Saturday, November 9, 2013

Digging Into San Jose

The rain pours down hard on the roof, thunder rumbles, the curtains blow gently in the breeze, as the open window lets the cool air in, cutting slightly, the humid and mildew blanketed air in my bedroom.  I have now spent five days in San Jose, and the 4 o’clock down pour is becoming expected. The sun greets me in the morning at about 5am with clear skies, quickly heating up to a slightly humid 27 degrees Celsius. As it approaches mid-day the clouds begin to appear, hanging low over the mountains, teasing me with sprinkles of rain before the skies open up in the late afternoon.

Maria and Marlene's Casa
I am have started to plan my days around this consistent schedule of sunshine and rain, beginning to dig into the ‘Tico’ culture. Costa Ricans are known as ‘Ticos’ or ‘Ticas’, if it refers to ladies. The Ticas I am staying with, Maria and Marlene, informed me that it is not only a name, but is integrated into speech as a suffix to denote ‘small’ as well as affection. For example, un poquito means ‘a little’, but Ticos would say un poquitico, or if I wanted to refer to my younger brother Liam, I would say hermanitico. I know what some of you are thinking, and yes Tico is quite fitting for myself as well, as I too, am small. Maybe my Costa Rican nickname will be Hedditica, no one can pronounce the H or TH anyway, so my name often becomes Eater, which I guess could also be fitting, considering my love for food. Aside from Tico slang, I have also been practicing my more formal Spanish. I am in San Jose for the next two weeks taking intensive Spanish lessons. It turns out I am the only one in my class, so that makes for a very intense 3 hours with my professor, especially when class starts at 8am. She has me reading paragraphs until my tongue is tied, repeating words until I add the right emphasis in just the right spot, and reciting conjugations until my head hurts. But I am not complaining, this discipline will surely pay off, and is already helping me dive into conversations of politics and culture.

The Catholic church in el Centro de San Jose
I have been digging into the culture in other ways as well. Today, Kana, a Japanese girl who is staying in the same house as me, brought me to a ‘classe a bailar’. It was so much fun! I think the highlight of my adventure so far. I am hoping to go a few more times while I am here, and then find a class when I get to Turrialba. 

After the class, I took a stroll downtown to central San Jose. I have been meaning to go all week, despite people’s shoulder shrugs and standard line “it’s not that great.”, I had to see for myself. I must say, people did not lead me astray. The streets were clogged with buses and taxis and the sidewalks with people, vendors, and sketchy looking drainage grates. I ducked into a Catholic church for a bit of peace and quiet. The ceilings were high and arched, the walls beige, and windows large and stained with glass. Although I am not religious, I always enjoy visiting churches when I travel. This one was quite pleasant; the decoration was tasteful and simple, not overdone and not too sparing. It was one of the most moving churches I have visited. Not because it was particularly beautiful, grand or historic, but because this was the first church I had been too where people were taking time out of their Saturday afternoon to pray. That and it was such a stark contrast to the chaos of the downtown square outside.

One of the more tranquil streets. 
After getting slightly lost walking up and down the streets, trying to find the museums I thought I would magically run into, I found the route back towards San Pedro, the barrio or neighborhood, where my casa is located. And this brings me to my favourite kind of digging in. Food.

Plato Sofia por uno.
Maria has been cooking me all sorts of delicious food, always served with a side of black beans and rice. I am particularly fond on the Gallo Pinto, which is rice and beans mixed with spices for breakfast, and usually served with eggs and fruit. It is fascinating how many different names the Ticos have for what we would think are simply, rice and beans.

I have been taking a break from rice and beans at almuerzo or lunch. I found this little Mediterranean restaurant across the street from my Spanish school. After eating there yesterday for lunch and enjoying a delicious grilled trout, with baked tomatoes and some sort of yogurt sauce, rice, salad and a cappuccino, I decided to go back for more. Today, I enjoyed an appetizer platter, plato Sofia. Again I was impressed, the tatziki was some of the best I have ever had, the hummus fresh and the olives and roasted red peppers complimented them nicely. The waitress is very pleasant, a good example of how welcoming most Costa Ricans have been. Everyone I meet says Bienvenido as if they are welcoming me into their home. I suppose in a way they are, and I suppose in a way, it will quickly become my home as well.

The train tracks around the corner run literally right through the city streets
Tomorrow I will be visiting Cartago, the former capital of Costa Rica, and Volcan Irazu, the volcano that destroyed most of it in 1910. Next weekend I am thinking of heading to the beach, anyone want to join me?


  1. WOW!!! ever thought of becoming a photographer as well ;) GREAT SHOTS x

  2. Thanks! It is something I enjoy doing, maybe it is time I start saving for a good camera! :)

  3. Great read, Heather. We're still waiting impatiently for a date for our departure to Guyana.

    1. I hope it gets sorted out soon! In the meantime, feel free to come visit me on your way down :)