Our troubles all started when we stepped off the plane and realized we were no longer in America. Okay, I’m being overdramatic, but we did have a rude awakening coming to a Spanish speaking country without knowing any Spanish. English was the second language listed on all of the signs in the airport (weird, right?) and the further we went into the airport the less English there was. None of the guards at our apartment building spoke English and trying to tell them our room number was quite difficult. The guard finally asked “something something Español?” and we were able to tell him “no!” Thankfully the Uber driver could read our room number and then we showed our IDs and were good to go! All of the guards knew who we were after that interaction.
Once we hid in our room for a little bit trying to regain our confidence to step out into the non-English speaking world, we decided it was time to get food. We had only eaten granola bars and cheese-its all day. We walked down to a little shopping plaza pretty close to our building. There was a subway, a chicken restaurant similar to KFC, a convenience store and other little shops. We decided to get some food from the convenience store so we didn’t have to try to order off a menu. We bought two pre-prepared meals with rice, beans, meat, and some veggies, a container of eggs, bread, and milk. We learned that eggs do not come in packages of a dozen but groups of 5. Also, Costa Rica has cold and warm options for milk. The cold option has a shorter life while the warm milk has a longer life. We decided to stick with the cold milk for now; maybe later on we will try the warm milk. One adventure at a time. The cashier knew right away that we were not local. I think my “Hi” gave it away. The first thing she asked was, “Español?” thankfully she was very nice and showed us the total on the screen instead of trying to tell us.
Our goal for this week was to become more comfortable in uncomfortable situations, like being in a store where no one speaks English. We were very thankful that Tim’s phone had data and Google Translate, we are not sure how we would have navigated our way around without it. We focused on the small wins during this time. Going a little further on each walk, visiting Wal-Mart, getting on the bus, and exploring a new area each day. We never had any expectations of where the day would take us but it somehow always turned out great.
When we finally had the courage to ride the bus, we rode it to the last stop. It happened to be a very popular shopping/sightseeing spot in downtown San Jose. We spent the day walking up and down the streets and viewing the stores and restaurants. There was a small park area filled with pigeons. Many of the locals were selling bags of food to feed to them. Tim and I sat and watched a little boy trying to catch the pigeons, he was actually successful a couple of times. After the park, we went to a small restaurant on one of the side streets. This was the first time we were brave enough to order off a menu. Thankfully it had pictures. Tim had a very traditional meal with rice, beans, and some meat. I thought I had ordered a cheese quesadilla, but it turned out to be just a plain rice cake.
The area had two large malls. Yes, apparently malls are still quite popular in Costa Rica. We stumbled upon the first mall during a long walk. It had two floors and was a traditional mall layout. The second mall was brand new and pretty difficult to describe. The layout was very futuristic and had just as much outside space as it did inside. The food court was in the center of the mall, open to the outside and covered by a dome-like ceiling. On the outside, the dome ceiling was covered with grass and it looked like it was a perfect spot for a music venue. It was a very unique space.
This week was a great success. We were able to experience the local culture and step out of our comfort zones. This time helped prepare us for the rest of our stay in Costa Rica.