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5 Things I Learned Starting My Journey in Costa Rica

September 23, 2016
by Andrew Mantone

CAN I HAVE YOUR ATTENTION PLEASE? This is your captain speaking, Andrew Mantone. I'm embarking on study abroad voyage to San Jose, Costa Rica and would love to have you along for the ride. Please, take a seat as I walk you through my states of emotion and (awesome) thoughts throughout my stay in the beautiful country of Costa Rica. This is awkward because I told you to take a seat, but now I'm going to walk you through... never mind. Please enjoy my reflections of my first few days abroad!


Everyone keeps asking me if I have jitters. My sister is moving out of my house tomorrow and I leave in less than a week for a four-month journey in a country I have never been to, staying with a family whom I have never met, flying by myself for the first time. Nah, I’m not nervous at all!

 I felt a combination of nerves and excitement on the flight to San José, Costa Rica

The Cats in Costa Rica are Free-Spirited

After hanging out with some friends my second night, I returned to my host family's house. Somehow, I successfully opened both the gate and door to get inside. Simon, the cat, was right at the door so I carefully put my foot in front of him so he wouldn’t get out. The next thing I know, he is outside the door, then outside the gate. Of course I tried to get him back in, but he kept jumping in and out of the gates, playing with other cats, and hanging in the neighbors yard. So after about ten minutes of this, I luckily heard my host cousin inside. It turns out, Simon can sleep outside without a problem. A weight was lifted off my shoulders as I quietly went upstairs to bed.

Rice and Beans are… Married?

The past couple of years, I have been fortunate enough to spend a week in Nicaragua and a week in Honduras. In those two weeks, I have had rice and beans about thirty times. When I arrived in Costa Rica, I assumed it would be similar. I quickly learned that there is a dish called pollo casado. The dish consists of rice, beans, salad, plantains and a side of meat or fish. Since rice and beans are always put together, they are considered married. So far, every meal in my house has had the couple in it – they don’t seem to be getting a divorce any time soon.

 El bistek casado at Freddo Fresas
restaurant in Fraijanes, Costa Rica

Rain, Rain, (again) today

Upon arrival to my host family, it was raining. No problem, just an afternoon shower. Now imagine getting soaked from that afternoon shower every single day. That’s exactly what happens in the rainy season, which is from May to November in Costa Rica. After the sun rises around 5:30 A.M., the mornings are warm and sunny. Every afternoon, dark clouds replace the sunlight and everything you are wearing becomes soaking wet. My best friends have become my rain jacket and umbrella.

 Costa Rican Forecast

Pura Vida, mae!

I've learned that the locals live the “Pura Vida." The literal translation means pure life, but Costa Ricans embrace a wholesome lifestyle that is relaxed, laid back and enjoyable. Since none of the students at my University have cars, we typically walk everywhere. Every morning I see a couple of local people and I say good morning. Most of the time, the response I get is “Pura Vida.” The phrase may also be used as a question, which is used to ask if everything is okay. All in all, Pura Vida makes the transition into Costa Rican culture much more comfortable.

 Taken from a park in downtown, San Jose during a walking tour
 Tamarindo Beach, Guanacaste, Costa Rica

Pura Vida!


Andrew M. is the Fall 2016 CEA MOJO in San José, Costa Rica. He is currently a junior studying Physician Assistant Studies at Philadelphia University.

Andrew Mantone is the Fall 2016 CEA MOJO Blogger in San Jose, Costa Rica, and is currently studying at Philadelphia University.
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