¡Bienvenidos a América!

I’m home! I arrived home last Saturday about 3:30 in the morning. It’s only been roughly 238 hours but it feels like a life time ago. It’s hard to believe I was even there… I was very glad to be home though! I wasn’t the only person happy to have me at home though…

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I think my sister was ready to have me home too–what do you think? Going to Costa Rica was an amazing experience and I hope to return someday. It’s a beautiful, beautiful country. So. In the interest of time and boredom, here’s the long and short of my very first international adventure.

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We had to meet at the high school Thursday morning at 1:45 in the morning 😦 The photo above is the bottom right corner is Too-Tall and I after a very rough, 2 hour bus ride to the O’Hare airport. We carried these gaudy book bags with us everywhere that were given to us by the tour company, Education First, that we traveled with. Bright orange and blue! Nothing like a brightly colored book bag carried by many people to make a person stick out…

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The food was amazing!!! The photo on the left was my favorite meal that we had and the photo on the right was this really good salsa that was on the tables.

Costa Rica is beautiful. If you ever get the chance to go visit — do it. Because of the tour we were on, we were able to see all the diverse parts of Costa Rica. One morning I woke up in the Monte Verde region (it was cold in the mountains!!) and in the afternoon I was on the coast of the Pacific Ocean. Going clockwise through the photos from the top left corner:

We went to a place called INbioparque which had many different forests and gardens including a butterfly garden! Enclosed in what was basically a giant butterfly net, we were able to  see butterflies up close and personal and even have the good fortune of a butterfly landing on us!

The monkey photo may be a bit blurry but that is because it was taken with my camera lens positioned at the eyepiece of a telescope-like contraption. Our tour guide, Jimmy, would have our driver stop the bus beside the road when he saw something interesting. Because the monkeys were always so high and far away, he would set up his telescope and take pictures for us. This is a photo of a howler monkey which is the type of monkey we saw most frequently when we would stop. A joke was started among our group when Christopher Sheldon Leroy thought it would be funny if howler monkeys actually said “Howl!” instead of this sound. For the rest of the trip and occasional HOWL! was shouted out. 🙂

The palm trees were a common sight when we were on the pacific coast. The road leading to and from our hotel was lined with them! We were given a warning about the coconut trees that were around the inn and by the beach… they didn’t want anyone getting hit by one!

 This next monkey is a white faced capuchin monkey that was on the beach in the Manuel Antonio National Park. Quite a few of these cuties showed up around the time we were packing up from the beach because of an incoming storm. Before we had arrived at the beach we had been warned about leaving food and other random objects out of our bags because the monkeys could come and take them.

One animal not shown is an alligator! 🙂 We went on a boat tour and saw a lot of alligators and caymans. The boat driver would sometimes pull the boat close to a piece of land, jump out and feed raw meat (chicken?) to the alligators. He would dangle it in front of them so they would have to come to him… ¡Que loco! Less scary on that adventure were the many beautiful birds we saw from the boat.

The vibrant Costa Rican culture was stunning.

Top left photo: We visited a school and a few students preformed several traditional dances for us 🙂 Then, they taught us a dance with words that had to do with a chickadee. It was like a camp song where you sing the same song over and over again but you add a new motion each round. Then we had the chance to preform something for them. Our group (the tour group contained three different schools from three different states) did a song I learned during a musical I was in. Since I was the leader for the song along with another girl from my school, I also had to introduce us in Spanish. I don’t know when I’ve been that nervous!!

Bottom right photo: Our last night we had a culture night and 3 male and 3 female dancers did some fantastic dances for us. In the last dance, they pulled some of the students from the crowd out to dance with. My two friends got pulled out 🙂 Watching them was hilarious.

Top Middle photo: Pura Vida is a popular Costa Rican phrase and to explain the meaning, I’ll use Wikipedia which explains it more clearly than I could.

Pura Vida literally means Pura = pure and vida = life, but “Pure life” in Spanish would be “Vida pura” instead, so the real meaning is closer to “plenty of life”, “full of life”, “this is living!”, “going great”, “real living”, “Awesome!” or “cool!”. It can be used both as a greeting or a farewell

The region of Sarchí is known for its handmade crafts especially the painted oxcarts. This giant wheel belongs to the world’s largest ox cart. I fell in love with Sarchí and its art. Design was all over and painted on trash cans, signs, and walls like in the remaining photos. We visited an ox cart factory where they also painted rocking chairs and other pieces of furniture. We were able to paint a little bit on some of the slats for a child’s rocking chair. The brush had green paint on it — ’cause you can’t really ruin leaves… 😀

I was really nervous! The craftsman was off to the side watching us to make sure we didn’t mess it up which made me even more nervous! But I anchored my pinky like a pro and went at it 🙂

They day  we left I was so depressed. I tried not to think about it because I wanted to enjoy my last hours in the country. I miss the new friends I made and the food 🙂 I went with a great group of students and teachers and I really enjoyed spending time with them 24/7. Our tour guide and bus driver also helped make the trip more enjoyable. It was obvious Jimmy loves Costa Rica and his knowledge of the plants and animals helped us learn instead of just seeing a pretty flower or a giant spider. Pancho, our driver was amazing. He drove a giant motor coach all over the mountains on narrow roads and although we were freaking out, we didn’t need to because Pancho was at the wheel 🙂

Pancho, me, and Jimmy after our last bus ride together

Too Tall and I ready for our second-to-last meal in Costa Rica

As we pulled away from our hotel in San Jose on our way to the airport, three of our new friends from Ohio sat on the steps and watched us leave – it looked so sad!

