Costa Rica: The First 5

Or, en español, el primero cinco.

I’ll try to avoid breaking into Spanglish on you in this post. Admittedly, it tends to happen more often than not when I’m with my fellow students. Even after only 5 days in this primarily Spanish environment, my mind is already swimming with Spanish vocabulary. Of course, that doesn’t mean I haven’t made any mistakes; I’ve already got some great stories about failed communications with the locals.

But, I must press forward. In this post, I’ll be giving a quick update about what I’ve been doing and some of the things I’ve learned about in this neat, beautiful little country se llamamos (we call) Costa Rica. Whoops, there it is again.

So far, most of what I’ve done is settle in, get to know my area, family, and housemates, and attend the first days of the two classes I’m taking. I’ve also been doing my best to make lots of connections with other students. I’ll be spending an entire month with them, so I figure I’d best make some friends. So far, they’re pretty cool.

At first I was concerned about getting around in the city of San Jose, but I was actually placed only a 15 minute walk away from the University. No need for bus fare. Qué bueno! In fact, I haven’t had to take the bus anywhere I’ve gone so far. This excludes the excursions, where all the students are required to take the bus to their destinations.

Speaking of excursions, I figure I should show you all this beauty. Pictured below is but 1 of the 4 waterfalls we were taken to for an excursion. The name escapes me at the moment, but it is nonetheless a spectacle to behold.

Exploring this area was really cool. I actually had to climb up a rather sizable rock to get this picture, which sparked in me an interest for rock climbing. Must research further.

Interestingly enough, I’m not experiencing any of the highs or lows they told me I would upon entering another country. They described a series of phases I would go through, consisting of a high, a low (homesickness), then leveling out. However, I have not yet had that euphoric high from being in a foreign culture, nor have I had any serious bouts of homesickness. At least, not yet. Time will tell.

Nonetheless, the country of Costa Rica is an interesting one indeed. The city of San Jose has a very active and lively night life, and if you’re into the bar or dancing scene, you won’t have to look far for both. Unfortunately, I am interested in neither of those things, so I have instead been spending my time frequenting Mall San Pedro and hanging out with my host family.

On the note of my host family, this is the first time I have had legitimate interactions with Spanish speaking locals anywhere. It’s very challenging, but also rewarding when I understand them and they understand me. It’s particularly entertaining to listen to my housemates spout off Spanglish to the family or blindly reply with “sí, sí, sí!” when they don’t understand a word they just heard. I’ve learned when to just say “no comprendo.”

Good news: I have managed to procure a guitar by day 4. One of the relatives of my host family had a classical guitar he wasn’t using, and he offered to let me borrow it when I told him I played. And of course, I accepted. No loss of guitar skills here!

More good news: the exchange rate here is very good, and things here are generally cheap. You can typically get a nicely sized meal for around $4-$5 depending on where you go. And Costa Rican colones, like US dollars, come in bills and coins, and the coins feel like straight doubloons. You feel like a pirate here, walking around with your pockets jingling.

Though I have been venturing out most afternoons to try the food and see the area, there’s still a lot in San Jose I haven’t discovered yet. I’ll admit my area is getting dull rather quickly, but downtown San Jose is as bustling as Beale Street in Memphis. I intend to return there soon.

Downtown San Jose.

The weather here is not what I expected. I didn’t see the sun until 4 days in. Before that, it was overcast with a 99% chance of rain by 2 pm, or at least it felt that way. I learned very quickly that a rain jacket or an umbrella are necessary wherever you go, even if the sun is out.

As a little bit of Costa Rican culture trivia, there is a phrase here that can basically sum up the mentality of the people. That phrase is “pura vida!” It roughly translates as “pure life” or “good life” and is a phrase that can be used in basically any way, including goodbye, good luck, go for it, and more. I equate it roughly to a mix between America’s YOLO and Britain’s “cheers,” with a touch more fun and bit less recklessness.

At any rate, I think this string of thoughts can basically sum up my first 5 days in Costa Rica. For now, I’ve exfoliated everything I can. I must gather more thoughts and do the same thing another week. For now, I thank you for your support, and I look forward to telling you more of my adventures in Costa Rica.

Pura vida!

-JB

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