Aero: Alaiza Dominguez – Costa Rica 2015 – Life at Home


Aero: Alaiza Dominguez – Costa Rica 2015 – Life at Home
Creative Commons Image via The LEAF Project

Aero: Alaiza Dominguez – Costa Rica 2015 – Life at Home


Alaiza Dominguez

I was terrified to stay with a host family. That is the only part of the entire trip that concerned me pre-departure. It was to the point where I almost considered not even applying to study abroad because I was too scared to stay with strangers. But I can honestly say I have never been more wrong about something. It was one of the best experiences of my life. By the second full day there, my host mom and I were making plans for me to return.

For me, it felt no different than staying with a relative. I was well fed, constantly checked up on, and always comfortable. Bonding with my host family was much easier than I thought it’d be. In all honesty I didn’t think it’d happen at all. But it did, and it’s a bond that will last a lifetime.

We shared jokes, stories, and most importantly we shared a common interest for each others lifestyles. I was curious about their daily routines and family dynamics and they were just as curious about my daily life back home. There was never an awkward moment where no one had anything to say. Every member of my host family was easy to talk to. I feel lucky to have stayed with such great people.

Family was very important to my host family. Mayra, my host mother, was the matriarch of the family. She shares her home with one of her daughters, and above her lives a son and granddaughter. Other family members were constantly coming to visit. Mayra and I would often sit outside and she would warmly greet everyone that passed. It was always hard to tell if it was really someone she knew, or if she was being polite. Pablo on the other hand- he knew everyone. Pablo is Mayra’s son that lives in the same building. He’s a very proud Tico, and I’ve never met a funnier man. His sense of humor was incredible.


ML@FLCC Costa Rica
2015 Flickr Gallery

Mayra’s family also included various pets. My host pets started out as two dogs, Blackie and Cleo. After a few days another dog was added to the mix. His name was Bigote. And there was one more “pet.” She didn’t have an official name since she is technically a stray. I took it upon myself to name her Rebecca. Rebecca is a turtle. A stray turtle. Rebecca wanders into Mayra’s house every few days looking for something to eat. After being fed by Mayra, Rebecca would hang around for a little and then continue her turtle travels. On top of that, Mayra’s husband lives among 11 rescued dogs on a farm that he built in the beautiful Vara Blanca. My host family not only cares for people, they have a soft spot for animals as well. It goes to show how big their hearts really are.

Home life was a lot more laid back than I assumed it’d be. We were allowed to come and go as long as they knew what was going on, we were never hushed, and no matter the time it was or where we were coming from- we were always welcomed home with smiling faces and something to eat. You really couldn’t ask for anything better than that.

Breakfast at my Alajuela home was a holy experience. Black bean empanadas and chocolate or cinnamon milkshakes were my favorite combination. One morning I woke up late and the van was already waiting for us so I headed for the door. I didn’t make it that far. There was no way that Mayra, being the angel that she is, was going let that fly. Especially since it was a hiking day. I ended up boarding the bus with three empanadas in my backpack, one in my hand, and a bottle of water under my arm. She genuinely cared enough to make sure I didn’t miss a meal. Her kind, caring, welcoming personality is one of the strongest things pulling me back to Costa Rica.

There is absolutely no way I could go the rest of my life without visiting Mayra again. There’s a handful of conversations that the two of us had before the first week ended that I would have never expected to have with someone I’ve just met. I couldn’t help but open up to her. One night I was skyping with my boyfriend and she came in to say goodnight and told me to tell my him that I’m in good hands, she “babies” me, that she’ll do the same to him when he comes back with me, and that she loves me and is so excited to meet him. She even talked to my dad over the phone one night and raved about what a great house guest I am. Mayra made me feel very good about myself, and she made me feel loved. Even though I was thousands of miles from home, the comfortable environment she established made me feel like I was somewhere I belonged. We are family, and her home is also my home.

The rest of Mayra’s family was just as great. I could go on forever about all the jokes and pranking that went on. Fun fact: Pablo and I share the same birthday! We celebrated together and there’s plenty of embarrassing videos and pictures to prove it was a great night. I was worried that spending my 20th birthday away from my family was going to be lonely and a little weird but I was wrong about that too. A lot of assumptions I made before the trip were wrong and it’s actually really awesome. My birthday was incredible, and I felt like I was surrounded by friends and family.

Alaiza Dominguez
LEAF Contributor