Before traveling to Costa Rica, I have been outside of the United States only once and that was for a two-day stint in Bermuda via a cruise. So, to say my knowledge of the world beyond the United States was limited would be an understatement. I had very little knowledge of Costa Rica and what I did know primarily consisted of information covered in the pre-departure meetings. My expectations of Costa Rica consisted of a primarily Spanish speaking culture, a much less developed nation compared to the United States, and based on the national slogan ‘Pura Vida!’, hopefully friendly and welcoming individuals.
I found out very early on that Costa Ricans do primarily speak Spanish due to the choppy exchange between myself and my host “abulea” that resulted in learning that she spoke no English. I was initially very nervous and worried when I finally deciphered this but as the night went on I realized that the Spanish I took in high school was slowly but surely coming back to me. I am confident that my roommate and I will be able to bridge the communication gap that I foresaw as being very large but know believe will be manageable. On the bus ride into Heredia, I was shocked to see all the American fast food chains populating the streets. That in conjunction with our walking tour today gave me the realization that Costa Rica is not as underdeveloped as I initially thought. I am not exactly sure what I had pictured but am pleasantly surprised with what I have come to see so far.
Right before meeting my host family my mind was racing with many thoughts about how I will be perceived, if they will be friendly and welcoming, will they help me communicate, and many others. Soon after the initial meeting and exchange of hugs I knew that she was going to take good care of myself and my roommate. She welcomed us into her home with open arms and was beyond excited to get to share this experience with us and truly made me feel that her casa was my casa. This impression has been consistent with that of many of the Costa Ricans, that they are very amicable and willing to help in any way possible if I need assistance.
The thing I was most nervous about for the trip was the food. I have many food allergies and was worried about being able to eat the food here and effectively communicate my allergies. My host abuela put these worries to rest by extensively going over what I can and cannot eat and reassuring that she will take good care of me. The next part was actually eating the food and hopefully enjoying it. I have a fairly closed off diet back in the US and am usually nervous about trying new things. I decided to have an open mind about the food here and was amazed with the new flavors I was experiencing. My dinner consisted of rice, potatoes, and meat all wrapped in a small tortilla. This is something I’ve never had before and was amazing to find that I enjoyed what I was eating. The meal was topped off with fresh pineapple that was some of the best fruit I have ever had. I feel that having an open mind to the food here will be good for me and allow me to expand my horizons and I look forward to some more delectable home-cooked meals from my abuela tica.