Now I cross the Pan American Highway without a second thought…

…And I do it Tico-style, too. That means dodging through the slightest gap between the noisy buses and motorcycles, striding purposefully to the median, and repeating to cross the other side.

Lately, I’ve been giving a great deal of thought to how things have changed. For instance, to cross the street I used to wait until the coast was completely clear, then cautiously proceed. Or I used to think that downtown was so far away, yet now I find myself frequently walking there, then to another shopping center in the opposite direction. Or I used to be completely confused by colones and confounded by the bus system. Now, I struggle to reconvert to dollars and can find my way on certain buses.

I feel like I have finally found my groove the last couple of weeks. Things that I didn’t think would happen have—I made a sweet Tica friend and have been absolutely spoiled by her, found a group of wonderful friends who I love being with, realized that speaking Spanish isn’t nearly as exhausting or slow as four months ago, got to know Tita’s family more, and the list goes on. The most surprising thing that has happened is that I feel like this is normal life. I could keep living here and it would eventually be home.

Another thing I’ve started doing is keeping a list of what I will miss about this place:

  • Tita—her off-key singing in the kitchen, her lectures about turning off the lights or the problems with men, her blessings before trips, her hugs, and her gallo pinto.
  • The friends I have made here—mostly fellow international students that live all over the US, Canada, and Japan
  • Speaking Spanish and Spanglish
  • Walking everywhere
  • The sunshine
  •  Papaya
  • La fería
  • Batidos
  • Having a bakery and supermarket just down the street
  •  The slow pace of life (aka: having free time)
  • The tropical beach
  • Dancing
  • The view of the mountains surrounding the city

Yet, as much as I feel at ease here, the closer my return gets, the more excited I am for things back in the States:

  • Seeing family and friends again
  • Christmas! The smells, songs, traditions…
  •  Clean, fresh air
  • Quiet streets—without the thumping music of the nearby bar or vendors walking around announcing what they’re selling in the morning
  • My mom’s cooking and being able to cook
  • Drying my pants in the dryer
  • Going to my church and being in a community of believers again

It’s a strange sort of bittersweet, thinking about leaving this place and the people, sights, and daily life I’ve grown used to. Everyone asks if and when I will come back, to which I always reply, “Si Dios quiere…” (If God wants me to). Right now, I don’t know if I would choose to come back to Costa Rica. I want to see more of the world, perhaps spend time in different countries in Latin America—Peru, Nicaragua, Chile… But the connections I now have here pull at my heart. I don’t want to believe that when I say goodbye it will be forever. We’ll see where God leads. For now, I will continue to keep my excitement to go home at bay and soak up the blessing that December has been.

Kodac Moments…

We have frequented this place and, thanks to my friend Michael, met one of the employees (Thelma) who became a dear friend the last few weeks.

We have frequented this place and, thanks to my friend Michael, met one of the employees (Thelma) who became a dear friend the last few weeks.

Thelma came with us on our day trip to Cartago.

Thelma came with us on our day trip to Cartago.

View of San José from Cartago.

View of San José from Cartago.

I got to cook a dinner of yakisoba for my Tico family.

I got to cook a dinner of yakisoba for my Tico family.

Rebekah and I went to see Hotel Transylvania with a friend of hers. I was delighted to find that I understood and enjoyed it, although it was completely in Spanish without subtitles.

Rebekah and I went to see Hotel Transylvania with a friend of hers. I was delighted to find that I understood and enjoyed it, although it was completely in Spanish without subtitles.

Helped at a party for orphan's that one of my friends and his family threw in a local park

Helped at a party for orphan’s that one of my friends and his family threw in a local park

The weather was immaculate for our final beach trip to Manuel Antonio. We returned to the same place we started in August, with more friends this time. :)

The weather was immaculate for our final beach trip to Manuel Antonio. We returned to the same place we started in August, with more friends this time. :)

Pineapple on the beach. Can't complain.

Pineapple on the beach. Can’t complain.

A final lunch in the park to say goodbye to my friend, Shingo, before he left.

A final lunch in the park to say goodbye to my friend, Shingo, before he left.