Blog Costa Rica

Empanadas, Showers, and My Other Favorites of Life in Costa Rica

October 8, 2017

Two and a half months in and life is getting more and more settled. The newness and charm has worn off somewhat, and rhythms for at least these months are falling into place. Here is my new list of favorites, in addition to my first impressions:

  1. Showers and good smells: In Costa Rica, there is a huge aversion to body odor. This is WONDERFUL news for me. You are expected to shower every morning, and not only to not smell bad, or just be neutral, but to actually smell good.  I am reminded constantly of the time Ellah Wardell, who was 10 at the time, came into my room in Alaska and said “You are so obsessed with good smells. It’s kind of weird. You have good smelling shampoo, and that special fabric softener (the time-release pellets!), and you love candles and Febreeze…it’s a bit obsessive.”  I have moved to an country where an entire population understands my heart and obsession in this.  Yes.
  2. Empanadas and fresh bread:  Every morning, I walk by a panaderia (bakery), and the scents of warm bread, empanadas, sweet rolls and other delights knocks me right in the face.  Many mornings I stop in and grab a few flaky, savory pastries out of the case to eat during my first class of the day.  A mere few months ago, it would have still seemed strange to eat chicken for breakfast, but wrapped up, all nice and cozy and warm in a perfectly fresh baked pocket of pastry dough…also, yes. I crave them something fierce.  I love watching people grab their loaf of bread either early in the morning or at lunch time to take home and eat. It reminds me of being in Paris.
  3. Relationships over time management: That’s right. This one feel tough to an American, but delightful all at the same time. Sometimes it also reminds me of being in Alaska in the middle of winter– “visiting” takes priority over “getting stuff done”, and I have greatly lowered my own self-expectations of productivity in any given day.  One woman told me, “What is the point of saving all this time, if you don’t have friends to spend it with?”  Touche.
  4. Cafecito: Everything is better with coffee. A little, tiny coffee. And cake, or a cookie or something. It’s an event, and can happen at any time of the day. I have moved to a country of coffee snobs, or as Scott Blom would have put it “not snobbish, only discerning in coffee tastes”.
  5. Importance of being presentable, aka, CUTE SHOES: This is a country where it is important to put your best face forward. I have worn most of my shoes by now, and my teachers have commented on it several times, liking the different pairs I wear. Nothing fancy, but the effort to look nice is noticed for sure. I notice it all over the place. The only time you see women wearing workout clothes is immediately before or after workouts. Sweats out in public? I don’t know if I’ve seen that yet. Making an effort in the morning, absolutely. I like it. One other noteworthy observation is the importance of actually WEARING shoes. Always. In and out of the house. There is a belief that all illnesses come through your feet, and the few times that I have ventured out of my house barefoot have warranted incredulous looks from neighbors and our guards.  Really, I only walked the 50 feet from our front door to the curb to put out the trash, but still. Shoes must be worn, and if so, why not go ahead and make them cute? Heels, even. Actually, people really LOVE Crocs here. No joke. I see them everywhere. I’m glad I packed those ugly shameful and yet wonderfully comfortable abominations in my suitcase, items leftover from Alaska.
  6. Importance of greeting everyone properly: The greeting time at church is easily 4 times longer than even one at a Southern Baptist church. When you walk into a room, it is best to greet each person individually.  Every morning, my teacher walks around the classroom and greets us one at a time, and then again as we prepare to leave, he shakes our hands and wishes us a nice day.  Sneaking into a meeting late, an American would try to be quiet and not draw attention.  A Costa Rican would take a moment and greet everyone in the room.  To NOT do so would be rude! Isn’t that interesting?
  7. You don’t have to watch the game to know when our team scores a goal.  OHmygosh, it’s loud. The cheering from the cafe on the corner sounds like it’s in my living room.  The honking horns on the main road several blocks away goes for an hour after the end of the game. Soccer is the only game here, and that is fine by me. I guess it’s also important to realize that Costa Rica just qualified for the World Cup, so the noise level was elevated even more than usual.

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