My classmates and I have been here in Costa Rica for only a few days but I already feel the culture clash.
I find it ironic how I feel a cultural shock despite the fact that I am a Latina in a Latin American country. A lot of it had to do with the geographical characteristics of the country and also that, in the end, no matter if I speak the language, Costa Rica is very different from home.
The lifestyle here is another world compared to the United States, specifically comparing it to Chicago.
After the day we got a tour of the city of San Jose, i realized how different city life is here, especially in the downtown area. In Chicago we have busy streets and skyscrapers. There are shops everywhere and people are always walking around. Here in San Jose, there might not be any skyscrapers but the streets are full of life. Business owners stand outside of their shops and persuade people to come in. The doors are always open and sometimes they set merchandise outside to attract passerby.
Another of the highlights I noticed is the way they drive here. In the States, pedestrians have the right of way when crossing streets. Here, pedestrians have the right of nothing! Cars will zoom past and those of us walking better get out of the way. They seem to not have any rules of the road, yet drivers get by every day. I still do not know how they do it, but as a person who takes pride in their driving skills, I would not survive two blocks maneuvering a car.
Despite the differences between the two cities, I know our stay here is for more than just comparing cultures. Our purpose here is to help those in need through service learning.
Although we have and are taught about world poverty back in the United States, seeing it up close and interacting with people in need really changes the way I appreciate things.
Today we visited the facilities for two very different organizations. The first was La Posada de Belen, which is a shelter for adolescent single mothers. The posada houses 65 single moms that have been victims of sexual abuse in different ways and their babies born out of those cases.
The fact that there is a place like this warms my heart because they provide these girls with an education, nursing help for their children, and most importantly, they are taught skills, such as cooking, to be self-sufficient for when they become of age.
What these girls have been through is something extremely delicate, but the environment this posada provides is pure caring and acceptance. The atmosphere is perfect for them to feel like they can start over.
Unfortunately, there are only two places like this in Costa Rica. The other facility only houses 12 girls. However, I am glad that Posada de Belen is looking to expand into Ciudad de las Niñas with the help of donations and a project to open a bakery to raise the money. I am looking forwards to our work in that facility these next couple of weeks.
The second place we visited was the shelter for the elderly, Centro Diurno del Adulto Mayor. This facility provides three types of services for adults over 60 years old in Costa Rica.
In this shelter, they are provided with everything they need like physical therapy, medical assistance and recreational activities like arts and crafts and cooking. They also have the opportunity to learn English and attend classes for general subjects.
We had the opportunity to speak with Vicky, an elderly lady who is a member of the shelter but also is the one who teaches the other elders how to read and write since she is a retired educator. She told us they are all very happy there because they have everything they need. Even though they all come from different families and financial statuses, they are all treated equally.
We have shelters in the US but I think we see them in a negative way, and that is something that caught my attention. In Costa Rica, these facilities are seen as a major help.
In the end, I think this all comes down to the way the culture is here. Everyone looks out for each other and there is a strong sense of community.