Removing The Lens: First Week in Costa Rica

Mavis Britwum is a student at The College of New Jersey and an ISA Featured Blogger. Mavis is currently studying abroad in San Jose, Costa Rica on a Fall 4 program.

In my first week here, I’ve immersed my toes in the soft sandy beaches of Domincal and refreshed my lungs with a sweet dosage of fresh ocean breeze. The leaves on the tropical trees hang low and wide like upside down hammocks. Its colors scream a vibrant green and flowers a striking red, blue, violet, gold and every color in between. I’ve sipped sweet coconut water through a bendy straw and the actual coconut still in my hand. I’ve witnessed a surprise Costa Rican style carnaval and danced in line with the drummers and carnaval dancers. It really seems like I’m in paradise.

It’s easy to think this is how life should be every day; that would be awesome! But as the new week approaches and I finally get into the swing of classes, having a schedule and studying, so the child-like excitement and naive intrigue for this beautiful country fade away. It’s now time to take off the lens, as stylish and as comfortable as it seems, and begin to uncover the layers to find what really makes Costa Rica, well, Costa Rica!

Costa Rican Family: In general, Costa Ricans seem to be a happy set of people. Who wouldn’t be in a culture that embraces and respects family values?  Cousins, aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews are welcomed home and accepted as immediate family. In my home, my Tica mom feeds 5 mouths at any one table sitting and still has room for any passing family members or friends. And the food? How about Cilantro tossed with juicy tomatoes and crunchy red onions drizzled with lemon, with a side of black beans and white rice infused with tasty herbs and spices topped off with a crispy, golden brown filet o’ fish fried in a light batter. That was dinner our first night with our host family; Yeah Mama Tica throws down!

Next stop, Downtown! The buses in San Jose are just like back home, except for one major exception. There is no defined schedule! Yes, this drives me insane because a bus wait can be from 5 minutes to 30minutes depending on time of day and location. Mainly because the peak of rush hour is around 5 o’ clock and the streets can get pretty jammed with taxis, buses, and cars scrambling to get home. But on a good day and a better time of day, it’s a smooth ride to any destination in the city.

Try something new: So I promised myself I would stay away from American fast food and strictly eat at local eateries during my stay here. I broke that promise unfortunately, and learned my lesson the un-tasty and expensive way. I won’t mention location or store, but let’s just say this popular sandwich chain was not the same as back home and somewhat overpriced. If you ever find yourself craving KFC or McDonalds in another country, go for it. But I also find it best to try different foods in the area every now and then to further immerse myself in the culture, practice my communication and make friends along the way.

In all, it’s been an awesome first week. But there’s so much more to learn, so much more to experience. Ah, Pura Vida mis amigos!

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