Jun 25, 2012

The Home Stretch

It's finally here, my last week in Costa Rica. I can't believe it. Half a year has passed in what feels like a matter of weeks. Well, what in retrospect feels like a matter of weeks. Funny how memory works like that. I'm very much not ready to leave Costa Rica. It's such an incredible country, filled with so many incredible people. But I'll get to that in a minute. First, let me give you an update on what I've been getting up to lately.

I've been keeping myself busy these past few weeks. I went to the skating rink one day with a neighbor, and at the end they started a game of roller soccer. It was very exciting, but I ended up playing in socks because I'm not very gifted with roller blades. Another Sunday, my family and I took a drive to check out some of the other towns in the area. We stopped for a while in Sarchi, where I got to see the worlds largest hand-painted ox cart. I gave a presentation about my part of the USA to my local AFS chapter and learned that it's easy to burn yourself trying to make crêpes in a cast iron skillet. I joined a gym and started going for an hour and a half or so every morning before work, which has given me more energy and generally made me feel less guilty eating so much of the awesome food here. I had my last week at SiNEM, but I haven't let myself cry about that yet because I have a going away lunch this coming Wednesday. I went on a date with a cute Tico boy on Sunday, and we agreed that if we're both old and single we'll get married.

My 2 weeks of vacation started last week. The weekend was spent in a hotel in Limón with all of the AFSers for our final orientation. There was a beach bonfire, a birthday cake (which the birthday girls face got smashed into in true Costa Rican tradition), a failed attempt to watch the sunrise over the Caribbean (up at 4:30 only to have the clouds mask the sun), and at the end a hard goodbye to many awesome people that I hope I'll get to see again one day.

The hardest goodbyes, though, came almost a week later. Anna, Allie, Kayla, and I spent from Monday to Thursday together partying it up in the surf town of Jaco at a very chill little hostel. It was incredibly divertido, as it always is with them. We went out dancing, went to the beach, and one day rented bikes and rode up the highway to check out another beach, Playa Herradura. It was a lovely week, but the goodbye killed me. These girls have been my best friends here since our time at Finca la Flor, and it'll be a while before we'll see each other again.

I wish I had another 5 months here. Costa Rica is unlike anywhere else I've ever been, and it has taught me things about the world that I didn't even know I needed to learn. I've always considered myself to be a knowledgeable person. I've never been sheltered, I've always been decently culturally aware, and I've never been convinced that one way of living is the "right way". When I came to Costa Rica I was very wary of all comments about how it wasn't "up to the standards of the USA", yet I still expected to have to "deal with things". But what I found was something I didn't expect, couldn't have expected.

The paint on the houses here is faded from months of bright sun, the metal roofs slightly rusty from months of heavy rain, but the homes are spotless inside, swept/mopped/cleaned every day. The clothes people wear often aren't brand new, but they're clean, put together, and fashionable. Appearances matter, but in the sense that you just have to appear nice, not that you have to appear rich. It's a culture of taking pride in what you have, not in how much you have.

My time in this country has taught me a lot about pride. It's ok to be happy with yourself, to be aware of your own personal worth. Lots of people live more modest lives financially than where I'm from in the US, but they take what they have and own it. They smile, walk with heads high, laugh. I really don't know how to put it. Not having things doesn't make you poor.

And as anyone who's ever been here will tell you, it's an absolutely beautiful country. The colors seem more vibrant, the sun more sunny, the waters more perfect. Even in the rainy season it's incredible.

I can't seem to stop raving about this place. The first question people ask me here is always "How do you like Costa Rica?" and my response is always "I don't want to leave."

So yeah, I'll post again once I get home but for now I'm gonna make the most of these last few days.


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