andevries' Travel Journals


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Be open minded and ready to try new things, learn new things, and be stretched in a variety of ways. Traveling is a growing experience for all to enjoy.

  • 28 years old
  • From Pennsylvania, United States
  • Currently in South Carolina, United States

Costa Rica Adventures

I am studying abroad in Costa Rica doing an Intensive Spanish Language Program and living with a host family. This journal serves to keep others informed about my experience as well as to remain a record of my adventure for future reference or reflection.

Living and Learning

Costa Rica San Jose, Costa Rica  |  Oct 18, 2010
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 I can’t help but believe when I look back now that God definitely had a hand in leading me to go. 

I honestly don’t know where to begin or how to organize my thoughts for you all at the moment, but I have a lot I want to share. It’s hard to describe the past weekend in a few words, but I will say that it was interesting in a variety of ways, and I believe I learned more this past weekend than any other weekend of my life.

First off, almost everyone I know here loves to go out at night to bars to drink and dance as if it’s the best thing in the world to do. The drinking age here is 18. My roommates don’t go out that often which I’ve appreciated, but they have gone out a couple times, and on weekends when I’m on excursions all but one or two of us from the group would go out. Drinking and/or going out to a bar are two very foreign things for me that I have clearly never experienced in my life before nor am I interested in, but at the same time I don’t want to appear anti-social or close-minded to people. My one roommate, History, who is a Christian and is 19, went out a couple times and after last weekend told me how much fun it was and that she was concerned that I thought less of her as a Christian because she went out and drank and that I seemed close-minded and may appear to the other girls who are non-Christians as though I think I’m better than them. I was glad she approached me about all this for this is not at all how I wish to be perceived. It gave me a lot to think about, and I have definitely been praying that God would give me wisdom in what to say and do to best shine for Him.

I had been thinking that I wanted to go out at night at least once while I’m here in Costa Rica to know what it is like and experience the “night life” here in Costa Rica. I had my first sip of alcohol ever by tasting a bit of my friend’s Imperial (the beer of Costa Rica) at the welcoming party at school the first week I was here, and I thought it was absolutely disgusting. I don’t know why or even how anyone drinks it. They say it’s an acquired taste, but I do not desire to ever have it again. Anyhow, my roommate, History, discovered a much better tasting, and light drink, called Smirnoff, which she recommended I try sometime. So I was definitely open to eventually going out and trying a Smirnoff. During the week I have to wake up everyday at 6:30 for school and want to be alert in my Spanish class from 8-12 each day (since that’s my primary purpose in coming here – to learn Spanish) so I was very hesitant to ever go out on a weeknight. However, I was thinking about going out last Thursday along with all 3 of my roommates to a place called Castro’s which I had heard was a lot of fun and had “real” dancing like Salsa, Meringue, and more. I thought it would be a good time to go since I had a pretty chill field trip the next day and didn’t need to be at school ‘til 8:30.  However, I didn’t feel good all day Thursday. I had a cold, my stomach was a little upset, and I was really tired all day, so I went to class but then slept a lot in the afternoon, and definitely was not about to stay out any too late.  I’m really glad I didn’t go because my 2 other roommates, Lisa and Lindsay, returned completely wasted and felt sick as a result the next day. It certainly didn’t make me ever want to go, but I still felt that I should go at least once. Plus our host parents talked about going out with the 4 of us sometime soon so I knew I'd eventually go out.

So then the weekend came. Originally I did not think this trip (to Tamarindo Beach) was included for me and I was not planning on going on it, but since it was paid for and I couldn’t switch it, I just went. I understand now that God had a plan for me on this trip.

