Before going to Costa Rica with the International Cultures class, I was super nervous yet filled with excitement. The idea of traveling to another country to learn about their culture, language, and build relationships with the locals are just some of the factors that made me count down the days until the trip.
Although, I was nervous due to it being my first time on a plane, that I can recall. I was actually more worried about the connections that I would be able to make with my very limited Spanish, yet excited to try.
When landing in San Jose and looking out the window, that was when it hit me: I’m actually here! To see the view of mountains replacing the crowded buildings of Philadelphia put me in awe. It’s not just the view that was different but while walking out of the airport, the heat hit me, so I immediately took off my hoodie.
The large purpose of our trip is to both conduct a service project and an individual project that we are passionate towards. Going into the service project that was taken place in the Bribri community was a four hour bus ride to a river. Through the river we rode in canoes for an hour and a half to the specific section in the Bribri community: Yorkin.
Walking into the community was extremely beautiful with all of the family, plants, insects, and other animals that welcomed us. Being there opened my eyes to so many new things and took me out of my comfort zones. From things such as limiting our showers to five minutes made me realize how much water I typically waste on a day to day basis.
With this community, my initial nervousness dissipated. We were all welcomed by genuine smiles and warm eye contact. Since the community did not have electricity, everyone talked with one another, which should be considered the norm. Having a discussion with the rest of the girls, we realized that our phones and social media makes us distant from actually interacting with one another back at home.
When starting the service, we would dig trenches underground, and connect pipes that would support two families into getting running water to their homes. Even though we are not professionals at digging, the families worked with us and were patient. Despite my limited Spanish, I was able to make small conversations with the people in the community, exchanging laughter and smiles.
When hearing about the service project of digging trenches, I anticipated that it would require hard work, which it did. What’s incredible is that the people of the Bribri community do that hard work everyday and are very strong.
The day we left the Bribri community, I expected to be sad, but not as emotional as I did. When we left, hugs were exchanged to everyone, and I could not keep turning my head to look behind at the loving family waving us goodbye.
After leaving the Bribri community, we ventured back into the city where I did things that I never thought that I would be able to do. Except there, I have the team support from the team leaders Jordan and Emily from Rustic Pathways, teachers, and girls in conquering my fears.
Going to the beach and not being able to swim was a difficult thing for me. Even though I have gone to the beach before, it would consist of my mother, grandmother, sister, and I holding hands with a deadly grip, knee deep in. With the support of my group they taught me how to flow with the waves.
That was new for me and I never felt unsafe which is strange for me since I view deep water as dangerous. Along with them, we had two great surfing instructors who were patient and taught us how to surf. While falling off the board dozens of times and still hearing the support from my peers really encouraged me and I was able to ride the waves eight times, well out of about fifty.
The next fear that I had to face was heights when we went ziplining. I was so terrified that I did not think I would be able to do it. The ziplining instructor luckily went with me for the first round where I screamed as loud as my lungs would allow. For the rest of the course, my peers would support me and make me be one of the first to go and even though at the moment I was petrified, I really appreciated it at the end of the day.
On our last day in Costa Rica, creating that amazing bond with the Bribri community, my team leaders, teachers, and girls that I was able to travel with made me already feel nostalgic. Being able to support two families, doing the unimaginable, bonding with everyone, made it difficult to leave. Even though I missed home, I miss Costa Rica already.