EL Major Jade Faletoi (’15) Reflects on Culture Non-Shock in Costa Rica

Whitworth English

Jade Faletoi (’15) is 19 years old and from Orange County, CA. She is a proud American of Samoan descent. She likes big books, and she cannot lie.

Jade is studying at Whitworth’s Costa Rica Center for the fall semester. She recently wrote this piece for our nonfiction workshop blog, Hashtag Polychronic.

Whitworth English

“You will feel frustrated and timid and want to stay on ‘the veranda.’ But there is beauty in this frustration with a new culture.”  Is it strange that I’ve felt almost none of these things over the last couple of weeks?

“You will stand out, because you look different. People will stare, and you will want to hide.” Is it strange that I did not feel like such an outsider?

“You will feel angry at the gender roles here. But you will have to pick and choose your battles.” Is it strange that I feel at home here?

Those orientation meetings that we had were more shocking to me than the Tico culture is. Those tips would have been more helpful to me when I moved to Spokane than they are here. I got more stares walking down the “Hello Walk” than I did walking in San Rafael. I felt that frustration the TA’s talked about when I started attending a university that was vastly Caucasian.

“So what country are you from?”

“Uh, America.”

“Oh, so you’re Hawaiian.”

“Uh, Californian.” Awkward silence, awkward subject change.

Here in Costa Rica, I don’t get so many weird stares. I’m grateful that my high school had dedicated Spanish teachers who pushed me to learn as much Spanish as possible, so that I don’t feel so timid speaking to hispanohablantes. As for the whole machismo thing, I even feel at home with that. Samoan households are patriarchal. The women cook, clean, and take care of the kids. They wear modest clothing and don’t go out much. I’ve lived this way my entire life, so I know what life is like for the Ticas.I feel more at home in Costa Rica than I did in Washington.

I guess that’s sort of a shock.

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