I realized today as I was again exploring the downtown area that I am comfortable here. I mean, I no longer only depend on survival questions; I often understand and know what's going on around me. It's something we all take for granted in our home cultures, but here I have had to start from square one and learn everything about this culture. 

As I was thinking about how I've become comfortable, I also realized that I have reached a point where I am not constantly thinking about where I am (am I closer to the park or to the school?), where I need to go (do I turn left or right at this street?), what I need to say ("Donde esta la Plaza?" or "Como se llama usted?")... instead now my mind is freed from these to think more about what I'm enjoying. 

Like the art. The music. The bookstores. The galletas de coco. 

And the people. 

Ticos are so different. I mean, often when I look at a photo of jam-packed China or India, all the people in the photos seem to look similar to me. I can hardly tell them apart. I felt like that for several months here -- all the ticos passing me in the street look the same, and for all I knew, I couldn't understand anything any of them were saying. 

But now I'm beginning to really see them as individuals. As people. There are ticos with emo style, like the fad in the States. There are homeless ticos that haven't bathed in months. There are many short ticos and few tall ticos. There are old ticos and young ticos. 

I've been thinking lately that I need to get up the courage to ask if I can take more photos of people. I mean, I know so many faces and stories now, all Costa Rican, and I want to have photos to remember... but for now words will have to do. 

Minnie. 95 years old. Her husband died young and she raised her children with hard work and  jokes and sleepovers. I met her a week ago and she was still telling jokes to her children and now her great-grand children and great-great-grandchildren. Blanca remembers her Aunt Minnie having all the nieces and nephews over for sleepovers and pillow fights and tortillas. A woman who has worked hard and is still loved by her family. 

Lauren. 30 years old. Interior designer. Drives an SUV and has a 2 year old. I met her last night at a crazy party I tagged along to. She loves thumping rap music and shallow conversation. I could tell within the first 5 minutes of talking with her that we won't be likely to become good friends.

Abraham. 40 years old. Night guard for the Institute. Has 3 sons and is always showing me photos of them. Just bought a camera from the States and is always super excited to discuss his new photography ideas with me. 

Manuel Enrique. 55 years old. Engineer for ICE. Husband to Blanca, Dad to Rebecca and Judit. Tells stories slowly so I can understand everything. Listens well. Patient. Loves to wash his car, even at 5am on Sunday morning. Helps me recite the books of the Bible in Spanish every Sunday on our way to church. 

And that's only 4 of the faces I know now.

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