Memories are a sneaky thing. They creep out, slowly and quietly, so you don’t even know they’ve gone. Time eats away at them, until they are only sweet remembrances. There are so many things I wish I could hold onto and remember from my travels, but already, my experiences and new friends seem so far away.

E53D5459-2DA5-42BA-9D25-2AB73469E346

Still, I am happy to note subtle but lasting differences in my lifestyle and outlook that result from my trip to Costa Rica. It’s funny, because oftentimes my friends ask me how long my trip lasted, and it feels like almost a lie to say it was just a short ten days. The many things I’ve seen, done, and learned make it seem to me like my trip was so much longer.

I don’t want to use a cliche and say my trip was life-changing, but at least in the scope of conservation, it was. Before my trip, I never was one to think much about the environment. Naturally, growing up in a not-as-affluent household, I was conscious about turning off the lights/water and recycling, but these weren’t priorities in my head; I did them without thinking. But seeing the level of care all the volunteers at the Reserva put into doing these simple things, and more importantly directly seeing the wildlife and nature that would be harmed as a result of not conserving truly made me much more conscious about my actions.

One of the most valuable things I learned was during one of my interviews, after I confessed to not knowing much or caring much about conservation: without conservation, many of the people I care about and want to learn about would disappear, and their livelihoods destroyed. This really put things into perspective for me, and I’m beginning to understand how everything is interrelated. This means even the smallest of actions, like forgetting to take a reusable bag to the grocery store, could have a tenfold impact.

Back in the US, I find myself triple-checking to make sure all the lights are off when I’m not using them, limiting the water I use in the shower, picking up trash I see in my neighborhood, and being really aware about how much meat I eat or where I dispose my trash. One challenge is that the recycling bin in my city only goes out once every two weeks, so my family and I often find that there is just not enough space to recycle everything we’d like to, so I’m hoping we can find a solution to that. All in all, I now have a newfound appreciation for nature and for conservation, which bleeds into many practices and perspectives throughout my daily life.

Although I’ve never thought much about it, I’m very fortunate to live where I do in Connecticut – there are many protected forests and state parks and local organizations such as land trusts and conservation committees. In the future, I hope to expand upon this project and get involved with conservation groups in my area. Last but not least, I want to keep in mind that “we vote with our money,” meaning whatever we buy, we support. This means we support the system that enables the products we use, further highlighting the necessity of choosing consciously.

My perspective toward Costa Rica, Spanish, and travel in general were also radically altered. Before my trip, I completed pre-departure assignments and researched Costa Rica, but Costa Rica was just another place on the map. I had known that Costa Rica would have rich biodiversity, but knowing that and seeing the mangroves and capuchin monkeys for myself were two completely different things. Similarly, I had known that rice and beans were a staple of the diet, but didn’t really know until I had tasted it for myself. Now, I can personally attest to the beautiful starry nights and friendly locals, people and places that are more than mere names to me.

It was also a really amazing opportunity to take my Spanish beyond the classroom and see the looks of surprise when people in Costa Rica heard me speaking their language! I learned the value of knowing a language – it’s not as easy to remind yourself when you’re in a classroom, just learning grammatical conventions or completing worksheets. I met a lot of volunteers who had learned Spanish in school but had never really absorbed it; these same kids left Costa Rica with renewed passion to improve their Spanish. This is a lesson to me that all learning is valuable and useful – we just need to remember that in our daily lives.

I find that I miss many of the little moments most – talking to Gaby and cooking with her in the kitchen, playing soccer on the beach, learning Spanish slang, playing mafia during thunderstorms, walking along the beach at midnight. In hindsight, I am so incredibly thankful for my documentation project, which forced me to get out of my comfort zone and talk to everyone – researchers, locals, fellow volunteers. I gained so many insights and enjoyed my trip more than I could even have imagined. I just wish I could’ve taken more pictures with the people there, and not just of them!

It is bittersweet to be back home, but I’m blessed to have received this opportunity. Costa Rica~ You are so dearly missed. Signing off for the last time…! Thank you to everyone who’s made this time so special. read more →

As of 2017, same sex marriage is not recognized under Costa Rica law. Over dozens of countries recognize this unity so the question is when will Costa Rica? There are many opinions on this issue, with mostly those in favor of a bill passing to legalize gay marriage. Back in 2013 a piece of legislation was passed to give benefits to couples of the same sex. This is a step in the right direction but there are still many outcries in the media for change.

I found an article titled “This same-sex couple in Costa Rica were able to marry thanks to a clerical error” that caught my attention. According to the article, two women were able to wed due to the fact that one of the woman is noted as a male on her birth certificate. This article was written in support of the union of the couple most likely due to the fact the author was from Madrid and same sex marriage is legal in Spain. If the article had been written within a nation where same sex marriage is frowned upon the article might have looked differently.

Another article on the same issue is called “Costa Rica Accidentally Approves Same Sex Unions.” The article quotes directly from Costa Rican lawmakers commenting on the event where legislation “accidentally” passed a bill recognizing same sex unions. The words the the lawmakers had to say on the event were all negative. The article was written to criticize the union of two people of the same gender.

These two articles are proof of the wide opinions presented in media and the titles are what catches the attention of the reader to immediately interpret what the article will entail. Personally I feel that same sex marriage will one day be legal everywhere once the world can realize that all deserve the same rights. Costa Rica seems to be getting closer to that ideal but just needs to hop on the bandwagon already.

Other interesting articles:

 

 

 

  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.

 

  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. 

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.

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. 

Since 2014, the control over the Mexico and US border has become extremely strict. one way is by forcing Central Americans to find new routes to safety. This resulted in a surge of refugees fleeing violence and political instability, to find new homes elsewhere. Because of this, Costa Rica has attracted fleeing refugees, since it is the most stable country in the region. Currently, the Asylum claims are set to quadruple.

“Now, the country is offer temporary protection to refugees.Under the new protection transfer agreement (PTA), Costa Rica will accept up to 200 prescreened refugees for periods of up to six months, while their US asylum applications are processed. Migrants who arrive in Costa Rica before applying will not be considered for US asylum.” ()

This event is similar to many of the other migrant crisis all around the world, and has been going on for a long time. Europe has only just woken up to this issue, in 2015. Thus creating the name “European refugee crisis”. One of the reason, for the spike of asylum seekers is the Syrian civil war. Secondly, it’s impossible to gain legal entry into Middle Eastern countries.

The US response was to accept “at least 10,000 Syrian refugees” in 2015 (KRISHNADEV CALAMUR).

Because of the opportunities Costa Rica offers like many of the European countries.and the US it is not alone in its shelter  for refugees seeking homes.

read more →