It’s been said that you have to embrace what you fear to in order to overcome. My first thought goes to Batman in his cave, closing his eyes for fear of the bats, yet becoming the Batman. I am proud to compare myself to this super hero for doing the same thing. I have a fear of anything un-American; I love America, it is my home, I support the system, I pray for the government, I only want what is best for my homeland. However, my fear of anything foreign was not best for me. This summer, I took that fear and fully emerged myself into another culture; where they speak Spanish, grow ingredients in their gardens, show gratitude like no American southerner has ever seen, and say “Pura Vida” for any greeting or response. I am a student from The University of Tennessee studying Spanish in Costa Rica.
Even though I have yet to get out of San Jose, this week in itself has been an amazing experience just by getting to know the people. As a passive aggressive girl, I cannot say I belong anywhere else. Their kindness and generosity is so perfuse that when people say, “sure,” or even, “you’re welcome,” what they really mean is, “uh, how about no.” However, when they really are happy to help, which is almost always, they reply with, “Con mucho gusto” which means, “with much pleasure.” It’s like Chick-Fil-A workers everywhere you go! They are so enthusiastic and happy to help! Morning walks to my campus are my favorite time of day. The air is crisp from the night’s storm, and there are no cars in the streets. I love to say, “buenas” to every single person and wave as they wish me a great day at school. They truly live this “Pura Vida” lifestyle; it seems that no matter how stressed they actually are, they are always “Pura Vida.”
“Pura Vida” literally translates into “live pure,” but it can be used in any context. It can be a greeting or a bid farewell, a response, a word for no words. It is a concept that Costa Ricans, or “Ticos,” hold dear to their lifestyle. Seems to me, they hold on to what really matters; which is not time, not money – but love, family and celebration. Simplicity is imperative to retain such a relaxed atmosphere.
All of these points are void when it comes to cars in Costa Rica. If any Costa Rican has any built up rage, it must be taken out while they are in a car. Ticos honk for everything! They rev their engines, have no regard for being to close to other vehicles, I was even in a bus that pulled a U-turn! I would never be able to get away with their stunts in the states. When kids are little, they usually learn to look both ways before they cross the street; I didn’t realize I had forgotten that concept until I got here because people just don’t run over people. Here, the cars do not stop! Now, my biggest fear is not to learn about another culture, but only crossing the street.