Today we said “hasta luego” for the last time as we started our walk from SEPA Spanish School to the bus stop in town . After attending two weeks of "Survival Spanish" classes we were sad at leaving. We'd met interesting people and our Spanish had advanced from “non-existent” to “confused"!
These two weeks were one of highlights of our eight months of travelling … if not the highlight.
A point of interest (and warning when travelling). In many countries around the world there are cities with very similar names. There’s also more than one San Isidro in Costa Rica. The San Isidro where we were is also called Perez Zeledon after the province where it’s located or its full name San Isidro de El General!
We had intended to take Spanish classes later in our travels. But on the spur of the moment while staying in Uvita I decided to look at options for Spanish classes in Costa Rica. Doing a Google search (one of the better ones!) I found the SEPA Spanish Language School and Environmental Center. On further reading I discovered that it was in the San Isidro which was only a short distance away from where we were staying in Uvita.
Looking through the conditions I saw that there was a notice period of three weeks … but we wanted to start the following Monday. Undeterred I immediately shot an email through enquiring if this was possible. The next day I received a reply that I needed to complete the registration form and we could start as planned.
SEPA Spanish School - San Isidro
Our homestay family met us on arrival at the bus station in San Isidro on the Sunday afternoon. Feeling quite apprehensive about this looming experience we were taken to their house. Located in a peaceful suburb up out of town. Shadowed by towering, cloud capped mountains and close to the jungle. Lots of bird life and on some nights we heard howling coyotes.
Our “home” was very comfortable. We had an upstairs room with a private bathroom and a verandah along the front where I spent many afternoon hours.
The only problem … none of the family spoke English!
Our first dinner was very subdued with very little conversation ... adding to our apprehension. The concerns were short lived. Before setting out the following day for our first day of school, our “mom” gave us a large helping of a nutritious Costan Rican breakfast – pinto and scrambled eggs. She then walked us to the bus stop, showed us how to catch the bus, where to get off and then walked us to the school. At the SEPA Spanish school gate she said goodbye and left.
Greeted by a chattering group of young people who we later learnt had been at the school for two months. They were from a community college in Mount Hood Oregon and were doing a part semester of learning Spanish in Costa Rica. Their Spanish experience was immersion. Staying with a local family, added to activities and social involvement with the local community.
As the name suggests, the school has a keen interest in managing and preserving the Costa Rican natural environment.
Our Spanish Lessons
We were introduced to our young teacher Paula. She was patient and understanding and assured us that this would be an interesting - but challenging - experience. It turned out to be exactly as she described … with a bit more challenging!
The first week schedule had to be shuffled around due to our short notice of our SEPA Spanish School classes. With no problems easily agreed alternatives were negotiated.
Paula is also an art teacher and very talented artist. Her prior teaching commitments meant that she would not be available for the second week.
So for the second week Karina took up the challenge!
She did admirably well taking us step-by-step through our introduction to Survival Spanish.
Besides the 4 hour daily lessons we also had two outings. The first to a butterfly farm and the second to the weekly farmers market.
Visit to Butterfly Farm
On our second day we visited a butterfly farm and afterwards went to a local farm. Our lack of Spanish made it impossible for us to understand all the information about these businesses. But we did witness a butterfly breaking its way out a pupa … a real live birth!
And it was interesting to learn that the butterfly farm was set up to offset the very cyclical nature of coffee farming. With the farmed pupae now exported all around the world.
All through the week I felt that my Spanish was like the butterflies at the butterfly farm. Words flying around in my head and none related!
Feria del Agricultor
During the second week we attended a local farmers market. To get there we had to ask local people for directions. Then at the market ask farmers in Spanish about the fruit and vegetables. "What are they called", "How much do they cost?", "How do you eat them?" and "How do you cook them?"
The market has a wide range of produce as well as other natural products like coconut oils, cheeses, cakes and bread as well as handmade jewellery items. It was spotlessly clean and neatly laid out.
The visit was interesting, informative and educational. As well as being an immersion in the local society.
In Conclusion - My Thoughts About SEPA and San Isidro
- Grateful thanks to everyone we met who made our visit so motivating, stimulating and memorable.
- SEPA - Nithia, for making our short notice visit possible, Paula and Karina for being so patient and helpful.
- Our “mother” Maria Elena Jimenez who cooked and cared for us, our “father” Gerardo Mora and the children Kevin, Kembly and little Keily. For having us in your home and having to try and communicate with us.
- This is an experience I'd definitely recommend. As you get older you may learn more slowly and it’s more of a challenge … but it’s more than worth it!