I decided to write a blog about my host families because to me they are one of the biggest influences on our experience here in Costa Rica.
My first family consisted of my mom, Cecilia and my sister Jacqueline, 23. They lived in my house, but then I had a brother Julio who lived with his American wife Sarah and their two year old son Gabriel down the street. This is very similar to my real family back home; I live with my mom and my brother doesn’t live at home anymore and my dad lives in another state. In my Tico family, the father passed away about seven years ago (I don’t know how). Julio is the only one in the family with a car so he helps with errands and such. There was another brother and sister, but I never met them because they live in another town further away. Jackie is in college studying to be a lawyer. We discussed her education and she surprisingly shared with me that she used to go out a lot more, but now she would rather spend times studying her books than being out. Cecilia doesn’t work and stays home every day. She often babysits Gabriel because Julio and Sarah own a travel business out of their home and they need quiet time to work. I am unsure how they receive any income, but in accordance with Costa Rican family dynamics, I feel that Cecilia’s children, especially Julio, help her out a lot with expenses.
The house was gated at the end of the driveway which was unusual for me, but it was like that on almost every single house; it is just part of the Costa Rican culture. To be honest I was expecting dirt floors and tin roofs before I arrived, but this house was completely normal to me. It was middle class in my opinion. They had a desktop computer, a mini laptop, wireless internet, a television in the family room and my mom’s room, and all kitchen appliances. Things weren’t as “new” as you would see back here in the states, but it was just perfect for them. The decorations were old fashion and on the religious side, but oddly I never heard them talk about religion at all. My mom had her own bathroom inside of her bedroom and then there was my bedroom, Jackie’s bedroom and one other bathroom. Jackie used her mom’s bathroom most of the time, which was similar to my childhood; I only ever used my mom’s bathroom.
Jackie is in school from 7 to 7 during the weekdays so I would get home before her and my mom would be cooking dinner already. My mom and I sat down together in their dining room every evening and ate together. She would always wait a little bit for me to start eating and then she would begin. Sometime during dinner Jackie would come in. She grabbed her food and immediately sat down at the computer to get on Facebook… imagine that! So, I don’t know if dinner time is different when students are around, but it didn’t seem like it was very important for them to eat at the table together. Once again this is similar to my own family. When my parents were still together we ate dinner as a family every night, but by the time high school came around it was just whatever happened, happened. It wasn’t necessary anymore to eat with my mom or brother if he was home, we just ate on our own time because everyone was always so busy.
One night during my stay in Heredia Julio drove us all to one of my mama tica’s sister’s house. She comes from a very large family, ten sisters and 3 brothers. When we arrived I was greeted warmly and I soon realized that they spoke decent English. However, they did not speak it for me, the forced me to speak Spanish so that I could practice it. The whole night they made me feel like I was truly part of their family. One of my tia tica’s, or aunts, actually gave me beautiful bracelet and told me that I would never be forgotten and to never forget them. Then one of my uncles sat me down on the couch and he pulled out a Costa Rican dictionary and asked me to read for him. I didn’t quite understand, but soon I realized that he was going to help me with my Spanish and make sure I understood what I was reading. We stopped after every sentence and he explained things for me, in Spanish of course. I had a great time with my extended tico family that night and I would definitely say it was the best night for me in Heredia. To feel part of a family that you met just a few days before is the most amazing feeling ever.
When we moved to Monteverde we were assigned new families. I was so nervous about the assignment because I couldn’t even imagine a family being as good as my Heredia family, but I was wrong. My new family consisted of Marcos my dad, Sandra my mom, Allen my 8 year old brother and Emily Sophia my 5 year old sister. Marcos works at the hotel that was across the street from Stella’s bakery. The family does not own a car so he has to walk to and from work 7 days a week. The walk is easily 2 miles… His wage is less than 2 dollars an hour and he does anything and everything for the hotel; maintenance, water, housekeeper, etc. Sandra does not work because she likes to be home for the kids and she doesn’t have any desire to work, which Marcos is okay with. Marcos built their house with one other man. The walls were cement and the roof was made of tin sheets. He also built all of the furniture in the house. It was a very modest house, but it was very “homey” at the same time. There was a lot of love in this family and anyone could pick up on it immediately.
-Kitchen/ Dining room
Sandra does all of the house-keeping and she cooks all of the meals. Sometimes Marcos helps out, but Sandra loves to cook. They all eat dinner at the table together every night. And they hang out as a family the rest of the night before bedtime. The first night I was there they had me sit down at the table and Marcos said in Spanish something along the lines of how grateful he and his family were to have me as part of their family for the next two weeks and that he already considered me one of his daughters. It was so comforting to me to hear that and it helped me to relax a little bit. They have three bedrooms and one bathroom. I had my own bedroom, but shared the bathroom with everyone. Emily normally slept with my Sandra and Marcos and Allen slept in the other room or on a mattress on the floor of his parent’s bedroom. Their family dynamics were nothing unusual, I related very well with them. They were very similar to the families back in the states except for they focused on their close family rather than other distractions. They do everything together and they don’t have much technology to sidetrack them other than a television. They are able to make fun out of anything they have and they never seemed to be bored. If they were bored they created something to do. I was envious of how simplistic their lives were with so little distractions and so much time to focus on family time.
One night after Sandra made me dinner she shared with me a very heart-wrenching story about Emily Sophia. She was born premature and had many, many complications; too many to share. A few things she told me: she wasn’t supposed to live past a few days, she was taken from Sandra immediately after birth and was kept in a different hospital for fifteen days and no one could visit her, she was epileptic, they had to watch her 24 hours a day once they took her home, she had heart surgery at 2 years old, and so much more. She told me that she is slow compared to other children in her classroom and that all she wants to do is dance. But Sandra said she is ok with whatever she wants to do as long as she is alive and happy. I asked her if everything was ok now and she said Emily and her family couldn’t be happier. Another tough part of the story that Sandra shared was that she feels that Allen resents her for spending so much time taking care of Emily Sophia and her extended family resents her for moving away to Monteverde (she moved because Emily needed the freshest air because of severe respiratory problems). But to compensate for the extended family’s resentment, she keeps her dynamic family as close as possible.
I was really sad to leave my families in Heredia and Monteverde. They made my experience so much more than I could have ever expected. I will remember them forever and I hope that they will never forget me.