I have to give credit for the title to Jessie. I think it fits, considering the amount of rain we get here. So…we have a week left in Costa Rica. Where did the time go? I’ll tell you:

Day 14: Let’s soak up the sun.

It was another sunny day! Yay for tans! So far, no one has been badly sunburned (knock on wood!) We worked on the curb of the sidewalk we built. Thankfully, we had Dana and Madison to motivate us. They chanted, “What are we working for? HOT SPRINGS!” We definitely worked hard knowing we would get a well deserved break the following day. However, our work was cut a little short with a thunderstorm. We covered the curb in plastic in an attempt to save it from the pouring rain. After all was said and done, we found out that the storm did some damage to the bridge. Not just damage, I guess. Actually, the bridge that we usually used to go to the city collapsed. We were worried that getting to La Fortuna the next day would be a challenge, but we were reassured by Heidi and Jadi when they told us we would take a different route. With that in mind, we could all sleep in peace.

Day 15: We get to sleep in how long?

I’ll answer that. Almost 3 more hours than usual! Our work day usually starts at 8, at least that’s when we’re expected to be by the salon. It seems to get later everyday since Jadi and Heidi like to be on Tico time (Ticos are the locals, Gringos are Americans). Today, we had to meet at 10:45! It was a dream come true and everyone was happy to have a chance to sleep in. Since the bridge was still broken, we had to wait for the bus to arrive. We ended up leaving around 12 and arrived in La Fortuna about an hour and a half later. We were more than ready to get off the hot bus and settle into our hotel. I roomed with Dana and Carly. We ate the lunches that our host parents packed us and had until 5 to explore the town. I got some yummy ice cream and bought some presents for my family and friends. After all that fun, we gathered to go to the Baldi Hot Springs and Spa, ready to relax. We had about half an hour before dinner started, so I used to time to explore the tropical garden with Madison, Dana, Lucy, Devin, and Carly. We had plenty of fun taking pictures in the beautiful landscape.  Dinner was amazing to say the least. Everyone was glad to have an option besides rice and beans. Waterslides, anyone? Everyone rushed to those right after dinner. Those were, without a doubt, the fastest waterslides I’ve ever been on. We got a few bumps and bruises but had a night of endless fun. After getting enough adrenaline in our systems, we wandered around all the different thermal pools. My favorite would definitely have to be the one that had enclosed pools of cold water within the bigger pool of hot water. That and the waterfall with super hot water! Although we stayed till 10, time seemed to fly by too quickly, as always. Nonetheless, everyone in my room passed out as soon as we got back to the hotel.

Day 16: “Do you hear that?” “No!” “Exactly!”

We woke up, thankful to have no screaming children, annoying roosters, or cows to disturb our peace in the morning. We had breakfast around 8:30 and had until 12 to relax and do some shopping. After a delicious lunch at a local pizzeria, we were off to the rope swing! The fearless ones in the group jumped off a few times and some even managed to show off some skills. A few of the girls, including me, decided to sit and watch the fun from a short distance instead. But hey, we did get some great pictures on Jadi’s camera! After we had enough, we went back to Buena Vista to continue our homestay. We even managed to squeeze in a spontanteous kickball game before dinner. It turned out to be a great day!
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It’s Monday, July 19, 2010.

Another week has come and gone. It seems to all go by so quickly, but yet so slowly at the same time. I suppose I should start where I left off.

Day 7: Off to the village we go.

