Off to the races: My first day of class.
I for one had a ton of fun on my first day of class. It was like a cultural safari: I got to drive around and see all the sights I had heard about, but I was never actually at any risk of being harmed by the various beasts.
My first (and only) class of the day was scheduled for 8:00, so I got to the university around 7:35, supposedly to make sure I found the room on time but mostly to lord the star-spangled banner of American punctuality over the infamous “Tico time.” Come to find out it starts at 10:00, not 8:00. Which was fine, because I needed to make some changes to my schedule anyway. When I got to the office I found out that the guy in change of exchange student scheduling was late: the first sighting of the day, a real live Tico time. So I waited around, another famed characteristic of negotiating bureaucracies here. About an hour later our friend in the scheduling office arrived, but not long thereafter I got a call from some classmates who, while wandering in search of the classroom, found out it actually had started at 8:00. So those of us left in the scheduling office scurried up, down, in, out, back, and forth until we finally found the classroom. It was a four hour class, so I wasn’t too worried about missing the first hour and a half. Besides, they couldn’t meet the quorum without us, since it was an IFSA-only class and only two IFSA students had managed to find it so far.
Best of all, after our embarrassed/bemused introductions (depending on the person), we found out that we were in the presence of the most exotic creature of Costa Rican university life: the initially absent professor. My host mom had specifically warned me about this that morning at breakfast, but even then I didn’t believe I’d have the luck to see it myself. Sure enough, for reasons never explained to us, Profesor Carlos Naranjo Gutierrez had better things to do than attend the first lesson of his own class, and we were treated instead to a dramatic reading of the syllabus by the well-spoken substitute.
The power of context is amazing. In the States, any of these things—extreme tardiness by professionals, long waits, absent professors—would annoy, if not infuriate, me. But for the purposes of my visit here in Costa Rica, I enjoyed encountering all of them, especially since I had been warned. In one short and sweet jeep jaunt past all the best watering holes, I checked everything off my list in time for lunch and a lazy afternoon.