Up until this morning, we have been in the Central Valley region of Costa Rica exploring both Heredia and San Jose. Today, we ventured to two other distinct regions of Costa Rica; the Pacific coast and the mountain rain forest. We went from being about 3000 feet above sea level, to at sea level, to almost 5000 feet above sea level all in the span of four hours. Each of these areas of the country had distinctions that separated it from the others and similarities that unify Costa Rica into what it is perceived as today. This journey also allowed me to create a better understanding of the country than I previously had.
The first new region I was exposed to today was the beach on the Pacific coast. This region gave off the vibe of being a lot more laid-back than that of the cities of Heredia and San Jose. I got the sense that the people here did not live extravagant lives, but live comfortably running their local shops and stands. I noticed a lot of the street shops have their own specified product. For instance, I saw many shops along the coast that focused on solely selling fruits and vegetables. Also, I feel that the beaches in general in Costa Rica give off a very touristy vibe. This I envision is mainly because everyone loves the beach and will travel long journeys to visit. However, the beach we were at today seemed more like a community because I did not notice many large resorts or hotels and in general the beach was not as crisp as a tourist beach would be. The next region we went to and eventually stopped at was the mountain rain forest. This area gave off a much more tranquil feel. Maybe that was due to the breathtaking views from the bus ride or just having an area that exists in nature rather than an area where the nature exists around the civilization. Also, this felt like more of a small community, unlike the hustle and bustle of the cities in the Central Valley. They have a very quaint, almost neighborhood feel with a local school, shops, and stands.
These two regions contrast from the Central Valley area that I have been in for the past four days in a couple of ways. One is the scenery. The views that are seen from the beach or being in the clouds on top of a mountain are just not comparable. Also, it was definitely apparent that these regions are more rural than the cities. This leads to what looked like a less wealthy area that was more based on local businesses that sell in street shops and in the local communities. However, I have noticed some similarities that run throughout all of Costa Rica. I have noticed that most local shops have their own primary focus. When we went through the Central Market in Heredia, each stand had its own specialty, fruits, vegetables, meats, etc. This was consistent with what I saw on the bus ride today going through the beach and mountain areas. Also, I have noticed that all of the people seem friendly, welcoming, and overall happy. This has allowed me to assimilate into their culture as smoothly as possible. For example, whenever I go to the store and buy something, they are always welcoming and willing to help if I do not understand something they say. This has also been a theme seen throughout the country that I have come to experience.
This information has all been absorbed over the course of five short days and allowed me to develop, what I believe is a better knowledge base of the country. Coming in, I knew to expect beautiful scenery and a welcoming people. These have both been proven true over the past five days, but one thing that I did not have that much awareness about was how prideful Costa Ricans are to be Costa Rican. This message has been conveyed to me on numerous occasions. Firstly, after learning in depth history about Costa Rica and going to the National Museum, I realize that they have a very interesting background with multiple international connections that have shaped how the world is today. Before the trip, I did not realize how important Costa Rica was to not only how Latin America but the world was shaped. For this, I now understand that Costa Ricans value their ancestors with numerous heroes and holidays to commemorate them. Also, after traveling around the country, I feel the sense of national pride flying high amongst the people here. From the countless Costa Rican flags I’ve seen blowing in the wind to the proudly shown pieces on history on display, I see now that Costa Ricans are proud of their country and where they come from. Finally, I feel the pride coursing through Costa Ricans whenever I have a conversation with a local about their country. When I talk to my host abuela about Costa Rica, the initial lighting up of a reaction in her eyes shows me that she is proud to be a Costa Rican. Overall, Costa Rica has given me what I expected on surface value, but gave me much more that I am so happy to have discovered and learned and hope to continue becoming as intertwined in the culture as I can in the remaining time I have here.