Well. I’ve been here a week and a half now. Since the last time I posted, I have (almost) completed my student VISA and (not quite) figured out all of my classes. I’ve also taken more buses than I’ve ever used in my life, been lost more times than I can count, and eaten yucca fries at McDonald’s.
But of course, of everything I’ve done, the best and most exciting thing I’ve done is make new friends.
I’ve met a number of awesome people through the study abroad program. The majority of us here at UCR came by ourselves or in small groups. None of us are with a program – we all came straight from our universities. We came here from Japan, China, Korea, Spain, Germany, France, Holland, Mexico, Uruguay, Brazil, Chile, the U.S., and more. And, we all came here needing community. It’s been cool to get to know people from all over the world – to see how different we are, and how similar we are, all at once. My new friends are teaching me a lot. They’re teaching me about their countries, their cultures, their languages, and (most importantly, and with the most difficulty) they’re teaching me how to relax.
The culture here is much more relaxed than the U.S. And, people who come here often come here because they’re attracted to the extremely laid-back culture. And for those of you who know me well, you probably know that I am not always the best at being incredibly, well, laid-back. And my friends here have already (in less than a week) noticed the same thing.
At least once a day, I am advised by someone, “Necesitas relejarte!” (“You need to relax!”) or, “Pura viiidaaa!” (“Pure life!,” aka Costa Rican for “You need to relax!”). It’s definitely been an experience so far. In a new culture, with a new language, in a new place – I’m learning every single day that I am not in control. And the advice that I’m most often given about this is to just slow down, take a deep breath, and … relax.
This is not easy for me. But I’m trying. And in a week and I have, I think I’m learning. Some. Slowly. So slowly.
And when I take a deep breath, when I finally stop and relax about whatever it is that’s making me feel so stressed I’m about to explode (i.e. the class you signed up for does not exist, rent is more than you thought, there is no bus route to that location), I’m reminded almost immediately of this little thing I say that I believe…
God is in control.
And when I stress, when I freak out, when I can’t relax – it doesn’t change a thing. It doesn’t make me any more in control. It doesn’t help me learn the language faster or resolve a situation more easily. And in the end, whether I’m here or I’m in the U.S., I’m not the one who’s in control anyway, no matter how I feel.
And I don’t want to just flippantly say, “God’s in control.” I want to really know it. I want to believe that, all the time, even when it’s super hard. And even after just a little over a week in this country, it’s starting to look like I’m going to have lots of opportunities to learn.
PSA – Thanks to every person in my life, here in Costa Rica and in the U.S., who has prayed for me, provided something for me, helped me calm down, and/or done anything for me. There are so many of you! I couldn’t be doing this without you guys. God is using so many people right now to teach and to help me, and I am overwhelmed and thankful. So, so thankful.