The first thing I noticed when I got out of the airport was the flood of people yelling and waving signs in the air. I frantically looked around amongst what must have been a hundred people looking for a sign with my name on it. María, Karla, José, and then I finally noticed the letters CEA sprawled across a large sign and a man, probably in his thirty’s waving it in the air with a welcoming smile on his face. He greeted me and handed me off to another man named Luis who would be driving me to my host family’s home. Luis had come with a friend and both were really nice! They escorted me to the car and helped carry all my luggage. I noticed immediately how much more welcoming and well-mannered people are over here compared to back in the States. Luis both opened and closed the door for me! I definitely did not expect that: one, being that this wasn’t a special taxi service or anything of that sort, and two, well, because I’m just an ordinary twenty-year-old student! On the ride there, it was a little quiet as I sat in the back trying to decipher what Luis and his friend were talking about. I took some time to get used to my surroundings: the rush of people getting out of church, casual horse-back riding, the lack of concept of having street lights (or at least very few of them), millions of billboards, a park selling colorful kites hanging off of clotheslines–just to name a few. Costa Rica reminds me a lot of India in some ways. There are a lot of pedestrians here, a lot of traffic, and the houses here kind of have a similar look to the ones in India. When I finally got to my host family’s place, I was greeted by two dogs (Side note- I am not the biggest fan of dogs. They kinda scare me–except my roommate Lakshmi’s little Yorkie Raju… so yeah, I was a little freaked out). And then came my Mama Tica, who was super welcoming and sweet! She showed me around and took me to my room. I had the opportunity to meet my wonderful roommate, Bria, and just took the rest of the day to relax and get situated. For dinner, Mama Tica made some delicious pizza. This pizza was not the ordinary pizza I was used to having. One of the pizzas had pear (yes, pear, as in the fruit) and another green on it that I didn’t recognize. Another pizza even had a part of a flower! Regardless, it was scrumptious. I devoured the meal in minutes, especially since I had barely eaten anything all day with all the flying. At dinner, I also met Javier, another study abroad student from Peru who is actually finishing his degree here! He was really nice as well and I had a really great time conversing (or rather trying to converse) with my new family. Something that I really liked was that we all held hands and prayed together before we began to eat our dinner. First, Mama Tica made a statement in Spanish and we all said Amen, and then Papa Tico made another statement and we again said Amen. I couldn’t really make out what they were saying not only because it was in Spanish, obviously, but rather because I was in awe of this custom they have in the house. I will try to figure out what they were saying tonight.
So today is my first official day here, and I absolutely love it so far! When I got here yesterday, I definitely felt a culture shock. I mean, not a complete culture shock since I have visited India many times and have been exposed to different cultures, but there is definitely a very different feel here compared to back in the States. I pretty much spent most of the day at orientation and figuring out where everything is. Mama Tica walked me to the CEA office early this morning with her granddaughter, Elena, who might I add is absolutely adorable. Elena is three years old, loves Elsa from Frozen (go figure), and is simply a bundle of cuteness. We passed many different shops and cafés, and the walk there really allowed me to get a feel of San José. I finally was introduced to Maggie and Leo at the CEA office, who went over all the details I needed to know to make my stay here comfortable. Here are some of the fun facts I learned today:
- All the people here call each other Ticos and Ticas.
- People here refer to people from the US as Gringos. Interesting right? It kinda reminds me of Harry Potter except then I would be a Muggle (argh) and the people here would be wizards according to my analogy, but you get my point.
- Pura Vida (translated to “Pure Life”) isn’t just a phrase frequently said here, it’s a way of life! And Ticos also use this phrase frequently notliterally, but instead when greeting someone or saying farewell, as well as a way of giving thanks.
- Close to 97% of Costa Ricans can read and write!
- According to the Happy Planet Index, Costa Rica is the happiest country in the world! Definitely need to figure out what the secret recipe is to their happiness.
- People use the word “ciao” here to say goodbye, except they spell it like “chao.” I always thought it was an Italian word, so that was quite interesting.
Well anyway, that’s all for now–about to start class soon. Sorry this post is getting a bit long. Stay tuned for more posts! Chao!