Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Semana #1

This marks my first week in Costa Rica - and believe me, it has been an adventure. I’ll try to give you the major highlights of my week all in one.

Many of the people have blue-green or sometimes blue eyes, which is a sign of European influence. When the Spanish Conquistadors arrived in Costa Rica, the natives were rebels and refused to accept them as their masters. Instead of staying and working for the Europeans, the natives left Costa Rica moving north or south. Thus, the indigenous population decreased dramatically by more than 95% when the Europeans arrived. Many Europeans found themselves plowing and working their own lands, and soon discovered that growing coffee and bananas was a great business. The government started giving away land to people who were willing to grow coffee, so more Europeans immigrated to Costa Rica. Since there were very few native people, less mixing of the two cultures occurred, therefore a vast majority of Costa Ricans are predominantly of European descent: Spanish, Portuguese, Italian and French. There is also a large number of Costa Ricans of German, Jewish, Polish, and Greek descent.

Now that I’ve finished my history lesson, I’ll get back to the fun stuff =)

The fashion is clearly influenced from the U.S., which I find a little disappointing. I wanted to see native accents or influence around, but I guess I would have to go to less urbanized areas. Very few Tico’s (Costa Ricans) wear shorts; everyone wears skinny jeans, gray/silver wash, and boots (not cowboyish) – despite the heat. American Eagle is extremely popular and I definitely will be purchasing a pair of distressed leather boats before I head back to the states. The people don’t stare, which is a nice change from the folks back home. The most attention I’ve gotten is people saying they like my hair. When walking the other day, a lady said she had some just like mine and proceeded to pull some weave out of her purse. Hilarious. I like not being a spectacle. Blending in will help me get the most out of this experience.

I have also met a group of about 15 kids from Minnesota. They had been here for 3 days, and knew no Spanish. They were going to be here for three weeks, and seemed overwhelmed by the heat... which holds nothing to the heat in Kansas. When asking how long I would be here and with whom, they were quite taken back when I said 3 months and that I came with no one.

“Wow. Adventurous," one girl responded.

I now wonder if I’m being adventurous, brave, or just plain stupid. I don’t know anyone that just goes to another country without any contacts, previous know how, or any real knowledge of the area. However, I think Zig Ziglar describes it best when he said, ‎"Courage is not the absence of fear; it's the mastery of it." I think over the next 3 months I’ll know which one is the right answer.

The mall here is very much like the ones in Kansas. They have lots of stores all claiming huge discounts, but there are a few good steals. We walk out of the mall to grab a taxi and witnessed WWI Costa Rican style. I don’t know what the exchange was about, but from what I gathered one guy claimed that the other stole his customers (us). Before I could even get my car door open, the guy ran to the other guy yelling at the top of his lungs and pushed him out into the street. I was the only person captivated by this exchange while others just walked past like nothing was happening. Then the guy slapped the other guy’s cellphone out of his hand and it flew into the bushes. I was trying to get my camera on video mode so I could record this, but Jamie told me to get in the car. Lame. Once in a different car, our drivers honked at the two fighting men and waved as to say “Gotcha!" He then took us on the scenic route to the Artisan market while nearly hitting a group of 30 people. One lady literally reached in and touched him he was so close.

The artisan market was a hoarders dream. Everything from jewelry, crafts, and candles, to hammocks, purses, and dresses were crammed into a tent extending ½ a block long. There were at least 20 vendors claiming to give you a better deal with higher quality goods than the person standing next to them. Being a shrewd business man like my father, I got a pretty good deal on some street art. I like being able to haggle with people, although, I probably could have gotten an even better deal if I understood the currency. The market was a true cultural mecca with languages from around the world flooding the block: Italian, Chinese, and Swahili dialects made this simple art market a world of its own.

Overall, this week has been a tad challenging for me. I’m learning to pace myself and go with the flow. I think we tend to put so much emphasis on the change we hope to bring to a situation versus letting ourselves change, evolve, and grow. Challenge yourself to slow down and live in the moment.

Take care of yourself at home and I am praying for everyone affected by the tornadoes.


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