Saturday, February 2, 2013

This trip marks the first time I have ever left the United States.  Ever since I can remember, I have  dreamed of traveling and seeing the world.  Due to my being a Geography student, I have spent hours upon hours studying other cultures and other ways of life.  Then the time came for me to finally leave the classroom and actually embark on the journey I've always wanted.

(This is my room)

When our plane was landing in San Jose my heart began to race.  I thought to myself, "This is actually happening, I am about to set my feet on foreign soil."  I immediately began to search for these cultural and physical differences that exist in a foreign country.  I remember being very displeased when one of the first buildings we saw on our bus ride to Sarapiquí was Walmart.  Little did I know, three weeks later I would find extreme comfort in seeing Subways, Walmarts, Starbucks, and any other American business or brand that reminded me of home.

(This is guanabana and it's delicious.  It grows in our backyard.  My mom cuts it up and blends it with water and sugar.  This is called a fresco and we drink it almost every night for dinner and it's delicious.)

I thought I had come to Costa Rica without expectations, but I unconsciously had had millions of expectations.  For example, I guess I had assumed that nearly everybody in the world enjoyed hot showers.  I was sadly mistaken when I took my first shower and froze my butt off.  I am proud to say I have finally gotten used to these cold showers, but I have also trained my body to do this back-bend sort of maneuver to avoid being directly hit by the cold water.  So far, this trip has taught me that there is a huge difference between a want and a need.  I thought I had known the difference before my arrival in Costa Rica, but I honestly did not.

(This is in the Central Market in San Jose.  This is an herb stand so all of these different plants are used for natural medicine)

I have lived a very cushioned life in the United States and I never appreciated it to the fullest until I was forced to live life with much less.  I can finally look at my native country with a fresh pair of eyes and realize how lucky I am to have been born there.  However, life in Costa Rica is much more simple.  The locals here live without all of the fancy gadgets and luxuries that American's depend upon daily.  Therefore, they have a much more intimate relationship with nature.

(This is a poisonous frog I saw while in the rainforest doing volunteer work with Tirimbina)

This is a beautiful concept.  Almost everything you eat here is grown and produced in the same town.  The milk, cheese, coffee, fruit, vegetable, rice, beans, eggs, and meat.  Most of the fruit in our house is from trees in our backyard.  My host brother will casually take a machete and wack some fruit off the tree whenever we need it.  Also, the fruit is so much more fresh and sweet because it's straight from the tree.  Of course, living this closely with nature has its drawbacks such as huge bugs and snakes and scary howler monkeys.  However, even though we are still in the beginning phases of this journey, I have developed a greater appreciation for nature along with so many other things.

(This is the local organic farm at Pozo Azul that I volunteer at.  We grow literally everything from herbs to vegetables to fruits to sugarcane.)

If I wouldn't have come on this trip, I would never have realized what a beautiful family I have waiting for me back in the United States.  I would never have fully appreciated my life and the people in it like I do now.  This alone makes me feel like I have already matured more than I have in the past two years of college. 

(This is my boss on the farm, Nicho.  He is using a machete to shave the bark off of sugarcane.  After a long days work, he gave us some fresh sugarcane to chew on.)

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