Buenos días from Tamarindo! If you haven't already figured it out, we made it to the hostel safe and sound. We are in the beautiful city of Tamarinado, which is unfortunately full of tourism but fortunately still full of culture and beauty. This small town boasts a mix of paved and unpaved roads, locals (Ticos) and tourists, mom and pop shops, tourist boutiques, hand made goodies, wildlife like you've never seen, and Subway. Yes, subway - the only American fast food chain here.
It's day three here and we have already experienced many notable cultural differences. First and foremost, the driving is horrendous. We were picked up from the airport by a friend of Shelley (co-owner of the hostel). Her name was Anne and she is from the States. She mentioned the drive time being "usually three and a half to four hours" but since we were driving with her, it would be much shorter. We laughed because we sometimes have led feet too and could relate.
This was just not the case.
We landed in San Jose around 7:50pm and arrived at the hostel around 11:30pm. This included deboarding the plane, going through customs, finding Anne, trying and failing to exit the underground car park a couple of times, and driving from San Jose to Tamarindo. Fast is an understatement.
The police here don't care about speed as much as they do having the correct registration stickers. Tailgating is a normal occurrence on Costa Rican roadways, as is passing the vehicles in front of you using the lane designated for traffic moving the other direction. Pedestrians do not have the right of way and it is not seen as a courtesy to slow down if a person happens to be in the street. If you are walking in the street and not paying attention, it is not uncommon to be involved in a hit and run accident. Accidents of this nature can happen anywhere due to the highly common occurrence of people walking in the street, on highways, alongside freeways and on unlit, curved roads in the middle of the night with nothing but dark skin and dark clothes to warn drivers. Yes, I'm serious. Apparently Costa Rica has the highest rate of pedestrian fatalities in the world. Sadly, it makes sense after being here for a day or two.
The map below can give you a better idea of the distance from San Jose to Tamarindo. Another cultural difference to note is the dual currency system. While I am very grateful that the Ticos take Americans dollars, converting it to Colones is not the easiest thing to learn when giving change in the hostel. As a receptionist, we take American Dollars and Colones but always give change in Colones. The conversion rate at the bank is about 540 Colones to 1 Dollar. In the hostel, as well as most other local businesses, we convert it as 500 Colones to 1 Dollar. Locals know this already and most tourists are informed upon arrival. Nonetheless, my math skills when taking money and giving change are sub par compared to doing so when just one currency is involved.
Another thing to note is the sheer abundance of offers for "blow" and "weed" on any given corner in Tamarindo. In just 30 minutes on the beach and on the way to the beach we were asked by four different people. The good news? Once you politely say "no, gracias" they stop asking and move on to the next potential buyer. Pura vida, eh? Tamarindo has been great to us so far. I've been using Spanish more than I ever have before, going to the beach every day, meeting and making new friends from all over the world (yes, in just three days), and after walking from one side of town to the other, we are learning where everything is. We will see how we adapt as the time goes on.