23 June 2011

pura vida from costa rica

Pura vida from Costa Rica! Sorry for the late post, it is harder here to post than at Oxford, so if I dont post I am sorry.
Before arriving here, we arrived at the crazy ATL airport and I met with someone else going on the trip. And thankfully we did everything right, because here I am! So the flight was actually alright, other than the fact that the lady I sat next to decided to throw up when we were landing..but that's ok, it's whatever.
So you know in the movies when the people walk down the stairs from the plane and they look all attractive as they exit into the luxurious oasis? Well that's not what happened. This gue engine was spewing gas at us and it was really unpleasant - my first steps in Costa Rica! But the cool thing is that we got to see the airport, which was literally customs and baggage claim. It was a fraction of a terminal at the ATL airport. But it was easy, and it was all outside - almost like a warehouse. And once we finished customs and got our bags, we were off! We found the people we were supposed to meet and then we met with about 20 other kids - and we're still waiting on about 10 more. It was hot as anything, and for me being from Georgia I even thought it was hot, and we went to the air-conditioned bus and went from Liberia to La Cruz, which is actually 2 hours from the airport, not 30 minutes like I thought.
One thing I appreciate more than life yet never recognized until now is air conditioning. They advertise AC as an amenity here, as an added bonus. But I think of it as a neccessity, like having toilet paper when you use the bathroom. And luckily my sweat glands don't mind going into overdrive! But that's one thing that never hit me - I always complain of the heat but really it's not that hot. At all. But here you feel everything so much more.
The leaders of our trip talked to us on the bus and I met some of the other kids. It was fascinating to watch the passers-by in Costa Rica, especially when we got to La Cruz. And in case you are wondering, this is rural. We drove on a long dirt road for about 30 minutes and literally there was nothing but an occasional truck, an occasional person, and a couple cows and chickens here and there. It was much more rural than I have ever seen, and at the same time it's still so beautiful.

When we pulled around the mountain and saw the amazing view, this ubiquitous mountainous madness, we could not believe it. You can stare at as many postcards as you want, but you can't duplicate the feeling. It's amazing.
But at the same time, it's like a rose, beautiful yet with faults. Most of the homes here, if they can be called that, are small, metal-roofed shacks, dilapidated and old. There are chickens wandering the yards, and emaciated cows bent over grown in fields. It was shattering to see it. There were clotheslines with ragged clothes hanging limply, and a lot of times you would see right into the homes from holes in walls. Yet when we drove by, the people smiled and waved at us. I saw a father with his daughter, him holding her and swinging back and forth, and they smiled and waved eagerly as we drove by.
It was unlike anything I have ever seen. The worst truck stops in America cannot compare. And also when we were driving down, we saw miles and miles of trucks sitting there. Not turned on. On the longest highway I know (Highway 1 goes from Vancouver to Argentina), and the truck drivers set up hamocks under their trucks to sleep as they waited. I saw men lying there, dirty and asleep, under their trucks. They wait because the trucks are inspected for drugs. Everyday.
When we came back here, I was so overcome. This place is amazing, we have a nice treehouse and nice rooms, granted they aren't air-conditioned and the showers are cold, but we are living a stone's throw away from the most poverty-stricken place I have seen and we are swimming together in a pool, laughing and having fun. It was hard to accept.
How could I have complained just last week of not being able to have a milkshake when there are people here who don't have completely erected walls in their homes?
After that, we went to the beach, which was gorgeous, and we saw the Pacific Ocean and the mountain range that separates us from Nicaragua. We played a game in the pool - a nice cool treat - and then we came in for dinner.
And at the end, one of our leaders asked us to go around and say what our apples, onions, and mangoes were. Your apple is something good about the day, the onion is the opposite, and the mango is something you learned about Costa Rica. And this is just the start of something incredible and transforming.
ps - this computer's spell check is set on Spanish, so if there are typos, sorry!

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