All in all, it was very eye opening. It was a long bus ride to Tamarindo (about 6 hours) so we got there a little after 7. On the way we passed an accident and the chaperone that was coming along with us from the school all of the sudden said, "mi hermana" and jumped out of the bus. It was his sister's car, and she was inside of the ambulance on site. She was okay, but he stayed back with her, so then it was just the bus driver and us 14 students, which was a little odd. I shared a room with one other girl, Sachi, who is from Japan but goes to school in New York. Little did I know how interesting that in and of itself would be. I had gotten along really well with Sachi the weekend before, so I thought it would be nice. However, it turned out, to make a long story short, that both nights she did not sleep in the room but rather with the bus driver, who she had just met last weekend, since he was our bus driver for the last trip too. Also, there was only one key for each room and it seemed as though each time she disappeared she always took the key with her. The first night I went to the office and had to ask them to open my room for me. At that point I had no idea where she was. Later she came back and told me where she had been and then left again after telling me she was going to sleep with the bus driver. I was blown away that she (or really anyone) would do such a thing. I shared my opinion and she was a little shocked, as was I of hers. But it was obviously her decision and not mine.

Saturday was a pretty enjoyable day. It was my first time ever to the Pacific Coast, which was special. I was amazed at how far out in the water you had to go even just to reach knee level. The beach was pretty, but I didn’t stay at the beach too long knowing I would just get burned. Sachi and I had gone to the beach together and then we went swimming in the hotel pool a bit. Afterwards, we hung out with Nick and David, 2 guys from our excursion group. We went to lunch at Subway, which looked very American inside but was the cheapest place to eat, and browsed the souvenir shops along the street. Everything was really expensive there because it is such a touristy area, but it was still fun to look around. Later, the four of us went back to the beach where David and Nick surfed, but believing that I do not have enough coordination to surf, I instead just took some pictures of them. We wanted to see the sunset so around 5:20 or so we went out to the beach again to watch the sunset, but unfortunately there were a lot of annoying clouds in the way of the beauty, but it was better than the disappointing sunrise from the weekend before. Then we ate dinner at the same restaurant that we ate at Friday night, which was right along the beach. The difference was that on Friday we were sitting by the shore and had no idea what it looked like since we had arrived after dark.

After dinner on Saturday is when things began to get really interesting. Since we arrived back from dinner, Sachi disappeared again with the key. Fortunately she left the door open a crack for me to get back in, but once I left and closed the door (which locks automatically) I didn’t know what I'd do if I couldn’t find her. I knew that mostly everyone was planning on going out that night to a discoteque, called Aqua, which they had gone to the night before and then invited me to join them Sat. night. Knowing that I could sleep in a bit the next day and sleep some on the bus ride home and then didn’t have classes on Monday, I felt like it really was the perfect night to go out if I was ever going to.  I can’t help but believe when I look back now that God definitely had a hand in leading me to go.

We left a little after 10:00 and first went to a bar called Sharky’s where there was no cover and there were free drinks. I tried some of the drinks the other girls got and none of them interested me, so I just got a plain Sprite there. Then we went to Aqua, where there was a $4 cover fee and free drinks until 12, but I didn’t bother with any of the free drinks. History bought me a Smirnoff, which I accepted, and I took the advice of a good friend from school and took slow sips. It certainly tasted better than any of the other drinks I’d tasted, but it still took me the whole night (about 3 hours) to finish. I kept the bottle as a keepsake. It was definitely a different experience for me. The kind of dancing there did not appeal to me since it was basically just grinding and the place was really crowded, but it was good for me to experience it all firsthand. Also, I found Sachi there and got the room key so I at least knew I could get back into my room upon returning to the hotel. Overall, I was very impressed by the protectiveness amongst the group of girls that I went out with. It was great to see how much they look out for each other and care about the safety of one another. Around 2:00am, just before I took the last sip of my drink, we could not find one of the girls from our group. We looked all over the bar and did not see her or the guy she had been dancing with. So 3 of us left the bar to head back to the hotel and see if she was there, but she was not. There was nothing we could do for we had no clue where she was. She and History were sharing a room at the hotel and “the missing girl” had their key, and History was still at the bar, so I placed a sticky note on History’s door telling her if she couldn’t get into her room when she came back that she was welcome to come up to my room.  As I was getting ready for bed I overheard History’s voice outside as she said, “I freakin’ love Audrey”. I assumed she saw my note, but then she didn’t come upstairs so I also assumed they had found Sarah, which was good. So I went to bed (alone in my room again) but soon after I heard a loud knock on my door. I got up, opened it, and there was History in tears saying she just wanted to talk to me. We sat across from each other on the beds and talked for about an hour. She told me how “the missing girl” came back to the bar with her shirt inside out (nobody knows what happened) and then she (History) snapped at her for what she had done. They were both drunk so it wasn’t good. “Missing girl” then wanted to go back to the hotel, and History, not allowing her to walk back by herself, followed her angrily.  She apparently said some nasty things, that she did regret, but also felt she somewhat deserved. Upon returning to the hotel one of the other girls that I had returned with saw that “the missing girl” was crying and History had been yelling at her so she started bashing History and feeling bad for “the missing girl”. So History was very fed up with her roommate, worried about what the other girls thought of her, and felt as though she had been a horrible example of a Christian that night, so she came up to my room. I can’t even describe how glad I was to be there for her, and how good it was that I understood the situation since I had been there…wow God! It meant a lot to me too that she trusted me. History realized that it was not good at all for her to ever be drunk, that she could have fun without drinking, and that she definitely needed to straighten some things out with God for it was apparently affecting her a lot by not being in church 3 days a week like normal.  We both agreed that we were put together as roommates for a reason and believe we should help keep each other accountable. I explained that I am certainly always here for her. I then prayed for both of us, and soon after we went to bed. History slept in the empty bed in my room. It was about 4:30am that we finished talking and I fell asleep, but I did not mind at all being kept up for such a wonderful bonding moment between us as well as a moment of realization for me as to part of why I am here in Costa Rica. It enabled me to see that I can shine for Christ and spread God’s love not only to the non-Christians here, but also most definitely to the other Christians here, and specifically my roommate, History. I’m not sure how long she’s been a Christian, but I know she’s much newer of a Christian than I, and her earnestness to grow more is awesome to see.

