Wednesday, April 28, 2010


I am currently sitting in an air conditioned hotel room on a busy strip in Miami. Where am I? It's hard to believe that yesterday morning I woke up in San Jose, Costa Rica, and the morning before in Havana, Cuba. The morning before on a beautiful beach in Veradero, Cuba.

But one thing I can say:

I love my life.

I have had a wonderful semester. It really all came together at the end with the Cuba trip. I absolutely, positively loved Cuba. Most fantastic place I have ever been. The people, culture, foods, and political system there were different from any other place I have been. The impact of the USA there is also devastating... something that still continues today. More on this later.

But as for the next day and a half, I will be in Miami debriefing the trip with the whole group. Last night after we flew in, my friends and I went to a Cuban cafe across the street from the hotel and were thrilled to still be speaking Spanish in the USA. Our waitress was from Nicaragua and spoke perfect English, but let us talk to her in Spanish for our sakes. :-) It is great to be back in the US, but still in Spanish speaking land. Apparently, they call Miami the capital of Latin America. So I am not too far from a place I have grown to love.

Anyway. I am so excited to come home tomorrow. I have never been this excited to come home in my life. I can't wait to run into the arms of friends and family and really feel like I am home.

Beloved family and friends, thanks for being part of this journey with me. At times I didn't think I would come out of it alive, so thank you for bearing with me! :-)

Thursday, April 15, 2010


TOMORROW TOMORROW TOMORROW I AM GOING TO CUBA! At 6:15 am I will say goodbye to my San Jose family and fly to Cuba. I honestly think that one of the things that makes me most excited about this trip is the fact that it is nearly impossible for Americans to go. I feel like I am sneaking into this forbidden communist territory, defying the US embargo. (I am actually not doing this... I do have a visa to go. But not without months of work from our professors with the US government.)

Anyway. A few things that are really interesting from our orientation today.

1. We are staying with host families the whole times, but in groups. We will only be at our homes during the evenings. But this is the first time EVER that there are host families, so it is a huge honor!

2. We can not eat with our families- we have all of our meals outside of the home, because it is not economically possible. Each family is given the amount of food that they themselves need, so they do not have enough for a guest.

3. We can not use any of the family's soap or toilet paper. Toilet paper is a luxary. (One time there was a shortage of toilet paper on the island, and people were using newspapers and other things as substitutes.)

4. Hence, we are bringing all of that with us. And a huge bag of gifts/necessities for the family, which includes toilet paper, toothpaste, soap, and other very basic things that are difficult to obtain on the island.

5. There are two currencies in Cuba. One of citizens and one for foreigners.

6. Even though Cuba is 90 miles from Miami, we can not fly back to the US. Instead, we must fly 2 or so hours back to Costa Rica, stay in a hostel for one night, and the next day fly 2 and a half hours to Miami. There are no flights to and from Cuba from the US.

7. One day we have a discussion with Fidel Castro about communism. JUST KIDDING. But we will get to talk to some really interesting people who have been involved in the revolution as well as Cuba's affairs in Angola.

Well that's all I know! When I come back from the other side, I will let you all know how it went!

Just some quick photos

Just wanted to quickly show you all where I have been living the past month. Really beautiful town in the mountains of Cartago. I honestly felt like I was living in Switzerland or something.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

I am alive!

Hello friends!

I am back in San Jose after a wonderful month in San Cristobal! I will be sure to post pictures and stories very soon. Currently I am recovering from a horrible sinus infection and also working on a little five page paper due tomorrow! Love homework.

Today was a very affirming day...I felt very competent and independent going throughout the day. I took two buses and a taxi back from the farm and was able to ask people on the street for directions and information about the buses. Then, I took a taxi alone to the doctor and was able to explain my symptoms and buy all the medications I needed at a pharmacy. It was really nice to be able to confidently maneuver my way through the country.

I feel like I "home" in San Jose. It was so great to see my mom and be back in my room again. I have missed this place and really feel like I am one step closer to being home. My mom made pancakes for me for dinner (actually that was the appetizer... I ate my usual massive portion of rice and lentils and salad afterwards!)

I hope that you all are well! I miss you all very much and can't wait to be home in a few weeks. But there is still another adventure to be had: in a few days I will head off to Cuba! After several months of working with the US government to acquire permission to go, we are all cleared and will be in Havana in just a few nights. I think Cuba really will be one of the most unusual places I have ever traveled to. :-) So excited.

Love you all! More later!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Off to the farm

So tomorrow morning, at 5 am, I will leave my comfy home in San Jose and head off to San Cristobal, Costa Rica, where I will live and farm with a family for ONE MONTH! Part of me feels completely ready to go- I am excited to invest myself in the work there, get to know a new area and new family, and learn more Spanish and more about life in Costa Rica.

At the same time, I feel completely unprepared. First of all, the last few weeks have really worn me down... a combination of family parties, outings with friends, lots of papers and assignments, and just preparation for this trip has really exhausted me. I have a cough and a slight cold, and am wondering how the heck I am going to wake up, EARLY, every day and head off to farm. I really pray that God just gives me the strength to fully invest myself there and enjoy all the work ahead.

