juan, the gym owner, who played romantic music on his accordian as Caleb and I stood near the gym entrance getting to know each other (Really. I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried!). Dating Caleb has been a great experience for several reasons. For one, he's teaching me to be more street smart, stepping out to walk in the street when the sidewalk has dark places covered by plants, for example. He's funny, and I get a kick out of spending time with him. He's very encouraging, praising me on the rare occasions when I get a complete sentence perfectly correct, and laughing with me at my funny mistakes...like the time I tried to say that I like getting older (envejecer) because I get wiser, and instead said that I like to poison myself (envenener).
Caleb is a giver, noticing things I need before I do. One day he brought me maps of the bus system. Another day he took the bus with me and showed me where I need to make various transfers to make my way around the city. Yesterday he helped me find a book of Costariqueñismos, funny sayings that are specific to Costa Rica (like "su abuela en patineta" "your grandma on a skateboard" which you say to communicate that you don't believe what another person has just told you). I went to church with him and enjoyed hearing him pray and meeting his friends. He speaks a lot of English ("only in the present tense" he likes to say), and I generally speak to him in Spanish. Having a relationship in Spanish has been good for me, because it forces me to be very direct and blunt (since I'm not capable of being subtle or beating around the bush--a habit of mine that has caused me problems in the past), and he has responded very well. I'm falling in love with him, and I think he's falling in love with me too. "Estamos en la luna" - "We're on the moon" as they like to say here (or, in other words in "la la land", the stage where you can't believe all the things you feel).
3. I'm enjoying school. Every Monday we get new students joining our class, and this week a woman who retired from the air force joined our class. She makes me laugh, because she'll cuss under her breath...Damnit!...when our teacher explains the really complicated grammar rules like how to construct commands out of irregular verbs. She's been coming to Costa Rica every winter for about 10 years.
Every Friday, the school has a graduation ceremony for the students who are leaving. They always tell the students that they need to give a little speech ("hablar"), but this week the cute little danish guy who is a Spanish beginner thought they'd told him to "bailar" (dance) and so broke out in an awesome little latin dance in honor of his graduation.
In the afternoons, my private classes have been taught by a 40-something single woman named Vivian, who is hilarious and used to work teaching Peace Corps volunteers. She's been teaching me a lot of Costariquisimos, like how to say "Como se comé?" "How do you eat this?" when you're not sure how to deal with something, and we've enjoyed our time together.
I only have about 3 weeks left here, before heading back to the US for 10 days until I return to Costa Rica together with other Peace Corps volunteers, and I'm feeling nostalgic to have this Spanish school experience wind down, since it's been so wonderful. But I also look forward to the opportunity to learn more and move on to additional adventures.