Upon arrival to Costa Rica, we picked up our luggage, sailed through customs, boarded a large coach bus, and were off to meet our host families at the gates of the Universidad Latina de Costa Rica. It was extremely intimidating seeing that we had no idea what to expect. We pulled up to the university, and we were greeted by many families anxiously waiting to welcome each of us into their homes, or our homes for the next two weeks. We were called two by two off of the bus to meet our hosts. When Taylor and I were called, you could tell that we were slightly panicked because neither of us speaks Spanish fluently. As soon as we got off of the bus; however, we were warmly greeted with hugs and kisses from our host mom, Maria. We could not have been luckier. She is extremely kind, generous, outgoing, and it also helps that she speaks English pretty well. She showed us to our room, and as soon as she sensed that we were hungry, she made a full dinner for us. We went to bed shortly after, after all we had a big day ahead of us.
Today we immersed ourselves further into the culture of Heredia. We woke up, got ready for the day, and enjoyed a delicious breakfast with Mama Maria. Soon after, we started making our way to the university for our ISA orientation. After a brief meeting regarding expectations, safety precautions, and basic recommendations, we made our way to the bus stop and hopped on the next bus to downtown Heredia. On foot we explored the streets that make up the smallest province of Costa Rica. We first walked to “el Centro” or the center part of the city. There were children’s jungle gyms, churches scattered, and a small park with a fountain and a large gazebo where a band played traditional music. Tico families sat around enjoying the music, indulging in flavored shaved ice from some of the small carts, and even participating in Sunday outside with a priest on a small altar. As we continued upon our journey, we stumbled upon the Central Market. The Central Market housed many small shops mostly for food, such as a butcher shop, fruit stands, vegetable stands, a small fish market, and a spices shop. However there were other services as well, such as, the lottery stands, sodas (small “mom and pop” restaurants), a candle and incense stand, and more. The Central Market was the place to be for Ticos to grab any quick necessity even a quick snack or lunch.
For lunch, we headed to Leño y Carbón Parrillita where we had frozen fresh fruit drinks, a mixed appetizer, and a full meal with the choice of meat. The portions were huge, but the food was delicious. From there, we were brought back to the ULatina campus where Professor Teeter held an interactive “Survival Spanish” lesson. At three o’clock on the dot, we were free for the day. We to a brief trip to the mall across the street, el Paseo de las Flores, where we went into a couple of stores, and many students used the ATM for colones, then we returned to our homestays.
My first impressions of Heredia were overwhelming. Heredia is beautiful, and it has so much to offer. Although it is small, the community that it is home to is extremely large. I had no expectations for this trip; instead, I decided that I would be open minded to whatever Costa Rica had to offer me, and it is unlike any other place I have visited before. So far it is beautiful, the people are extremely kind, the food is delicious, and I will be sure to update you if anything changes!