Costa Rica is an interesting place. So different from the United States yet so similar. Being here has shown me an outsider’s view of the United States. Some people despise the States, due to all the culturally ignorant people within it. It’s crazy how much attention the United States gets from outside countries. This country is more aware of what’s going on in the United States than a lot of us inside the States are. People here are affected daily by the United States. Almost every day I hear people talking about Trump and how they are afraid. It’s kind of a weird concept to grasp. In the United States we are told how we are the “leader” in the world, and continue to help other countries, or get into business that isn’t really our business. I wasn’t ever able to put this concept into perspective or understand it until I came to Costa Rica. I finally have started to realize and see the drastic influence the United States has on outside countries.
Before coming to Costa Rica I was told it was a good idea to buy my host family a gift as a “thank you” for agreeing to feed and shelter me for 3 months. My program (CEA) recommended that we maybe get them something to represent where we’re all from and our culture. It took me forever to think about what I wanted to buy them. I had come to Costa Rica one time before but still I was completely clueless as to what life here would be like. I’m from Minnesota… Land of 1,000 lakes, stir fries and casseroles, how exciting. I thought maybe a Minnesota mug or some ball caps of Minnesota sports teams. I wanted to be original so I thought maybe buy them a Prince CD (R.I.P) because he is from Minnesota too and it would give them a good feel of some good music from the States. I then started to think, have they heard Prince? Do they know who he is? What if they don’t have a CD player? I didn’t know how much technology Costa Rica had, or if they even had any. Would there be CD players? TV’s? I was at a standstill. I then came up with a solution- I’ll just bring them my old CD player from like 2003 just in case. But no, what if they do have CD players and I’m just going to look extremely ignorant and come off wrong. I went with the ball caps.
In reality, Costa Rica has just as much technology as the United States and more. Depending on the location, almost everyone has Samsung’s or iPhone, TV’s, computers, and music. They are influenced by American culture every day through food, music, and the vast amount of tourists. They have KFC, Pizza Hut (which makes our Pizza Hut look like a piece of crap), McDonald’s (which offers McPinto*) Subway, Taco Bell, and Hooters. The other day I walked into the living room to find my Tico brother listening to “Or Nah” by Ty Dolla Sign. I’ve seen some of the most advanced digital animation and art done by Tico* students at my University (Veritas). Incredible architecture, street art, and inspiring inventions and ideas. The library at my school has a garden in it, like how awesome! Costa Rica uses their technology strategically, starting programs, marketing their ecotourism, and spreading awareness of environmental problems.
Despite how many similarities Costa Rica shares with the United Sates, you will not blend in when you come here. Even if you speak perfect Spanish, everyone will recognize you as a “Gringo.” For me I fit the “gringo look” to the T. White, blonde girl, wearing sport shorts and a T to class everyday (Ticos* dress up for school here). I thought I stood out before.. But recently I twisted my ankle pretty badly, so now I am crutching around the crazy bumpy streets of San Jose standing out even more. I get around 20 honks and everyone stares me down all the time. I really don’t mind standing out though. I will never look like a Costa Rican, or blend in here, and that’s not really my goal. My goal is to have a good time and understand more about the culture and the country. Even though I don’t look like I belong here, I feel like I do. Recently in my Environmental and Social Conversation class we learned about some species in Costa Rica. There are “Native species,” species that have originated here in Costa Rica as part of a natural process, like the Guanacaste tree, or the white headed capuchin monkey (the ones that will literally rob you on the beaches of Manuel Antonio) (watch out, enserio*). There are also “Non-Native species” that were brought here by human interaction, one of them being the Pine tree. How weird right? Pine trees in a tropical country. Driving by vast forests of these species reminds me of home. Pine trees were actually introduced to Costa Rica sometime in the 1900’s when the government was emphasizing farming throughout the country, the pine trees were used to protect the farms from wind. The definition of a non-native species is as follows: “An introduced, alien, exotic, non-indigenous, or non-native species, or simply an introduction, is a species living outside its native distributional range, which has arrived there by human activity, either deliberate or accidental.”
In one way or the other, I am the pine tree of Costa Rica. Similar to the pine tree, I’m not from here. I’m an exotic alien who whether deliberately or by accident managed to make my way here, and similar to many pine trees surrounding this beautiful country, I’ve made a home here. Even though we are both foreigners to this land, we’ve grown attached (literally & figuratively) and don’t want to leave.
Before I end this post, I want to share with you guys some of the crazy and shocking environmental problems I’ve witnessed. Just recently in the coast of the peninsula Nicoya (Costa Rica) thousands of sardines washed up dead on the shores for no particular reason. Many reports argue that this was caused by a “consumption of a toxic phytoplankton or algae” but at the same time the oceans temperature has risen a dramatic amount this past year, and that could also be a possible reason for this mayhem. I am attaching a link at the end of this post if you are interested in reading more about the subject.* As well as the death of many marine animals, the coral reefs are dying as well, due to a process called “coral bleaching.” Coral bleaching is occurring due to the increasing temperature of our oceans and the death of algae on the reefs, this in turn causes the reefs to turn white and die. I believe this is due to the evident impact of climate change, but many will argue that this is a myth. It’s up to you to decide what you think, but there are obvious and evident changes occurring at an extremely fast pace. (Look up the status of the Ice caps in the poles). Another crazy issue I want to quick share with you guys is Shark Finning. Before coming to Costa Rica, I had no idea something like this existed. Around the oceans there are fishermen fishing for shark specifically. They throw out huge lines and catch thousands of sharks, cut their fins off, and throw them back into the ocean to suffer and die. This is a million-dollar industry, killing 200 million of these sharks that are extremely important to our oceans every year. This situation is difficult to solve, due to the fact that Costa Rican’s Coco’s island is one of the last places with a normal population of sharks, as well as a place that profits an extreme amount of money from shark finning illegally and secretly. In China “shark fin soup” goes for around $100 a bowl, you can also find shark fins in Ceviche occasionally, so make sure to ask before you eat it! Take a look at the link below for more information.
This was a long post. For all you Stouties who took time out of your busy lives to read this post, I thank you. I hope you can get something useful out of this information, and spread the word about climate change and our environment. The main thing I hope you realize is that the earth doesn’t revolve around the United States. We are not the only people in the world that matter or can make a difference. I hope you all can open your minds and try to understand and respect different perspectives from around the world. We are in this together!
Tico**- Costa Rican’s
McPinto**- The famous and most popular food of Costa Rica is Gallo Pinto (A mix of rice, beans, with some chile powder and more) McDonald’s offers this calling it “McPinto”
Dead sardines**- http://www.ticotimes.net/2017/02/15/millions-dead-fish-wash-nicoya