5:34am. That's the time the sun rose today in Costa Rica. The latest sunrise that Costa Rica will see all year is coming up in January, at 5:59am. I mentioned this briefly in an earlier post, but because of Costa Rica's close proximity to the equator, the sunrises and sunsets change very little throughout the year. So, basically what I'm saying is that the sun always rises before 6am here in Heredia.
A few weeks ago I started teaching morning classes. This required me to set my alarm for 5:30am, a painfully early time for a sleepy person like me. I remember groggily glancing at the time as I shut off my alarm on the day of that first morning class and thinking to myself "It's so darn early. Man, am I one dedicated teacher for doing this." After giving myself a little praise for waking up so early, I hopped out of bed and went to make my morning coffee only to see one of my roommates was already up and walking out the door for work. I thought to myself, "Okay, maybe my wake-up call isn't all that bad; my roommate has to wake up even earlier than me and he has to do it every day." I also glanced out the window to see the bright light of the sun illuminating the park across the street from my house. For some reason when the sun is up, it doesn't feel as painfully early as it does on those early Minnesota mornings when you're awake for an hour or so before the sun's even up. Nonetheless, I continued through my morning routine with my "poor-me-I-have-to-be-awake-so-early attitude" and found myself heading towards the bus stop around 6am.
On my way to the bus stop I expected to see a small handful of people on their way to an early start at work, however I saw a few more people than I anticipated. I saw school vans (vans instead of buses here) full of kids on their way to school, long lines of cars waiting to get onto the main road for their commute to work and people hustling and bustling around doing some morning errands. I also noticed the corner shop and neighborhood bakery were already open and had a few customers. I had to do a double take and look at my watch which read "6:00AM." I was astonished to see that I wasn't one of just a few people awake at this early morning hour, all of Costa Rica seemed to be awake.
Over the past couple of weeks, I have continued to wake up for my morning classes and see the same large crowd of people awake in those sunny morning hours, and I'm happy to report that not only have I gotten used to them, I actually kind of enjoy them. First of all, I've found the best weather is often in the morning. Since it's rainy season, we usually get rainy every afternoon, if not at least overcast. However, in the morning it tends to be clear enough to see the ring of mountains that encircle the central valley in addition to being sunny and warm. Also, it definitely helps that so many other people are awake at that time of day. I've dropped the "poor me" routine and now happily attempt to blend in with my fellow ticos (Costa Ricans) as we get our mornings started. A finally, since the sun sets around 5:30 every day, I'm thankful for those few extra daylight hours in the morning.
I've been trying to figure out why Costa Ricans all get up so early in the morning. I've asked a few ticos about their thoughts as well as speculating a few theories of my own but basically I think it boils down to the fact that the sun is up, Costa Ricans are hard workers, and the god-awful traffic that surrounds the San Jose metro area. I found out it takes one of my students an hour and thirty minutes to drive what is a 30 minute drive in no traffic in order to get to work in the morning. Uffdah is all I can say to that. All of this has (gasp) started making me into a little more of a morning person. I've even found myself waking up on days when I don't have morning classes around 7:30/8, which for those of you who know me, you know that's not characteristic of me. I'm usually one to sleep into 10 or even 11. However, I'm happy with this change. If I'm looking to make the most of my time in Costa Rica, I better be awake for it!
Moral of this post- When the sun's up, so is Costa Rica... and so am I :)