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Costa Rican Cultural Experiences

Studying Abroad is about experiencing the culture. Embrace it!

Sometimes, like me today, you are at home with food poisoning.

Most times, it is some of the best times of your life. Don’t be afraid to try new things in this unfamiliar culture you’ve been thrown into.


Early last week, a Tica asked us to come over to her house for dinner. One of my roommates, Karlee, met her at the Tandem Language Exchange the first week.

They picked us up in their jeep, and we headed to their casa for some dinner. So much hospitality! They made us mini pizzas, on what I’ll compare to a large zucchini slice as the “crust,” with ham, cheese, sauce, and oregano. I dare you to try it. So good! They also made us hand-squeezed lemonade, a salad, and postres (little fried desserts). We also tried a type of mamones, which is a peculiar fruit comparable to a seeded grape. So tart, but yummy! Another experience was green mangos with chile on top. YUMMM. My tongue had so many flavors at one time!

All kinds of fresh fruits to be had here.

Wish I could bring them all home with me! The mangos, guanabana, pineapple,…YUM!

 Here is the mamones we tried!

Speaking of cultural experiences, we decided to allow our family to have a cultural experience! We made puppy chow for our tico family this week.

The endeavor was interesting. First of all, we had a difficult time when shopping for the ingredients here in San Jose. When we get groceries, we primarily have access to one small corner store and one Pali, a small grocery store, within walking distance.

It turns out that what we would consider simple, baking ingredients are nowhere to be found. For example: found a small bag of powdered sugar. Check! Grabbed some imported Planters Peanut Butter…but it was around $8 for the container. Ouch. Check!

With the next items, we were not so fortunate. No chocolate chips. However, we did find an interesting bag of dipping chocolate…which tasted a little funny, but we made do.

The final ingredient. The most central ingredient. Rice Chex.

Nowhere to be found. Alright, time to get creative!

Instead of Rice Chex cereal, we found the thickest corn flakes in the store and decided to give it a run.

 We had to use an interesting assortment
of ingredients to make puppy chow for our family!

Next came the process. Mamatica let us use the kitchen, and we started melting the peanut butter and chocolate and dumped it over half of our cereal. Then we coated with powdered sugar. That batch turned out all right! Then, when we tried the next batch, something didn’t quite work. The powdered sugar was added a little too soon and just melted onto the cereal mixture. The second batch didn’t have quite the “snow dusted” puppy chow appearance. It was very chocolate-y looking. Nonetheless, it tasted good!

We offered it to our Tico family, and they were a little uncertain of what they were trying. They each tried a few pieces and it seemed like maybe they were uninterested.

I put the remainder in the refrigerator and reminded them to help themselves to as much as they wanted.

The next evening, we went to check out the leftovers…and there was not much left over! They must’ve like it!

The dad pointed out something that really surprised me. The strange mixture of ingredients actually made our puppy chow taste EXACTLY like a Butterfinger candy bar! Woah! Needless to say, the remainder was wiped out in less than 24 hours.

 Our Mamatica was trying our
puppy chow creation!
 Here are the results of our puppy chow making!

Friday night, we decided to go out on the town here in San Jose. Interesting evening! We wanted to catch a play and so 7 of us grabbed a cab and headed downtown to the National Theatre. To our surprise, the play was not actually in the National Theatre, but rather, across the street. There was a small Black Box play for 40 guests and we managed to get tickets! For those of you unfamiliar with a Black Box Play: the theater is painted all in black and the audience is seated on 3 sides. The actors will go throughout the theater and audience during the play.

As you can imagine, this is very fun and intimate. We had a good time practicing our Spanish, as the play was all in Spanish, and the plot line was very quirky and intriguing.

After the show, I was craving ice cream and the only place still open was, of course, McDonald’s! Turns out, they have a Snickers McFlurry, which is right up my alley. I got one without a second guess.

Saturday, we went to Irazu Volcano and to Orosi Valley. More to come on that!

We stopped at this restaurant inside of a coffee plantation and had the traditionally made coffee right from their plantation. It was wonderful! One of the best cups of coffee I have ever had.

 Having coffee made for us "the way our grandmothers did" made for an excellent cup of coffee.

I’ll be bringing some coffee back for sure! Can’t wait to share it!

For now, PURA VIDA!

Shelby Stolze is the Summer 2015 CEA MOJO in San Jose, Costa Rica. She is currently a Senior at Concordia University Nebraska.

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