The triumphs and trials of traveling with a disability in a not so accessible world.
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
So far - so good!
So, I made it! Costa Rica is stunning. Parks and little colonies rest amongst mountains and gorgeous landscape. The homes have an obvious Spanish feel and are painted in different shades of terracotta, the constant rain washes out the color so everything looks aged and antiqued - it is especially gorgeous. You then notice flowers in the most vibrant colors; hues of red, orange, purple and pink burst from the mountains. I love it.
During in my flight to Costa Rica from North Carolina, I am sitting next to a complete jerk. All he talked about was how drunk he was on the previous flight and that the flight attendants love it when he calls them sweetheart. I proceeded to give him a look that let him know how ignorant I thought he was - he proceeded to order 3 Bloody Marys.
Once the plane landed I had a quick thought of "Oh snap, I guess I can't change my mind now." It was interesting. I never had a true panic attack about this trip which put me at ease. I think it's the right thing to do during this time in my life. I went through customs and found it hilarious. The lady asked me how many days I will be in the country and I responded “Noventa dias. Estudiando español en la Universidad de Veritas”. (90 days. I am studying Spanish at the University of Veritas). Pretty impressed with myself for that. She then asked me another question and I gave her a look that truly solidified the word confused. She then rolled her eyes and WENT OFF to the person carrying my luggage. There are no words to express how funny it is when you know someone is talking trash about you, but you can't get mad because you have no idea what they are saying! I just smiled and said “Gracias!” - I aced that test for sure.
Once that I was over, I head outside expecting to see a sign with my name on it like many other exchange students who were waiting, but there wasn’t one. Apparently, the University entered my arrival date differently, swapping the numbers of the month and day. Mistakes happen, and I just rolled with the punches because I had no other option. I’m glad I knew enough Spanish to ask for help. A taxi driver was nice enough to let me use his cellphone to call the school who was supposed to arrange my pick up. No one answered. Luckily, I had my host family’s number stored because I tried calling them the other day after the earthquake hit. He called them, and we arranged for a taxi to take me there.
This is where the fun begins. These people drive just as crazy as I do! Turn signals, blind spots, speed limits? Get real. Never in my life have I gone in reverse on a highway going 65 miles per hour – until now. My jaw was unhinged, when I looked at him, he just gave me thumbs up. All I do could was laugh and say a quick prayer. To experience this, I want you to put your car in reverse and lay on the gas while driving on K-7. It will change your life. I had read that the people of Costa Rica were aggressive drivers, but they truly have won the cake in comparison to DC and NYC drivers. Motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death in Costa Rica.
My host family is fantastic. Letty and Juan have been doing this for nearly 20 years and have hosted students of many backgrounds. She is a dentist, while he is an engineer. They know more English then they let on, only because they truly want us to learn the language. I appreciate that. We have breakfast and dinner together every day. Breakfast consist of fresh fruit, homemade bread, omelets, and fruit juice. All of this is fresh and made daily. Letty literally peels and cores a pineapple every day and makes fresh juice. It is by far the best thing I've ever had, and you can't beat waking up to the smell of freshly baked bread.
These first 24 hours have been amazing. I know this is typical of the 4 stages in culture shock; excitement, withdrawal, adjustment, and enthusiasm, but I'm just gonna take it as it comes and goes. I'm going to the school tomorrow to meet with the travel agency and learn about a couple weekend excursions; maybe my next post will be from Panama! I miss you all already and appreciate your love and prayer from afar!