What makes a culture? Really, what makes us, us? Is it the food we eat, where we shop, the stories we tell, the way we vote, what we buy, or is the way we get ready in the morning? What do we have a right to explore as foreign students? Obviously we would like to say you have a right to explore everything, but you only can taste a part of it in the short time you are here. This week I dove head first into the mix of cultures that Costa Rica has and some highlights were seeing a voting location, a farmer’s market, and the National Theater.

On Thursday, my roommate and I headed over to the National Theater to watch a play that translates to “The Jaguar of the Ash,” about the resurrection of a jaguar, one of the most important animals culturally for this native tribe. This week was intercultural week at the National Theater, with both local and international events, and student discounts. Always check their website for events. The play left me awe-struck, all the actors had intricately painted full body art on and wore these beautiful masks. Before the play I was a worried that a play in Spanish would be hard to follow, but I didn’t struggle at all

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On Sunday, my host dad brought me and my friends to a school where people were voting for municipal office positions and where my host mom and sister were campaigning. My host dad explained the whole process and we even were allowed to see a voting room! You would think voting is similar in all democratic/representative democracies, but actually there were a lot of differences. For one you can campaign outside of the voting rooms, which isn’t allowed in the US, and votes are counted by hand, twice! It was super interesting and I was so grateful that my host dad was willing to take us.

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After checking out the voting location, my host dad dropped us off at the Feria de Zapote, a local farmer’s market, which is the largest farmer’s market I have ever seen! It was actually more like a small fair than a farmer’s market, minus the rides. It had aisles and aisles of food! I have started to appreciate how important food is to a person’s identity from my cooking class I have been taking here, especially because it depends on what is available in your community and how you shop. This market they had everything, from starfruit to cheese to cucumbers to pet goldfish and art. I even drank from a coconut!

I might not be able to explore every aspect of Costa Rican culture, since it is a deep multicultural society, but I am going to embrace the challenge and see what I can explore in the time I have here. Hopefully in the process I will learn what makes up a personal culture, so I can better understand my own.

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