Spices and Salsa

La Fortuna Travel Blog

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Co-workers dancing!

As the chile picante settled on my tongue, tingling and teasing my tastebuds, I thought about the ways in which I have changed while living here. Although this will not seem like a big change to some, it will be shocking for those who are familiar with my picky, simplistic, pescetarian eating habits. I tried new foods every day in Costa Rica. I started out within my natural comfort zone testing out new fruits and vegetables. Then I moved onto trying cultural foods such as gallo pinto, maizera, and home-made honey tortillas. After that, I got down-right daring! I tried a variety of strange-looking foods including, but not limited to ceviche, guyabana milk, stuffed yuca, and cas ice-cream. I will admit that I did not like most of the things I tried, but I am very glad that I ventured into the land of normal eating habits for some much-needed cultural exposure and immersion.

Me learning some new moves

Fortunately, new foods are not the only things I tried for the first time in Costa Rica. I took a few Zumba (Spanish dance) exercise classes. I joined a gym and took a yoga class twice taught entirely in Spanish. Although that seems like something I would do at home, take a brief second to think about how to say 'downward dog' or 'child's pose' in Spanish... This was clearly unlike any yoga class in the States. I started following the World Cup (Mueller from Germany, marry me!) I bought my first weapons- a pocket knife and a 10 inch maschetti- which I plan to bring home as gifts (wish me luck with Customs!) Then there's the little firsts that could happen anywhere, but for me Costa Rica was the place. My simple firsts are ironing, riding a public bus, riding a motorcycle, fishing, changing a lightbulb, visiting hot springs, playing jacks, and lighting a gas stove.

Changing a lightbulb
In my long line of firsts, I have a favorite which I have not yet mentioned: Spanish dancing!

Thus far, I have gone out dancing several nights at Castros, the famous two story Latin dance club in San Jose. I will admit that the first time I went, I was very nervous. Instead of learning Salsa, Meringue, and traditional Costa Rican dances from a native, I went with my friends from Italy and Malta who have been living here for one year and beseeched them to teach me. Luckily the boys were immensely talented and very, very patient. I learned slowly, but as soon as I caught onto the sassy steps, the tantalizing twirls, and the risky rhythms, I fell in love. I wanted to go out dancing every single night, but unfortunately not everyone else shared my unbounding energy and enthusiasm- especially after a long work day.

First motorcycle ride!
In the midst of this obsessive period filled with daydreams of late night dancing and newly purchased Spanish Salsa music, I got some great news. The company I work for would be having a day long party on Friday to celebrate their 22nd anniversary! The celebration would be full of familiar faces, delicious cooking, and most importantly, Spanish music and dancing!

After I suffered through what seemed to be the longest workweek in the entire world, Friday finally came. We enjoyed a large feast and great conversation, but as soon as the speakers began their familiar vibrations and the room filled with resounding rhythms, the entire company was riveted. The company has about 20 female employees and 3 male employees. Therefore, including the interns, 22 women and 4 men were present total.

Lighting the stove!
I had not thought about this discrepancy during the past four days I had spent daydreaming about dancing. Surprisingly, the women all jumped to their feet and began dancing with each other. The men were a bit more reserved, but they quickly joined in too. Watching their talented toes race across the tile floor served as a fast-paced, concrete reminder that I had not yet mastered the dances. In fact, compared to my co-workers, I was not even good enough to be considered a beginner or an amateur. I sat in my chair through the first few songs, watching in awe as everyone moved their bodies in ways I only wished I could. My people-watching did not last for long though. One of the women we work with grabbed my hand and pulled me onto the dance floor and right into the first step. I found my feet moving faster than I thought they could, my hair twirling as I spun three times in a row, and my hands naturally moving to the right places at the right times. I was learning after all! After hours and hours of non-stop dancing, my body felt like it had run a half marathon. My heart and mind were in entirely diffferent wave lengths though. I yearned to go out dancing, to let my body be led by the music. Several nights later I went out dancing with an American friend, but before we arrived, we made a pact to dance with natives only. As I gave myself over to the music, I held a variety of strong leading hands, spoke a lot of Spanish, and learned a plethora of new steps.

Each time I go out dancing in Costa Rica, I forget that I am a tourist. I transform from an American into a dance partner. Each time I try new food in Costa Rica, I forget that I am a tourist. I transform from an American into a chef. I cannot express in words how happy I am that I decided to drop my boundaries and go into this experience with an open mind. If I had to put the lesson into words, I would look back to the second grade and reference a formerly well-known music group. As the Spice Girls said (yes, I am really quoting them), "people of the world, spice up your life!"

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Co-workers dancing!
Co-workers dancing!
Me learning some new moves
Me learning some new moves
Changing a lightbulb
Changing a lightbulb
First motorcycle ride!
First motorcycle ride!
Lighting the stove!
Lighting the stove!
La Fortuna
photo by: jeannajumps