Pura Vida! I’ve heard this phrase before, but didn’t really know what it meant until taking a tour of San Jose today. Pura Vida directly translates to “Pure Life”. In Costa Rica, however, it means many things. It is used as a greeting and a farewell, to say things are going well, and a way to say thank you. It also pretty much means that things are great or wonderful. It’s a phrase I really enjoy. After arriving to Costa Rica yesterday and relaxing at my hotel most of the day, today I set off on a tour of San Jose. The tour ended up being just me and the guide, so I got a private tour without meaning to. Eric, my guide was born and raised here. We walked all around downtown San Jose. To be honest, it was a lot like any other capital city in Latin America; big, too many American chain restaurants (McDonalds was on every block), and not particularly pretty. The history was pretty interesting though, especially about the government. While walking by some of the most important government buildings, I saw graffiti on a wall directly across the street. Eric explained that people are free to express themselves freely against the government, even a few feet away. It was also interesting how casual their government buildings looked. They looked like a few fancy houses to me.
While the city of San Jose wasn’t all that exciting, you could definitely feel the excitement of the World Cup in the air. Costa Rica has already won two games and plays their third in a few days. The people here clearly show a lot of National pride when it comes to their futbol team, and their country in general. The best part of the tour was after walking around the city. We went to an authentic restaurant outside of the city where I had the most delicious Costa Rican stuffed pepper. Everyone’s eyes were glued to the TV, watching the World Cup. There were also chickens and turkeys running around outside. I was for sure the only tourist in there. My favorite part of the tour was visiting the man who makes the masks for the masquerades. Each town is named after a saint (San Jose is Saint Jose). On the birthday for the saint is a big parade in the town where people dress up in the masks and dance all around.
The man who made the masks was clearly very passionate about what he did and showed me all of his handmade paper mâché masks. They were slightly creepy, but also fascinating. The business has been in his family and he hopes to pass it down to his children and grandchildren. They did a dance for me that again was creepy, yet charming at the same time.
I am now back in my hotel watching USA play Portugal. Tomorrow I head off to Tortuguero. The “Pura Vida” lifestyle was evident in the mask maker and I hope to experience it even more during the rest of my time in Costa Rica.
“Good Life” -One Republic