Stranger in Costa Rica

Walking around Costa Rica on the first day taught me some things: Ticos WILL stare at you if you’re above average height, speaking to the locals made me realize I probably should have paid attention in Spanish class more, and I definitely shouldn’t walk around alone. In reality my impressions of Costa Rica were slightly different than expected. What I found out was that the people are friendlier, the weather is warmer and wetter, and the prices are higher than I thought. My first day in Costa Rica was beautiful and full of surprises.

When I woke up this morning I went over to the window and looked outside. I was taken aback, the entire landscape had changed from night to day. In the distance I could see the capital San José, beautiful green jagged mountains looming in the sky, and clustered houses on either side of the one I was on. I immediately realized that Costa Rica is more scenic than what I thought it was before. Something I was surprised about was the architecture of the buildings. Everything seemed to be clustered together, creating a densely packed agglomeration of houses, small shops, and everything building in between. When the afternoon rain comes, it pours. The rain hits the metal roofs of the houses and creates a violent orchestra. It’s unlike any other climate I’ve been before: beautiful in the morning and hard rain in the afternoon. While the weather was still nice we explored the town of Heredia.

I’m someone that loves to explore places I’ve never been. That being said, I should probably not do that too much while I’m here. Walking through the market central, where all kinds of things are peddled: fruits and vegetables,  purses and glasses, meats and spices, and all assortments of things, I quickly ambled away from my group and found that eyes from every direction were on me and my friends. We had no idea where we were in the market and luckily we met up with the group. When we arrived at the town plaza we quickly realized that Americans are often targeted for handouts and closely watched by local peoples. Being a Gringo in Costa Rica places a target on you that says: ‘I have money and I’m easy to pickpocket!’. Today taught me that being on my guard in Costa Rica is necessary when walking around the cities and towns.

My host mother is a sweet woman who we call ‘Mama Tica’. She is extremely kind and helps my roommate and I understand and speak Spanish because she does not speak any English whatsoever. While this communication barrier is a challenge, I am enjoying speaking and listening to Spanish. Today was the first day I spoke to locals and actually bought a towel from the mall, achieving this while speaking only in Spanish. Speaking to locals showed me truly how understanding and patient Ticos are for people who do not speak their language. While my first day in Costa Rica helped me learn some of the ins and outs of Costa Rican culture and day-to-day life, I still have much to learn and I’m eager to see what I will learn during the rest of my time in Costa Rica.

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