Tuesday, January 22, 2013

"Cerca de Nicaragua"

My Spanish continues to leave a lot to be desired. I’m noticeably improving every day, but for now, even the simplest conversation is a trying process full of phrases like “Mas despacio, porfavor!” (very slow, please!), “Otra vez.” (Repeat that again.), and “Como?” (literally translates as ‘How?’ but basically means ‘What did you just say?!’).
beautiful rice fields alongside the road

So last week, when my family kept saying they were going to go to “cerca de Nicaragua” (near Nicaragua) and wondered if I wanted to come, I knew I was missing much of the conversation. Of course I replied with an enthusiastic, “yes!”, but I had no idea what we were actually going to be doing. My host parents, 12 year old brother, a friend of the family who was in his 80s, and I left at 8am last Sunday for a long and uncomfortable ride on unpaved roads through the Costa Rican countryside. Despite the heat and rocky thoroughfares, the scenery was incredible and we were blessed with relatively cool temperatures; it was one of the most beautiful trips I’ve ever been on. 
a gentleman working solo to herd about 40 cattle
my first glimpses at the banana plantations
Along the way, we witnessed many miles of Chiquita banana plantations, and the homes of the Nicaraguan immigrants who worked on them. These families lived in absolute squalor. Many of the ‘homes’ were simply sheets of thin black plastic suspended by rope around trunks of trees. I’ve been told that in Costa Rica, there is very little work for Nicaraguan immigrants outside of plantations, so they are forced to accept the difficult conditions and meager pay. From what I hear, it is still a far better option than remaining in Nicaragua. I know I’ll never look at a banana the same way.
one of the better houses Nicaraguan plantation workers live in

It turns out “circe de Nicaragua” was the Delta of Costa Rica, the highest peninsular point of the country where the San Juan river separates Costa Rica from Nicaragua. This was the first time my family (and our 80 something friend) had ever laid eyes on another country. Here I am, only 20 years old, and I’ve already planted my feet on the soil of six. The river was nice, but spending a whole day getting to know my new family was even better. 
my host brother and I with Nicaragua behind us


  1. What awesome adventures all of you are getting to experience. Soak it all in! I am sure you all will appreciate what you have at home a little bit more and not take it all for granted. The Costa Rican families are amazing to open their homes and to show you the pure beauty of their country will all of you.