Arrival at the airport and first meeting with my Costa Rican family

Immerse yourself already by reading Susan's story, when she arrived at the San José airport and how she has experienced the first hours with her new Costa Rican family.

Arrival at San José Airport, Costa Rica

I get to the airport and it’s so calm and clean… I was expecting something like, I don’t know, an Latin American jungle airstrip with a dirt-floored shack and a custom’s officer wearing a rifle slung over his back, as conceived by the Hollywood experts in such things.

I spend less than 10 minutes lining up and start thinking I’ve been fooled. What happened to everything I’d heard about endless lines, bureaucracy and inefficiency? I go downstairs, and my bag is out in another 10 minutes, and within seconds I’m out the door and looking for my host family. NOW the Latin America I was waiting for kicks in! People are everywhere with signs, crowding the entrance, asking if I want a taxi, over and over and over. I drag my bags over to the side and start looking for a sign with my name. Nothing. Half an hour later the crowds are dying down and all of a sudden I see a little woman about 5 ft tall standing right in front of the door, holding my name in the air over her head. I jump up and say “Hola, me llamo Susan”, to which she answers “holacomoestasungustoconocerla”. Umm. I’ll take that as hi how are you nice to meet you. She looks at my befuddled face and points towards what looks like a parking lot, and we start walking.

After about 20 minutes in her car we pull up in a residential part of Heredia, and she says “poralliunascincocuadrasencontraslaescuelaintercultura” while pointing down the road. Later, I figured out she was probably saying “Intercultura is 5 blocks straight that way”.

She pulls out her keys and unlocks a gate, then another gate, then a door, and all of a sudden we’re inside a cosy living room and two girls  are looking at me from behind their dad’s legs. The TV is playing and there is a radio on upstairs. The mother says something else and the dad grabs my bags and pulls them into a room off the kitchen. My room. It’s small but cute, with a single bed, a small desk and a closet. I share a bathroom with their older daughter, whose room as across the hall. The younger one sleeps in the bedroom with her parents. I try and use my rudimentary Spanish and realize that although I can conjugate verbs in the past, present and future, I can’t ask if it would be possible for me to get something to drink and a bite to eat. I point to my mouth and make a questioning face? My tica mama gives me a hug, goes into the kitchen and comes out with a huge plate of rice, beans and spaghetti. The two girls come sit with me and one of them brings a Barbie for me to play with, while the other one touches my hair. The dad sits down to watch a game on TV, and the mother goes into my room. When I get up, she’s unpacked my bag for me, folded all my hastily packed clothes arranged them in my closet. The girls follow me in and I pull out my ipad and show them photos of my friends and family back home. They love the ones of the ski trip we took last year, and they tell me (I think) that they’ve never seen snow before. I offer to read them a story in English, and pull out the children’s book I got them as a present: The Gruffalo. They cuddle up beside me and I start reading. They giggle a lot and point to things and say words in Spanish that I forget as soon as I turn the page. My “mama” comes in with a watermelon juice she just made. My eyes are getting heavy, but I don’t want them to leave. I’m so glad this is my home for the next two months, and I decide right then that by this time next week, I’ll be reading them a book in Spanish. I get up to use the bathroom and after much pantomiming and laughter from the girls, I understand that they don’t put the toilet paper in the toilet, but in a trashcan next to it. I tell them as best I can that I’m going to go to sleep because I have to be at school the next day at 7.30am for my placement interview. My mama tells me she’ll walk me there. I smile, yawn, and wonder how long it will be before I start dreaming in Spanish. 

by Susan Townsend (visited Intercultura in 2014)