Tuesday, March 15, 2011

an attempt at a final summary

So, I came back to Asheville with a bang, and now I have an overwhelming amount of work to catch up on. However, finishing this blog is my first priority right now while everything is still fresh in my mind.
Where did I leave off? We went to the National Theater in San José to see a flamenco performance entitled Llorona: duelo, duende y compás. It beautifully depicted the story of la Llorona (woman loses her child in the river and is cursed for it - incredibly poor synopsis on my part, so I suggest looking it up) through dance and music. The theater itself was incredibly ornate and definitely a fun environment to she a show in, especially one so aesthetically pleasing, emotional and artistic.
My tica Mom's birthday was March 12, so we celebrated (we meaning Lindsey and I, both our families and nearby relatives and friends) by sitting out on the lovely porch at twilight and eating two different kinds of cake, singing (they sang in Spanish, then we sang in English) and taking tequila shots. First put the salt on your lime, then taste a little, take a shot (I just fixed a really unfortunate typo there), then suck the lemon. Probably the most unappealing combination of sensations I could imagine, but I did it, twice. They like their tequila. It was a wonderfully fun experience, and I loved seeing my tica Mom laugh and have such a good time. They definitely like to celebrate in CR and spend time together. I love it.
I think my favorite activity we did during the entire trip was visiting El Toledo, an organic coffee farm. I'm doing my final project on coffee for my course, so I tried to ask my guide, Gabriel (who, with his wife and parents, works on the farm), as many questions as I could think of during our tour. He and his family were so gracious and refreshingly passionate about their work and about living and farming sustainably. I found them so inspiring. Also, I loved being able to see the shade-grown coffee plants and learn about the incredible diversity of the surrounding plants and trees (more conventional farms have much, much less diversity - Gabriel pointed out a nearby farm that only had eucalyptus present, which was spreading a toxin) and then sample the coffee itself. So good - I bought five bags and regret not buying more. They also prepared a delicious meal for us, easily my favorite meal of the entire trip. While at the farm, we also divided into groups to work out a sort of business plan for Gabriel and his family as a way to help them expand, continue to move forward, think of new ideas. I hope they're able to bring in some interns to help out and spread the word, and I hope that any expansion they undergo doesn't dilute their uniquely potent passion.
Our last day, we went to playa Jaco, a somewhat touristy but still lovely beach in CR. (Watching the cold rain fall outside my window, I imagine myself there now, eating deliciously fresh fish tacos or sprawled out on the sand, watching the gentle, warm waves roll in, feeling the sun on my skin...then really feeling the sun on my skin since I forgot to reapply sunscreen. Definitely have blisters to show for that thoughtlessness.) Some people were able to ride horses on the beach; others perused the shops lining the main street. Oh, the sunshine! The ten dollar cocktails! Here's a funny story: I was walking along the beach, sweaty and sunburned, and I felt some sand in my eye. I slipped off my sunglasses just as a tico was passing and grimaced, winking one of my eyes in an attempt to clear out the grime. Tico totally thought I was winking at him and blew me a kiss. Ha! What a wink that must have been. Holy crap. I'm surprised he didn't bust out laughing or walk in the other direction. Hmm, us American girls must be too enticing.
Before the beach (woo not chronological, but again too tired to care as I normally would), some of us participated in a canopy zipline tour. Very cool. I must say I was nervous at first because "You might get stuck and have to monkey climb forward" kept replaying over and over in my head like a death sentence. Alas, I made it through and had a wonderful time. I didn't see much wildlife, maybe because I was so focused on not spinning out of control, but the views were beautiful, and again, I love the feeling of wind in my hair (sheesh).
Our final celebration was so emotionally moving I felt like hurling myself off of a cliff. In a good way. I was also delirious from too much sun, really nauseous and dehydrated, so that probably made me even more of an emotional wreck. Anyway, we watched a slideshow and were each presented with a shirt and certificate and then shared how we felt about the group and the trip. Everyone seemed very inspired, emotional, connected, changed. I feel like I was able to see genuine facets of people on this trip, not just classroom modes and chit chat, but real emotion. Traveling brings the guards down, opens hearts. It's an enlightening and unifying experience.
The morning of departure, my Mom Maria, who usually, though nice, maintained her composure and seemed a little distant, broke down. I had sensed her looking at me sometimes in that way mothers look at their children (do you know the look I'm talking about? I hope you do and that I don't sound really weird right now) but wondered if she really liked me or not, thought maybe it was just in my head. Well, she started crying and said (in Spanish) that if I ever returned to CR, her house was my house. She considered me to be like a part of the family. I definitely lost it then, and to make matters worse, all her family members came out and kissed me on the cheek/hugged me to wish me farewell, many with tears in their eyes. I still cry just thinking about it. What beautiful people! What mixed indescribable emotions! I still smell that house in my clothes, and it makes me homesick. How strange to miss a foreign place. How strange not to know how to feel. When I asked where her oldest daughter was, Maria told me she left because she had been crying about the fact we were leaving, that she was very sentimental and hated to say goodbye. My heart breaks because I had such a short amount of time with them. I wish I had tried harder, communicated more.
On that note, although I pushed myself by going on this trip, I still feel a sort of thick and crippling barrier when it comes to speaking Spanish comfortably. It has been chipped away, definitely, but it's still there. I have to knock it down. I have to push myself, to let go of the insecurity. Nothing is more discouraging and more motivating then feeling totally isolated during a conversation you can't understand. I want to understand. I want to connect, through language. I want to learn enough Spanish to where I can mold it and polish it and arrange it and use it to create art, to reach people, to attempt to express the inexpressible. That seems so impossible right now, but I'll get there. Hopefully.
I'm sure I missed a million things, and look, no photos! So there might be another update, but probably not. Thank you for reading this if you did, and sorry again for potential grammatical/spelling errors (a product of foreign keyboards/sleep deprivation/lack of time) as well as the fact that most of my apostrophes were probably accent marks. Until next time! PURA VIDA.
P.S. On the plane, Sara spoke to the flight attendant in Spanish until she realized she was actually an English-speaker. The woman said, "Yeah, honey, we've got one on here that speaks Spanish, but the rest of us are 'normal.'" Normal. That stuck in my head the rest of the plane ride. Think about it.

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