Kaitlyn Zebold, Costa Rica, May 19, 2012

Today was the first day of our trip and was a very busy travel day. A group of us flew out of Chicago. Others came from New York, Colorado, and California, but we all met up in San Jose together. We were picked up from the airport by VIDA staff and traveled to a nearby mall for lunch, to exchange money, and to meet our trip leader, Pablo. Lucky for us, the mall had a food court very similar to what we have in the states so we were all able to get a familiar first meal. Many other VIDA groups were there at the same time meeting their leaders as well. During lunch, we experienced our first Costa Rican storm. The ceiling of the food court was a tin roof and when the rain started, the sound was so overpowering, no one could hear anything else. When there wasn’t the roaring of the rain, however, the food court was filled with the cheering of all the local Costa Ricans watching the soccer game playing on TV’s around the food court.

After lunch, we went to exchange money at the bank. The exchange rate was about 450 Colones to each American dollar, which made figuring out pricing a little easier. We were all very surprised though at how many coins they used! Everyone’s bags seemed to get much heavier after the exchange. Next we piled on the bus and headed to Hotel Aeropuerto for the evening. After we settled into our rooms, which all had air conditioning, an amenity we would sorely miss for the rest of the trip, we had Spanish class followed by a short orientation and discussion of the itinerary with Pablo. In Spanish class, we learned the very basics; how to say hello, how to introduce ourselves, and how to talk about where we were from and our families.

Then we went over some words that we would use in the clinics and some phrases that would be important while staying in our homestays and communicating with members of the community. Pablo discussed the schedule for each day and what we could expect. Then he explained how to set up and take down the clinic stations, what was expected of us each day, and the rules of VIDA. After all of this we piled back on the bus to meet a couple other VIDA groups at a local restaurant for dinner. Here most of us tried a very typical Costa Rican dish, the casado. This dish consisted of rice, black beans with chips, a small side salad, a fried plantain, and either chicken, beef, or some other type of meat. At this restaurant we were lucky enough to have both chicken and beef included! This would definitely not be the last time we would see this dish on the menu. Finally we were all driven back to the hotel and went off to bed to prepare for an early morning and long day tomorrow.