Kindergarten in Bongoland

Yo estoy en jardín de infancia y tengo 35 años.

There is one thing that is true… I am bit of an overachiever. I decided to spend my vacation taking a full language immersion program. Six hours a day of nothing but hearing, speaking, and reading in Spanish. What I thought would be just nine days of language immersion leaving with full fluency. (I said that I was an overachiever. It would also appear that I’m unrealistic.) The trip turned into nine days of an adventure in Samara, Costa Rica in a place we will now call Bongoland.

My friend and I landed in Liberia, Costa Rica, and made our way to baggage claim. We heard the announcement “Please check your luggage as many bags look similar.” Well, my friend’s luggage was taken by someone who had a similar bag. Obviously, that person didn’t listen to the announcement in Spanish and English. My friend and I, were exceptionally calm about her luggage being somewhere near the Liberia airport. For us that was worth a front page article in the New York Times. We rolled our eyes, shrugged our shoulders, and walked to get a cab for the 2 hour journey to Samara with our driver, Jose. Due to her super sleuth, child-like determination, her luggage made it back to Samara.

Staring out the van window, we witnessed the marvels of the beautiful Costa Rican countryside with child-like wonder. We saw several families of Howler Monkeys swinging in the trees, and pulled over to have the freshest watermelon from a street vendor. As we hung our heads out the window with the air on my face and the sweet taste of watermelon dripping down my chin, you know a taste that is like hot summer day with cicadas chirping in the background. I looked at my friend and said “I feel like I’m reliving my childhood summers.” She smiled and said “Me too!” In hindsight, it was a preview of what laid ahead.

We finally reached Samara, and pulled into Koss Art Gallery and his cabinas, and saw a note from Jamie on the gallery front door welcoming us. Jamie is a tall, statuesque man with a calmness that greets you before he says his first word. He showed us around the apartment, and we told him about my friend’s luggage. Very calmly, almost like Mr. Miyagi, he said, “It will be well. Welcome to Bongoland. You are all about to experience simplicity in all its grandeur.” Little did we know, there was much truth in that statement.  Front Door
I packed my backpack for my first day of school. I was so excited. I asked my friend to walk with me for my first day. That feeling of nervous excitement. Jamie gave us directions to the school, …“walk about 700 meters along the beach past the police station… it’s a yellow building.” Very simple. My friend took a first day of school picture, and like a proud mom sent me off.

I walked into the school with my backpack, and was excited and scared at the same time. Walking through the doors, I saw young men and women who were an average age of 20. They were spending semesters abroad or seeking adventure on the beaches of Costa Rica learning another language by day, and traversing the rainforest by weekend. The ‘big kids” who were speaking the language so fluently, the teachers greeting the students with warm smiles, and other students who nodded and smiled with a look that said “Please don’t talk to me. I am too scared to even try and speak.” It made me think of how my nephew probably felt on his first day of kindergarten. I took my placement test and was placed in the equivalent of kindergarten.

After my first day of school, Jamie and my friend greeted me asking how my first day went. Every day it was the same. A warm send off in the morning and a happy welcome home after school. I learned opposites, numbers, introduced myself, and told the class of six about my family in Spanish. I even rode a horse and sat in a hammock for the first time. I proudly hung the A+ from my test on the refrigerator. I told you earlier that I was an overachiever.

school

test

However, the greatest lessons came at Jamie’s picnic table that will carry me all the days of my life. He encouraged us to focus on filling the pie of life with more joy. Jamie said that we fill our life complications, making time for joy harder and harder to find. Focus on one chore a day and do it well. Spend time enjoying the flavors of life, be it people or food. He gave us the simplest pieces of advice, like Mr. Miyagi’s “wax on, wax off”.

Jamie brought us joy, peace, simplicity during our time in Bongoland. He left us a note wishing us “good joy”. I learned a lot. I grew a lot. I found a lot of ‘good joy’ from embracing that I was a kindergartener. (I will tell you more about that later.)

Como una estudiante de kindergarten, voy a estudiar, hablar, practica, tomar clases en español. Tengo que hacer mi madre y Jaime orgullosos. Yo estoy en jardín de infancia y tengo 35 años

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