These are the sweet words I hear every night when my Mama Tica serves dinner. It is just one of my favorite things about Costa Rica. In fact, I think living with a host family is a highlight of my study abroad experience.
When I arrived in Costa Rica, all I had was directions to my host family’s home. (Costa Rica does not use addresses but rather employs landmarks and “50 meters on the left” as the indicator.) My host mom greeted me with a warm hug and asked, “Español?” I have not taken one Spanish course and so the rest of the night was a jumble of words that I learned from Duolingo, words she knew in English, and our good friend Google Translate.
Human connection beyond language is one of the most magical things I have experienced. We pointed and we laughed over the bowl of pasta she made me, and somehow through it all I knew that this place was going to be a wonderful home for the next four months.
Every morning my Mama Tica makes me a small pot of coffee that sits on a pastel colored placemat. In the center of the table sits a large platter of fresh fruit (she tries to only buy what is in season). Mama Tica greets me and my roommates with a heart-hugging “buenos días” every morning. Our breakfasts are usually accompanied by the radio and the sounds of San José yawning.
My roommates and I get a kiss goodbye and we are off for our days full of classes and homework. We get home only to receive the same heart-hugging greeting and a “Como fue su día?” (How was your day?) Usually, our Mama Tica is in the kitchen making us some delicious soup or beans and rice. It doesn’t grow old to tell people how good of a cook our Mama Tica is. And without fail, a plate of fried plantains is placed in the middle of the table with our collective ooohs and ahhhs.
Usually after our breakfasts and dinners we wash our own dishes. This is one of my favorite times to try out me brand-spanking-new Spanish with Mama Tica. Some days it is a triumph. Some days it is frustrating. But yesterday it was a comedy show when I enthusiastically stated, “Hace huevos, Mama Tica!” I was trying to say, “There is rain, Mama Tica!” but I really said, “There is eggs!” as I pointed outside. We laughed a lot and she graciously helped me to figure out the difference between huevos and llueve.
Often during these dishwashing sessions or times around the kitchen table after dinner we learn about each other’s lives. She is always interested to hear about our weekend excursions. Yet her interest is always perfectly paired with respect and motherly care.
There is nothing quite like coming home from a weekend away to a freshly made bed and clean clothes meticulously folded. It seems like my trash can is allergic to having trash in it!
Living with my host mom has been a comforting and nourishing experience while away from home. Plus, it has allowed me to feel like I am in Costa Rican culture. My host mom will inform us if there is water shortage and other normal parts of Costa Rican living.
Because of my Mama Tica, Costa Rica has easily felt like a home away from home.