QCOSTA RICA TRAVEL – As a result of an immersion program, my Spanish teacher’s adventurous spirit and emergency aid from the Bank of Stockton, I had the opportunity to spend my spring break in Costa Rica with 17 other students.
After diving into the culture, I discovered what makes Costa Rica such a distinct Latin American destination: The locals recognize the value of life.
With a population of nearly 40,000, Turrialba serves as a rural beauty for Costa Rica. Not only were we able to fulfill our basic needs, such as my new addiction to patacones, or fried plantains, but it was in Turrialba that we spent most of our time with activities such as biking in a massive botanical research center, rappeling and zip lining in the forests next to our language school, speaking to locals, horse riding alongside the sugar cane and coffee fields, and touring an archaeological site.
One of the most evident differences from America is the casual atmosphere formed by the ticos, or locals. Essentially, the people are very diverse, so many come from different backgrounds and origins. Despite their differences, the people of Costa Rica live by a unique phrase: ¡Pura vida!
The Costa Rican motto translates to “pure life,” but the colloquialism is used to reinforce their relaxed way of life. The ticos had a knack for telling me tranquila, meaning “relax.”
Their approach to daily life made the busy trip all the more enjoyable. We felt safe and that the ticos are reliable. They carry out their actions without stress or anxiety, recognizing a mental balance.
Our time was no average adventure through the valley of Turrialba. Our group traveled to the country during Semana Santa, or Holy Week. The ostensibly Catholic country is filled with religious articles and sentiment. Homes and businesses are filled with biblical items or portraits. Throughout the week, I observed the color of the cloth wrapped around every cross. The cloths correlate with specific factors of the week with white representing purity for Good Friday, red for blood on Palm Sunday, and purple displaying royalty on the rest of the days.
A few of us grouped together to attend an evening Mass on a Saturday. Those of us who were Catholic were able to compare small details of practice in Costa Rica to that of churches in or near Calaveras County. For example, one student found the local church in Turrialba read more passages, shared excerpts in a different order, and had more people reading.
As a religiously affiliated individual myself, the event that struck me most was the Procession. My host mother invited the two peers I was living with and me to come with her to the event in the central part of town. On this rainy night, we joined with the ticos in witnessing the church reenact different events leading up to the crucifixion.
When I found it difficult to follow or listen to the event in Spanish, my mind drifted to one thought: How incredible it is to be able to walk freely without fear.
Whether people are personally committed or not, the Procession revealed that people do not have to worry about violence, criticism, or opposition in this portion of the world.
I left Costa Rica infected with what a former teacher of mine calls the travel bug. In my case, it can be deemed a type of mutagen in that it is altering my mental state. The Sunday morning I woke up back in Calaveras County, I instantly started planning more trips. However, these future trips are not your average vacations. As much as I savor our small, close-knit community, I have always enjoyed traveling, and I fell in love with Costa Rica’s positive energy.
My short time in Costa Rica has left me longing for more of one thing we all have so little of: time. Even as a youth, there is only so much one can do before embarking on the path we call life.
Rose Wine is a high school student and intern for the Calaveras Enterprise. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.