I know, I know, I have a tendency to go on and on... so I have decided that some of you may prefer to read a summary of my six weeks of travel before starting my voluntary work placement in Costa Rica.
I chose Antigua, Guatemala to be my first stop. It is not only a UNESCO designated World Heritage City, but also famous for its numerous high quality language schools. Not only was I hoping to pick up some Spanish (which I had no knowledge of, previously), it would also be a good place to acclimatize and meet other travellers - and maybe meet some future travel buddies too.
However, I didn't make the most of my three weeks of Spanish schools. There was simply too much socializing with many lovely housemates and students from the school. So often, I was too tired to concentrate in class, and became very good at distracting my teacher (who I must say, was very tolerant of me). I did realize on my last day (when I was too exhausted to distract her anymore), simply how much I could have learnt, if I had only let her get on with her work!
My homestay family was also very lovely. Was very happy that there were two kids, who I passed on my knowledge of camp songs to. We did a few encores of "The Princess Pat" and "Super Lizard" when we said goodbye. The homestay mum would not allow us to speak English during meal times, and my efforts can only described as "pretty poor". Again, I was often too tired, and thinking only of crawling back to bed for a nap, and wondering why she always placed me at her side and asking me questions. As for my housemates, they were all simply fantastic, and we had a lot of fun together.
As life would have it, I was totally swept off my feet by a cute Swiss two days before he left Antigua. We arranged to meet up a week later - when I have finished school as well, and gone to see Copan Ruinas (Honduras) with my housemates - which I would have enjoyed more if I hadn't stayed up partying all night previously...
For four days before meeting up with the cute Swiss, I spun slightly out of orbit - looping through Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala again (I wasn't able to answer the Guatemalan immigration officer satisfactorily as to why I was entering Guatemala for the third time in a month). Although did well with my passport stamps collection, they were pretty lonely days, as I was going off the beaten path. As it gets dark at around 5:30pm over here, I was in bed by 6pm (reading, determined to stay awake until at least 9:30pm!) I didn't speak English for three days, though many of the locals (men, mostly) always initiated conversations with me, especially on the bus. Because of their motives, I didn't enjoy practicing my (still limited) Spanish with them, and finding out more about their culture.
On the way up to Rio Dulce (Guatemala), near the only short stretch of Guatemalan Carribean coast, I was looked after by a very kind Guatemalan lady. She not only made sure I got my change from the conductor, made sure he would tell me when to get off the bus, but also presented me with a crispy fresh note of 0.5 Quetzal (around US$0.06). Although it hasn't much monetary value, it was out of print (and a very nice one too, I must add!!), and I was totally taken aback by her kindness.
Was relieved to be in the company of travellers at Rio Dulce, not least because I was with two of my very first friends from Antigua - who were going some voluntary there. Chilled out for a bit, until my Swiss arrived. Then we spent a lovely few days in Livingston (the Carribean coast) and Rio Dulce. The weather wasn't good at Livingston, and the town pretty quiet, but we managed to admire some stars lying on some concrete blocks of a floating petrol pump - the only empty unguarded (by dogs) pier we could find. Rio Dulce was much nicer, where we went to a hot waterfall, then got a lift in the back of a pickup truck!
Then it was more traveling for me... this time dashing through three countries to reach my ex-housemate Astrid in Managua (Nicaragua) before she flew back to the UK. Then compared the two academic-political cities of León and Granada before dashing onwards to Costa Rica, to begin my project work.
As my bus winded its way up and down the mountains from the Nicaraguan border to San Jose (the capital of Costa Rica), I felt so happy and excited! to be spending three months (or more) in this very beautiful country, and finally fulfilling my years long wish 'to make a difference'....