Today was my third full day in Costa Rica, and I’m finally beginning to feel somewhat settled. I know how to get where I need to be (mostly thanks to my directionally competent roomie–thanks Brenda!), the names and faces of my fellow students are starting to become familiar, and I’m beginning to get a feel for my schedule. The first few days in any new place, especially a new country, can be somewhat hectic, but it’s important to take everything in stride.
For those of you who know me well, you know that I like to have my schedule carefully planned and that I’m always a little too early for everything. Those are two habits which I’ve had to kick very fast in order to get by comfortably. Here in Costa Rica, time is not of the essence quite like it is in the United States. At the orientation at Universidad Veritas yesterday, they showed us a chart comparing several countries on their expectations for timeliness. The typical American would be expected to arrive within about 10 minutes of the scheduled meeting time, but the Tico Time equivalent is closer to 20-30 minutes. This means that it’s no longer desirable for me to arrive somewhere 20 minutes early because that could leave me waiting around for a very long time. Though I haven’t experienced having to meet someone according to Tico Time just yet, there is a definite sense of relaxation with time that I am not used to. Leaving my house just 10 minutes before class just doesn’t feel right, but I’m slowly but surely learning not to race out of the door. While I would have seen lateness as a negative thing prior to coming here, I’m learning to instead appreciate the typical Tico “lateness” as a more laid-back way of life instead of an act of irresponsibility. When you begin to see things such as this outside of the lens of your own culture, such adjustments as leaving the house a little later become much easier to make.
Among these adjustments that I’ve been making, however, there are a few things that I have admittedly been thankful for as far as giving me a sense of routine that I’m used to. One of the staples of my daily routine for the past few years has been going to the gym, so I am glad that is something I can continue to do abroad. Despite the fact that I’m still figuring out how fast I can run in kilometers per hour and how much I can lift in kilograms, I rely on my daily workouts for a feeling of familiarity in my day. I also had my first class today, Alternative Health Approaches (where I was so fortunate to receive a massage from my professor). It was nice to be back in the classroom and I’m looking forward to getting back to learning every day. As things start to settle and my schedule becomes more familiar, I’ll eventually fall into a little more of a routine.
Although I look forward to having a more familiar schedule, I’ve learned something important about getting into the swing of things. Getting into the swing of things doesn’t necessarily mean doing the same thing each day and not trying new things. In fact, today I tried out a dance class offered by the school and I found quite the opposite to be true. I’m a pretty terrible dancer if I’m being honest, and I think a big part of that is the structured and calculated aspect of my personality. I like things to be exact and well thought out. The problem there, though, is that there is no room for the new and different when you think you have it all figured out. When you dance, you get into the swing of things not when you have calculated how and when to do each move, but when you feel the rhythm and take steps in the moment. So, a current goal of mine is to feel like I am in rhythm with the days without having to plan out each and every step. A big part of my life during these next few weeks will be finding that perfect balance between relying on my schedule and allowing things to happen as they come. After all, there’s far too much to do in too little time so I definitely don’t want to waste a minute of it calculating the next move while I could be making it happen.