From the beginning, the hectic traffic and overgrown nature of city streets made Costa Rica feel far from home. In the Midwest, lawns are well manicured and stop signs are obeyed without fail. Here, life is a little less constrained. From my first day, the pace and animation of los Ticos was invigorating. The food is delicious without frills. The local people look into my eyes with the invitation of a hello without pretense. By many, I felt welcomed despite by limited Spanish.
Heredia is interesting because it resonates between the traditional culture and one of globalization. Walking through the local mall the first day, I was amazed by how similar in structure and substance it was to my mall at home. Local Heredians were walking around in Nike shirts, with iPhones and expensive tennis shoes. The younger generation would fit in seamlessly with young adults from the states– a similar phenomenon manifesting through a different cultural history. I talked to a student at one of the local universities for a couple hours last night about the history of Costa Rica and the culture. It amazed me how similar the current issues in each country are. Both Costa Rica and the United States are affluent relative to their neighbors. For this reason, there are issues with immigration. More so, we both are searching for the difficult balance between providing healthcare for our citizens and keeping taxes minimal to not impede the economy. He mentioned how the younger generation, like the United States, is turning towards consumerism, spending money on things they don’t need. One of the most interesting differences we discussed was how Costa Rica does not have a military, while the United States has a bigger military for than all other countries combined. A common theme we noticed was how similar the desires of humans and countries are, even though they may seem so different under a different cultural context– a similar story written in another language.
On our third day in Heredia, we tried a myriad of local tropical fruits. The sheer diversity of flavors and textures was largely foreign to my tastes buds. For some fruits, like guava, I had no measure with which to compare the flavor. It was nothing like coconut, mangos, bananas, or any other fruit I had tried in the States– it was distinctly Central American. Mamonis chinos were probably the weirdest fruit I have ever seen in my life. It thoroughly looked like something out of Rick and Morty; yet, it was incredibly delicious More so, the bananas are sweeter, the mangos are more tart, and fruits are eaten various stages of maturity, instead of only when ripe.
So far, my first days in Heredia have been enchanting. I am excited to report later on the beaches and natural environment after our first-weekend excursion. Pura Vida!