Some Sense of Normalcy: A Letter Home

Dear Mom,

It’s different here in Costa Rica than I originally anticipated. Much more fun, confusing, lonely and eye-opening than I thought it’d be. There are these moments where I almost forget I’m a few thousand miles from where I grew up.

The driveway to my host home

This afternoon, it stormed again. I’ve been told this is the wettest rainy season since the 1940s, and tonight I really believe it. The house shoke with big booms of thunder and the rain pounded down on the tin roofs. I left my room to peer out the window at the downpour outside. The gloomy skies brought night quicker than usual. 

For dinner, my host mom made a rich, “sopa negra” with black beans and topped with hard boiled eggs, diced tomatoes, and slices of the biggest avocado I’ve ever seen. Like most meal times, I chatted with my sweet host family about the day, their personal histories, and made silly jokes back and forth. 

After dinner, I joined my host dad to watch the local news. Of his three regular channels, tonight we landed on channel 7: “TeleTica”. Though my language abilities are slowly improving, I still miss many of the Spanish words that spill out quickly from the television. When my Spanish abilities fail me, I try to piece together what they’re saying by watching body language and pulling out the words I know. It’s definitely a humbling experience. 

Tonight, the broadcaster talks of the flooding on the Pacific coast and the landslides that are making many roads impassable. Though the mood on the screen is solemn, my host dad continues to tease his little dog on the couch, while my host mom playfully scolds him for forgetting to take the trash out. 

Outside, as the rain starts to quiet down, the sounds of the neighborhood spill in: restless dogs parking inside their homes, a few neighbors shouting to each other from window to window, cheerful honks of car horns passing in the street.

As I crawled into bed tonight, I realized that this was my first night where it almost felt normal to be here. The graciousness of my host parents as I stumbled for the correct conjugation of a verb, the familiar energy at the dinner table, even the stormy afternoon felt comfortable. The beginning of what feels like normal now.

Sending my love from afar.

Your daughter,


Britta Swanson is a student at University of Minnesota Duluth and an ISA Featured Blogger and is studying abroad with ISA in San Jose, Costa Rica.

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