Our fourth weekend here marked our first free Saturday! We stayed around our host families because we knew we couldn’t do anything while Costa Rica had their first match in the World Cup. Since soccer is so popular here, everyone flocks to the nearest television to support their team. When they finally won, there was a motorcycle parade through the town and people came back to the streets, which were absolutely lifeless during the game.
On Saturday night, I went to a baby shower with my host mother, and was surprised (though maybe considering the size of the area I shouldn’t have been) to find two of my Temple classmates, Annie and Natalee already there! Although at first it felt a little awkward to intrude on very personal affairs like a baby shower among very close friends and family, I felt welcomed by everyone and ended up having a great time. We went home to work on some crafts for the church to distribute on Father’s Day, and then went to bed basically for a short nap, because we had to get up at 4:45 in the morning!
Although Costa Rica is a relatively small country, and we don’t appear to be very far from the beach on the map, it actually can amount to a 4 hour trip. Luckily, our trip only took about 2.5 hours to get to Playa del Coco. This beach trip was very special for us because we were able to take all of our family members and some other collaborators with us for a whole day at the beach. It was great to get to know my classmates families, which we did not have the opportunity to do in San José. Since in our new homestays they are such a tight knit community that already knows each other, we are getting to know everyone on a new level.
Luckily, it didn’t rain while we were on the beach! We brought tons of food that we had prepared the night before and early in the morning, and ate casually with the other families. We explored, wandering down the beach and swam in the warm Pacific water. Many of us tried to describe just how frigid swimming in the Atlantic Ocean in New Jersey is, to no avail.
A surprising concern that came up during the beach trip was modesty, because of the way that most people chose to dress to go to the beach. On many beaches so far in Costa Rica, all beach-goers wore traditional bathing suits or bikinis. However, many of our family members dressed in shorts and a t-shirt to go in the water, which is a much more conservative way to dress than we are used to. This came as somewhat of a surprise on the morning of our trip and was an interesting cultural difference that we noticed, but while talking to my friend’s host mom, I noticed she had a very laid-back take on the situation. She thought that since we are used to one custom, and they are used to another, we should just do what we are comfortable with and let it be. In the end, none of this mattered, although we all spoke about it quite a bit to come to terms with this unexpected difference.
Often, when in a strange situation, especially as a guest that wants to make a good impression, little slip-ups or differences in dress and behavior can make you feel like you made a huge, noticeable mistake. The truth is that most people are wrapped up in their own concerns. Perhaps they are thinking that they are in the wrong when it comes to the cultural difference and are worried about how you perceive them, as we noticed at the beach. Another instance of this on my trip was recognizing my nerves before meeting my host in San José, who, I found out later, had cleaned the house for hours before I arrived. Unsurprisingly, when I got to the house I was far too tired to pass judgment about dust-bunnies or a dirty patio, and we were off to a great start. While studying abroad, there are mistakes in language, social cues, and personal decisions that are inevitable. It will all be okay!
To learn more about our activities in Costa Rica, visit our blog, put together by all of the Temple students abroad in the public health program!