الجمعة، 8 فبراير 2013

At the theater

In between Thanksgiving and the arrival of my friends Cassie, Dave, Greg, and Sally I spent a few days hanging out in San José with some other volunteers from my training group that were leaving Costa Rica. (To explain-although our official close of service date was December 17, Peace Corps allows volunteers to leave up to 30 days early as long as the Country Director approves.) So, two of my friends and I went to see Skyfall at one of the fancy malls in San José's richest district. Everything was fine and the movie was approaching the climax when it suddenly stopped. The lights stayed off and the screen was blank. A few people whistled, and a few cuss words were heard, but in a joking manner. 

This reaction caught me off guard. While every culture of the world is different and unique in many ways, I am a big believer in the idea that the differences within groups are much greater than the differences between groups. There are extremely religious people in America, and in Costa Rica. There are very secular folks in each country as well. I think it's a bit more difficult to decide which country is more religious than the other. It certainly can be determined, but the more I travel and learn, the more I think that the differences within groups are greater than the differences between them (which type of groups is a more complicated issue-I may post about it later). But, back to the theater, I was caught off guard because I tend to think that in the States, even in a delightfully kind state like Iowa, people would've gotten mad. This simply did not happen in Costa Rica-mirth was the most common emotion. Many people started laughing with their friends. I was about to get up-but first looked around, and one person had already walked back to the booth to make sure someone was fixing the problem. 

I didn't hear a single person whine "this is so inconvenient" or "what am I paying them for?" or anything like that. I think to a certain extent this has to do with the laid-back attitude that many Costa Ricans have towards life. Part of it might be because of weather-on the Costa Rican coasts it's often too hot and humid to get all worked up about something. Part of it might be due to the lack of stress in living somewhere where it's never cold, there's plenty of freshwater, beaches aren't far away, and fruits and vegetables grow pretty much everywhere, without too much work. There may be many more reasons, but I was delighted by it as we sat in the theater and observed people using the time to check messages or emails on their phones, chat with their friends and lovers, use the restroom, get a popcorn refill, or just sit back and relax. No whining and moaning so everyone could hear, no jumping up and all screaming at the projection booth. As the worker got the movie back on the screen, a few helpful patrons yelled "further" "further" and "go back" to get us right back to the part of the movie when the screen went black. People clapped lightly and the movie finished without a hitch. It was, for me, in some ways a nice representation of my time in Costa Rica-the country still has many problems as it develops (often with infrastructure), which can be frustrating, and often it seems slow to correct these problems-but everyone is in a pretty good mood about things and they smile and laugh as they deal with them.

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