I have to admit that I wait until the last minute to do things, so I am writing this blog entry as more of a reflection.
My preparation for Costa Rica was quite systematic. I followed the packing list to a T and took the medicines suggested by the program handbook. My favorite purchase for the trip happens to be my muck boots. SFS recommended bringing muck boots for “snake protection”. The second I read that, I began my search and found a suitable pair. I though that Costa Rica would be filled with dangerous creatures but thus far have only encountered one in a non-aggressive situation.
Sunday the 7th of September I packed my bags, 50 pounds each and said “farewell” to friends and family. Of the many purchases made for my SFS adventure, the one I regret so far is buying biodegradable products. Upon arrival at the center, we learned that firstly, Tom’s of Maine toothpaste and deodorant don’t work well. Secondly, we don’t reuse greywater at the center anymore so biodegradable products weren’t really worth the search and price.
I imagined Costa Rica to be a lot like Nicaragua but the second we drove out of the airport I found out it wasn't. The people seem to be very similar though - patient, friendly and funny. I thought they would be very similar to Nicaraguans and in that aspect they are. Many Costa Ricans say that Nicaragua is developmentally 15 years behind CR. This is evident in the roadways, technology, and economy.
The biggest cultural assumption I made and still continue to stand by is the male disposition. I was very frustrated by the required readings for study abroad because they left me with no sense of whether or not making generalizations was okay ( a few of the papers were also poorly written, all and all a waste of time I'd say). Part of the reason people assume about different cultures is because they are either taught to think that way or because often that is the way the culture is. In my spanish classes teachers explain that more often than not men from hispanic cultures are more forward and aggressive towards women sexually. That description has come out of the mouths of one teacher from Spain and another from South America. That forcefulness is certainly what I have experienced.
Last night all 27 of us in the program went out to a club and one of the boys said something along the lines of "I don't like the way they objectify you girls". So to me, for the boys to notice, makes this a pretty standard cultural tendency.
All and all I LOVE the program so far but have to get used to "Tico" time. Everyone is more laid back about schedules here and for someone like me (with an anal personality) it is challenging to deal with the program when even the faculty don't know whats going on half the time. It is always exciting though and in every moment I learn something new. The students and faculty are wonderful and interesting people so that is what keeps me going in moments of chaos.