If you missed my first blog post, you can find it here: El primer día: nuestra llegada y los ticos
Today was the first day of classes at the Universidad Latina! I had no idea what to expect when I woke up this morning. Mama tica made us a delicious breakfast, ham, eggs, toast, fried plantains (YUM) and fresh bananas and apples. We walked to class after that and met the rest of the students in our program, and some of their host families.
We were split into two classes, about 5-7 students in each one (a smaller class size since there are only 12 total in our program.) I decided to take Civilización y Cultura Latinoamericana (Latin American Civilization and Culture.) Class is taught entirely in Spanish, which will be very challenging. I’ve taken classes taught completely in Spanish before, but those were in the United States.
Our professor (la profe) talks very fast, and I was struggling much more than I did communicating with our host mother. I’m sure it’s just a matter of getting used to her way of speaking and getting re-acclimated with the language. Like mama tica keeps telling us, without errors, we won’t learn. Nevertheless, la profe was also very understanding and willing to help. She compares her students to her children, the most important people to her under her immediate family. She calls us “mi amor” and sometimes “preciosa.”
I forgot how exhausting it is to listen to and comprehend another language. Today we did it for 3 and a half hours straight. Class will run from 8 AM to 12 PM from now on with a few exceptions for cultural activities and excursions.
After class, we split up into groups for a scavenger hunt. We had to go to the bank to exchange US Dollars for Costa Rican “colónes.” There’s a picture of a sloth (un oso perezoso) on the 10000 colónes bill! 10000 colónes is equivalent to about 18 US Dollars.
After we made copies of our passports at Office Depot, we walked around the mall for a bit and I tried to give a cashier 100 colónes (about 18 cents) when she asked for 500 (about $1.00.) The coins look very similar, there is a single coin for both 100 and 500. Luckily I noticed and she assured me it was okay by saying “tranquila” with a smile. I know it’s going to take me a while to get the hang of the currency here.
We returned home to relax for a while and listen to the news for our homework. Again, we were amazed by the food. We had pork loins, rice, and yucas fritas. I’m not really sure what yuca is, some sort of vegetable, but it was delicious. We also had a cream of spinach soup. I have to remember to ask mama tica for that recipe!
We ate dinner out on the porch, it’s cool and breezy tonight. We talked over dinner and took in the view of Heredia and the mountains. Cecilia would periodically call out “pura vida” or “buenas tardes” to passersby. Some were neighbors, and others just friendly strangers.
Cecilia talked about her philosophy on life. She explained to us how she absolutely loves life, how she loves herself and doesn’t have to worry about other things. She said that beauty comes from inside, and if you’re happy with your life, está bien. Money doesn’t matter, small fights with friends don’t matter. It was a poignant topic of conversation having just escaped from the pressures of college life in the United States. My mind has been in constant flux lately, between graduate school applications, finals, and more serious things like what the heck I’m going to do with my life.
A huge weight was lifted after talking with mama tica. I really had to ask myself if I was looking at life like she was. She definitely lives the “pura vida” lifestyle that I’ve been hearing so much about. I asked her which situations you would say “pura vida” to someone. She replied, “todas, pura vida, pura vida.” It can mean a lot of things, from hello and goodbye, or as a response to a question like “how’s it going?” The meaning goes much deeper than that for ticos, and I’m not sure it’s something I can explain just yet. It’s a feeling I’m not sure anyone can define in words.
Mama tica doesn’t look down on other lifestyles or cultures, and she realizes that everyone sees life through a different lens. There are people more rich than she, and more poor, and there’s no point in comparing. She has her own life, and so does everyone else.
I am so grateful that mama tica shared this beautiful perspective with me. She gave me hope that someday I’ll be able to let go of some of my unwanted worries and fears. I can’t say I understand “pura vida” like a tico yet, but I’ve gotten my first taste of the simple calmness and clarity that comes with it. I hope to bring that sentiment with me wherever I end up.
For now, está bien y pura vida a todos.