Piecing Together Paradise: My First Month in Costa Rica

Samantha Ching is a student at University of California, Los Angeles and an ISA Featured Blogger. Samantha is currently studying abroad with ISA in San Jose, Costa Rica.

IMG_20131024_145032 blue beach
Tamarindo morning. A beginners beach for first time surfers like myself, a (Tama)gringo hotspot.

It’s been a month since I came to Costa Rica, and already I’m in love.

I’m starting to prefer the sound of Spanish to English, savoring the mental switch I was never able to make in the States. San José’s afternoon rains bring me quiet joy, and I can understand why my mama tica and papa tico have such a fondness for it. In a month, I’ve gotten knocked about by roving waves, sat and waited while a volcano emerged from the fog. To my delight, I can affirm the best part of studying abroad is learning outside the classroom. To wake with my heart pounding to the throaty theatrics of a howler monkey. To have your taxi driver talk you through city names with indigenous roots. To ride the wave – for the first time – in Tamarindo’s famous surf or to follow the lead of a tico partner with your history of tropical dance classmates twirling alongside.

20131012_144725 arenal volcan
Mighty Arenal. Quiet since its last eruption 3 years ago. Lucky for us, no signs of lava. Our hotel was situated right on the hot springs below the volcano…

According to my professor of Latin American Literature and Film, the origins of magical realism in literature go back to the conquistadors’ arrival in Latin America. Confronted with the natural environment’s utter beauty, they embellished their accounts of their experiences to the point where the fantastical mixed with reality.

I never thought I’d identify with a conquistador – the resemblance ends here – but there have been times when I honestly cannot believe this is my life now. Taking a clue from past ISA bloggers in Costa Rica, I went for a morning run along the sun-drenched sand of Tamarindo. In the beautiful islands of Bocas del Toro, Panama, we could sail higher and higher on gigantic swings, letting go to leap into the clear Caribbean Sea.

IMG_20131028_221333 in the boat
Bye bye Bocas. Watching the day’s first sunbeams dance from the water taxi.

While I am glad that my relatives and friends’ delight at the “paradise” I may call home in this moment, I want them so badly to experience all of what I’m able to now. No amount of pictures or Facebook albums can convey the true beauty of this place and these people.

IMG_20131005_162305 hanging sarongs
Hanging sarongs frame our stroll to the beach at Manuel Antonio. The national park next door boasted smaller waveless beaches and hiking trails.

I will not resort yet to magical realism. By remembering the many incredible moments of this past month, I keep myself engaged with reality, albeit an absurdly wonderful one. By recalling my loved ones back home, I give continual thanks for them, whose faith and support brought me here. In writing – my space for balance and reflection – I offer good news, keep up relationships, and create collective dreams for the future. And for the rest of my time here, I hope that for now, my current reality can be shared.

One thought

Leave a Reply