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It’s currently hot, humid, and stormy here in Connecticut, so at least the weather in Costa Rica will feel a little bit like home to me. Unfortunately, this weather makes packing feel like a little bit more of a chore than it should…

I’m sitting cross-legged on my bedroom floor, staring at my suitcase. What to pack, what to pack… There are so many things I wish I could/ need to take, but so little room in my small carry-on (14″ x 22″ x 9″ max size as specified by United Airlines). Here’s a rough list of things I’m thinking I’ll need:

  • Passport, student ID
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Sunscreen – SPF 30+, 50 recommended
  • Shampoo, conditioner, soap/body wash
  • Hairbrush
  • Band aids + Neosporin
  • Anti-itch cream
  • Mosquito net?
  • Bug repellent
  • Socks – hiking and casual
  • Underwear
  • Swimsuit – a comfy, simple one
  • Towels – Take more than you think you’ll need! My friend in CR told me it’s so humid that nothing really dries.
  • Athletic shorts – lightweight and dry quickly
  • Pants – jeans, comfy PJs, hiking wear
  • Rain jacket/poncho
  • Umbrella
  • Other jacket and/or sweater
  • T-Shirts – cotton or quick-dry
  • Nice shirt and blouse – for more formal occasions
  • Cap
  • Sunglasses
  • Hiking shoes
  • Sandals
  • Work gloves
  • Plastic bags – for trash, dirty/wet clothes etc
  • Journal, pen, Wandering Scholar booklet
  • Bible
  • Phone + charger
  • Laptop + charger – Not sure on this yet, maybe to blog
  • Water bottle
  • Spending money

The list is longer than I thought it’d be…! I’m hoping there will be enough room between my suitcase and backpack, but it’s a little too hot to check right now so for now, my suitcase remains empty.

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Personality-wise, there is much to be taken, much to be left behind. This is a little bit harder than my actual packing list but just as important:

  • An open mind
  • Spanish skills + ability to communicate wisely
  • Pride in my story and culture – as an Asian-American, as a Christian, as a Wandering Scholar
  • Caution, but not fear
  • Ability to listen
  • Flexibility! I want to let go of my need to plan and always know what’s ahead.

Finally, I’m going to miss my family a lot. The familiarity of home, routine, Mom food. There’s nothing tangible I can take of my home, except what’s in my heart, but I wish I can take them all along – none of them have gone abroad for a long time (especially my parents!) and they deserve a fun vacation.

So many emotions~ Only one more full day before I’m headed off to Costa Rica!!! #casi

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This past week my mom has been accompanying me on several trips to our favorite stores making sure I have all the necessities I need for this trip. There were many things I already had, like comfortable shirts/shorts, sandals, the usual. Still, I barely had any space to move around in my room when we were done; the haul was real. Pairs on top of pairs of sleepwear, hiking shorts and pants, sun hats, sneakers, etc etc etc. It took time to sort through what we didn’t need and could return than it did to do the actual shopping itself! Nonetheless, it’s all apart of the process and although it’s been somewhat stressful at times it’s still a lot of fun.

I’m learning a lot of helpful skills to retain when it comes to travelling that I will hopefully apply several times throughout my lifetime. There aren’t many things I’ll be leaving behind because I absolutely refused to leave my hair care and skincare necessities at home: face astringent, Neutrogena acne treatment, Shea butter and everything else you could think of is coming with me :). My mentor, Leslie, recommended that I definitely take some loose but long pants because of the modest dress culture in Costa Rica. Fortunately two of my favorite pairs of pants fall under this category, so that was a win-win.

I’ll be dedicating the entire day before my flight to going down the checklist I’ve created and physically packing my bags for my trip. I’ll most likely be vlogging the process so I can include on my personal blog/digital brochure. This flight will only be my second throughout my life, and the thing I’m most anxious about is losing luggage T_T. I am looking forward to figuring out how to somewhat navigate an airport on my own, though! read more →

As the date for the trip to Costa Rica quickly approaches I find myself in a bind to have all I need packed. Originally, I had thought I would be taking with me some dressy outfits, such as, jeans, shorts, swimsuits, and dresses. But then I realized I won’t be exactly in the city areas more like the tropical rain forest since Playa Tortuga Research is located there and that’s where I will be for most of my stay. What I had planned originally to pack is not quite ideal for that weather or environment. Instead, I will be looking at Costa Rica’s natural beauty up close.

