Sunday, March 20, 2016

Learning the Meaning of Pura Vida

Pura Vida!

The unofficial national saying of Costa Rica, and most Ticos' (people from Costa Rica) favorite saying. Literally it means "pure life" in Spanish, but people use it as a catchall phrase for dozens of situations, including...
  • as a response to "how are you?"  (probably most common)
  • before saying "thank you"
  • before saying "goodbye" or "see you later"
  • when something good happens 
  • instead of "you're welcome"
  • as a greeting when drivers pass each other in cars
  • as a sigh of contentedness when everything is going right 

Jess displaying a very large, old tree in the forest of Arenal

Elyse is living pura vida

Before coming to Costa Rica, I thought pura vida was more of a tourism marketing slogan, that it was only used by people working in the tourism industry, expats, and tourists. In fact, Ticos really do use this saying ubiquitously! It expresses joie de vivre, casualness, relaxed friendliness, and honestly Ticos are just happy, friendly people. You do hear pura vida much more in touristy areas, but I think that's mostly because tourists usually go to these areas because they are gorgeous and wonderful, so anyone living there is living the pura vida life. It's used less in the capital of San Jose, and probably other cities as well. I think it does sound a bit provincial, but in a sweet, idyllic way. 
La Fortuna

Here are some of my personal favorite moments of learning how to use pura vida, and how to live the pura vida life. 
  • Antonio lost his keys on the beach during the bonfire, and had to go look for them as we all waited in our cars. When he found them, I shouted, "pura vida!" and he was extra excited because his keychain is actually a mini surfboard with the phrase written on it. 
  • As I followed Christopher up the inside of the strangler fig, he turned back and said "this is what separates a tourist from a traveler." We balanced ourselves in the tangle of branches on top of the tree, looking out on the night lights of Santa Elena- that was pura vida
  • We lived pura vida one hot night in Uvita, dancing for hours to a popular local reggae band at the one bar in town with a mix of locals, tourists, and expats 
    Christopher is a cowboy
    on a steel horse
  • Driving through the cowboy highlands of Guanacaste, the cloud forests of Monteverde and Arenal, and the lush jungle of Cartago while singing to old pop songs and eating chocolate and Twizzlers  
  •  One night in San Jose we got a taxi at around 1am going from a bar back to our hostel. The driver ran through every red light with only a slight break check and a warning honk of his horn, shouting "pura vida!" every few minutes
And now this is kind of just devolving into a list of my favorite experiences in Costa Rica...which perhaps warrants a post of its own. (I'll link here if a write one!) 
Jumping off this was pretty exhilarating, definitely felt pure!

The gist of it is- pura vida is not just a tourism slogan. It is a way of life, a mentality, and a sense of peace, contentedness, and joy embraced by most Ticos. It is one of the reasons people tend to fall in love with the laid-back, welcoming, positive country, and saying it is probably the best way to make a local smile. So next time you're in Costa Rica, make sure to liberally apply pura vida (and SPF 50).

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