Our first day in Costa Rica was filled with walking, Spanish classes, rain, rain, and more rain.
Something that myself and many others pointed out almost immediately was the amount of American shops and restaurants in the area. While I expected to see at least a McDonalds here and there, I did not expect to see things such as a Carl’s Jr, a Pizza Hut, and an American racing-themed sports bar. Another similarity to the United States that I encountered was the mall near our host family’s house. There were a ton of similar shops, and the food court had food options similar to the ones you would find in the states.
The thing about Heredia that stood out to me the most was how relaxed everything and everyone was. When we first got off the bus in the Parque Central, I quickly made note of all the people simply sitting down and enjoying the day. In America, a place like this will most likely be inhabited by people (myself included) staring down at their phones. The Ticos have a popular saying, “Pura Vida.” Simply put, it means “pure life.” This tradition of being laid back and content with being was extremely evident as we walked through the park, as everyone around us looked extremely happy while just sitting and absorbing the world around them.
I consider myself lucky to have had prior experiences in a Spanish-speaking country. While I still felt moderately unprepared to conversationally adapt, I was confident enough in my Spanish abilities to a point where seeing everyone speak Spanish didn’t completely overwhelm me. When our walking tour of the city took us through a bustling market, I had a chance to try to listen in on some conversations to see if I could understand anything. In such a hectic environment, it was hard to pinpoint a certain conversation and comprehend every word that was spoken. After walking past various fruit stands, vegetable stands, and meat vendors, I confirmed that while I can understand some of the language, I still have a long way to go before I can thrive on my own.
I don’t know what to say about the rain besides the fact that there was a lot of it. It is something we all expected coming in to the country, but I still held on to the hope that the two week forecast for rain every day was wrong. When I stepped outside in the morning to a cool, sunny day without a cloud in sight, I thought that the rain would miss us. However, as soon as we stepped out of the restaurant we ate lunch in (Leño y Carbon, go check it out,) our luck ran out. Usually, when someone describes a rain shower as torrential, they are exaggerating. This was a torrential rain shower. As Costa Rica transitions from the dry season to the wet season, this type of day is something we can expect for the rest of the trip. However, since we knew that coming in, we are prepared and will still be able to enjoy our educational experience. Luckily, I managed to snap a picture when the rain was subsiding, but as soon as I got inside it picked back up.
Overall, we had an extremely productive and amazing first day. Our time here has just barely begun, and we’re all extremely excited for the next two weeks. Pura Vida!