I’m in Costa Rica, but life isn’t always paradise. Just as in the United States, life can be hard. Especially when you’re away from everything comfortable. I’ve found a lot of people have told me, “but you’re in Costa Rica; but you’re in paradise” but it’s a little different when you’re living it. This past week has been a lot of just this-hard. I’m so glad everything goes exactly according to plan, down to every last detail. Except it never does. The past two weeks or so have been full of failed plans, plan Bs, and starting over from scratch. And it hasn’t been easy. A major thing that has changed over the last 10 weeks is my attitude and perspective on things. Three months, Six months, a year ago, when things didn’t go according to plan, I would begin to stress and panic. However, now I barely bat an eye. I’ve learned that stressing out is going to get me no where. Changing this one small thing has actually changed a lot. I don’t think a single thing these past few months has went exactly according to plan. For me or some of my friends. Starting when I arrived with a miscommunication with the KU Study Abroad Office, to getting sunburned (with sunscreen and reapplying; I listened Moms), to stronger language barriers than expected, to getting lost in a random town outside of San José, to losing a good friend back home, watching a friend loose his debit card and then losing mine a week later, a friend fracturing a jaw, another friend busting open a lip, busting open my leg, petty crime, crooked taxi drivers, failed Monteverde plans, failed Nicaragua plans, and more failed plans. With every bump comes a story. And with every story I’ve learned a little, grown a little, and matured a little. Overall, my attitude has changed tremendously (I think I already said that; oops). I’ve become the person who not only says “everything is going to be okkay” but believing it too. I’ve learned to take each moment as it comes and move on to the next one. Part of me can see how every failed plan could have ruined my adventure here in Costa Rica, after all, ‘it’s the end of the world, right?’ But instead, I’ve turned the discouragement into encouragement, and I’m still moving right along. I’m so thankful to have an amazing group of friends to travel this journey with, an amazing group back home cheering me on, and an amazing God above looking out for me. So tomorrow, after changing tickets and companions, I’m headed to Nicaragua. I’m excited for an amazing week exploring a new country, even if we have to spend the night at the border.
My first time on a plane and out of the country was in July of 2012 when I went to Spain with my high school Spanish club. I am realizing now how much of an impact this trip had on me, both then and now, and how I’ve grown in these few years.
A lot of factors played into the possibility of attending.
I didn’t have the money to spend, despite the fact I had been working all throughout high school-I had used this money to survive, to buy a car, to pay for things I needed or wanted.
I was still in foster care- and was told no from the beginning. Actually, I was told foster kids don’t do things like that. And I didn’t see any reason why they didn’t.
And that no weighed in my mind with every other no I had heard in my life. Not the no’s that children hear to keep them safe and out of danger, but the “no, you’ll never amount to anything,” type of no.
But with a little inspiration and a wonderful judge, I was granted permission to leave the country, on a plane, with my friends.
Still having $0 toward a nearly $6,000 trip, I didn’t believe it would be possible in the end. But with support and encouragement from my mom Terri, I saw that in the end God will provide and that it was possible for me to raise the money.
So it began. Candy bar sales. I sold at every gathering in the four-state area, from sporting games, to carnivals, to selling out of my locker between classes. Shhh, that probably was a no-no. But I did. And my wonderful community supported me.
10,000 candy bars later, I had raised the money needed to go. I was so ecstatic. And at the same time, I felt I couldn’t be too excited because I had friends whose parents were writing them a check every due date and it was no big deal.
So I’ll be excited now.
I remember my Spanish teacher telling me she hadn’t seen anyone work quite as hard as me, and to be proud; that I would be able to cherish everything so much more. And I’ve remembered those words, years later.
Walking through the streets of Barcelona, I think I was in as much shock about being there as I was excited to take everything in.
Although we had some spanish classes prior to leaving, I don’t remember ever really using the language for myself. However, listening to my spanish teacher speak gave me the desire to learn more of the language and be able to communicate for myself one day.
Also, walking through the streets of Madrid I told myself “I could never do that,” as another teacher shared about living abroad and her experiences.
I could never do that.
Fast forward three years to the date: I’m sitting on a bus on my way to Puerto Viejo in Costa Rica. It’s my 10th week here and I can do that.
I can live abroad. I can speak Spanish and survive. I can have a blast, meet new people from all over the world, try new food, get lost, learn to cook Gallo Pinto, spend the day on a mountain, spend it in a rainforest, I can.
I may not have learned this three years ago, but I have today.
I can’t can no longer be a part of my vocabulary. Because I can.
These words have burned in my mind this month.
During my first days of my second class, a classmate was trying to talk to our Spanish professor in English, and he didn’t understand. I watched as she became frustrated and decided to talk to her during the break. She had transferred into our class after the first day, so she didn’t know he doesn’t speak English in addition to Spanish.
During the break, I explained this to her, and her response to me was, “I’m just trying to say food poisoning, how hard can it be?” How hard can it be. These words have burned in my mind this month.
They’ve reminded me that while language barriers do exist, our response to them is extremely powerful. Positive or Negative.
How hard can it be? If it wasn’t difficult, she would have been able to tell him in Spanish. If it wasn’t difficult I would always be able to communicate with my host family, people on the street, and those who speak Spanish in my home country. But it is hard.
However, just because someone doesn’t know multiple languages doesn’t lessen their worth as a person. This doesn’t deem them as unintelligent.
In that moment in class, I felt so much judgment being placed on language barriers. Just as I don’t want Costa Ricans to deem me as unintelligent based upon my Intermediate Spanish, I desire the same for those in the US, who I may interact with in the future. There is so much a person has to say, even if they can’t communicate it. I don’t ever want someone to feel they are lesser because of my reaction to their language. I don’t want to give that impression. I’ve now lived it. I’ve now seen it from the other side.