I had also found out while at the bar that another girl on the trip with me, Catherine, who I had not spoken to much, was also a Christian, and since she had not been on any excursions the first couple weekends she went to the church nearby the University. I hope to go with her sometime soon. The following day, some of the other girls I went out with asked me what I thought of it, and were so glad that I went. I really felt as though it made a big difference to them that I was at least accepting of going out and had now experienced it for myself. All in all, I felt as though a lot of good came out of me going to the bar that night, and though I do not plan to go out often or drink much, if anything, anymore, I do believe it will be good for me to be open to going again, for I have no doubt that God can use me in such circumstances. I desire to be used by God however he wishes, even if it means taking a step outside of my comfort zone. I just ask for continued prayer that I would make smart choices, exercise wisdom, depend on God’s strength, and be flexible to His will.

Another amazing aspect of the trip that pretty much topped off the weekend, was that on the bus ride home we watched the movie “Fireproof”, which I love! I was shocked that the bus driver put on such a movie, but was super excited about it. I clearly displayed my interest in the movie, and was curious as to how some people would react to it. There were actually 7 Christians (that I know of) out of 15 people total on the bus. Some people were asleep, but of those who were watching it, some of the Non-Christian girls commented on how bad the acting was and that it was a terrible movie. However, Nick, who is from a Christian school in Oregon (there are 3 other kids from his school here too – Trista, who I roomed with last weekend, Joel, who is in my class, and Whitney ,who just does her own crazy thing) said that even though the acting may be horrible, the message is good and that’s more important. It had been his first time seeing it and my heart was rejoicing that someone else saw the movie as I did. Catherine, a fellow Christian, was sitting in front of me and had heard good things about the movie but never seen it before, and afterwards she turned around and told me it made her cry and was her new favorite movie. Again, I was amazed at God for how he planted such an opportunity for me and the other Christians to stand up for him. I hope that the movie also spoke to the hearts of the non-Christians even if just as a small seed.

I apologize for this blog entry being so long, but as you can see I had a lot to share. I am so grateful for the assurance I received that God definitely has me here for a reason. I feel like he has some big plans in store, and I am excited to be a part of it all. I am still soaking in much that I learned over the weekend, and know it’s probably just the beginning of all God has to teach me here in Costa Rica. I’ve only been here 3 weeks and already I feel as though I have grown a lot as a person and specifically grown closer in my walk with God. Thank you all for your thoughts and prayers. Enjoy the accompanying pictures from my field trip to the Central Market on Friday and Tamarindo Beach over the weekend!

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