We were all very anxious and excited to meet the people we would call family for the next five days. Living in a new, foreign place for five days is very difficult. Arriving in the village, most of us didn’t know what to expect. We were not quite sure what to make of what we were seeing. On the bus ride into the village, we were all practicing our Spanish and looking forward to seeing what our families would be like. When we finally got to the village and off the bus, the group eagerly waited until we were assigned our families. Greeted with open arms, we individually went off to our houses where we got acquainted with our families and were introduced to multiple family members. Many names and faces later, we all went to bed for an early rise the next day.
On Monday at 8am, we had to be at the clinic, where our community service project was to build a handicap ramp, install a bathroom and drainage ditch, and put up the walls for a new storage area. A few hills later, we all arrived on time and very sweaty. For it being so early in the morning, the temperature was about 35˚F over what I am used to, and much hotter than we all expected. As the morning progressed, we got our daily assignments and duties that were expected to be accomplished. With a fun day filled with sweat, water, and a lot of laughter, we got a good head start on the project. Our task consists of digging ditches, tearing down walls, laying down cement, and much, much more! With as much excitement and energy the group has as a whole, I am certain we will finish what is needed to be done. (Update: We did!)
Being completely immersed in a new and very different culture, from our own comes with its challenges. We have encountered many bugs we are not used to seeing; we have tried food we have never tried before. But the most difficult is trying to communicate with the families, who do not speak our native language, English. Most of us do not speak Spanish every day; therefore, we are not the best at it. Living in a house for five days where sometimes only one person, or even no one, speaks English, I would say is the biggest challenge yet. The language barrier really puts a strain between the host family and the student. We all struggle each and every day with communication; but in the end we make it work in order to have a good time.
After long, hard, tiring days at work, some of the students met the local ‘Tico’ kids at the plaza. Here, we enjoy a fun, friendly game of soccer or futbol. It may get a little competitive at times, but we are all in it for the fun. It’s a fun way to meet and talk to the locals and enjoy a little exercise as well. All in all, living in a foreign place has its challenges; but we all made the best of it in order to take this unique experience and cherish it for the rest of our lives. Hasta luego from San Salvador, Costa Rica!