If I had to chose one word to describe my experience in Costa Rica it would most definitely be MEMORABLE! Wow, I can not believe the trip is already over. It seems just like yesterday I was boarding the plane to San Jose. I must say ten days was just not enough.

The best part of my trip would definitely be the time spent with my host family. At first I was extremely nervous about meeting the family for the first time. Soon after I met them we began to click and connect on so many levels. Of course they knew very little English but we did not let our language differences be the barrier of communication.

I definitely had the best family, they were so loving and thoughtful. I felt like my host mom was the back bone of the family. She did everything from cleaning and cooking, to making sure kids were happy at all times. She always had a smile on her face and that’s what I loved about her. Also what I found to be so cute was how my mom would speak to my dad. She would always address my dad by “Mi Amor” which means “my love”. My parents were together for over 35 years.

San Salvador was the village we stayed in with our families. The place was so beautiful and peaceful, it definitely gave a relaxed vibe. I could definitely picture myself living there in the future. Something I noticed while staying in the village, and will forever cherish, was how content the people were there. They didn’t care about having the latest technology or the hottest clothes. As long as they had each other, nothing else mattered. I respect that a lot because in America we are very materialistic. We tend to believe that these material things are our necessities and we cannot live without them. I have realized that we can live without them. If the people in Costa Rica can do it and be happy so can we! All you is need a great support system, your family, to be happy.

When I look back on my journey I feel so grateful and blessed to have been a part of it. Thank you Wandering Scholar for this amazing opportunity! read more →

The first groups of Wandering Scholars are finally on their way and traveling in their host countries. There is nothing more exciting than reading about their experiences abroad.

Wandering Scholar Marina and Local Roots Fellow Gina have been in Costa Rica for a week now with the Costa Rica Pioneer program and based on their blogs it sounds like they are having an amazing experience!  

Below is an excerpt from the group blog where Wandering Scholar Marina talks about overcoming food barriers. Follow this link for Gina’s description of the first few days in Costa Rica and a video about our students in the Costa Rica Pioneer Program 2012.

Overcoming Food Barriers

Before setting foot on the beautiful land of Costa Rica, I was definitely nervous about eating the food. Back at home I am known for being what most call a “picky eater” because of my poor eating habits.  So to prepare for the trip I packed tons of snacks to hold me over for the ten days just in case I did not eat anything. I even researched the food eaten in Costa Rica. The main dishes served are traditional rice and beans, fish, and chicken. Before even tasting it I already formed an opinion and decided I did not like it.

Once we as a group arrived in Costa Rica, we headed to a buffet for breakfast. I was extremely nervous about trying the food. So for my meal I ordered a very conservative plate. I had a flour tortilla that mimicked a flat pancake, white rice, and these mini sausage links known as embutido. I knew that I was taking a risk with eating embutido but I figured I might as well try it. Shockingly embutido is really delicious, it tastes similar to mild hotdogs. I took a chance with embutido and it gave me a little feeling that it’s going to be okay.

Yesterday was Sunday and also day three of our journey. That night we met our host family for the first time.  Before our placement Paul and Noe, our group leaders, went over a few tips and rules regarding living with our host family. One of the topics of discussion was about eating the meals our host families’ cook. They explained how not eating some of the food could be seen as a sign of disrespect or poor manners, so we should eat as much as we feel comfortable eating. With that in mind I had many mixed feelings and became doubtful.

My host mom, known as Mama Cinya, cooked this big dinner for the family to celebrate my arrival. As I watched Mama Cinya in the kitchen, I could just sense all the love and effort she put into making the food. I could not just waste the meal and not bother trying it. So I overcame my fear of trying new food and ate my meal completely. The meal was rather tasty for the most part. I told Mama Cinya I loved the food multiple times in Spanish. Mama Cinya then gave me big hug and warm smile. That moment was priceless and I will forever remember it.

That day I overcame many food barriers. For those who struggle with trying new food I recommend mixing food you do like with the food you dislike, which is a very useful technique. Also what helped me get through my fear was just simply thinking about the person who made the food for me. I know the food served in Costa Rica can be repetitive at times. My advice to that would just be to stick it out, it is worth it. It means the world to your host family when you eat their food. In return they give you love and affection, and that is worth a million!

Have you ever experienced a fear of a certain food? What did you do to overcome your fear?

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Marina's Trip

The day is finally here. Today I will be traveling to the beautiful country of Costa Rica for ten days. There are so many emotions going on so I thought I will share them here on my blog. 

