¡Buenas! This is going to be my last blog post, thanks for reading.
I’m back! Back to work, back with my family, and back in Wisconsin. I only had one minor case of culture shock, a few days after I returned. I was buying some bananas at a gas station, and was waiting for the cashier to hand me the change. When the coins hit my palm I felt a strange sensation, similar to climbing stairs in the dark and putting your foot to meet an imagined extra step. I examined the quarters in my hand—they looked small, and felt light and unimportant compared to colones. In fact, I’m not even sure I would call that culture shock, just a bit of a surprise. The other effect of my return was a few day long headache coupled with the return of my allergies, but I don’t really want to talk about that.
A lot of the effects of my time abroad are hard to put a finger on. I’ve noticed small things, my favorite bands sound a little richer after largely abstaining from American music, and sometimes the Spanish translation for whatever I am saying pops into the back of my mind. I went into my trip with an open attitude—I was going to experience life outside the U.S. for the first time, and I just wanted to soak in as much as possible. Many of the things I hoped for happened. My language skills improved, I met interesting people, ate delicious food, and had the opportunity to explore the rainforest firsthand. Most of the better moments were unplanned—a nighttime jog with my teacher and other Máximo staff, wading through a sea of reveling Costa Rica fans after a World Cup victory, or dancing salsa after school.
The last few days in Costa Rica were planned to be relatively uneventful. As expected, it was sad to say goodbye to all my new friends: classmates, teachers, school staff and more, and I am going to miss them. There are more than a few moments during the last few days that I remember fondly.
Unexpectedly, one of my more memorable experiences occurred the last morning while riding to the airport before dawn. The driver was the same woman who had brought me to my host family my first day in Costa Rica, six weeks ago. I barely talked to her then (to be fair, I was sitting in the backseat and my Spanish was pretty rusty), but this time we chatted the whole drive. She bombarded me with questions: Where did I go, what did I do, and what did I think? It was a thirty minute montage of the whole trip. She told me a funny story about one of my teachers, name withheld, impersonating an Argentinian when a stranger asked where he was from. I got to the airport and said goodbye with a quick hug and kiss on the cheek, the greeting that I had been warned was commonplace in Costa Rica, but surprisingly never happened until the last few hours I was there. It was uplifting to make a new friend right before I left.