“Pura Vida!” is a phrase you will hear after virtually any interaction in Costa Rica. You will hear this after ordering a coffee, after kayaking in the ocean, after waking up and seeing your host family first thing in the morning. The translation is literally “pure life,” which at first I found a bit surprising. However, after my 11 days in Costa Rica, I can truly say that my time there was exemplary of a pure life.
After exploring Monteverde for three days we traveled to Arenal where we admired the beautiful Arenal Volcano and then the Fortuna waterfalls. I have to say that Fortuna was my favorite part of the entire trip. I love being near water and this particular waterfall made me feel so small and so calm. It was so beautiful and I felt at such peace. It was here that I felt the trip really began.
After Fortuna we traveled to Nicoya to meet our homestay families. My homestay family was the best part of the Costa Rica experience. My parents, Jeanette and Elgan, are two of the most amazing people I have ever met in my life. Once I met them, I really felt like I was at home and that I was a part of their family. We ate breakfast and dinner together every day and speaking with them only in Spanish allowed my speaking skills to wildly improve. I loved waking up and smelling the breakfast that Jeannette had made for me. She can cook like no other! Every morning she made gallo pinto, a meal of eggs, beans, rice, and a tortilla. Some mornings she would put hot dogs in there as well, which was oddly delicious.
In Nicoya we took Spanish classes for four hours each day. My teacher, Anky, was hilarious and so sweet. She really taught us well and would correct us nicely when our grammar was wrong. She also didn’t mind when we would ask questions. She was happy to teach us anything Spanish, so long as we were not speaking English. After classes we always did something fun and got outside. Whether it was kayaking, surfing, hiking, we always had a good time.
Kayaking was an interesting activity because arriving at the island we found an infinite number of crabs walking around the sand. You had to tiptoe around so as not to step on one of them. This scared at me at first, but eventually I found fascinating to watch as they all wandered about, searching for nutrients in the sand.
We spent one night in Nosarita, a quiet, rural town just twenty minutes outside of Nicoya. While we were there we worked with school age children to teach them about medical sciences, but in English. This was hilarious. Most of the kids just stared at us as we showed them thermometers, measuring tape, and stethoscopes. We played games with them and I think they really started to understand towards the end of the day. After this we had a soccer game with the local kids at a much smaller school. I coach soccer in the States and was excited to play until I saw that these eight-year-old kids were on level with some college athletes.
After the game we spent the night in a cabin. It was so hot and we were covered in our own sweat and bug spray. We all decided to stay in one cabin and hang out on the porch. Our porch overlooked a horse stable and some mountains. This view was absolutely stunning. However, it was here that we had our first encounter with a Costa Rican grasshopper. Costa Rican grasshoppers are HUGE. That bug started flapping its wings and flew right at me. I, being the giant baby that I am, dove towards the ground in a full dramatic panic. Naomi, my new friend on the trip, grabbed her sandal, or chancla, and beat that grasshopper away. In the moment it was terrifying but reflecting back it was the most hilarious moment of the trip.
After Nosarita we went back to Nicoya and I was so happy to see my homestay family. The last few days we hiked on a small mountain and did a boat tour of the jungle; we enjoyed a really good workout topped with an absolutely gorgeous view of the mountains and Nicoya. The boat tour was pretty, too, and we were able to see monkeys and birds and crocodiles.
Overall this trip showed me how to appreciate the moment that I am in. I am typically someone who worries about things beyond my control, and that will not merit me a pure life. However, the Tico lifestyle showed me to enjoy each day and each minute. This will provide a Pura Vida.
Written By: Breezy McCall