Jose was supposed to pick me up at 5 pm. A million questions went through my mind as I stared at every single car that went by.
Was I at the right bus stop? Had Jose forgotten to pick me up? How bad did I stand out at a bus stop with my hiking backpack in downtown San Jose, Costa Rica? Was couch surfing a huge mistake? Where would I go if my couch surfing host never showed up?
It was senior year in college and it was my first real trip outside of the U.S. I had not grown up in a family that traveled internationally so my international experience had been limited to crossing the border with my family to Tijuana and Vancouver. Honestly I was terrified.
Costa Rica was supposed to be an easy country to visit, however this was completely out of my comfort zone.
I grew up in the suburbs of Sacramento, California and had barely taken a bus ride. I had taken two jam packed, sweaty buses to get to a random bus stop where my host would pick me up. I was frantically scanning for a blue ford that just never seemed to arrive.
Just as the sun was starting to set an old blue ford pulled up with a young guy who hollered out, “¿Eres Brian?”
I breathed a huge sigh of relief as I hopped in the car with Jose. With no cell phone, wifi, or data, finding a place to stay would have been a challenge.
Off we went heading to the outskirts of San Jose. Immediately I regretted not having studied harder in my two years of high school Spanish and one year of college Spanish.
I had gotten nearly all A’s, however within five minutes I felt like I had used every word that I remembered. Jose was 22 years old and the speed at which he spoke made me feel like I was under a tidal wave. I asked him about family, sports, and food, which were topics I felt I could at least understand a bit. Mentally I was drained.
When we got to his house he unlocked one gate to get inside the property and then another to get in the front door.
I wasn’t sure if these gates were intended to make me feel safe or not, but I figured that night I wouldn’t be going out unless his family gave me the ok. Jose took me inside to meet his mom and brother, both of whom spoke no English. The house was extremely simple. I was led to a tiny bedroom with a bed that had a styrofoam mattress that squeaked every time I rolled over.
Jose’s brother and mom were very kind. During our dinner of rice, beans, chicken, and some papaya, they asked me all kinds of questions.
Here I was halfway through my senior year in college, and due to my knowledge of Spanish I felt like I was a five year old again. I had to be humble. My mind raced a million miles an hour to get out responses to their barrage of questions. I just hoped I wasn’t making a fool of myself.
After dinner Jose asked if I wanted to go out with his friends. I was absolutely exhausted so I thanked him for the offer and retreated to my bite-size room. Despite being so tired, I couldn’t sleep. I was too excited, nervous, and out of my comfort zone to drift off to sleep.