Coasting in Costa Rica

by Meredith Wright

They say there are three kinds of people who go abroad: 1) the adventurously awesome person 2) someone who’s running away from something and 3) the socially inept person who hopes that things will be different in a foreign land. I have encountered all of these people living abroad. I fancy myself in the first category; however the second rings true for me as well. I moved abroad to both live life and run away from it.

As a recent graduate from McGill University, I now find myself in the center of America: Central America, that is. I went from the frozen sidewalks and dripping poutine of Montreal to the sweltering city of rice and beans in Spanish-speaking San Jose. How did an English literature major end up in Costa Rica? Well, I came here to take a break for a year and teach English (the two are not mutually exclusive). In other words, I came to Costa Rica to procrastinate productively.

As an English teacher I can support myself and be a travelling hippie at the same time. I also really want to learn Spanish despite my hatred of my first year Spanish class. The only time I got an A in that class was when I dressed up as Shakira for a presentation. So far, things are going relatively smoothly here. I put the Toronto grad school option on hold in favour of an exhilarating, irresponsible lifestyle. I have no future and it feels damn good. Of course I worry about what I’m going to do with my life, but as they say here in Costa Rica: pura vida. Pura vida literally means pure life, but often refers to the stress-free Costa Rican or Tico lifestyle. My cousin was working here for over a year and promoted Costa Rica as the ideal post-grad experience. Costa Rica boasts a capital circled by mountains, active volcanoes and year round spring-like weather.

My cousin even invited me to live at her boyfriend’s family’s house. The family is great and their home is absolutely beautiful. My mom jokes that I’m living like a princess, and really, she’s not far off. I’ve been in Costa Rica a little over month now and my daily activities make some of my friends back home want to drop kick me or just drop out of grad school. I did manage to get a job teaching, and took up a position as a substitute teacher at a school which has great perks. I enjoy free salsa lessons and long talks with native-Spanish speakers. My level of Spanish is similar to my level of dancing: I can’t do either of them well, but that doesn’t stop me from doing them! My Spanish blunders and my dance moves both cause unintentional injury and bewilderment in others. I’ve also had the chance to snorkel in the hammerhead-infested waters of Drake Bay, drink a cerveza at the picturesque Nicoya beach, and swim in a volcano crater in Nicaragua. Nowhere else have I been snubbed by a banana-loving spider-monkey and intimidated by an 8 foot tall street dancing gypsy type on the same day. Next on my list is a trip to the active Arenal volcano where I plan to go zip-lining and frolic in the hot springs.

Some days, however, I really miss my family and friends. Being away from them makes me realize how lucky I am to have them. To my amazement, not many people here are impressed by my extensive use of puns and even longer list of corny jokes. I am usually a social butterfly of sorts, but it hasn’t been an easy task to bond with people here. A few of the teachers I work with seem to have lived in this country a little too long and aren’t looking for any new enthusiastic Canadian friends. Luckily I will have a fresh crop of keen co-workers come January and a full-time schedule to boot, eh!

Although Costa Rica can be so lonely at times, I feel I made the right decision in coming here. I wasn’t ready for grad school or any version of a real job. Living here also gives me time to reflect about what I want to achieve in life. Seeing as how my dear Grandma disapproves of my lifestyle with all of her old-fashioned heart, this tells me I’m on the right path. I realize that I can’t hide here forever, but for now, when the real world starts to stress me out I can just brush it off with a pura vida.


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  5. Elizabeth
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    First: I am incredibly jealous, as I am stuck in the Canadian winter. Frost, cold, ice; not fun.

    Second: I love hearing what McGill alumni are up to. If other McGill graduates also love hearing updates on their alumni, check out the new social media aggregate – a brand new site that let’s us McGill alumni reconnect and engage!

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