Hay que aprovechar - making the most of my free time abroad

Chorreader
A traditional Costa Rican breakfast of gallo pinto, which consists of rice, beans, eggs, maduros (fried bananas), and natilla (a sweet cream)

My free time looks a bit different than that of a student studying abroad. For my student teaching semester, I teach English as a Second Language (ESL) in an elementary school Monday - Thursday from 7:30 a.m. - 3:00 p.m. and Friday from 7:30 a.m. - noon. Moreover, my social circle includes my host family and the teachers with whom I work. Thankfully, I have been blessed enough to make some great friends with various other teachers my first two weeks of teaching and have already had many adventures as a result. Because I work during the weeks, I attempt to take full advantage of the weekends. 

ready for the soccer game
ready for the soccer game

My first weekend, I went to San José with another student teacher in order to see the Festival de Verano TransitArte 2017 in various parks around the city. After arriving in San José Saturday morning, we sat down for a traditional Costa Rican breakfast of gallo pinto, which consists of rice, beans, eggs, maduros (fried bananas), and natilla (a sweet cream). I also ordered coffee via a chorreador (a wooden, drip-style coffee maker) and honestly think that I may never make coffee any other way ever again because it is so simple to use and the taste of the coffee is so much more rich. Afterwards, we explored the city and saw various artists selling their works. We stopped to watch a local artist making spray paint murals and relaxed and enjoyed the free concerts on the stage through the day and night.

The Friday of my second weekend was the night of the Mexico vs Costa Rican fútbol game, which was an incredibly big deal for the entire proud Tico country. One of the teachers I work with and her husband invited me to their home to watch the game with some of the other teachers and their families. It was a grand event with food, drink, and laughter, but unfortunately Costa Rica fell to Mexico 0-2. Our next game is Tuesday, March 28th against Honduras, and we are hoping for better luck this time around. 

The following day, I left for Jacó Beach at 7:30am with another teacher from the school. I took a private 2-hour surf lesson and learned how to successfully ride a wave from a good way out back to shore. I forgot to reapply sunscreen every 2 hours unfortunately, and also forgot that I would be spending the majority of my time surfing on my stomach; as a result, the back of my knees were pretty fried. Hay que recordarlo para la próxima vez (I'll remember that the next time). The sunset was beyond incredible and was well worth waiting for after a full day of surfing.

Manuel Antonio State Park
Manuel Antonio National Park

On Sunday, I visited Manuel Antonio National Park with my teacher friends that invited me to watch the soccer game with them on Friday. The park is well-known because you can hike the mountains and go to the beach within a couple hundred meters of the other. It was beyond beautiful (and hot), and I saw many wild animals including capuchino monkeys, mapaches (Costa Rican raccoons... or thieves as they are more commonly called here), and iguanas. You have to be vigilant of your food while you are at the beach because the mapaches have been known to open zippers of bags and make off with tourists' lunches. After enjoying the mountains and beaches of Manuel Antonio, we drove to another, smaller beach named Playa Estrilloros where we relaxed and ate a picnic while watching the sunset, before driving home to Atenas. 

*Henry Hartzler is a senior at the University of Iowa studying elementary education and ESL. He is completing his ESL student teaching in Costa Rica on the Global Gateways - International Student Teaching program.

Student blog entries posted to this International Accents page may not reflect the opinions and recommendations of UI Study Abroad and International Programs.  The blog is intended to give students a forum for free expression of thoughts and experiences abroad in a respectful space.

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