Costa Rica MAG

By Unknown, Unknown, Unknown

   He opened the gate, smiled and waved good-bye. As we leftCasacode on our last day in Costa Rica, I saw a man pulling a rope attached toseveral hundred pounds of bananas. Our instructor told us many people inunderdeveloped countries have this type of poor-paying job. If the workers don'tdo their job properly, the owners beat and sometimes even kill them. Although Iknow nothing about this man, his smile is something I will neverforget.

Many of us do not understand how fortunate we are until weactually see life in other countries. Often teenagers complain about not gettingthe car or clothes they want. In many parts of Costa Rica, a teenager's biggestworry is learning the lessons of farming so he can support his family when hisparents are too old.

I was shocked by how the Costa Rican lifestyle I sawcompared with mine. Their lives don't include the everyday things Americans havebecome so accustomed to. A typical Costa Rican family has no form of electroniccommunication in their home or car. Most people don't even have cars, they walkor ride the bus where available; some think the government is corrupt and thatthe funds allocated for roads are used elsewhere. Costa Ricans are alsoaccustomed to taking cold showers with rainwater. When it doesn't rain, theydon't get to shower. Checking beds for insects and scorpions every night isnormal because the houses have small cracks in them.

Talamanca, our laststop in Costa Rica, was the place I enjoyed most. We stayed at Casacode, an areaowned by 20 families and surrounded by Dole banana plantations. Casacode had beena national reserve until Dole started taking over the land. The 20 families cametogether and started Casacode because they wanted to preserve the habitat of manyplants and animals, and pass this land on to future generations. The nationalreserves of Costa Rica are slowly being destroyed.

In the lower part ofCasacode were the families' houses, all spread out. Jose Luis owned theguesthouse surrounded by rain forest where we stayed.

The community growsall its food organically, which isn't easy. One day we were hiking throughCasacode with Jose Luis, who was describing his crops. A yellow plane from Doleflew over its bananas, spraying pesticides. The look of dismay on Jose Luis'sface was quite clear as the pesticide was blown onto his crops, the only sourceof food for his family.

After the two-mile hike to Jose Luis's home, wemet his wife and children. They lived in a shack, with no privacy. There weremany cracks in the house and the door was just an opening. A mud-covered,lonely-looking pig roamed the house, diving for banana peels, its onlyfood.

I learned so much from Jose Luis and his family, though I couldbarely communicate with them because they spoke only Spanish. Jose Luis's joy andpride in what he was doing and his dedication to keeping this beautiful rainforest alive were what I most appreciated.

When I think about Costa Rica,what comes to mind is a place I was lucky enough to enjoy. But in that sameplace, many people are enduring hardship. My objective in sharing this is not topreach not to eat Dole bananas, but rather to make people more aware of howfortunate most Americans are.

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