Once per year I like to take my “Undercover Gringo” act on the road for a language and cultural immersion. This year I spent a week studying at the internationally known Intercultura Language Center in Costa Rica’s City of Flowers, Heredia. If you are unfamiliar with the language school immersion experience, here is a quick primer:
- Students live in the home of a local family. In my case, I lived in an upstairs bedroom in the home of Alice Romero, a local Heredian with adult children. She provided breakfast and dinner every day. There were two other Costa Rican boarders in the home. They provided great conversation opportunities.
- School is Monday through Friday, usually in the morning for about four hours. However, my class was in the afternoon this time due to the level at which I was studying.
- Classes are small, typically only four or five at the most and are divided by level. I had a private class this time, just the teacher and me.
- The schools typically offer optional activities. There were tours, cooking and dancing classes and all manner of cultural opportunities. This trip I attempted, again, a dancing class. And again, my Spanish abilities are a lot better than my dancing abilities.
- Students are expected to speak Spanish as much as possible.
Staying in the home of a local family is one of the most valuable elements to an immersion experience. It provides a first-hand perspective of culture and every day life. The electric shower is an excellent example.
Although Costa Rica is among the richest Latin American countries per capita, its GDP per capita is still a mere 23% of that which were are used to in the United States. Efficient use of personal resources is important. Most Costa Rican homes do not have a hot water heater. The amount of energy required to keep a 20+ gallon tank of water hot is prohibitively expensive. Hence, the electric shower.
My first experience in the electric shower was disconcerting. But, in the end it is not a bad way to take a hot shower.