First Impressions

I arrived safely in San Jose, Costa Rica last night and my first full day is coming to a close.  My flight from Chicago to Miami went extremely smoothly but I can’t say the same for the flight from Miami to San Jose.  The original plane that all the passengers boarded had a check engine light on so the pilot had to call mechanics.  Long story short, we had to wait an hour, switch planes because the right motor wasn’t working, and I ended up landing three hours later than planned.  Luckily the delay was with the second flight rather than the first otherwise I would’ve missed the connecting flight entirely.

Traveling alone seemed slightly intimidating at first, but between following tons of airport signs and going with the flow of the crowd, I would say that I’m now confident with traveling independently.

When I arrived at the airport in San Jose, I had to go through immigration and customs, which wasn’t bad at all.  Right outside of the airport, there were tons of people holding signs with names, company logos, taxi drivers, etc.  I found the person holding the sign that said COSI (the name of the school I’m attending here) and he showed me a list with names that included mine.  The driver delivered one other student and I to our separate home stay locations.

Just the drive alone from the airport to my house was interesting.  The cars aren’t as in good condition, the roads are bumpy and not labeled, and the buildings are much smaller, closer together, and covered with metal gates and barbed wire.  One example of the car situation is that the seatbelt in the car I rode in had been ripped out.  Also, the motor in the car was right underneath my feet and I could feel the warm air from the motor escaping through the cracks in the floor and heating me up beyond the already 85 degree and humid temperature outside.  The roads are crazy because there aren’t street signs and there aren’t really addresses.  Directions are given like the following: turn right at the bank, go 400 meters, then turn left at the park and the house is the second red one on the left.  Quite different than what I’m used to in the U.S.  As for the houses, they’re covered in metal gates and barbed wire because of the juvenile delinquents here.  My host mom here explained that there are so many petty crimes and robberies committed by such a large number of young people that it would be impossible for the police to catch them.  (Also, the people of Costa Rica depend less on the police in general due to government corruption.)

On a much lighter note, my host family is wonderful.  I live with a mother who is a professional volleyball team coach, her daughter who is a veterinarian, and another study abroad student from UW Madison.  The mother and daughter barely speak any English, and the other study abroad student doesn’t speak any Spanish at all, so I translate everything, which I love.

The food here is amazing.  My host mom made me the typical Costa Rican dish last night for dinner.  It consisted of rice, beans, a mix of steamed vegetables, meat, and fried plantains.  For breakfast this morning I had a fried egg, toast, and tried a guava for the first time.  (It was like a hard pear and I’m officially a fan of guavas now.)

My overall first impression is that life here is much simpler.  You can just tell that people aren’t as stressed out or as high strung.  A big change that will take lots of getting used to, but I love it so far.  I haven’t even gotten to how my first day at school went but I guess I’ll have to make that another post.  I’m off to write my first paper due for class tomorrow.  Adios!