¡Pura Vida!- First Week in Costa Rica


The plane arrived in Costa Rica last Sunday around 2:00 p.m. I instantly felt very anxious and scared. So many thoughts passed through my mind. I did not know what to expect. What if I do not like the food? What if I get lost? Am I going to be able to get around town?

Will I be able to finish all my course work on time and still have time to get to know this beautiful country? However, as soon as I passed immigration all of those doubts left my mind when I was greeted by so many people! All of my fears washed away when I saw all of those smiling faces. There were so many people holding up signs with our individual names. I felt like I was a celebrity!

I was instantly taken in by my mamá tica Alice (Costa Rican mom). During my time in Costa Rica I will be staying with my host family. I was very excited about my home stay because I am able to share meals and live in a home with a native Costa Rican family.

My mamá tica is so sweet she instantly took on the role of a motherly figure for the next four weeks. The first thing my mamá tica did was greet me with a kiss on the right cheek. I was still in awe that I had forgot that this was coming. I tried to fix the situation and gave her a kiss on the left cheek and then returned to kiss her on the right cheek.

This greeting was not a full kiss on the cheek it was more so a contact of cheeks. This greeting was new for me because in the United States we do not greet greet each other this way. After a week in Costa Rica, I now greet everyone with a kiss on the cheek and without any awkward pauses. I hope to continue this greeting once I return to the United States.

My goal for this study abroad trip is to better understand the lives of Costa Ricans or ticos (A tico is a person that is from Costa Rica). Before my trip I read that Costa Rica is known for its happy residents and its famous phrase, Pura Vida. So what does Pura Vida mean? Why is it so famous?

I have been interacting with the locals and my first question to them is, what is Pura Vida? The first thing that everyone does is smile. These smiles are genuine and they stretch from ear to ear. The most common answer to my question is that it is a way to answer simple questions. If you have asked a friend for a favor instead of saying gracias (Thank you) you would say Pura Vida. If you ask someone how they are doing instead of saying bien (good/well) you would say Pura Vida. The Pura Vida phrase is so versatile that it can be used in any situation.

After a week long of learning we were off to the weekend excursion (I am on this trip with ten other students from the University of West Georgia). On Friday, our first stop was the Arenal Volcano Hot Springs in Arenal, Costa Rica. This river is naturally heated by the volcano. The water was very warm, therapeutic, and relaxing. I was very amazed at how warm/hot the water was.

On Saturday we took a boat ride over Lago Arenal (Lake Arenal). Lake Arenal is a man made lake that covers the old city of Arenal. The old city of Arenal was destroyed by the last massive eruption in 1968. When the water level is low in the lake you are able to see the top of the church!

After our boat ride we headed to 100% Adventure in Monteverde, Costa Rica where we participated in Canopy (Zip line) the longest Zip Line in Latin America. This was my first time zip lining and I was very nervous. At the end it was all worth it!

Last but not least we headed to Kinkajou and experience a night walk in the Monteverde forest. We were guided by a guide, the moon light, and flashlights. We were able to see a sloth, a scorpion, a snake, a tarantula, a red eyed frog, and an armadillo. All of these animal species are native to Costa Rica.

This week was full of adventure and many firsts! I am excited to see what next week brings.