“It smells like gringa in here,” someone said and we laughed. Last night was our second night here in Alajuelita, just outside of San Jose in Costa Rica. We are in a very small but well kept house up on a hill overlooking the valley. It is home to the Obando family: mother, father, four sons, three cats, one dog (who is never allowed in the house) and now myself and Arianne – my friend since 7th grade. It is crowded but warm and welcoming, and with the exception of Ms. Obando, everyone in the house speaks some English. The eldest son Henry and his father who works for the embassy are fluent.
Arianne lived in Costa Rica for 8 months last year and for her this is a vacation to a second home. In our first day, we wandered the streets of San Jose and Heredia until the afternoon brought heavy rain. We then made our way to the house where Arianne used to live where her old host mother had cooked us beef and bean stew and cheesecake. For an hour and a half I was humbled by Arianne’s Spanish and listened to her converse with her old host parents about everything from weather to Chinese politics. I said very little but did my best to listen while we ate. It was a sobering reminder of how difficult this semester of Spanish will be for me. At the moment I feel extremely unconfident in my Spanish and have had to remind myself that this terrifying undertaking is something that I want. I have wanted this opportunity for a long time. Here we go.