Hola amigos! I’m currently in the Dominican Republic, about to meet my friend Erica and her sister and brother in-law for a week of resort vacation (because I have no boundaries and like to crash family get-togethers like this and who doesn’t need a vacation from their vacation?!) and I’m on day 3 of not having a working phone (sorry if you’ve tried to text or call).
I just finished my month of living with families and taking classes in Costa Rica. It’s probably been the most impactful experience of my trip. I know it sounds crazy/entitled/#firstworldproblems to say that it takes a lot to impress me. But it does. I’ve seen beautiful beaches and mountains, and so at first it was like well yeah, Costa Rica is cool but I mean, it’s a little bit been there, done that. And I was really mad at myself for feeling that way, and thought I should probably go home. Before the trip, I wasn’t sure how I would know it was the end, but then I thought, ok if I’m not impressed anymore, it’s time. And I felt really bad about feeling that way. It’s sad when the magic is over, but especially the magic of travel and I was discouraged. It went another level. It was cool to speak Spanish, but I was discouraged too. I felt like, I had the opportunity to learn this in school in high school and college, and I lost it. How wasteful of me. Now, I want to learn, but damn, I’m far away from being fluent. It seemed like locals who spoke English were better than my Spanish and it seemed like I was just so far away from being able to be fluent and use Spanish back home in a meaningful way.
But I was committed to 4 weeks. Partly because I had paid and was there, but partly because my vision was yoga in Thailand and Spanish in Costa Rica and I owed it to myself to see it through. It was a little over halfway through that something in me changed.
In my time in Costa Rica, I lived with families and took classes for 4 hours a day, and then explored the community the rest of the day and did some touristy excursions. No day was spectacularly amazing like hiking Machu Picchu or paddling next to a whale, or transformative like my month of yoga. But what I did, was practice my Spanish and just live.
I realized that in Spanish, I made new friends and learned about a new place. I discussed religion, politics and science. I discussed love and family. Hopes and dreams. Somewhere in that time, I realized that for me, language is about being able to connect with other people.
3 out of the 4 weeks, I was in class by myself. That means 20 hours of talking in Spanish with my teacher. In 20 hours of talking, you can find out a lot about a person and a place. And when you live with a family everyday, you also can learn a lot about a person and a place. And yourself.
At first, I was hung-up on how different things were with my Familia Tica (Costa Rican family). The climate, the food, the bed… but also just, when was the last time I lived with kids? When was the last time I shared a bathroom? When was the last time I lived with strangers that don’t speak English? It was hard. Again, it sounds very entitled and #firstworldproblems but eh, it’s how I felt. So yeah, it made me realize how easy my life has been and how many things I have taken for granted. It also made me understand what types of environments I’m happiest in.
In my trip, I had been a tourist. In Costa Rica, I wasn’t a local, but I came closer to experiencing what its like as a local. And that was awesome. I was able to see that many things are different but many things are the same. And the things that are different, that I perceive as “worse” but there is a reason for it, outside of the control of the individuals. And sometimes, it’s not worse. Just different. Not to go down a political or historical rabbit hole, but for instance, why don’t many houses have hot water? I love a good hot shower. Don’t you? Same thing with toilet paper. Why can’t you flush toilet paper in most of South and Central America? It seems disgusting to have fecal paper hanging out in the trash can for a couple of days doesn’t it? So I mean, I’m a little sad to say, I had stigma in my mind about these things, and I thought it was a sign of “less than.” Sorry, world. Well electricity is expensive because there are taxes on it, partially because the government wants to protect the environment and partially because it needs to collect money, because a while ago, they decided to pay down debt rather than invest in infrastructure… and thus it’s too much of a burden to redesign the sewage system.
Then you start to think about why the US and Western Europe, the places I feel like I had the most familiarity with before my trip, don’t have these problems. Well, there are most diverse economies or historical stability… which in many cases come from the fact that these countries could exploit other countries or people – like slavery in the United States or the Spanish and the Brits “colonizing” other places. So yeah, the development that I think of as “better” came at a price that I don’t have to pay, but in many ways we’re still paying that price like racism in the United States. Ok the point of this isn’t to be political, but more just to say, I guess it just made me more aware of my privilege and that the dichotomy of better/worse often times comes at the back of a different zero sum exploitation that I want to be more aware of going forward.
But it also made me realize what it’s like to be an outsider and get comfortable in that space. I’ve said before that I rarely was not in the majority, and it was a strange thing to feel when traveling, to be the stranger. But for instance, a very basic example, with my Spanish. So many Costa Ricans were patient with me while I tried to speak Spanish, or repeated so I could understand. I’m not entitled to their patience. It was a gift that I appreciated because I was really trying, but it was hard. It’s hard to not be able to say what I’m thinking or feeling, or to have to dumb it down to what I can say. I guess it just comes back to what I was saying before, that it made me realize that people and things that don’t meet my standards of what is right, aren’t necessarily bad. It’s an opportunity for me to learn about things different than what I know and gives me the opportunity to grow and learn.
There isn’t an ah-ha moment really, and there isn’t a clear next step. But Costa Rica helped me to see on a different level that I had known before, that differences are to be valued and not avoided. It reminded me of how lucky I am, how grateful I feel and how amazing the world is. My experience also reminds me that I want to continue to grow and learn, be it with my Spanish or in other experiences that help me relate and connect to people. It also makes me want to see more of the world that is different than what I know, places that to be honest, kind of scared me because I perceive them to be so different, like Africa and the Middle East.
If I flashback to laying awake in the guest bedroom, because I was too sad to sleep in my childhood bedroom, when I was back with my dad after I tried to go back to work after my mom died and I had a breakdown; I had my vision that I wanted to practice yoga in Thailand and Spanish in South America. I’ve manifested it now. I opened my head and my heart to follow God. Fate aligned the stars for me. However I want to say it, I did it! And I’m so thankful for the people and prayers that helped me get here. It’s not over. I did what I wanted to do, and the things I learned along the way and saw/met/experienced in the journey were way more than the yoga or the Spanish. But the yoga and the Spanish on their own were pretty great too.
I still have a few more months left on my year off. After these first 8 months, I’ve realized that I have a lifetime of things I want to do and see. And I mean, thank God. If I could accomplish everything I wanted to see and do in a year, how sad is that for my future? So for now, it’s really hard to decide what I want to do and what I have to save for a later day. I want to explore the United States a lot more. I want to go to Africa and the Middle East. I want to see more of Europe. I want to visit my friends around the country and the world. I want to take my Spanish lessons and study more yoga. I want to scuba dive in more places and hike more mountains. I want to go back to Asia and Australia and South America. I want to spend more time with my dad and my oldest and dearest friends. I want to start my yoga business.
Thanks again for everyone who has supported me along my path thus far and may we remain connected as we continue our journey down this crazy road of life, but like, right now I don’t have a cellphone so we’ll pick back up again soon 🙂
Also, I can’t access my icloud pics because when I tried to reset my phone, it locked my account which I can’t validate with a text because, well, I don’t have a phone… so these pics are brought to you by Instagram, because all posts need a couple of pics!