About family life, common free time, trips, everyday life and also religious feelings in Costa Rica. Let’s meet my hosts!
I spent 23 days with my friends-dancers and their families. Living in their houses was for me an extremely nice experience, because Costa Ricans are very hospitable, warm and family-run. I don’t speak Spanish, many family members didn’t speak English, although we tried to communicate (usually thank to our “interpreters”, so my friends who know English), we were eating together, spending time trying new activities and we were going to trips very often. They were driving me to many places in the city and outside, to show me the most important places for them. Thanks do that I had an outstanding chance to visit places which are not well known for tourists. How was is to be a part of Costa Rican family, even for a while?
My friends are students of technical university in Cartago (next to San Jose). But I found out that not all of them live in there, so I needed to change place to visit their families, thanks to that I visited many regions in Costa Rica. A big surprise was for me that actually all of them still live with their families, even they are students, workers, dancers etc. They told me that it is common in their culture, that they live in family house untill they get married. Only some of them changed place of life for time of studying, but it is not very common in CR. For me it was a very new thing, because it is already 5 years, since I live alone, more than 500 kilometers far from my family, so it was a bit challenging to spent next 23 days, everyday, with whole families. But it was an amazing experience! And what is more, imagine that very often my friends are not the only child in the family, so they live all together with their siblings in one house, sometimes in one room. Until they get married.
My first “guides” were my friends Miguel and Mariana. I stayed at Mariana’s place but because their families know each other, we spent some time together. We spent our first day together in their summer house in Coli Blanco. We were long time on the way and the road was steep (I didn’t know yet that steep roads will be something natural for next 22 days!). So you can think, that is so usual – going to summerhouse for barbecue, boring! But you can’t imagine how extremely new experience it was for me! The house was in the area next to the volcano, so much green around and rain forest walk-distance far from there. For the first time I tried Costa Rican dishes – corn soup and corn tortilla with a big portion of beef meat. It was cooked by moms of course. I offered them to taste Polish dry smoked pork sausage named “kabanos” and Polish sweets. We also celebrated Miguel’s birthday with cake and song (but the melody is way different than we used to sing in Poland).
Both fathers are musicians so they were playing accordion and guitar and were singing all the time, it was so nice! I also sang for them (folklore songs of course). Then we went for a walk to the rain forest, were crossing a small river and we were leading herd of cows. Why cows? Costa Ricans use a lot of milk in their cuisine, so it is very common view to see cows on the hills, eating grass. The whole day was an extraordinary experience! For them it is a regular place to meet and spend time. But for me it is a magic land, in where I was for the first time in the rain forest and I saw lightning bugs! An unforgettable moment! And unforgettable warm atmosphere, which after one day only made me feel, that I know this people longer time and I’m one of them. With Mariana’s family I got even closer through the experience of earthquake, which we lived together, on the first day of my stay! But I will tell you more about that in the separated text. 🙂
The most of the time I stayed at Jeca’s house in Aserri next to San Jose. Her family consist on her, parents and brother. Of course an obligatory element of the family is a pet too – acctually all families had a dog, maybe two, sometimes a cat, and Jeca has also fishes. Her parents are very active, they like to meet up with friends and family. I participated is such meetings, for example on Jeca’s birthday. It came a lot of people to their house, cousins, uncles, grandmom, friends. Costa Rican families stick together, they keep close contact, meet up, talk, celebrate together. Eating together is also important, for example one time we went to the restaurant Mascarados, where are dance shows with people in masks. I wanted to show them my gratitude for their hospitality and the only way was to make a Polish dinner for families, so they tried i.a. Polish dumplings.
Not only positive situations are the reason for meeting. I had an opportunity to observe family habits in mourning time. You need to know that Costa Ricans are catholics mostly and many of them are truly involved, they are engaged, truly believe. They are more extrovert in showing their feelings, it seems to make them together. Very often I saw icons, figures in their houses, rosary in the car etc. There is a tradition that when someone dies, in the next 9 days, day after day, the family, friends and neighbours meet and pray together in the died person’ house. I think that religion is an important aspect for the Costa Rican culture, but of course not everyone there practices his religion or believes.
My friends and their families dedicated a lot of time to me. They knew (but I didn’t know before) that travelling through Costa Rica takes a lot of time in the car and they drove a lot for me without any impatience. So we spent a lot of time in the car, on the steep, full of holes roads – everything for purpose just to make me happy. Especially I am grateful to Rafa and his relatives, I saw a lot thanks to them!
For example Rafa’s cousine works with horses, on farms and has a lot of friends in similar areas. We went to see real campesinos at work (it is a traditional name for farmers/growers in Costa Rica, they work hard physically) and I visited house of one of them. It was on the big hill with a great view over San Jose. I also rode a horse in the moutains. I tasted very sweet traditional delicacy, I saw how grow vegatable named arracache, and much, much more! Rafa and Jeca took me to Irazu volcano and Prusia park. I just wrote about this all, to emphasise how much effort they made for me, how hospitable they are and how much they know about their country – they wanted to show me as much as possible to make me conscious of their life, country and culture. To be continued