The only gringa on the bus.

“Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God’s kindness: kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile.” Mother Teresa

 Asociación Asilo de la Vejez de Cartago is a 100-year-old green building surrounded by a stone wall. Nuns primarily run the nursing home. The male and female wards are separated with a courtyard that contains colorful stone benches, beautiful trees and a pathway connecting each side. The nurses’ station is located in the back of the establishment. Here is where you often find Sor Elena, Hellen, Luciana or Nina, a few nurses of the home. The genuine love the staff has for the residents at the Asociación Asilo de la Vejez de Cartago is beautiful.

This previous week, I worked with the wound care nurse to help residents who have pressure ulcers, skin tears or just general skin breakdown. Supplies are very limited at their facility. Many times they use extra supplies from surrounding hospitals or contributions made by volunteers. Over the next few weeks I’ll be formulating a list of supplies that could be used at the Asociación Asilo de la Vejez de Cartago. If anyone would like to be apart of these donations, please let me know! I brought some gloves and they were so appreciative of such a small gesture! I am really enjoying my placement and love working with the residents! Although I know only a little Spanish, they are so sweet and patient with me. Even if I don’t speak much spanish, I hope my love and kindness is conveyed with my frequent big smile and, ‘Hola’. At the nursing home, I am known as a “gringa”, a foreign girl or someone that is not a tico (a native costa rican). One of the wound nurses, Gary, is almost fluent in English. He teaches me Spanish while I teach him English. I also finished my first week of Spanish lessons yesterday! Personally, I think it’s more beneficial learning from interacting with spanish speaking people rather than class. BUT I must say, in class I did learn the basics of sentence structure. Learning Spanish in a Spanish speaking country is A LOT easier than learning in the US!

I just found out that my mama tica (my house mom), Vera, is a professor for both Spanish and Mathematics. Mi mama tica es muy inteligente! My tica sister, Alejandra, also knows English very well. Although we usually try to talk only in Spanish, many of our conversations turn into Spanglish. Slowly but surely, I’m learning! Not only am I learning everything there is to know about the Spanish language, but I’m also learning about traveling.

After this experience, I have no doubt that I’ll be a serious traveling pro. From Monday to Friday I volunteer from 9-12am at the Asociación Asilo de la Vejez de Cartago. Traffic is crazy in San José so waking up early is crucial to get anywhere on time. I live in a small town called Vargas Araya. To get to Cartago, I take a 20-minute bus ride from Vargas Araya to San Pedro. From San Pedro, I take a 40-minute bus ride to Cartago (sometimes it’s less, depending on the time you catch the bus). From my bus stop I have a 10-minute walk to my placement in Cartago. What comes with lots of traveling in Costa Rica? Beautiful views:). Each trip something new catches my eye.

Today I am going to Corrine’s, my other tica sister, baby shower! Her house is located in Cartago, which is the same city I work in. I’m excited to meet more of their family! Rather than traveling by bus, we will be traveling to Cartago by car today. This will cut the trip from the usual hour to 30 minutes.

Pura Vida!

Lots of love,


Buenos dias from San José! (MAILING ADDRESS INCLUDED)

Good morning from San Jose!

I have to first begin saying THANK YOU to all of those who have texted, called or facebooked me to wish me a safe journey. I appreciate those sweet words more than you and I know my mom does as well! I am happy to say I have arrived in Costa Rica at last! And WOW was it a rush when I walked off the plane. I made it through customs in a flash and was greeted my coordinated driver within 2 minutes of leaving the airport. Costa Rica also greeted me with a downpour of rain as I arrived! That won’t be the last rain shower I see, as it is wet season here in Costa Rica!

I traveled to my organization destination for a tour and orientation. I also received my first assignment during my time here in CR. I will be working in Cartago at a nursing home. I will meet with the medical staff coordinator today and be given a tour of the facility I will be working at. I cannot wait to begin my journey here as a nurse! I’m thrilled to immerse myself in the Costa Rican culture and learn more about their society.

Speaking of cultural immersion, last night I was brought to my host home where I will be staying for the duration of my trip. I was most apprehensive of this aspect of coming to CR due to the language barrier. I have not taken a spanish class since my senior year of high school :o. A program coordinator also informed me the family I would be staying with were fairly new at hosting volunteers. I was a little anxious when pulling up to my host home having NO idea what to expect. My mind was quickly put at ease. Upon walking into the home, my heart was instantly warmed by the love I received from the entire family. It’s amazing how a little faith will go a long way. I would not even be in this beautiful country if I did not have faith that God would take care of me.

My host family has 4 children, 2 daughters and 2 sons. One of the daughters is 8 months pregnant and I will be here for her delivery! I am SO excited:D!!! Sweet, welcoming, loving and helpful are only a few attributes that makes up this precious family! From what I have gathered, family is a significant part of Costa Rican culture, which I absolutely adore.

Traditional addresses aren’t really a thing in Costa Rica. They prefer, ’10m east of the corner at the store, with a black porch’. Because of this, if you would like to send me any mail you will send it to my organization address:

De la Bomba San Pedro, 75 mts sur
Mano Izquierda, edificio blanco y azul
San Pedro Montes de Oca

I will be updating via wordpress (this blog) as much as possible!

Much love from CR,

AG xoxo

Hasta luego America!

After an abundance of prayer and long nights of studying, I can finally say that I passed the NCLEX and am officially Ariel Gardner RN, BSN! Now I am off to Costa Rica to volunteer my services as a nurse. I can hardly contain my excitement! I’ve created this blog to share my experiences throughout my Costa Rica excursion! I will try to post updates as often as I can depending on my wifi situation. I want to thank all those who have supported me up to this point. I feel extremely blessed to be surrounded with the love and encouragement I have received from family and friends! I owe a BIG thank you to my extraordinary parents, Mark and Anne Gardner. You both have been my rock for 23 years and I cannot express my appreciation enough! I thank God everyday for this wonderful opportunity He has given to me. Not only will I be fulfilling my career aspirations, I will be sharing lots of love and compassion in hopes of walking away from this mission having impacted the lives of others. Please keep me in your prayers!

Much love,

AG xoxo