For once, I’m Lost, and It Wasn’t the GPS’s Fault

Today we visited San José, the capital of Costa Rica. San José was very different from Heredia where we are staying because it had a much bigger city feel. There are a lot of shops for tourists and some of the restaurants are American fast food chains. San José also contains a great amount of history through monuments and museums. We visited the gold museum and the national history museum where we learned about the pre-Columbian history of Costa Rica. There are many statues throughout the city that honor people as well. For example, the national monument in the central park represents Costa Rica’s independence from William Walker, an American who forcefully became the first foreign president of Costa Rica. The many different monuments are very similar to Pittsburgh as we have museums which educate people about important figures in Pittsburgh’s history such as Andrew Carnegie and the Heinz family. Like Pittsburgh, San José is very proud of its history and is excited to share it with the rest of the world.

A large difference between Pittsburgh and San José is that in Costa Rica, they do not have street addresses. Instead, they use landmarks and directions; for example, your destination is 500 meters past the local elementary school, and is the house with the white gate. This really complicates finding specific buildings when you are not familiar with the area. Sometimes they even use landmarks that do not exist anymore. Not having addresses is a real setback for a big city like San José especially with the number of tourists that visit. For shipping purposes, today in the modern world, shipping relies heavily on addresses, and landmarks with vague directions can really complicate this process. It also leaves more room for error when it comes to leaving a package at the wrong house. This also makes using a simple app such as Uber difficult. There are no addresses so how are you supposed to find where the driver should drop you off? San José really needs to update this system in order to move forward and prosper.

It is also evident that the coffee and banana industries had a great influence on the success of the city throughout its lifetime. The train that stops in San José was specifically built so they could transport coffee and bananas to the different ports along each coast. Before the railroad, the workers had no way to travel to the Caribbean coast, so they were forced to take the goods to the pacific coast and then send them to Europe by going through or around South America. This was a long and expensive process, so they built the railroad in order to save time and money. These commodities also attracted people to the central market where you can buy fruits and other fresh produce. Overall, San José was a very interesting place to visit, but it is stuck in its old ways. The country has progressed into being a big contender in the tourism industry, so it should update its policies in order to better suit its customers.

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