In 1993 I went to Costa Rica my very first time and I stayed there one year as an exchange student with AFS. There is only one thing that I regret from this trip is that I didn’t write a diary. I only learned later on that writing a travel diary is something I really enjoy both doing and looking back at. However every now and then I find small bits and pieces that brings back memories from lost times. When I find more pearls like this I will
This entry is from the camp I attended one month prior to the biggest adventure of my life. It was a camp to prepare us for the adventures of a lifetime at the age of 16/17. The camp was to prepare us for how to learn and adapt to a new culture, how to recognize what culture is and possible tips on how to adapt to new culture from someone that had already been to the same region of the world that we were going to. It was to teach us how about tips on how to learn the new language, how to make friends and how to fit into a new environment and a new school. It was to prepare us about possible homesickness, possible problems in the family or at school and to teach us how to make the best of everything.
I left about 10 in the morning for the 4 hour train ride to Oslo. It was an uneventful journey and once I arrived I was quite happy. I left my luggage at the AFS office and went to meet up with a friend who was a no-show. Back at the AFS office several other participants had arrived and at first the crowd was a bit tense, until one guy, Sigmund, from Trondheim asked for a board game. That untensed things quite fast. My team lost bravely and we had a great time! I connected well with a girl from Tromsø called Ann-Lill. Both she and Sigmund were going to spend their Exchange year in Japan.
Once all the participants had arrived we took the tram to Lillevann from where we had to walk for 30 minutes to Rødkleivhytta. Unfortunately Maja (one of the camp leaders – a Returnee from Costa Rica YP 90) had the key and she was late. We played outside in the snow until she arrived and unlocked the door to let us in.
The cabin was really neat and the first evening the only post on the program was to socialize and get to know the others at the camp. We played games (match stick poker) and I was as close to win as I have never been before. Sigmund (Trondheim – Japan), Tomas (Grimstad – Malaysia), Arnstein (Værdal’n – Costa Rica) and Ann-Lill (Tromsø – Japan). The cabin was quite cold so we sat close to the fireplace to keep warm.
For dinner we were served soup. We were also split in 5 groups and my group were assigned to kitchen duty and had to clean up after dinner. We were Ann-Lill, Sigmund, Kari (Guatemala), Pernille () and Marit (Brazil). Pernille and Marit skipped duty, but the rest of us had a great time hiding all the cutlery, for the morning kitchen crew to search for. We left small paper notes with riddles for the morning crew to solve leading to the cutlery.
We even invented each our reason that we would perform like a play if asked. After that we chose room for sleeping and then we played cards again until bedtime and although we went to bed at 2:30am we stayed awake chatting until 5am.
Breakfast was supposed to be served at 10 am, but no one was awake by then so everything was delayed by a few hours. After breakfast we started group work and the subjects we discussed were Expectations, Adaptations and the IceBerg Concept of Culture.
We also discussed situations that previous AFS’ers had experienced. After lunch we moved on to learn about the culture and behavior of Latin Americans considering that they are much more open and intimate than Norwegians. However same age kids are also more childish in their behavior than we are. During this practice teams were split according to what regions they would live in rather than the clean up teams :D Pia (Returnee from Brazil) and Maja (Returnee from Costa Rica) were our group leaders and they had lots of highly valuable information for us.
For dinner we had Spaghetti with meatballs and then we were off for a break before we had a cultural simulation practice called The Albatros.
This is a nonverbal role-playing activity that can incorporate a variety of themes, such as male-female relationships and privilege.
The game was highly interesting. All the chairs were placed in a circle and Two of our camp leaders had dressed up as Beduins. Boys were placed on chairs and girls on the floor. The female walked around the circle touching all the girls feet before we were allowed to sit. Then the boys received a bowl of water to wash their hands. Then boys were served snacks (for food) and water to drink before the girls were even allowed to touch it.
When the game ended we had a group discussion about the game and what we had understood of the game. Several of the girls felt unfairly treated.
The reason girls sat on the floor was because the Albatros people valued females higher than males and hence they got to sit closer to mother earth. Men also had to wash their hands because they were considered unclean. The guys were served the food first to make sure it was good and safe before the women were served the food.
This was to teach us about cultural shocks and cultural misunderstandings that we might have an encounter with during our year away. After the game we had a dance with latin american music and we also played card games.
After bed time we laughed and made so much noise that we kept the others awake until 4 am. Sigmund and Ann-Lill kept talking until 5:30 am. Tomas and Sigmund also visited the Sauna and took Snow Baths as well and Ann-Lill and myself had a little chat about fear for traveling and possible problems we might encounter.
This morning we had to get up early. Already at 9:30 the camp leaders were in our door and they stood there until all of us were out of our beds. I think they were punishing us for keeping them awake last night :)
After breakfast we started a new round of group work and today we had to create a role play about situations that an exchange student might face when they are living abroad. Our group had to do a role play on a mom that is complaining a lot about her lazy AFS student who only sleeps and rests. The role play ended with mom hitting the AFS student (we had to tone down our original plan consisting of mom stabbing the AFS student in cold blood ending up being arrested and an AFS agent explaining the parents that their child had been killed by the host mom, because it wasn’t realistic enough). Our theatrical display turned out very well, and so did the other groups role plays as well.
One of the other groups had a role play about an AFS student that had no same age siblings and no friends who contacts AFS for advice and then the story line moves to a few months later when the student had gotten a few friends.
A third group did their role play on a student that had drug problems. Nicolas was the drug addict and he was sent home in the end.
The fourth group did a role play on a kid that had a problem with personal hygene and the last group did a role play where the local AFS chapter didn’t care about helping the students in the town. One of the students had curfew hour at 7pm.
We had lunch and After this we washed the cabin before we moved down to the city. Lots of us exchanged addresses to keep in touch. We walked around in the city for a while before we all went down to Oslo Central Station and left for each our part of Norway. This camp has been very helpful and it has been very good to meet the other exchange students and meet others that are in the same situation as myself and to know that I am not alone about being afraid for the unknown and worries over things that might cause me trouble during my year away. It feels so real now. And its just one month left to departure :D I’m so exited!
At this point I still do not have a host family, but I am not so worried any more. I have many new friends that will travel to Costa Rica with me!