Tuesday, May 29, 2012

A Taste of the USA in Ciudad Colón?

It is always surprising to me to find English language shops or restaurants when visiting a foreign country. It seems as though a little piece of the United States was transplanted to comfort weary tourists who are deprived of their native land. Imagine my surprise when I heard about an English language café and bookstore in the heart of Ciudad Colón of all places. Granted, Ciudad Colón is considered part of San José, but it feels like a small town to us Global Scholars who have the pleasure of living here for three weeks. Professor Paxton, our International Development professor, and Jeannie Khouri, our study abroad coordinator, had told our cohort about an English language used bookstore during the first week of class, but it appears to have been forgotten until now.
After an interesting class discussion, involving selling human beings and giving states “fish” (or aid) instead of helping them learn “how to fish” or how to develop, a small group of us decided to try out this bookstore when we arrived back in town. Though the weather seemed ominous, with dark clouds and the loudest thunder I have heard in a while, the skies did not actually open up like yesterday. Once our bus wound down the mountain from the UPeace campus back to Ciudad Colón, we made our way down the main street to find this elusive shop.

Where our adventure began.

We took a turn before a local panadería, and wandered down a side street complete with an ice cream shop and Indian clothing store. Many locals stared at us as we kept turning around in confusion and walked halfway through doors of different shops. We inched closer to the main street until we decided to go in the other direction, and lo and behold, from the corner, we saw the New Day Café and Bookstore. No longer were we confused tourists, but knowledgeable locals (to a certain extent).                                                 
Part of the main book room.

The bookstore is split into two areas: the actual shop with bookshelves and a terrace area to sit and read. As we browsed the shelves, I was surprised at the variety of books the shop had. On one shelf, you can find the classics, like Pride and Prejudice, Emma, Gone with the Wind, Wuthering Heights and The Age of Innocence. Directly across from them are books that are a bit more modern and teen-oriented: New Moon, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. On other shelves, I happened upon Spanish for Gringos, a great guide for those who want to learn Spanish basics, as well as a large novel section of the Danielle Steele and Nora Roberts variety. Apart from more popular books, the store also houses books about philosophy, history, pets, some books in Spanish and obscure novels that may not have reached the New York Times’ Best Seller List.

The other part of the main book room.

  The main book room also houses a small kitchen where you can order many different items. Coffee is a must, but the kitchen also offers freshly baked goods. A number of us had the cinnamon buns, even though cookies and cake were also available. The kitchen also offers fuller meals, namely the quesadilla as well as some sandwiches and salads. The great thing about Costa Rica is that you get more for your money here. One moderately-sized cinnamon bun costs 600 colones, which roughly converts into just over one US dollar. The rather large quesadilla cost 1800 colones, which is just under $4 in the US. I found that there was a great mix of cultures in the menu, as both Latin American and American cuisine were offered.  

The terrace.
A lion fountain toward the back of the terrace.

Just through a side door, you enter into the terrace area. The terrace is a covered, but open-air area, complete with three tables, a small fountain and some more books. The sound of the running water provides the terrace with a sense of calm, almost like being in a park, but without the added bonus of screaming children. The tiles and walls are a red/brown/burnt orange color, which is an unusual color choice, but it adds to the Costa Rican charm of the store. Wi-Fi is included for free, so all you need to do is ask for the password.

Francesca in the middle of reading.

Overall, the bookstore has a great atmosphere and does not only cater to visiting Americans. The blending of cultures through décor, menu items and books makes it different from other English language bookstores I have encountered in the past. The books themselves are not that expensive, about 500 to 2000 colones maximum, and there is even a free book bin.  This place is great for hanging out, grabbing lunch and studying too. If only Cohort One had more time in Costa Rica so that they could make New Day the place to go after International Development class.
Kate (enjoying a quesadilla), Amaya and Conor.

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