Monday, March 2, 2009

Hola de Costa Rica

As a rather rude introduction, I'm going to preface this by saying I am not able to have internet as much as I'd hoped--or at least not during the times of day that I'd hoped.  In about a month I probably will, but it will also be in about a month that I will be meeting new students and starting my excursions, so that might mean more demands on my time away from the internet, too.
Right now as I write this at 5:30 PM, there is a group of middle schoolers sitting outside there house screaming and singing loudly and just hanging out.  They sound like they've been enjoying themselves this past half hour.  A car alarm goes off about every 5 minutes on average, echoed quickly by some bird I've yet to idtentify mimicking the "woooOOOOO!"  As they are from 6:30 AM to about 6 PM every day, my windows are my only source of light, though they're quite enough.  They're always open, they've no way to close.
I do like my bedroom and most things about my homestay very much.  The street noise is really my only complaint.  My host mother, called Tita, is extremely warm, a good cook, and very patient.  She has a good sense of humor about our Spanish levels, too, as she speaks almost no English herself.  Thus far I have therefore been doing the translating in the household (Rebecca Dos--I arrived first, so I'm Rebecca Uno--doesn't understand much Spanish yet--though she's learning quickly), but I have another roommate I've not yet met who's been here 2 months already and who I bet speaks Spanish much better than I do.
On that note, too, we are all learning fast.  It's true what was told to me about Costa Rican accents--they are VERY easy to understand.  The only thing that throws me sometimes is the Central/nothern South American "vos" form that sometimes pops up.  (For those of you who know a little Spanish verb conjugation, this is in place of the "tu" form.  It seems to be made by taking the infinitive and replacing its "r" with an "s."  "You have" would therefore be, "vos tenĂ©s.").  But that has been an extreeeeeeemley minor problem.  The Ticos are super nice and understanding, and I'm having  a lot of fun practicing my Spanish fluidity at markets and with Tita, when I also get to practice my Charades.
When it comes to culture differences, I really couldn't tell you many yet.  The people seem friendly and are always outside.  Though they keep their windows open and know many neighbors/have a car drive by with eggs for sale every Saturday, they keep the small-town feel from reeeeeeally blossoming by having heavy gates in front of their otherwise beautiful homes and cast-iron on every first-story window.  They've complained to me about cold when it's below 75 degrees, and heat when it gets above 80.  I've yet to see any put on sunscreen, and the piropos (catcalls) haven't been any worse, really, than those gathered walking through the Loop or a Metro station.
The one thing that dooooooooes stand out, though, is the driving.  I'm going to try and make only observaaaaations, rather than evaaaaaaluation here, as they told us to do in our orientation, but it might be difficult.  Here goes.  The drivers drive very fast.  They speed up when they see someone crossing or about to cross the road in front of them, even when there is a crosswalk there and they have a stop sign anyway.  (This was acknowledged by a Tico, so I'm not crazy or exaggeration from fear).  They ignore all stop signs and many stop lights--at least the first 2 cars after it turns red pass through.  Even when there aaaare lines on the road to separate forward from oncoming traffic, which is rare they aren't respected, and you can forget about lanes going your own direction.  People use their horns to mean anything, from Let me over, to Hey hot girl, to YOU IDIOT, to Sure, come on over, then Thank you, You're welcome, and Chao.  There are no street signs except on Avenida 10 and Avenida Central.  People park in the middle of a lane and just leave their car, even on a downward slope with room for only 2 cars abreast.  People don't really get sued or tickets for hurting pedestrians or other cars.  I've almost had my foot run over twice.  People listen to their radios and talk on their cells whiiiiiiiile all this is going on.  And most surprisingly of all (and that was my FIRST evaluation, whew!), despiiiiiite the pandemonium, traffic accidents still make the evening news.  
But like I said, I've not much else to report.  My initial glimpse of Costa Rica showed me its beauty, which is in both flora and background (the mountains/volcanoes) but not so much buildings.  I've been on a tour of a coffee plantation, walked to and around downtown both with friends and a really attractive Tico guide, visited and gotten lost around the university, and had some real Costa Rican food (pretty good!  Loooooots of beans and rice and fruits), and chosen which Spanish class to take for this first month.  And it's only been 3 days!  Every time I think about what all I've got the opportunity to do, too, I get super excited.  I can't wait to see all these new things and wear lots of sunscreen to them all.
Bueno.  That's all for now.  Hasta luego, pura vida!


  1. this was sooo fascinating, i can't wait to read your other updates as they come :D

  2. very interesting! I'll be following your blog and look forward to your updates.

    Phyllis Kostin Wheeler
    (your dad's 1st cousin).

  3. I am soooo excited for you, Beckabecka! You sound so happy and... well, exuberant. I canNOT wait to hear about your adventures as they appear. As for the driving, I hope you are close enough to walk to most of your definitions (the cars stay on the roads, right??).
    I hope someday I can talk to you on Skype for a little while--but if you can't, I hope it is only because you are having the time of your life!
    I guess I'll just leave you some happy notes about the big ol' CO while I'm here so you have something to read--first and foremost, it's been 70 and sunny for over 2 weeks now: all the flowers have bloomed and we are starting to get worried about what will happen if the cold weather kicks in again. Today was the first day of biking season. I bought a prom dress. And I'm so totally missing you, you have no idea--but don't you dare be missing anyone here, you are in COSTA RICA!

    I love you and am thinking about you always!

  4. Beck,
    Congratulations on starting your adventure! Great blog so far! Have fun!
    Aunt Susan

  5. Yay becka!!!! i'm so excited for you! dont forget to go visit some turtles, seriously. i dunno how much you've looked through that book i got you but i made sure to mark some things in there.... you know, being helpful and whatnot :) i'm so glad you're having fun, make sure to be uploading some great pictures and stuff too! i miss you!

    dani :)