By Krisandra Provencher
We arrived in San Jose, Costa Rica late Tuesday afternoon hungry and full of excitement, curiosity and a small amount of fear. A misty rain augmented our plane hair and layered us in an instant sheet of humid sweat as we walked to the parking lot and were ushered into two 12-passenger vans. We entered the crazy and slightly terrifying Costa Rican traffic, on what felt like two wheels, and were off. While poppy Spanish music played in the background we passed large buildings with front walls made entirely of glass, multiple car dealerships, small, dilapidated houses, and many fruit stands.
The van suddenly made a sharp turn and an abrupt halt. We were at the first host house, it was Marin’s. We all awkwardly watched as she got out of the van and met her Costa Rican family. As soon as she was in the house the van took off to next and then the next. There were no introductions or verifications, we were truly being dropped off alone and in the thick of it. As more and more people got out and went into their homes a sense of panic grew in the pit of my stomach. What was I going to do? My Spanish was poor at best and my host family spoke little to no English. I was terrified.
The bus stopped and the driver called my name. I was up. I climbed out of the van and grabbed my suitcase with sweaty palms. As I turned to face the house a small woman with a kind face opened the door causing an immediate sense of relief to rush through my body. My host mom instantly pulled me into a hug and kissed both my cheeks as she chattered off excited exclamations in Spanish. I waved good-bye to the remaining students and walked into what would be my home for the next six weeks.
My host mom, Irma, is 62 and a retired elementary school teacher. During the school week she tutors children from local schools in math, writing, reading and science. She adores all of her students almost as much as they adore her. When I arrived one of what would later be five students grabbed my suitcase and lugged it down the hall and into my bedroom. Once all my stuff was in my new room he grabbed my hand and brought me out to the table. Irma approached me with a plate full of rice, chicken and beans, and a cup of hot coffee. She insisted I sit and eat while she helped the young boy with his math.
I responded with an eager “gracias” and devoured the plate in front of me as I watched her work with the boy. She appeared to be an excellent teacher, she was patient, kind and had a wonderful sense of humor. He adored her and tried hard to understand his work for the sake of pleasing her. Later, when the other boys arrived and Irma scolded them for giggling at my broken bits of unsure Spanish, I knew my six weeks in Costa Rica were going to be a crazy and wonderful adventure. One I was surely going to be incredibly grateful for.