When I arrived in Costa Rica, everything was new. I had to navigate a whole new world in a language and culture completely different from my own. Thankfully, I had two SOLmates with me on the second leg of my flight and later, in my house, I had my roommate to help me, but we all still had to get used to being in another country. There were so many new things to learn, whether it was the new city, the family traditions, or the intricacies of the Spanish language. So, I had to take pictures of everything that was different and pay attention to everything, because every situation was an opportunity that I would never have again.
First, we traveled by van to get to our houses, and traffic was completely different. While in the United States pedestrians have the right of way, it is the opposite in Costa Rica. The car goes first. It’s common for a car to stop in the middle of the street after stopping at a stop sign (Alto), trying to get space to cross or something like that. Furthermore, the motorcycles go wherever they want, you can see them right beside cars or going in the middle of the road between both sides. When I went with my Tica mother to the market, she parked the car and I went to open my door and a car flew by on my side. it’s a good thing that I hadn’t opened the door completely. And when you are a pedestrian, you have to wait until no one is in the road before crossing it. We have to be very careful when we walk to the university, which is a 20-25 minute walk.
When I first arrived at my house, however, I talked to my Tica mother while I ate the lunch she had prepared – tamales. She told me that racism doesn’t exist in Costa Rica. People can say ‘negro’, ‘chino’, or ‘gringo’ and it won’t offend the person to which the name is referring. It’s hard to believe; however, I watched it in action when she did it at the supermarket. She was looking for a place to park her car and called out to a man who was working there: “Negro!” and asked him if there was a parking spot available. And he said that there was (and pointed it out to her). It’s worth adding that Costa Rican people (ticos) put ‘ito’ at the end of names as a sign of affection, sometimes in conjunction with these nicknames. For example, you can add ‘ita’ at the end of my name to show affection, not to mention that that refers to my height as well. That’s why I prefer to be called Anita instead of Anna while I’m with Spanish speakers.
Furthermore, the purpose of being in another country is to learn as much as possible. And while I am in a class to learn more about Spanish, the best learning takes place outside the classroom. I have already had so many experiences with Spanish and in Costa Rica that I lack the time to write. I am very happy that I can do so much with Spanish in my new country. Until next time!