With this in mind, I plan to take more sporty/outdoor clothes that are ideal for hiking and outdoor activity. Breathable and quick dry clothes. For toiletries, I will be bringing sunscreen (highly advised), mosquito repellent, hand sanitizer, band aids, Neosporin, and makeup. Since the weather is quite hot and I will be doing mostly outdoor activities. If you are like me and can’t live without makeup (joking) I recommend bringing very light, not full coverage makeup. That has SPF and a few products. I would love to take my laptop but I think it’s for the best to disconnect from the internet and take in a natural beauty that I will be surrounding myself in. I would like to take my mom with me in my suitcase so she doesn’t worry herself.

Aspects of my personality that I want to bring or leave behind, for example, is my open mind and willingness to try new things and leaving my nerves about meeting new people. When I was searching ‘how do people in Costa Rica dress’. In the city, most people dress as they do in any other large city in the world. You can stand out if you make it very obvious that you’re a tourist. One user (ROADADVISOR) said, “Just be you…and be happy…we love happy people…if khaki shorts and cotton blouses make you happy …go for it!”(TripAdvisor) read more →

A note from TWS: It is important that our Wandering Scholars prepare for their journeys by researching their host country before they leave home. The below post is the product of an assignment in which we ask our Scholars to read and share something interesting they’ve learned about Costa Rica’s history, culture, or politics. 

Costa Rica at first glance is seemingly a tropical experience full of wildlife, exquisite culture, and amazing adventure. However there are also misconceptions, many of which I’ve learned aren’t close to reality.

These include believing that the drinking water is unsafe, lacking familiarity with the region’s currency, and thinking that it’s possible to travel there without proper Identification.

First off, you can drink Costa Rican water. Costa Rica is an established democratic society and has put much effort in to water purification systems and techniques. Much like any coastal area, it is important to simply be weary if water consumed is from the ocean or rivers, which present a higher risk of harmful bacteria. Secondly,  U.S currency is used everwhere! And sometimes even preferred, and since the cost of living is even equal, it seems we shouldn’t expect a huge price deal on everything we buy. Finally, even though Costa Rica is not an island, that doesn’t mean we can simply drive their or go without a passport!!! Its an international territory and requires proper identification! 

The lesson is: I’m glad I won’t let these misconceptions get in the way of my experience.

 

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A note from TWS: It is important that our Wandering Scholars prepare for their journeys by researching their host country before they leave home. The below post is the product of an assignment in which we ask our Scholars to read and share something interesting they’ve learned about Costa Rica’s history, culture, or politics. 

In the last few years there have been periodical strikes from Costa Rica’s teachers and those of other occupations who feel wronged by their country’s treatment and lack of prioritization of their respective institutions (education, medical, etc). Among the ‘seven claims’ of these employees are demands such as decreasing work overload, increase of salary and opposing to having their pay deducted for a previous strike in September 2015.Most media sources gave thorough explanations as to the motivation behind the protests and why it is important for those in the Costa Rica workforce to stand up for their rights. APSE (APSE – Association of Teachers of Secondary Education), ANDE (National Association of Educators) , and UNDECA (National Union of Employees of the Fund and Social Security) are three major teacher unions all joining together to protest against President Guillermo’s administration. However, some other outlets pointed out the impact on the community during the protests. These strikes left many classrooms empty and those in need of medical assistance waiting or forced to go home.

Nonetheless, the protests made many concerns and frustrations of the middle and lower class public and uncensored. Among the demands were also for upperclass citizens to pay taxes and for access to water to be a public right rather than a privilege. Costa Rica’s government predicts protests such as these are steadily gearing the public to a shared mindset about breaking down social structures and aggravating an intense class struggle.

I chose to analyze this topic because there were several teacher protests in my city this year. Over the last few years, the School District of Philadelphia has struggled financially and was forced to close many schools and let go of many staff to save money. This year, teachers consistently protested the contract that had been severed and dismissed for a handful of years.

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