By Serena Vandenberg
Because coming here to Costa Rica was my first experience outside of the United States, I naturally expected to feel homesick or experience some culture shock. But it never happened to the extent that I had imagined, and for this I give full credit to my homestay family. I partook in so many amazing activities with them that they proved to be an integral part in making me feel comfortable here in Potrero. I will never forget my short time with such a beautiful family.
Living with this family gave me the opportunity to experience many daily Tico activities, such as eating an entire fish (head and tail attached, and looking at me with his little eyes), watching the TV competition program Combate (Go Team Azul!) and playing with their adorable dog, Prince (a female dog named Princesa, but called Prince for short). It also opened up opportunities for me to have once-in-a-lifetime experiences, like hiking up to the famous “castle” in town and going on my first boat ride, two adventures that I will illustrate below.
From day one, I heard about the castle (an unfinished regal-looking building on a Potrero hilltop) and how awesome (and difficult) of a hike it is. I thought it would take me a bit of time to eventually decide on a day to hike up to the castle, but I found incredible energy being around the children, and before I knew it I had plans to make the hike with my house sister and her cousin. The plan of action was intense: we were to wake up at 5:30 a.m. to begin the two hour hike (although it is actually better this early because it is not as hot as later in the day). Nonetheless, I found myself ready bright and early, and after a short pit stop at the super (little grocery store) to pick up water and snacks, we were on our way.
The hike begins easy enough, the trail sprinkled with huge, picturesque vacation homes, some of them only halfway through construction. Yet as we proceeded, the trail began to get steeper and steeper. I hoped that as time passed the castle would appear closer, but because the path winds around many hills, we barely seemed to be closing in on it at all. After about an hour we took a small break to sit in the middle of the trail for a small snack of water and yogurt, after which we hiked straight through to the castle.
Although we could not pass onto the property, the views were incredible. The view in every direction seemed more beautiful than the last. We could look out onto the ocean, take in the view of the clouds that sprinkled the lower-lying hills, or try to spot familiar buildings in our town. I was completely overwhelmed by the beauty (and by the fact that I hiked all that way). It is an adventure I recommend to anyone that hopes to take in the true beauty of Potrero.
My First Boat Experience
On the last day of my homestay, I was awoken by a small knock on my bedroom door. It was my house sister, asking if I would like to go on a boat ride. Uh, of course! We were to go out on the ocean with some extended family in a fishing boat. I did not know what to expect, yet everything about the experience was amazing. We went out around the islands that spot the Pacific Ocean along the coast and were lucky enough to spot a whale and some mating turtles. While my stomach struggled a bit to begin with, looking out at the amazing beauty of everything was enough to keep me settled and content. After five hours, we returned to shore, and my only regret is not taking my camera on such a wonderful trip.