Getting adjusted to another culture requires necessary…adjustments. One thing people may or may not realize it that the majority of Costa Ricans do not live on streets with names, signs, numbers or any other identifying symbol. Consequently, when one is trying to go somewhere, it is only by word-of-mouth with the locals (aka ticos or ticas) that one is able to reach one’s destination.
Case in point:
If you are ever trying to find the Alamo Rent-A-Car station in San Jose (not the one in the airport) you need to go to the KFC. You can thank me later for having saved you ten minutes and 5000 colones (~$10) worth of circling around the streets of San Jose. This brief story highlights one drastic cultural difference between Americans and Costa Ricans in that Americans tend to hyperfocus on saving their precious time, whereas Costa Ricans view time itself as precious. For those to have never read The Precious Present go out and by a copy today. It will give you a great appreciation for the manner in which Costa Ricans live moment-to-moment.
As a side note: driving yourself around Costa Rica/San Jose will not only give you a cerebral hemorrhage but will also make Harvard Square seem like Western Mass. They seem to have ingrained the concept of “offensive driving” in Driver’s Ed here. I jest, of course.
Cultural epiphanies aside, things have been going well in Costa Rica. This past weekend all of us visited Puerto Viejo, which is the easternmost point on Costa Rica’s Atlantic coast. The area is a mix of Spanish, English and Afro-Caribbean in one of the most beautiful places in the world. There are five beaches spanning an easily drivable (minus the potholes) chunk of land. The locals bend over backwards to make you feel appreciate and welcome. Case in point: my girlfriend asked a local shopkeep about the song he was playing; not only did he make a written copy of the lyrics and chord structure but he is going to mail her a copy of his recording (when he gets around to recording it).
~John “Juanito” Pratico