These are words of wisdom from my 9 year old nephew who came (along with my sister, her daughter, my aunt and my cousin) to spend 12 days with me in Costa Rica.
Aside from being the most fun I have had in a long, long time it was a great opportunity for reflection, and I feel like Ty really summed it up. Traveling changes you – and what bigger trip is there than two years in the Peace Corps? So I am using their visit as an excuse to try to restart this whole blogging experiment.
The trip started with 4 days in my community. To my delight, it kicked off (pun intended) with the kids joining a game of pick up soccer with locals before we had even unpacked the car. There is something almost magical about a group of children who don’t share a common language or cultural background enjoying a mutual pastime – they make it look simple enough for grownups.
Those became the two themes of the time spent in my site: futbol and seeing my service through new eyes. No one asked me why we hadn’t started asphalting the road if we have the money secured or how come I couldn’t get a grant to rebuild the community center and why hadn’t I started a small, eco-friendly, female owned, organic, carbon neutral business – aren’t I a development volunteer after all?
In fact, none of the questions that keep me up at night seemed to bother my family at all. Instead they made themselves part of the community: my sister, a talented artist, designed a mural which students joined us in painting on our remodeled health center. My beautiful niece and cousin made all the boys too nervous to talk when guest teaching an English class. Sarah and Haley even sat through an almost two hour meeting of my senior citizen’s group (complete with ranchero music and poetry) despite not understanding 90% of what was being said. They ate rice and beans, played with my poorly trained dogs, ooh-ed and ahh-ed over local wildlife and helped me take the bugs outside instead of smushing them.
It was a good reminder of how much I take for granted, the multitude of ways in which my perception of normal has changed over the last 15 months.
And then I got to enjoy Costa Rica as a tourist. Let me tell you, this is a great place to vacation! We headed to the beach during turtle season where my dad treated us to a week in a picturesque beach house set on a hill above the ocean.
For those who don’t know, I spent the first 16 years of my life dreaming of being a marine biologist so getting the chance to see (and swim with!) sea turtles was… well, there aren’t words for it. Costa Rica is one of the few places in the world where the Olive Ridley Sea Turtles still nest in mass and as a community organizer it was good for my soul to see how the entire town comes together to protect these ‘parrots of the sea’.
Even better was the time spent with family I haven’t seen in far too long: playing cards, swimming, collecting seashells. My travels may be changing me but some things will always be the same.