By Carrie Torres
I have been teaching in Costa Rica since September, 2009. Prior to that, I was teaching in Barcelona for two years. As you can imagine, these are two very different countries. I wanted to relocate somewhere which was fairly different from Barcelona, yet I wanted to be in a Spanish speaking country. I had my eye on Costa Rica and Chile, hearing that they were two good choices for South and Central America with respect to pay.
A friend, who is also a teacher, told me that an institute was hiring and I applied. I found the offer to be good, although the pay was not as expected compared to the cost of living. Some perks of the contract are: airport pick-up, a home stay for two weeks, arrangement of the work visa, and assistance finding accommodation and going to the doctor if you are sick. The nice thing about Costa Rica is that it is possible to get a work permit if you choose to do so. On the other hand, you can work here ‘under the table’ and go on a visa run every 3 months. You will need to be out of the country for 72 hours.
Aside from the technicalities, Costa Rica is a natural paradise. San Jose is not. Therefore, a lot of teachers leave on the weekends for the coast. The Pacific is 2.5 hours away and the Caribbean is about 3-3.5 hours both by bus. Of course, you can head to the rain forest, cloud forest, national parks or the volcanoes. Costa Rica is a small country so everything is easily accessible. One just needs to accept the fact that they very well may be living in San Jose which is a typical ‘second’ world city. It does not offer much with respect to charm, but is entertaining nevertheless. There are markets (indoor/outdoor), lots of bars, a nice theater, and some good restaurants aside from your traditional places.
The downside to San Jose is the crime. Several teachers from my school are leaving because of it. There are regular armed robberies of which are normally non-violent. Recently a student at our school was killed by a stray bullet within blocks from the school. Also, precautions need to be taken after dark such as taking a cab or the bus. On a brighter note, Costa Ricans are amazingly nice, friendly and happy people. For me that has been a pleasant change from my experience in Barcelona. It is not uncommon for them to invite you into their house just after meeting you, chatting at the bus stops or anywhere for that matter. Also, keep in mind the weather. It is absolutely wonderful. Although it rains for 6 months (winter) you have sun typically every morning and rain in the afternoon. The coast is always hot and humid. For me personally, I have been very happy in Costa Rica and I am glad I decided to come.