After a day in Costa Rica, I am glad to say that it is similar to what I expected, with some pleasant surprises sprinkled in. When we first arrived in Costa Rica at the airport we didn’t really have a chance to interact personally with any of the Ticos, but I was surprised that I didn’t feel as nervous as I expected. The Ticos were already making me feel welcome. Driving to Heredia allowed me to get a first glimpse of Costa Rica and I suppose it is what I expected. It was too much to take in at first, especially since it was dark. I was surprised to see many American chain restaurants and I thought it was also funny how they have places like Chinese restaurants and Italian restaurants, but I guess that all makes sense. Then when I met my host family, I got to interact for the first time. My host family is so nice and they seem really happy to have us, which makes me feel welcome. I was a little surprised when they said they didn’t speak any English, but I guess my Spanish skills are going to improve quickly. Their house is beautiful and I know it is going to be a wonderful temporary home. I think I was expecting a lower quality of life, so this was a pleasant surprise. I also had been told that the shower water would be very cold. Our host family tried to tell us how to make it hot. Even though I never got the water to be hot, it wasn’t freezing cold so I was happy. Like I said before, the shower and our rooms and everything are very nice, much better than the dorm rooms at Pitt.
Food has also been a pleasant surprise because I am kind of a picky eater, but everything my host mom has made so far has been great. I had high expectations of gallo pinto based on what Professor Teeter said, and I am glad that when I had it this morning for breakfast it was indeed delicious. When our host dad went to walk with us to the university, I was surprised that he was walking in the middle of the road, but we learned that is very common here. I had been expecting good sidewalks because I figured a lot of people walked places but instead there are very small sidewalks or none. He said the way he showed us was a shortcut but that we should not go that way at night, and based on broken glass on the ground and graffiti, I understand why. I had expected some things like that, but it was interesting to see it. Still it does not feel that different from sketchy places in Oakland or Pittsburgh. It is also very hard to tell when to cross the street. Here there are only a few crosswalks with lights and I hope I will catch on quickly. I read that pedestrians don’t have the right of way though and traffic is bad on weekdays so we will just have to be careful. I also was surprised by the number of gates around because it’s just not something I am used to seeing. However, I feel safer that we have to unlock three things to get into the home.
Additionally I think I was picturing Heredia to be more rural than it is. I knew it was still a city but not as big as San Jose, so I am very excited to visit San Jose so I can compare. Walking around Heredia was very cool and the little central park areas are my favorite but the central market was very interesting too. I knew they loved fruit but I was surprised by how much fruit there was that many people were selling. We still haven’t had much interactions with Ticos so I am curious how bargaining and asking about prices will go whenever I try it. I was surprised that the lunch we ate was so much food. Who knew that you needed steak, chicken, AND pork with vegetables? When we visited the mall, I was surprised how it looked and felt just like any mall. It is much more modern than the other shops and the market, but also predictably more expensive. It rained in the afternoon just like it was predicted to so that was one thing that was disappointing but not surprising. The good news is that it wasn’t raining too hard when we went to find our way back home. I was surprised that it wasn’t too hard even though I am terrible with directions.
The best surprise so far has been the view. Our room has a balcony (we are on the second floor) and you can easily see the gorgeous mountains in the distance. Since I thought it would be more rural, I thought we would be surrounded by more nature, but it is cool to be able to be in the city and just see the nature in the distance. We will have plenty of time to explore during our hikes. In summary there is much more that I am still excited to see and experience, but so far Costa Rica has brought me mostly pleasant surprises and I am thrilled it is similar to (or better than) what I was expecting.