I’m writing this in my bed in my room in Costa Rica on my last morning here. My roommate Anjali and I just said goodbye to our third roommate – Stephanie. I’m still in a state of shock that that was actually goodbye and that she’s not coming back tonight for a dinner of beans and rice and meat. I haven’t even begun to process the fact that in about five hours, I will have to say my own final goodbye to my host family.
This experience in Costa Rica has been utterly incredible. It was literally the adventure of a lifetime. All week, I have been repeatedly blown away by how lucky I am to have come here to this beautiful country and to have seen and done so many things. Isn’t it weird how final weeks and days seem to drag on forever in a haze of sadness, and then you blink and it’s all over? Time passes in very strange ways.
I have spent a lot of time talking about my travels and adventures around Costa Rica, which were certainly central to my experience here. But, despite all of the cool places I went, one of the best parts of my stay in Costa Rica was my wonderful host family. This family is huge and happy and goofy. From the very beginning, when we were just three strangers sitting awkwardly at their dining room table, they have made us feel welcome and at home. With nine people living in the house, plus us three international students, there was never a dull moment. There was always someone around, watching TV, talking, playing with the dogs, cooking. As someone who comes from a large family back home, it was comforting to live in a similar atmosphere here.
Our host mom is, without a doubt, one of the kindest and most warm-hearted women I’ve ever met. She was endlessly patient with our Spanish and always willing to listen to us babble on about random things. My favorite thing about her is her sense of humor. I can’t remember a single meal we shared together in which she didn’t make a silly joke and get all of us laughing. This whole family is always ready to laugh and that is part of what makes them so wonderful.
I won’t give personal details, but, back in October, this family experienced a very sad event and went through a very difficult time. During that week, as we tried to stay out of the way and not intrude on their grief, I was amazed by how strong our host mom was. It was clear that she was sad and struggling with grief, but, even then, she sat with us at breakfast and talked and laughed with us.
She told my roommate, Stephanie, that the difficult time hurt her heart, but life always goes on. That statement is so simple, but so profound. I will never forget hearing that, and I will never forget the strength with which she went on with life, continuing to find joy in little things. I have enormous respect for my host mom and dad for the way they take care of all their children – both Costa Rican and international – and the way they live their lives with such joy and laughter.
Thursday was a mess of crying and hugging as all of us international students hung out one last time and said our goodbyes. One of my friends kept jokingly asking “Why do we study abroad and put ourselves through all this!” She has a point. Studying abroad involves going to another country, making it your home, forming incredible friendships, and then, after a few months or a year, leaving it all behind.
Of course, I know why we study abroad. There are hundreds of reasons. But I couldn’t help but half-agree last night, as I hugged people who I may never see again, that this whole process seems crazy. But the heart always has room for more friendship and more love, and the brain always has room for more memories. I get to keep those memories with me forever, safely tucked away, and that is a priceless gift. The fact that those goodbyes were so difficult is just proof that we must have done something right here in Costa Rica.
I am thankful to Costa Rica for giving me a four month long, non-stop adventure. I learned more about myself, about life, and about this crazy world than I ever imagined. I am thankful to my host family for opening their hearts to me and making me a part of their home, if only for a short time. I am thankful for my American family for supporting me in my travels. And thank you for reading this blog! It’s been fun to write and it has been a nice way to record my memories.
So long, Costa Rica. I will miss you very much. I will be coming back someday. Until next time!
(Adios, Costa Rica! Usted me va a hacer falta mucho. Voy a regresar algun día. Hasta luego!)