After landing in Costa Rica, my first realization that I was really there was seeing the palm trees swaying in the breeze.  When we arrived to the small city outside of the bungalows we were staying in for the first night, it was so strange at first. But it was also so incredible to see another, completely new way of life, and I couldn’t wait to explore it!

My very first impression of the food was quite horrible. I had a sautéed plantain with cheese and I gagged on it. It was too sweet, slimy, and just plain bad. But my hope was restored during our first lunch. I had  the traditional Casado dish with bright white rice, rich and smoky black beans, and flavorful steak. I was in food heaven and I would be for the rest of the trip. I want rice and beans now.

My home stay family also gave me a wonderful experience. They gave me the most welcoming and loving time I could have asked for. I lived with a mother, father, the oldest daughter, the youngest son, and the son of the oldest daughter. The mother talked to me constantly even though my Spanish was slow and jumbled. She made me delicious traditional Costa Rican food and even comforts from home like hamburgers. The eldest daughter taught me to dance and her son taught me that the joys of childhood are universal.

My group was surprisingly just as great! I never expected to grow so close to a group of people in just ten days. We laughed, worked our butts off, and cried; all together, just like a small family. I will remember their smiles for a very long time.

While experiencing all the magic Costa Rica offered me, I missed my family the most. I wanted to share the hikes, the food, and the people with my mom and dad every night. I know that they would have loved it so much.

And now that I’m home, back in the pouring rain (even though it’s summer) I miss the food and the friendliness of Costa Rica. I have never met people willing to taken in complete strangers. I wish I could bring that warmth back to the United States.

(Sydney Kramer)