I feel like I have so much more to tell you but this post is longer than a blog post should ever reach. Pura Vida.

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Here’s To the Best Summer Ever.

My friends and I have decided (so of course it’s official) this is going to be the best summer ever. It’s already off to a good start!! 🙂 On Memorial Day we had a small cul-de-sac gathering with the neighbors and made yummy homemade ice cream!!

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None of that silly electric homemade ice cream! We use an old fashioned crank ice cream maker and I promise you it makes all the difference in the flavor. Our neighbors, who moved here from Florida last year had never had homemade ice cream. It was quite the new experience for one of them… we let him have the paddle, which, according to my uncles and father, is the best part.

That large thing is what goes around…. and around…. and around… and around… and around…. you get the picture… for about 30-45 minutes while the ice cream is mixed and frozen.

Meanwhile, I’ve created some to-do lists of things that we will be doing this summer 🙂 Although, not always with the same group of kids, it’s gonna be an amazing two months!! 😀

  1. Go out for Sushi
  2. Ride the Pumpkin Vine Trail from Middlebury to the Chief/Honey’s for ice cream
  3. Watch movies outside
  4. Just Dance night
  5. Go to the Flea Market
  6. Game Night
  7. Play Croquet (so, no one really knows about this yet… but it’s gonna happen. I have access to a set.) mwahahaha
  8. Go out for breakfast
  9. Go watch friends preform in Hairspray
  10. Spontaneous chick flicks to introduce a friend to the classics (like How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days)

When I think about the days ahead, I get warm fuzzies inside. It’s our last “normal” summer together and I’m going to milk it for all that it’s worth.

Ambivalence

Ambivalence: the state of having mixed feelings or contradictory ideas about something or someone. I find that this song puts ambivalence into music. It is one of my favorite songs. And I listened to it on repeat 17 times while writing this post. I find it beautiful, mysterious, tragic, full of pain, wistful, mournful, full of promises, and containing the sound of a journey.  Yes, all that in7 minutes and 4 seconds.

 

These past month has been a blur and full of ambivalence. Whoever told me that my senior year in high school would be my easiest was misinforming me. The 18th, we had our Spring Concert/Senior Night. After singing on that stage for 6 years, it was an emotional night for me knowing that after I sang my senior solo, I would never preform on that stage again. I started crying as one of  my very best friends sang Regina Spektor’s lyrics:

All you can do is try to know
Who your friends are as you head off to the war

Pick a star on the dark horizon
And follow the light

You’ll come back
When it’s over
No need to say goodbye.

Knowing I would cry, I picked a non-crying song: Put Your Records On by Corrine Bailey Rae.

In someways, these were weeks of lasts and firsts. I sang my first senior solo as I preformed for the last time on the Fairfield High School stage. I had my first art booth as I exhibited my work for the last time at our art fair. I received my first bad grade on a final exam and my first good grade on my last english paper in my ACP English course. Inasmuch as this month has been full of firsts and lasts, it has also come with many hellos and goodbyes.

Graduation took place on May 26th. As I walked into the gymnasium and saw the bleachers and seats on the floor filled with all eyes on the students who filed in, it began to sink in that I was really saying goodbye to high school. I knew that slowly, my classmates and I would begin to drift our own ways and that I may never see some of them again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These two photos are of my 6 best friends, the way that each of us is either doing a different pose, or looking at a different camera hits home the fact that we are all headed somewhere else in this world. First, we’ll head off to colleges: Anderson, Ball State, IPFW, University of Indianapolis, Trine, USI. Then, we’ll head off to the world. This past Tuesday, we said goodbye to a friend who wasn’t in these photos. We hit up the local coffee shop until it closed and then ended the night at a new frozen yogurt place.

As we parted ways that night, it rang home that in approximately 2 and a half months, we’d all be saying goodbye… and it wasn’t going to be fun. Today/Tomorrow (it was Thursday when I started writing this article) another friend of mine, the exchange student leaves.

Tonight I suddenly realized I never got the chance to say goodbye in person. He had a going away party, but I didn’t know… We ate lunch together almost everyday and I’m trying to decide if this separated goodbye is a good thing or a bad thing…

Graduation, is such a strange thing. I am so happy to be finished with high school and I look forward and say hello to the future but I know that these changes coming are going to be big and they are going to be scary. Not only am I saying goodbye to friends and classmates but to the teachers as well. In my six years at Fairfield, I have seen 4 teachers retire and the passing of another. And now, I must say goodbye to all those who remain as well as the 2 that are leaving Fairfield with us. I am thankful for my classmates and the trials we have faced together and for the teachers as they helped us along teaching us a lot and hoping most of it stuck 😉

Change is a part of life, but why does it seem so frightening? The time to say goodbye always comes, but why is it so hard to say?