Aero: Brianna Jackson – Costa Rica 2016 – City Life
The city of Alajuela was where we were most of our time, and it was nothing like I expected. I was expecting it to look like New York City, or something similar, with big skyscraper buildings, all fancy and gleaming. What I was introduced to however was a small city that was very welcoming, with houses and shops sitting right next to each other. There were certain aspects of the city that I loved, and other aspects that I didn’t love. For example, the traffic and the way people drove was disconcerting to say the least. When we were first picked up from the airport I couldn’t help thinking that we were going to die on our first day there. The driving is, intense, for lack of a better word. There’s speeding, a lot of honking, and just general chaos. It certainly reminded me of America, and New York City type driving.
My favorite part of the city however, are the parks. I love how in Costa Rica just spending time together and talking with each other is an important aspect of their society. It’s so radically different from what you would see in the United States. The way it is in Costa Rica, is there is a large park with a church right in front. That way people can relax before and after the services. The first day we went to the major park in Alajuela it was crowed because it was Three Kings Day. I was pretty amazed to learn that this is a common practice in Costa Rica, to just go to a park and socialize with each other. Here at home, I barely see people at my local park. A lot of people are more interested in meeting up at malls and coffee shops to socialize. It was a great place to people watch, and I liked seeing the way people just relaxed. One of the best things that I saw was a band that decided to play at the park, and the people who gathered and danced just for fun.
Daily life in the city seems is just as tranquil, in exception to the drivers. People will wait in bank lines for hours on end, and I had a lovely experience in a Costa Rican market where I waited in line for about fifteen minutes just to be checked out. It was moments like these that really showed completely different America is to Costa Rica. Had I been in America, the line would’ve gone much faster, yet in Costa Rica waiting in line for long periods of time is considered a good day at the store, and also shows the quality of the service. These types of situations were just always frustrating to me, which really reflects on the mentality of the typical American. For us we expect things to be done in a timely fashion. We want things done fast, and we’re expected to get tasks done fast. There’s a lot of stress in the American life, but in Costa Rica, the importance and stressor of time is almost non-existent, which was frustrating, but also a nice change of pace. We just had to learn how to go with the flow.
Another aspect of the city that I really liked was how close everything was, and that you could walk virtually anywhere. To the store, to the doctor’s, to eat out, etc. My host family lived right near the park, so we could go out and just walk around. There were so many shops and restaurants, also known as “Sodas,” that you could go to. It’s completely different from at home where I live since I would typically need a car if I wanted to do anything entertaining in the city. There seemed to be no construction either, even though a lot of the sidewalks clearly needed it. Back home that would be reported and there would people working on fixing it. There were also deep gutters around the sidewalks for when it floods in the city.
Aspects such as transportation and technology were reminiscent of America as well. Just from observing people, and looking at the shops, it was clear to see that social media and smart phones are big in Costa Rica just as they are at home. However, I also noticed that they’re not glued to their phones like a lot of younger, and yes, even some of our older generations. Socializing is still something that’s important. I also saw buildings that celebrated the arts such as playing the violin and dancing. Transportation depends on “tico time” concerning the buses. It can come right on time, or take a while to get there. When you get to your destination also depends on this Costa Rican concept. My experience wasn’t bad, and I’m grateful that the bus arrived at a decent time. Honestly, it was just like riding a regular public bus. Another fact that I thought was interesting is the fact that school buses from the United States are repurposed in Costa Rica and used as transportation means.
Ultimately, I think the city life was a great experience. Not just in Costa Rica, but in Niagara as well. For every similarity between there and the United States, there are differences. Even the small towns that we went to had churches and parks for people to relax and converse. Costa Rican city life was nothing like I expected it to be, yet at the same time I was appreciative that it didn’t met my expectations, it rose above them and shattered my American way of thinking. I got to see inside and outside public markets, people going about their everyday lives shopping, and just talking with each other. I experienced new foods within the city, and was able to see what the daily lives of Costa Ricans entails. I saw them sell their wares, and make a living, and the importance they place on family and friends.
ML@FLCC: Costa Rica 2016