Just one week left at work! This week, I’m reflecting a bit on my time in Costa Rica and my takeaways from living in this country for 2 months. Next week, my blog entry will focus on my internship and the experiences I had at Boston Scientific this summer.
This trip to Costa Rica marks my first time in Central America, and only my second time in a Spanish speaking country. When I was younger, I visited Mexico on a cruise ship, but that didn’t allow me to fully experience or appreciate the culture. Prior to arriving in Costa Rica, I didn’t know what to expect in terms of how I would get along without knowing Spanish. As I’ve mentioned in previous blog entries, I am fluent in English, proficient in Mandarin Chinese, and have some knowledge of French, but I have never taken a Spanish course or practiced speaking the language before I began this summer experience. Living in a country where you don’t know the language is challenging, especially without a sense of how much of the population speaks English. Luckily, the engineers at work are required to speak English, so I have had little trouble communicating when it comes to discussing my projects with them. The same cannot be said of my interactions with other employees at work or my interactions at restaurants and shops. The 9 weeks here in Costa Rica so far have helped me in understanding a bit more of Spanish when someone speaks to me, however I do not know enough of the language to respond with complete sentences. A lot of my interactions with native Costa Ricans who don’t speak English consist of pointing, gesturing, and saying one or two words that I know relate to whatever I am trying to talk about. To anyone considering living abroad in another country for an extended amount of time, make sure that you arrive equipped with at least basic knowledge of the native language. It is not impossible to live in a foreign country without knowing the language, but it does make life a bit more complicated and, at times, more stressful.
Aside from my experiences with the Spanish language, I have come to embrace the local food here in Costa Rica. Costa Rican food is quite mild in flavor, few foods are spicy, and I’ve been told that sweeter flavors are preferred by locals. My go-to dish the past few weeks has been Arroz con Pollo (Chicken & Rice). This dish is simple, flavorful, and found at most traditional restaurants. Arroz con Pollo is actually a dish that my nanny would make for me when I was little, so finding the dish here gave me a sense of familiarity. However, the Costa Rican dish that I will miss most is the Casado. A Casado is a traditional meal prepared with black beans, rice, salad, plantains, tortilla, and a grilled meat of some sort, usually chicken or beef. This meal is perfect, it’s filling, has protein, carbs, and a nice green salad of some sort. The dish is balanced quite well, in my opinion, and tastes great! Whenever I visit a traditional Costa Rican restaurant, I will almost always get a Casado with grilled chicken. The Casado is one dish that I will absolutely try to recreate when I return to the US!
Though our internships have taken up the majority of our time in Costa Rica, the weekends have been free, allowing me and the other GMI students to fully experience Costa Rica and its unique culture. I will return to the US this coming Saturday with a better understanding and appreciation for the culture and lifestyle present in Central America.