Tomorrow morning this is the plan: take a taxi at 5 am with one other girl to San Jose. At 5:45 am, I will board a bus that goes to Cartago. We should arrive within an hour, and then at 7:00 am, I will board a second bus to San Cristobal Norte. From there, I will meet my new mom and head off to my new home. Even though that other student lives in the same town as me, I do not think we will be spending much time together. It's possible none at all.

Another thing: I will have no internet at my house there. So I will be minimally in contact during the next month.

But you will all be in my thoughts and prayers... everyday, as i wake up early to go pick tomatoes and onions and who knows what! Love you guys!

Friday, March 12, 2010


So this was my last week in San Jose! It is really sad.... Today we finished our language class and had our graduation. That class has been every day, for 3 hours, for the past 6 weeks. It was really beautiful to take classes in a garden and get to know the different Spanish professors. I actually had a ton of fun in class with the three other girls in my class and a new professor each week. Probably two of favorite parts of Spanish class were the walks there and the 30 minute break during class. (The academic part of it was fun too... of course.) Everyday, a group of between 5-10 of us would walk to the class together. It was 45 minutes each way... and some days, VERY HOT. But in between stopping for ice cream/gatorade/cinnamon rolls, discussing our faiths, dreams, awkward cultural exchanges, and hundreds of other topics, and some days getting some very interesting comments or cat calls from Costa Rican men, I became very close to the other students. Also, everyday during class, we had a 30 minute break, where everyone would drink delicious Costa Rican coffee, buy sweet bread or cake, and sit out in the garden and chat. It was so relaxing and beautiful, and a good chance to see everyone at once. I'll really miss that.

Here are some pics from the last day. Brady lady, Anthony/Wally/Antwone/Antonio and I took a photo shoot just for you. It was pretty hilarious. Hope you enjoy the pics. :-)

This is my last weekend with my family in San Jose. On Tuesday morning, I will leave to go and live on a farm for one month. I have no idea what my life will be like there. It is also possible that I will not have my computer and not be able to update frequently about my life. I return on April 13th, and am home here for three days, before (hopefully... fingers crossed...) I HEAD OFF TO CUBA! More details on that when it gets closer, but it sounds like it is going to be fascinating. There is another group of students going this Monday from our program, and their orientation for the trip was so interesting. I think Cuba will be one of the most unusual places I will ever go.

Anyway. So the rest of this weekend is R & R (I have actually come down with a cold due to all the business of the past week...) and a few family parties again!

Keep me in your prayers. I am very nervous about this whole month in the farm thing. I will not see the other students the whole time and just feel a little insecure about this whole thing. I KNOW it will be great... for many people it is the most powerful part of the program. So I'm sure it will be fabulous and incredible and everything. Just keep me in your prayers!

Love you guys!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

A Note about Language

It is so fascinating to think about how a different language offers a whole new perspective. A different language is not just a word by word translation- it is an entirely new way of thinking as well. I think about this when my brother and his wife communicate- there are probably some things that make more sense to say in English, and others to say in Spanish. And depending on which language you use, it communicates something entirely differently.

The other day in class we were telling my teacher that we all had procrastination issues. She didn't understand procrastination, so we looked it up in our dictionary, only to find that there is no noun for procrastination in Spanish! The verb procrastinate is translated as "dejar para mas tarde-" to leave for much later. That doesn't really communicate the connotation we associate with procrastination. In English, and in American culture, we are very familiar with the concept and flaw of procrastination. We need to be efficient and productive and get things done, and thus view procrastination as a weakness or flaw. However, in Spanish, there really is no word for it. Maybe I am overanalyzing that, but I'm curious as to whether it has some cultural explantation. In Latin culture, time is viewed much differently than in American culture. It is not strange or rude to arrive late to something (with some exceptions) since people here are more relaxed about time.

I have also been thinking about ways we describe ourselves, our feelings, and our current states of mind. In English, we pretty much just say "I am..." I am Hannah. I am from New Jersey. I am a student. I am her sister. I am tall. I am hungry. I am tired. I am nervous. I am jealous. Etc. However, in Spanish, there are three categories in which those statements fall under. There is one, the verb "ser," which describes permanent things. Your name, your nationality, your physical characteristics, your occupation, and your relationships to others is in this category. Then there is another verb, "estar," which describes temporary emotional and physical states. I am sick, I am tired, I am frustrated, and others like that would fall under this category. The third one is my favorite. The verb "tener," meaning to have or hold, is used in certain expressions. For instance, rather than saying "I am jealous," you would say "I have jealousy." Rather than "I am afraid," it is "I have fear." Rather than "I am 20 years old," I would say "I have 20 years." It is interesting to think about jealousy, fear, and age not as something you are, but as something which you hold, temporarily. It is not a permanent characteristic, but rather something that you are holding within you.

I just think that is so fascinating! Sorry to bore you with a language lesson, but if you dissect the way we say things in English, it reveals a lot about ourselves and our culture. And the way we say things is unique to our language and the way in which we view the world.

Hope you all are enjoying this Sunday morning. :-) Miss you.