Homestay at San Isidro:
First things first, there are chickens; lots of chickens around the house of my homestay family. From 3:00 a.m. onwards, all I could hear were the clucking and cockle-doodle-doo-ing of the chickens as I tried to fall back asleep in my bed. I would even say they’re even louder than the howler monkeys that kept me up in Tortuguero. During the laborious process, I reminisced back to the exact moment I arrived at my homestay.
I was feeling uneasy as I walked up to the front porch of the house, giving a proper greeting and introduction to my hosts, Johana and Misael, in Spanish. The problem is, that introduction was all the Spanish I know, and I was spending the night with a Spanish-only speaking family. As bad as it seems to be unable to communicate verbally at all whatsoever, both the hosts were none-judgmental of my lack of Spanish skills. I was promptly offered a drink and a tour around the premises, which housed a number of livestock, pets, wildlife, and plants. Misael seemed to enjoy educating me on the terms they used for the plants and animals in the area, like pato (duck) or cacao (cocoa). Despite the language barrier, the family and I somehow communicated well, with the common understanding of laughter and mindset to work towards a common goal. What really surprised me is how rustic the land they lived in was, with minimal construction and making full use of what nature has given them.
The evening really put emphasis in how they share their living spaces with nature. There were a variety of insects that swarm the air, howler monkeys bellowing in the distance and bats swoop about as they hunt for a 6-legged meal. This night, I wasn’t particularly bothered by mosquitoes, thanks to the mosquito netting over my bed. Simply put, I enjoyed my homestay. I honestly expected much worse, but now I am grateful to have had a hands-on experience of what it is like to live in rural Costa Rica.
Back in the present, I continued to struggle to sleep then came dawn. I eventually slipped out of bed and walked outside to admire my surroundings and greet the early rising pets of the locals. I had breakfast and coffee on the porch, which was then interrupted by my travel group’s arrival. As soon as I glanced over and saw the bus, I scrambled to grab my belongings and thanked my hosts for giving me a wonderful experience, and left.
Once again, we continuing our work painting community plaza at Llanos Grandes. Under partly conditions, we scraped old paint off slides, swings and seesaws with sandpaper and promptly got a hold of our absolute favorite tools-the paint brush. We colored the facilities in a variety of colors ranging from blue to orange to pink, and let me tell you, it was a chore to coordinate everyone working efficiently (ironically).
After a scrumptious lunch made by the community mothers, we went straight back to painting, but now we are painting flower patterns on tires instead, and there are plenty of tires to go around. However, heavy rain came pouring abruptly as some of us quickly scramble to cover and some are resilient in completing their masterpieces. As the rain stopped, we concluded that our work in the plaza in done and loaded ourselves back onto the bus and readied the next round of homestay students. Funnily enough, there’s this feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment that I felt as I walked off the plaza, as if contributing a small amount of work can impact the children of a community greatly.
Saying ironic farewells to this group of homestays wasn’t long-lived, as there was a special gathering this night with all the homestay families, much thanks to the SCLC coordinator, Francene. It was extremely nice to return and spend a little time with my original homestay family that night, as we are now in a more crowded and lively environment instead. The mothers in that part of the community prepared a special dinner for us, and let me tell you, the bread is utterly amazing. I should really be disgusted with myself by the way I absolutely devoured half a loaf. Knowing it was the second to last night we are going to spend together, everyone took part of a salsa dancing session. People laughed and cheered as they danced in the only lamp that shined under the starry night sky of Costa Rica.