I keep thinking about my potential host family. I wonder if its a large or small family. I wonder if they have kids and, if so, will the kids accept me? I know in the beginning it will be awkward but I hope as the days pass they warm up to me. With all that in mind I took a lot of time thinking of a great gift for the family.  So for my home stay gift I got knitted bracelets, pens, and a huge Philadelphia mug. I bought a reusable bag with flowers on it  to put everything in. I know Costa Rica is a very green place so I thought that would be a nice touch. Also the best part of the gift are the plain white t-shirts I bought so we can tie dye them! I love tie dying shirts so I thought that would be a great arts & crafts activity to do with my home stay family. Although I did not get a chance to make the scrap book, I plan to finish it in the future then mail it to them.

 I hope during my stay I create everlasting friendships with my family so we can continue communicating when I leave. I just want this to be a great and memorable experience. 

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Marina's Trip

In less than 9 days I will be traveling to the beautiful land of Costa Rica. As I anxiously await for departure, I still have several important duties to be handled. One being my documentation project. During this trip I will record parts of  my experience with my camera. Then with the recordings, I will create a video diary.

My plan for this video diary is to capture my before, during, and after experience. The primary goal is to show my growth as an individual and how it has evolved overtime. This week I had the chance to speak to my mentor Caitlin and we discussed my project in more depth. I explained to Caitlin how I wanted my video diary to be a reflection of my journey as well. So she suggested I create my own questions to ask before and after my trip. Caitlin also sent me a set a questions to help for my reflection segment. Caitlin is an experienced traveler who led a group of students to Mongolia. She was such a big help in the process. I know with out doubt I am on the right track for my documentation project. Thank you Caitlin!

This is my first blog, there will definitely be more on the way! Please feel free to add any comments, feedback is always welcomed and appreciated.

Pura Vida!

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Even though this year’s Wandering Scholars – Jonathan Moore, Marina Musgrove-Pyfrom, and Serina Wesonga – haven’t left their hometowns yet, their journeys have already begun. 

For their first official assignment as Wandering Scholars, they did some fact-finding about their host countries. From exchange rates and average costs to  popular artists and political issues, they have researched things about their host countries that will impress their host families and inspire their fellow travelers. In the process they’ve also discovered new things to be excited about, as well as some surprising facts about where they’re headed.

Want to know more? Read the highlights on Costa Rica below and stay tuned for our Peru edition!

Traditional Casado

Serina Wesonga researched her host country, Costa Rica, where the official  language is Spanish. However, as Serina notes, English is spoken in business communities and tourist destinations. The nation shares borders with Panama, Nicaragua, and North Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea.

Serina also found that the traditional  lunch meal is called a “casado” a word that means “married man” in Spanish. In Costa Rica, when husbands come home from work this dish is served for dinner by their wives. It consists of rice and beans served side by side and mixed with some type of meat (usually pork, fish, or chicken).

Serina also investigated Costa Rican popular music genres including an indigenous calypso scene. This form of calypso is distinct from the more widely-known Trinidadian calypso sound.

Watch the video below to learn more about this typical music:

During her research Serina was most surprised by Costa Rica’s temperatures during her travel window. She says: “I imagined Costa Rica being very hot in July and June…I found out that [these months] would not  be classified as summer in Costa Rica”. Serina sees differences between her host country’s culture and America’s culture, “Everything seems like it will be  new and exciting  to me.” She says that the biggest adjustment will be the language barriers.

“I am hoping my host family and the people of Costa Rica will be patient as I try to soak up and translate as much of the language as possible. I am extremely excited for the new things that await me and I hope that all adjustments will go smoothly for me”.

Marina Musgrove-Pyfrom‘s host country is also Costa Rica. She discovered that even though Spanish is the main language, there is also an area where a Caribbean Creole dialect of English is spoken. One phrase used in Costa Rica is “Pura Vida.” It means pure life and symbolizes the Costa Rican idea of letting things go, and enjoying life. In Costa Rica, if someone asks you “Como estas?” (How are you?), you can answer “Pura vida.” A local band is Villalobos Brothers and a local TV show is A de Asombroso.

Watch a trailer for A de Asombroso here:

Costa Rica has a similar government system to the USA. She learned that in Costa Rica abortion is severely restricted. It is only permitted if the mother’s life or physical is in jeopardy and it is a controversial issue between political parties.

Marina also noted that the seasons seem different from the U.S.

“Philadelphia, where I am from, is very hot outside [in June and July]. So when I pack for Costa Rica I plan to bring ponchos, rain boots, and rain jacket to protect myself from the rain.”

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