¡Pura Vida! Preston Whitt takes Costa Rica

30 Jun

This post is written by UHP junior Preston Whitt.

Preston Whitt

Preston Whitt

¡Pura vida!

That’s what every Costa Rican says.  To everything.  It can mean ‘hello’ or ‘goodbye’, ‘that’s great!’, or ‘Man, the bus was so late, and then I had to walk in the rain and slipped and fell into a pile of garbage but now I’m finally here.’  Seriously, anything.

This program in Costa Rica is a FREE intensive Spanish class, worth 4 credits, and open to any GW student doing a GW Latin America program in the autumn semester.  We live with host families, who make us coffee (which is a thousand times better in the source country), feed us breakfast and dinner (the national dish is rice and beans with fried sweet plantains) and wash our silly gringo clothes (guys don’t wear shorts here, even though there is 700% humidity).  During the week we have a lot of class: presentations, essays, and hours of lessons, but then there are several excursions planned for the weekends, with everything included as well, and a few open weekends so students can make their own plans.

So far, as part of the program, I’ve spent a weekend at a Pacific beach resort, with a side-tour of primal rainforest, and another at a nature preserve on the Caribbean coast, which required three hours by bus, 45 minutes on a dirt road, and another hour by boat through the jungle.  Independently, I walked through clouds on top of Volcano Irazú, and this weekend we’re going to a beach house on the Nicoya Peninsula.

Costa Ricans, who call themselves Ticos or Ticas, are very friendly, and especially love gringos, which is not offensive in Tico Spanish.  This friendliness doesn’t extend to Nicaraguans, though; most Ticos live behind barbed wire in racist fear of Nicaraguans robbing them or taking their jobs (said in South Park voice).  If you ask any Tico how many Nicaraguans there are in Costa Rica, he will tell you at least three million…even though Costa Rica’s population is only four million.

There are a lot (too many) of U.S. brands and chains, like Kentucky Fried Chicken and Denny’s.  Also, the company Intel has a huge presence here, something like half of Costa Rica’s GDP.  Maybe that’s why Ticos like the U.S. so much more than other Central Americans.  Of course, we also never invaded Costa Rica…

I have a little less than two weeks left here, and even though I eat rice with every meal and have to open four locks to leave my house, I wish I could stay longer!  But I’ll be spending the next academic year studying in Chile, so stay tuned for an update…assuming a Nicaraguan doesn’t get me first.  ¡PURA VIDA!

One Response to “¡Pura Vida! Preston Whitt takes Costa Rica”

  1. puravidaeh June 30, 2011 at 12:50 pm #

    Preston, I just came across your post and had a laugh – you are right, pura vida can literally mean almost anything! Costa Rica is such an amazing country – glad to hear you are having a great time here. Pura vida (from la fortuna, costa rica)!
    ~costa rica travel blogger…

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