Costa Rica – The Diary of a Naïve Traveler


By Haley Rhodes

Day 1- Saturday, July 10

Today was a remarkably long day of traveling, but thanks to the Lord I am here safely. My Costa Rican family has welcomed me with open arms. Truthfully, I barely understand a word (which frustrates me) but I’m sure it will all come in time. I am so exhausted and have not had much energy to speak Spanish after leaving the airport. My day started out early at four in the morning when I left for Logan Airport. In fact, I felt like I had just left Logan since I had arrived the previous night at eleven from a family reunion, giving me five hours at home. Navigating the airports went smoothly and I met this amazing woman who was kind enough to review some Spanish with me. However, that was when I saw the red flag waving clearly in front of my face, causing panic to set in. I know I had not even been away for a few hours, but I started to get homesick on the plane. I know I am here to serve and love others, but right now I just feel like a hopeless mess. I am constantly reminded (by airport officials and other travelers and even by myself) how naïve it was for a sixteen year old girl to go alone to a foreign country.

Day 2- Sunday, July 11th

I do not even know what to make of today, which was my first day at the camp I am working at. I am so tired and overwhelmed- I do not understand this language for the life of me. I almost wish I had not come. Silvia, my Costa Rican host is so kind and speaks beautiful English, but I’m here to learn Spanish and I just get nervous and revert back to my native language when I feel embarrassed or uncomfortable, which I can tell you is very often. I am so homesick and I just do not know what to do with myself. At home I am an over-achiever and seemingly model student. Here I feel extremely incompetent as I struggle over each word and say “repita por favor” every time someone speaks to me. I have learned so much about empathy today. I feel so invisible, but I still cannot decide if this is a good thing or bad thing. I am the youngest staff member and everyone else is a Tico, the name for native Costa Ricans! I want to give up. I am beating myself up for coming. This seems like such a horrible nightmare that there is no way out of now. Well God, please teach me to adjust and to be flexible. I know I am here for a reason, so please use me to be a blessing!

Day 3- Monday, July 12th

Today was probably my longest day ever. I was in the most despair this morning when I was sick with food poisoning from that horrible lasagna-like dish last night. No one helped me and I couldn’t handle my emotions. I slept so little last night and was constantly sprinting from my cabin to the bathhouse in the pitch dark. I have not cried so much in a long time. Everyone would just pass me and nod in sympathy. I just wanted my mom and my house and my language. I seriously considered going home- either to Silvia’s or even to the US. But God was so good to me and miraculously gave me strength around noon to finish out my full day’s worth of work! The first exciting bit of news is that I started to understand fragments of sentences and conversations. I was so naïve for thinking that this would be similar to my honors level Spanish class. I am starting to make friends though!

Day 4- Tuesday July 13th

Today has been much better! I went to all three meals and people even included me in their conversations! It is so frustrating because I feel like I cannot show who I really am due to the language barrier. I can’t and don’t talk very much and I am normally quite talkative and opinionated. Daniela has been so kind to me and is becoming a good friend! Yafet  (I learned later he spells it Jafet) has also helped me to be in a good mood. He plays tic-tac-toe with me and makes me laugh by writing things down when I don’t understand. It still has been a rollercoaster today. I cried during free time because it’s hard for me to just hang out since I just follow and listen. I feel so small and annoying. I wish I understood more- I hate it when everyone laughs at a joke and I just sit there smiling. Andres must have seen I was discouraged and he brought me a little quesadilla today. I am excited that this week is starting to look brighter!

Day 5- Wednesday, July 14th

Today when I woke up I had a nice time talking to Daniela. She came to the US for a few weeks last year, so she knows what it is like to feel incompetent and isolated. However, then I got discouraged when I said good night instead of good morning to a cute boy I work with. Adam, a young American man, has been so helpful at encouraging me. I decided that I have been so selfish by throwing myself pity parties. I am in a beautiful, clean camp with loving people and I am safe. There is nothing more I should or could ask for. The rest of today went very well - I finally start to feel like part of the staff team. I have not been as helpful as I have wished to be, but I am starting to contribute more. I am very excited for the rest of the week. I’m about to go on a midnight caminata (hike) near the river, so I’ve got to go!