The trip to Monteverde was breathtaking and so interesting. We got to travel out of Heredia, past the pacific ocean, and up into the mountain rainforest. As we got further away from town and the suburban areas, I started to see the Costa Rica that I expected when I first came. The houses were not as close together so people actually had yards, but the houses did not seem as nice as the ones in town. There was a lot more open land and nature. Some people had little farms. Other people run little stores or sodas. I even saw a guy just sitting on the side of the road with some fruit he was selling. It wasn’t even a little shack, just a table and little roof like if it was a pop up tent. We also would go through parts that had some things in English, so I presume they were areas frequented by tourists. Still I did not see as many American chain restaurants like in town, so places are more family owned and authentic. I didn’t enjoy the parts on the highway as much because there wasn’t as much to see, but the view of the mountains or the ocean was beautiful. The beach was not populated like I would expect at most American beaches, but they were some stores and small homes along it. There were also lots of ships in the port or on the water so maybe it is more of a beach for business rather than pleasure.
Once we starting going up more into the mountains I saw more farms and cattle ranches. So I saw some cows, horses, dogs, cats, chickens, and probably more animals but it would just come up out of nowhere and be gone again so I was too slow to get pictures. I thought it was interesting that the fences aren’t wooden posts but literally trees connected by barbed wire. I even saw two men that looked like they were constructing one (based on the evenly spaced little trees in a straight line). I loved the view looking down from the mountains as we kept going up. We were literally in the clouds and I usually couldn’t see all the way down. It’s amazing how some people just live on the side of mountains all by themselves with the only connection to the rest of the world as tiny, windy, gravel roads. I didn’t see many people but I imagine these Ticos are much tougher and independent because they live in the colder weather, lower quality living, on their own. They probably don’t speak good english though because they are so isolated from the urban areas and the schools out here are probably smaller and poorer. Once we got closer to our resort at the top of the mountain where it was a little more level there were more houses again and some looked nicer than others. Souvenir shops and things also appeared through the mist because it is clearly a tourist area. Monteverde clearly used to be more agricultural but the main industry now is ecotourism (and it is doing very well). I can’t wait to learn more about it.
My understanding of Costa Rica has changed a little since I arrived on Saturday. After learning a little more about the history and culture, starting to experience the culture, and exploring for of the country, the picture is getting bigger and clearer. I like that I can now see the diversity between the different parts of the country. I was surprised that we have not had much interaction with Ticos so I still believe that they are super friendly but not as outgoing as I thought. That is also likely because we are a large group and are so busy. If I ever came back on my own, I would probably get to know more people. Also some people are better than others with speaking English. Generally the major tourist locations are good, and I was surprised that prices were in dollars. I am happy to see the people that are living with the land more in the rural areas like I had expected. It is also interesting to know that it is not all like that though. Still the city is very different from American cities. I have gotten a lot more comfortable with our daily walk and exploring downtown Heredia. Going to the soccer game was awesome and enabled me to see the passion from the Ticos about something they love. I also got to see the passion and pride of the Ticos at our various lectures. They want to teach us and explain their way of life and business. Mostly Ticos just go about their day like any people, but they are very polite and respond with much pleasure (con mucho gusto) as their phrase for you’re welcome. Overall I would say that Costa Rica is calmer than I expected. It’s not as scary as a thought, the rain is not as heavy and constant as I thought, and even the traffic is not as bad as I thought. People seem to be comfortable and happy and it makes you feel comfortable and happy. (It’s likely because of the agreeable weather.) I’m sure there is a lot more that I will learn in the time that remains, and even more that I could only understand if I returned for a longer stay. I think Pura Vida is a perfect fit for Costa Rica and I am grateful that I get to experience the fun.