We started off the day pretty early. Breakfast was at 7. After that, we headed to Manual Antonio National Park to look for monkeys and sloths. It was raining, once again. We left our stuff in the bus but I decided to take my camera just in case I caught a glimpse of anything interesting. We walked around, trying to follow groups with guides so we could see some animals. We saw some bright orange crabs and heard some monkeys as we walked to the beach. Some decided to walk to the waterfall, so we split into a few groups. When my group reached the beach, we quickly took off our raincoats and clothes and ran for the water. Swimming in the pouring rain is even more fun than it looks. This quiet beach had no huge waves, unlike the other one, so we relaxed in the water and even played some Chicken. Soon enough, it was time to head back to the entrance to meet the rest of the group and go back to the hotel. When I got on the bus, I reached for my coat pocket to get my camera. As much as I wanted to believe that a raincoat is waterproof, it really isn’t. I didn’t think leaving my clothes under my raincoat on a branch of a tree would be such a problem. My camera had water all over it and my case was soaked. Needless to say, it didn’t turn on. I was really upset, but as soon as I got to the hotel, Jadi got me a bag of rice to put it in. I was just holding onto the hope that rice would save it, but it may be time to invest in a waterproof camera. We packed up our stuff and loaded it on the bus around 12. Before we left, I got to call my mom and asked her if she got the results of my AP World History test. I was very surprised, but ecstatic to hear that I got a 5! At least that put me in better spirits. We headed off for our 7 hour bus ride, stopping for some lunch along the way. I had some of the local cuisine complete with Coke from a glass bottle, with Dana, Madison, and Carly, while others decided to grab some pizza. Then we got some yummy gelato! Dana was super excited to find out that she could try some of the strawberry flavored one since it did not contain wheat, corn, or dairy. We got back on the bus and continued our journey. It rained on and off, as always. We stopped a few times for bathroom breaks and snacks. Will had to load up on those snacks! At some points, everyone was chatty, but as we got closer to our destination, a lot of people made an effort to learn all the Spanish they could before meeting their families. I read Dear John most of the time and listened to some John Mayer. We finally got to the village around 7. Everyone was gathered in what they call the “salon“. No, it’s not a hair salon. It’s a small gymnasium where the community often gathers for town events or even to play some basketball or, more likely, soccer when they can’t outside. Everyone in our bus was super excited, as were the locals. We got all our stuff from the bus and gathered in the gym. The locals put up some posters welcoming us and even gave us some treats and soda. One of the moms sang the song of their community, a younger girl sang My Heart Will Go On from the Titanic because it was one of her favorite songs in English, and then we played musical chairs. Whoever was left without a chair when the music stopped was introduced to their families for the next 2 and a half weeks. I was the second one out, but only because Will decided to fight me for my chair. My host mom, Lillian, and my brother, Steven, were there to meet me. Eventually, we all went to our new homes. I was welcomed by my dad, Juan Carlos, my sister, Carla, and her two daughters, Sophie (6 months old) and Allison (3 years old). They showed me my room, where they had put a big poster that said “Welcome to our family!” and a bunch of balloons. After I got settled, my host mom gave me dinner and I played cards with my dad and brother. They tried teaching me the best they could and Carla actually stood behind me, telling me which cards to play. I didn’t fully understand the game, but it was still fun. Even though most of my day was spent in a bus, I felt extremely tired and had no problems falling asleep.

Day 8: The work begins.

I woke up at 8 this morning and was expected to be at the meeting place at 8:30 for orientation and work. I definitely scrambled a little, but I managed. My host mom and dad were gone in the morning, but my sister gave me breakfast. I had the choice of fruit loops or chocolaty cereal. I chose the chocolate one. My brother and sister walked me down to the gym. It was raining, as it always does this time of year. We talked about the work we were going to be doing and wasted no time in getting started. We had to move some piles of dirt and stones first, but, luckily, we had help from a machine for that. Our jefe, or boss, is Juan Pedro, a local contractor and also Lucy’s host father. He told us everything that we needed to do. We began digging a path for the sidewalk and filling some places with dirt when it was needed. Juan Pedro took care of laying the boards on the sides and we began mixing cement. We used 2 wheelbarrows of dirt, 2 wheelbarrows of rocks, and a 50 kg bag of cement for each batch. Cement mixing is no joke, I’ll tell you that. It takes a lot of work to do it by hand. After work, some of the group played soccer with the locals, while others watched. By the end of the day, everyone was definitely exhausted. I took a shower when I got home. It wasn’t the greatest thing, taking a freezing cold shower, but I got through it. I miss the hot water option we have at home, but I guess that’s all part of the experience. I had dinner and my host mom was kind enough to take me to her friend’s house to use the computer so I could talk to my family and friends. The hardest part of this whole trip is the fact that I can’t see my family and friends whenever I please. I’ve definitely been homesick, some days more than others, but I tell myself that this is all temporary and I’ll see them soon enough. For now, I have to enjoy everything this country has to offer. (more…)

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It’s day 7 in Costa Rica! It’s been quite a week so far. Let me break it down for you:

