Costa Rica is a beautiful country filled with kind hearted people, Ticos. Ticos are known for being warm to their visitors, including us gringos, or Americans. Compared to my previous international experiences in Europe the Ticos truly lived up to their stereotype of being welcoming. Even with my mix of “Spanglish” I have received understanding and help in my attempts to communicate in both my homestay and in public areas such as the market, bank, or mall. Receiving such warmth from the Ticos is probably the best expectation to be lived up to that I had for Costa Rica. Along with that is the food. Their cooking is as nice as they are, another wonderful expectation to be met. I had gallo pinto, a popular dish made of rice and beans, for the first time this morning with my host family and it exceed my expectations. I never thought such basic foods could be made into such a delicious breakfast. However, other aspects of Costa Rica are not as I expected, some for the better and others for the worse.
The biggest difference between my expectations and reality was the weather. Costa Rica is between its wet season and dry season so the weather changes very drastically throughout the day. I expected it to be very hot and humid on the dry season type of days because the sun would be beating down on us, and I expected the rain to be cooling and bring winds. However, it turns out the heat was not too noticeable until the rain, which did not bring wind but brought in the humidity.
Today was a Sunday, so Heredia was not as busy as I was expecting, but I am sure that will change during the week days. Many small businesses close on Sundays so the streets themselves were empty, but the parks were filled with people. Heredia seems to be a very social place where people will go out to the areas like the parks to socialize with each other and enjoy the land together.
Even though Ticos have great love for their country, especially for it beauty, there was a significant amount of litter on the grounds in public places. The roads had large gutters along the sides between them and the sidewalks. It seemed like lots of garbage washed or blew into these gutters and was left. Despite the excess litter, the city was beautiful. Heredia had a good mix of small restaurants and shops in the market and a full-blown mall near the University of Latina. The University of Latina is located on the main route connecting San Jose to Heredia which means the traffic on it is bad even for Costa Rican standards, which are far worse than those in the United States.
Overall, Costa Rica has blown my expectations thus far and its only day 2 of the program. I am looking forward to the days we get to tour the coffee farms with our new Spanish and Costa Rican culture knowledge.