If someone asked me what I thought a city in Costa Rica was like, before today I would have said dirty, old, rustic, and underdeveloped. I was expecting to see garbage on the side of road, graffiti on all of the buildings, and old rundown shops with boarded up windows. After exploring Heredia today, it is a good thing no one asked me this question because I would have been completely wrong.
The first real interaction I had with the Ticos was with my host family. I was nervous to stay with a host family because I do not know how to speak Spanish at all. However, I was happy to see that one of the daughters speaks English very well so she is able to translate for me. The rest of the family does not speak English, so it is hard for me to understand when the daughter is not around but I hope to learn a little bit of Spanish on this trip. Even though it is difficult to communicate with them, they are very nice, respectful, and the food they serve is delicious! Although it is only the first day, I was able to observe and find it very interesting how the food is cooked and left on the stove for a while. Each member of the family would make their own plate and eat when it was convenient for themselves, so they never ate together as a family. As my host family was walking me to the University this morning, I remembered reading that the Ticos like to maximize the size of their houses so normally houses next to each other touch. I found this fact interesting and I like how I was able to observe this and the different architecture of each house.
One of the first aspects of Heredia that took me by surprise was how modern and Americanized Heredia is. I thought Heredia would only have local boutiques and food stands, but I was wrong. On the way to the University and downtown Heredia, we passed by numerous American chain restaurants and departments stores, including Walmart, McDonalds, Sketchers, Taco Bell, KFC, and many more. I was fascinated by how modern and nice they all looked (some of the restaurants looked even nicer than the ones in the United States!) I was also pleasantly surprised by how clean downtown Heredia was, especially the two parks we visited. They were both beautiful and I liked seeing a lot of the Ticos enjoying the beautiful day. My favorite place today was the central market. I thought it was really cool to see all of the fresh fruit and meat stands, the little barber shop, the lottery ticket booth, and much more! I like how the smell reminded me of parts of New York City.
Overall, I had a great first day in Costa Rica. The views from all around were gorgeous and I was pleasantly surprised by many different aspects of Heredia! I cannot wait to learn more about and see more of Costa Rica and the coffee industry!