Day 1: Travel Day

I woke up at 4:30 in the morning, having 2 hours of sleep. I got ready, woke up my mom, and tried to finish Michal’s present. His birthday is July 27 and I’m making this awesome present for him but I cannot say what until he receives it. He came over and “napped” while I tried to finish. Well I failed. My mom started pushing me out the door. I got to the airport fairly quickly, and then waited a bunch to check in. You know the usual at O’Hare. My mom and Michal waited to leave until I was through security (of course, I hugged and kissed them both). My plane ended up being a little delayed because it took them a while to clean it, so I got some breakfast. I got to Miami around 1 Eastern Time. It took about 3 hours. I proceeded to find Shirley, the person from Walking Tree who was meeting everyone in Miami. She was waiting and watching the World Cup game with Lucy. Cell phone reception isn’t the best in the Miami Airport. I had no service for an hour or so and my mom freaked out when she couldn’t reach me. Eventually she called Shirley and I talked to her. So for the rest of the afternoon, we waited for everyone else to arrive. When I went to check in, my ticket was apparently nowhere to be found. Although my bag was checked all the way to San Jose, I didn’t receive a ticket for my Miami flight at O’Hare. The lady at Miami airport told me I had no ticket to San Jose, and that definitely freaked me out for a moment. However, we quickly cleared up the confusion. At the airport, the 12 members of the group that were traveling together quickly got to know each other. While waiting for the plane, we all played Mafia and some other games to pass the time. Our flight was a little delayed once again. What can you expect with American Airlines, right? We arrived in San Jose around 11 pm and were greeted by Alec, a Walking Tree coordinator, along with Emily, another group member that traveled by herself. Needless to say, we were tired and hungry. Good thing they had Papa John’s pizza waiting for us at the hotel! We got our rooms – I roomed with Devin – and then came back to eat pizza. Devin and I talked a lot and found out that we have a lot in common. When I unpacked my suitcase, I found out that Michal was very sneaky while I was occupied, and he actually packed a journal in my bag along with some money. He included a note and some awesome Nicholas Sparks quotes. So now, every night before I go to bed, or when I have free time, I write in my journal about everything I’ve done that day. That’s exactly what I did before passing out after a long day.

Since I’m going to be talking about my group members a bunch, I’m going to give you some basic facts about them. I asked them to write down their first name, age, grade, state, and an interesting fact about themselves. (more…) read more →

It is Sunday, July 4th, 2010. Happy Independence Day, America! Today it hit me that I have 2 full days before I leave for Costa Rica, and I have a lot to do before I get done, including my first blog post. So here goes nothing…

A little bit about myself…

My name is Elina Sagaydak. I was born in Ternopil, Ukraine on February 16, 1994. I moved to Skokie, Illinois (a suburb of Chicago) on July 10, 1999, when I was 5 years old. I am now 16 years old and will be entering my junior year at John Hersey High School. I speak Russian at home, understand Ukrainian, and I have been learning Spanish since 7th grade. I live with my mom, step-dad, and half-sister who has recently turned 3. Her name is Alexandra (we call her Sasha) and she is the cutest thing in the world. I also have a cat named Sunny (he’s orange), but I would love it if my mom got me a Yorkie (although that’s not going to happen anytime soon). My favorite colors are lime green and pink. (My dream room would be lime green with pink polka dots.) My favorite/lucky number is 5. I love all kinds of food, but my favorite would definitely have to be Asian food. Yes, I am obsessed with the Twilight Saga, just like every other teenage girl in the United States. Team Edward or Jacob, you ask? Team Edward, no doubt, but I’m also Team Taylor. (Come on, he has nice abs.) I also love Nicholas Sparks stories, and, yes, I love sappy movies. Favorite artists would have to be Taylor Swift and John Mayer, but I like all types of music. I hope to one day become a doctor, maybe a pediatrician or dermatologist, and then travel the world in my downtime. I have been figure skating since I was 7 years old. For those of you that are wondering and don’t know me that well, I do not plan on going to the Olympics; I just love the sport because it’s so unique and beautiful to watch. Out of all my hobbies and activities that I have done (which include ballet, piano, violin, flute, and painting), figure skating is the one that I have not been able to give up. It has become increasingly difficult to stick with it, considering the amount of time school takes up and the expensive nature of the sport, but I do my best to keep up. I have also been playing badminton for my school team since my freshmen year. It’s a great, but tough sport that requires you to use your head (contrary to what people think). It’s also been a good experience to be a part of a team, since figure skating is more of a solitary sport.

It’s been quite a year to say the least.

Last September, I was diagnosed with Grade 3 Pleomorphic Liposarcoma, a rare form of cancer. I had noticed a mass in the inside of my mouth in late June. I went to the dentist, thinking it was a problem with my teeth, only to find that my teeth were perfectly healthy. It didn’t seem like too much of a problem, since it wasn’t particularly painful, so I dismissed the thought as I went on a 3 week trip to Ukraine. After seeing my friends and my dad’s side of the family, I knew my problem had not disappeared. The day after I came back to the states, I went to my family doctor, who referred me to an EMT doctor, which specializes in the ear, nose, throat. He told me, without any scans, that I had a globulomaxillary cyst. (more…) read more →