The smell of earthy damp dog and chemicals, trying to be masked with febreze, wafting in the air the second I stepped onto the bus I would one day miss. The bus driver, Jorge, and the tour director, Gil, greet us as we get situated after a long day of traveling. There were about 40 of us; my 8th grade Spanish teacher organized a trip to Costa Rica and Nicaragua. I found myself on that trip, a me that I didn’t know was there.
On the first day, we were driving to Sarapiqui, a couple of hours away from San Jose, and we came across a local man that was selling plantain chips. Our bus driver got out and bought some and after a while the bus was full of plantain chips. They were the best chips I had ever tasted. They didn't have the best smell in the world, kind of like unripened bananas, but the crunchy texture and sweet mouthwatering taste made them so good. The man who made them took so much time and energy to make each individual batch. This was when I realized that here, in Costa Rica, so many are so happy, smiling and laughing, and content. Most don’t have a lot but it seemed that that was ok.The man who made the chips was radiating joy and his happiness was very contagious. I couldn’t help just feeling happy being around him. His soft, round face folded into a joyful smile.. Although he was only making chips and selling them on a highway, he looked so happy to see other people enjoy what he had made. This is what made me believe that that's was really mattered to him, happiness.
Many people in Costa Rica didn't have much. However, that didn't stop them from being happy. One afternoon we ran across a small family of 3, with a giant, pink and black spotted, pet pig, selling coconuts on the side of the road. It was very apparent that they didn't have much, a small house that was falling apart, and their only way to get money was selling coconuts. Many people in the United States would be very worried if they were in this situation, but the people in Costa Rica didn't seem to care. They were just happy to be alive. Possibly, it’s not that they don’t think about the future, they just decide to look at the positive things and not let things affect them. They choose to be present and be grateful for what they have, which is something that I think many can learn from. It was amazing to be able to experience people and a culture like this. While I was there I found a respect and appreciation for life as I know it.
It was wonderful to experience a culture that isn’t so technology based, like we are, but instead very connected to nature and the land. Quite frankly I feel as if they were happier than a lot of the people in the United States. Being there showed me that I am on my phone all the time and I am also very worried about the future and I’m never really present. This also helped me realize that I take everything in my life for granted and that I need to be more thankful for what I have. Even the things we don’t think about like clean water, food and education.
When I came home, everything felt so empty and sad. Everyone in Costa Rica and Nicaragua were so sweet, present and happy to be on Earth, living filled with so much love. Unlike here, where everyone is so focused on jobs and their phones that we forget to talk to the people around us. Here, in the US, we are all buried in our phones and technology however in Costa Rica everyone is very connected to nature and are all outside all the time. I feel as if it is like this in the United States compared to Costa Rica because here we are very pressured, by society, to have a good job and a nice home, with nice belongings. We, as a community, can try to work on really talking to each other, and especially work on not judging each other.
I imagine that not everyone who has gone to Costa Rica had the same impression, however I am very glad that I went on this trip because it showed me who I was. I found that I feel at home surrounded by spanish, love, and community.