By Ashley Sprinkel
It has been a little over a year since I moved to Costa Rica. In April of 2017, I took the ITA course in Heredia, Costa Rica. I completed the course at the end of May and spent a week driving around different areas in Costa Rica looking for a teaching job. I settled in Brasilito, which is a small town not far from Tamarindo.
Living in this area has helped me adjust to living in a new country. I was afraid of not being able to have a life because I do not speak that much Spanish. I chose this area because I knew I would have the perfect mix of Spanish and English speaking friends. I am able to learn Spanish while at the same time not getting overwhelmed. This has allowed me to bond with locals and expats.
I have built a home away from home. I have created some amazing friendships with different types of people. I am friends with the local Costa Ricans. The locals give me rides to and from places. They give me a hug every time I see them. They brighten up my days. I have some people that live nearby who are like family to me now as well. The people who have become family have been there for me during hard times and good times. We have bonded over parties, celebrations, and even a funeral.
I love the celebrations the community has throughout the year. We have rodeos and holiday celebrations. The whole town gets together in the small town square and has a party. In times of need, they come together to support each other and make sure everyone has what they need, either for a funeral or a natural disaster. I have been able to experience both. And everything in between.
Attending a funeral to support a Costa Rican friend showed me what family is about. My friend’s grandmother had passed away suddenly. There were over 300 people in attendance. It was different than what I had experienced in the states. Friends, family, and neighbors were there to help support the family in every way. They provided money, food, and time. They did this for at least three days. The casket was in the living room during this time for people to come and give their condolences. I spent a couple hours helping my friend take care of her grandfather. He was heartbroken. He and his wife had been together for over 60 years. It was such a gratifying experience. It helped me understand what community really means. I felt a sense of belonging that gave me peace with being away from my own family.
Last October, Tropical Storm Nate, came through the area bringing massive amounts of rain. School was canceled for a week. Power was out in many parts of the country. People had houses swept away by mudslides and flooded with water. Some people couldn’t leave their homes for food or supplies because of rivers being too big to drive through. The way the community came together to support all the people in need was amazing. I was able to carry food and supplies to families trapped by huge rivers. This allowed me to grow my friendship with people I became friends with over the last few month. I was able to create new friendships as well. A few of the locals, I helped that day are still my friends to this day. It was a rewarding experience.
In March, some people from my church and I gave 50 children in need, from the community, free healthcare check-ups. We had the children and their families meet at the local private clinic. We have face painting, food, games, and of course, doctors checking on their health. I spent some time taking height and weight measurements for the children before they saw the doctor. I was also in charge of face painting. It was such a wonderful experience getting out into the community and helping people who need it.
All these wonderful relationships have helped me adjust to living abroad for many reasons. I have a sense of purpose being able to celebrate and give back to the community. Being able to have these experiences has given me a comfort living abroad. I feel safe. I feel home. I am away from my family which is hard for me. I miss my parents, sisters, and friends. It gets difficult being away from them sometimes. I wouldn’t have been able to overcome the difficulties I have had if it wasn’t for the community and family I have made here.
Ashley Sprinkel is 29 from Baltimore Maryland with a BA in Family Science from University of Maryland in 2016. I was a teacher in the Baltimore area before leaving everything behind to teach in Costa Rica.