Stockholm- A Culture Capital

Stockholm- A Culture Capital
“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” – St. Augustine

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Touch Down in San José

Well a first impression should usually be told fresh, but even though I am typing this up 9 months after my first views, smells, tastes, and experiences in Costa Rica, I remember it all with precision.

 I am going to start this off a bit negative. When I first arrived in Costa Rica and was on my way to a host family trying out my rudimentary Spanish on an uninterested taxi driver the views from the window were less than impressive. In fact, for the first few days in San Jose the only thing I could think was ‘how ghetto is this.’ After spending the tail end of 2011 in Western Europe and Christmas in Canada the small, somewhat ramshackle houses surrounded by fences topped with a variety of barbed wire, razor wire, and cemented-in broken bottles did not create the most welcoming feeling. I spent the first week walking around the pot-holed streets in fear. I felt like a target. A fresh-faced gringo plump and ready to be robbed. I tried to stick to main roads, common routes, say hello to shop keepers to create a local rapport—keeps away the stares as the gringo trods through the neighborhood. I really wasn’t so sure I had made a good decision in going to Costa Rica.

Now this grim impression quickly changed. Costa Rican people, usually referred to as ‘Ticos’, are some of the friendliest, chattiest and most selfless that I have ever met. And you will meet them! Soon enough I was telling my life story to the fruit seller, flirting with the women in the central market, being invited to dinners and parties, and stumbling my way through Salsa, Cumbia, and Merengue footwork.  If you lend your time to a Tico, you will more often than not be honored with their fantastic company.

As I got to know the people and the city, I felt more comfortable. Where I once saw a scary shack, I saw a happy family’s home. Where I saw a sketchy back alley, I saw my favorite place to get away from the crowd and sing a tune on my way to the bus stop. Dingy became cozy; awful become laughable, and dull became cultured. Most guide books and travelers will tell you to skip right past San Jose and make your way to the nearest beach, but quite honestly, for a city of it’s size, age, and location San Jose has a lot to offer. There is not an abundance of architectural beauty or history like in Europe, but there is a lot to encounter if you just look.

 A weekly arts festival in the central parks of the city is ran all summer with events for all ages. There’s live music, free yoga and dance classes in the park, craft tables, game tables, parkour workshops, a skateboard course, and all of it is for free (sponsored by the government.) The national theatre offers cheap entrance for local and national acts of theatre, ballet, orchestral music, and so on. There are bands, galleries, exhibitions, wine and cheese tasting, city bike tours, used book fairs. A range from cheap but delicious restaurants, to more artsy or posh venues can be found. A great student area, San Pedro, offers some of the best places for conversation over nachos, patacones, or a variety of sweets.

Once it’s put down in writing, San Jose sounds down right cosmopolitan. I am not really sure if that is the right word for it. But it is a place that welcomes you and soon starts to feel like home. After a few months of living in Costa Rica’s capital I can say I felt right at home. I attribute this a lot to the people, but that out of any place I have lived so far Costa Rica has felt the most like a home away from home. 

I am not going to get too sentimental now, so I will leave my intro to Costa Rica there, and publish some more details about the specifics soon as I can.

¡Pura Vida Mae!