After six months of studying and living in Costa Rica, I have finally reached the end. As I head back to the U.S. tomorrow, my last day was spent with my Costa Rican friends and family.
Featured photograph (right): A few of the kindergartners I volunteered with.
In honor of my last night, my host parents treated me to homemade, fresh pizza at a quaint family-owned restaurant in the mountains. Upon our arrival, I spotted a little girl who looked familiar, only to discover she was one of the kindergartners I had been volunteering with all semester.
At first she didn’t seem to recognize me, but a broad, gap-toothed smile lit up her face as she remembered me from the classroom. I coaxed her to tell me my name, giving her hints, until she finally yelled “Paige!” and gave me a huge hug.
She then promptly ran off, returning with her older brother and parents. Upon learning I was her so-called “American friend,” the girl’s parents greeted me in typical Costa Rican style with a hug and kiss on the cheek.
I then introduced my host parents to my student and her family, and soon we were all sitting down and chatting about the parents’ recent trip to Cuba. I also learned that the girl’s uncle lived in Kansas as well—a strange coincidence! We then exchanged information as the girl’s mother urged me to call her brother in case I ever needed anything (he was an ER doctor) and then it was just the three of us again.
My host parents and I quietly ate our pizza, admiring the beautiful scenery and enjoying the relaxing environment. They questioned me about my favorite part of Costa Rica, my plans for the summer, my family, my boyfriend and more.
After paying the bill, we hopped back in the car and enjoyed the 30-minute ride home through the cool, crisp forest at night.
As I leaned back in my seat, enjoying the fresh breeze and upbeat Latin music, I began to remember why I fell in love with Costa Rica. It was the amicable people, the pulsing music, the amazing dancing, the filling food, the relaxed atmosphere, and so much more, that enticed me my first few weeks in Costa Rica. Despite a month of blindness, various sicknesses and my daily frustrations, I have genuinely enjoyed my time here.
Despite this bit of nostalgia, the fact that I’m leaving Costa Rica tomorrow still has not sunk in yet. It seems surreal that I won’t be able to grab smoothies with my friends after class, eat breakfast with my host mom or travel to a new exotic place every weekend. Maybe it’s part of my upbringing as a military child or maybe I’m in denial, but either way my time here in Costa Rica has come to an end. But as with all endings, there is a beginning as well.