When coming to Costa Rica, I used many of my other experiences in Latin American countries to try and guess what this experience would be like. From my journeys to the Dominican Republic and even to Mexico, I was not expecting such a well developed and almost completely Americanized country. I was expecting to see more huts and shacks on the sides of the road, less cars and buses with more people walking and using bikes. There is a chance I was envisioning the more rural parts of the country rather than the city, but I definitely was surprised by a lot of things.
Some things that caught me by surprise was the amount of Americanization within the country. I was expecting to see more “mom and pop” shops that were locally owned for convenience stores or drug stores, however, there were a lot of Walmarts, American fast food restaurants, Home Depot, and other similar stores that caught me by surprise. I was also in awe with the amount of traffic that was around. Even on a Sunday, it was hard to cross the street while walking and there always seemed to be a car or motorcycle on the road, similar to Pittsburgh, but not similar to other countries I have been to. Costa Rica is, overall, a lot more similar to the United States.
My first impression was just a smile. I love how clean the city is and how the roads have next to no garbage or litter. All of the food is fresh from meat to pastries and the fruit is so sweet and rich. I love the sunshine and how the mountains look like they are topped with cotton balls. Even in the rain, there is a change in the aesthetic where the environment just makes the rain okay. If there is not a heavy rain, the change in atmosphere adds an allure and almost mystery because even the colors still pop from the trees, flowers, and homes. I loved the amount of walking we did, even though it was a lot, nothing was the same and there was always something interesting to look at. My favorite was when we went into the parks and everything was green and serene to look at.
The one thing I really did not expect was the amount of Spanish we would need to know. I thought it would just be a tool to help communicate, but we need it to talk all the time. Although I am okay with speaking and translating, it was just a surprise. I am excited though because I am hoping it will help my abilities and I can get better and hopefully remember more in the future. I got lucky and both my roommate and I know enough to be able to feed off each other and have decent conversations that are understandable.