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On Running Away and Joining a Costa Rican Circus

emily-priceEmily Price is a senior studying Creative Writing with minors in Theatre and German at Arizona State University.  This summer she went on PAA’s Circus Arts (Theater) in Costa Rica program where she had the time of her life learning Spanish…and how to juggle.  She is currently a Performing Arts Abroad Ambassador at ASU.

I wanted to do something epic this summer. So, I told my parents I was going to run away and join the circus – in Costa Rica. They didn’t believe me.


A random sloth I found while out walking around the University of Costa Rica

But I actually did. I hopped on a plane (well, three planes, because that was cheapest) and went to San José to start the Circus Arts Program offered by Performing Arts Abroad. I had never been anywhere like it. Coming from the Arizona desert, I was thrilled to be surrounded by such lush tropical trees. I remember my first evening there – after eating a delicious meal with my host family, I went out on the balcony and watched a black cat crawl across the rusty roof of an adorable house across the street, while the sun set and the very air seemed to teem with life. Then I made sure to let my parents know that I was in Costa Rica. They have since forgiven me.

I had no knowledge of the Spanish language prior to my trip, other than what DuoLingo had taught me in the couple months before I left. So it was a good thing the first week of the program consisted of Spanish classes at the Costa Rican Language Academy, which were extremely helpful, as well as held in the prettiest school ever.


The courtyard at the Costa Rican Language Academy

After a week of classes in San José, I took a bus ride through a surreal landscape of mountains to the little city of San Isidro. How do I even describe San Isidro? Surrounded by foggy mountains on all sides, it is the most picturesque town with the friendliest people, bakeries on every corner, and butterflies wherever you look. I lived with another volunteer from the United States in the house of an adorable woman who gave us entirely too much food at every meal.


San Isidro del General, Costa Rica

I spent three weeks in San Isidro, training and volunteering with the circus group, Circo FantazzTico, which helps the local youth gain confidence and reach their full potential through juggling, aerial silks, trapeze, fire-dancing, and acrobatics. There were other volunteers from around the world who each contributed their own talents to the group. Every day groups of volunteers went to different places in the area to train. My favourite place to go was to a home for girls, where the young, smiling girls just wanted to hold my hand or show me their plate-spinning skills. They were such sweethearts – a bit difficult to keep focused, but sweethearts nonetheless.

One of the insanely talented young men in the circus

One of the insanely talented young men in the circus

Eventually my Spanish was good enough to have actual conversations with the delightful people in the circus, provided they spoke slowly enough. I was learning how to juggle and how to climb silks as well, and I helped teach some theatre games and spot with acrobatics. I had never learned so much so quickly, nor had I ever had so much fun in my life. When we weren’t training, we volunteers had parties, went out dancing, watched fire-dancing shows, and one weekend we went to the nearby beach.

The magical little town of Buena Vista, one of the places we volunteered in

The magical little town of Buena Vista, one of the places we volunteered in

My experience with Circo FantazzTico and Performing Arts Abroad – and this is going to sound dramatic – changed the course of my life. I am now taking aerial classes twice a week, I can speak in another language, and I am much less introverted. I’m even considering returning there to volunteer for a year after I graduate, instead of going to Germany like I had originally planned. I just fell in love with it. In Costa Rica, I learned to just go with the flow. There was much confusion during my time there, with the language barrier and everything, but things always seemed to work out, and the people there have such positive attitudes. They greet you there with a kiss and a “pura vida.” I’ve never been so inspired anywhere else, and I’d recommend it for anyone else who has a love of travel, language, and the performing arts. The circus program in Costa Rica blended all of those passions of mine so perfectly, and I hope I get to return very soon.

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