¡Un viaje! As we drove uphill on bumpy roads past the large, steep mountainsides and watched the fog amongst the tall trees of Monteverde, it was more than obvious that we had left the Central Valley region of Costa Rica. While attending a guest lecture on the Quaker history pertaining to Monteverde, we were properly welcomed to the mountain rainforest of Costa Rica with a torrential downpour that included bursts of thunder and lightning. During the approximately four-hour long bus ride to Monteverde, we drove through various areas with distinct terrain, scenery and communities. What stood out to me were a few things. First, since the area is more rural, buildings are more spread out and there are less people walking around than in a city like San Jose. I would even say that there is less traffic than in a town like Heredia. In addition, there are more bugs in the rainforest, which makes sense since we are in a rainforest and the rainy season has already begun in this area. Finally, it appears as though more poverty exists in communities within Monteverde than in other areas within Costa Rica that we have traveled. The houses look run-down and built with cheaper materials, and the communities are much smaller. These observations are a few that I had noticed on the bus ride to Monteverde.
Since arriving on Saturday, I have furthered my understanding of Costa Rica due to additional experiences within and knowledge of the area. This enhanced understanding influences my opinions as I continue building my own perception of Costa Rica. First, let’s recap. my initial impressions of Costa Rica were that it is a beautiful country with a unique culture and amazing food, and that the locals are characterized by kindness, a pride for their environment and a strong focus on sustainability. For the most part, I still agree with my first impressions. Since I have begun exploring Costa Rica, my experiences serve to strengthen each of these opinions. This country becomes more beautiful with every location I visit, I find Costa Rican culture to be unique with each new tradition I learn, and I have enjoyed every single meal that I have eaten here. Additionally, most of the locals are kind and outgoing, they openly express their love for nature and biodiversity, and they practice what they preach in terms of sustainability. In regards to the friendliness of Ticos, a presentation by Professor Ricardo Guindon enriched my knowledge of Monteverde history and values. Guindon is a son of the founders of the Quaker community in Monteverde. Quakers are known for their Christian values, and they are also called the Society of Friends. Hence why I believe that, at least in Monteverde and other locations where there are Quaker roots, kindness is extremely valued. On the other hand, my experiences have also led me to the belief that there are some outliers or various exceptions to these norms. For instance, while the majority of locals are kind, there still appears to be a lack of respect for women; catcalling, inappropriate comments and excessive staring are not uncommon. Since such actions are considered to be rude in the United States, I perceive them as impolite and offensive. The fact that this behavior is ordinary in Costa Rica changes the way I perceive locals who are disrespectful towards women.