Thursday, October 28, 2010

Costa Rica...¿Por dónde empezar

I left North America for the first time last October when Corey and I spent 9 days in Italy.  It was a watershed experience for me.  Much to my chagrin and the dissappointment of my sister in law, Maren,who kindly inquired diligently about my report, I still haven't written about that trip.   I have started to blog about it a dozen times, always unsuccessful, feeling as if I am desperately attempting to dislodge something stuck in my mind and way too large to fit into the funnel of my writing.   Traveling to a new country and culture was a spiritual jolt.  In general, I have found spiritual experiences difficult to verbalize and relate to others.    I can't properly express what the smells, the people, the architecture, and the landscape did to me.  It is one year later and we recently took the family down to Costa Rica.   This journey was no less life-altering and I desperately want  to interpret this experience; but again, I struggle.  Why?  

This little boy is why.  

I remember seeing him with his white school shirt tucked into his high water pants, hair neatly combed, ambling down the Central American Highway, which is basically a mass of rocks with a little dirt thrown in here and there.  He was, I assumed, on his way to the town school, nestled in proximity to the town church, and I doubt that he even regarded my presence in our generic tourist vehicle.   In the space of a few seconds,  our lives interconnected for the first and last time,  and I instantly felt love for him.

 Most of my photos of what inspired me most about Costa Rica were snapped with a shutter speed of rocky "roads", an ISO of timid embarrassment at at worrying that they might think I was trying to steal something sacred,  and an aperature of not wanting to have a camera in front of my face, limiting my field of vision.  Plus, my lens had some crappy gunk on it.   All of these factors resulted in out of focus photos akin to the one very dissapointing from what I really saw.  Similarly, the ideas that I try to write seem underwhelming,  grainy, noisy, and out of focus.

There is something about the way that people live outside of the U.S. that fascinates me.  I loved the adventures, but I was enthralled by watching the people.  It is in these brief, but abounding periods of time where I can completely lose the backbone of my culture that often inveterates my soul and leads me to stiffen my paradigm, allowing me to become elastic and bendable; to witness with pure veneration, another way of life.  In the wake of these moments of self-unwareness, all of my anxieties, worries, over-complicated and frenzied thoughts have about my own narrow-minded life are muted with a deafening, "Who CARES?  

I love the simplicity of living here.  The unadulterated act of a man walking with a clump of carrots in one hand and a chicken in the other, the  brightly skirted woman positioned at an odd hillside angle  thrusting a machete as unflappingly as if she was taking a cake out of the oven.  Kids in blue and white uniforms, sitting in small circles outside their blue doorless schoolhouses, thin books spread over their bent laps.  Helmetless motorcycle drivers  recklessly weaving between us and delivery trucks, a seeming declaration that it would be just fine and dandy if they died today.   A dilapidated box that at first glance appears to have been abandoned years ago, only at closer view, is the venue of a party, a  beaming birthday girl batting a pinata while her family cheers, filling the small space which is their home.   Scattered people kneeling reverently inside flamingo pink churches, backdropped by a massive volcano.

And the sight of well-worn clothing hanging outside to dry more than once brings me to tears.  Not because I wish these people could have the luxuries of dryers, the convenience of box stores, or the instant entertainment that Netflix provides.  On the contrary,  it is an emotional lurch of envy for those needing little more than a place to sit and a friend or two to talk with.   Pura Vida  (Pure Life)  is Costa Rica's mantra.  It is marketed on the soaps, the t-shirts, the hats, and is often interjected somewhere in conversation.  Not a bad thing to strive for or wish one another.  With all the gratitude I can muster for everything that I have in my life, I still cannot deny that I more than once considered melting ourselves into this place forever.

But alas, we returned late Sunday night.  Unpacking the next morning, I stuffed one of the shirts I wore our last day in Costa Rica practically up my nose.  It still smelled of earth, salt, and equator (yes, the equator has a smell.) 

I can always count on Terry Tempest Williams to more accurately summarize my thoughts:  
"Is this the curse of modernity, to live in a world without judgment, without perspective, no context for understanding or distinguishing what is real and what is imagined, what is manipulated and what is by chance beautiful, what is shadow and what is flesh?.....What is real to me is the power of our awareness when we are focused on something beyond ourselves. It is a shaft of light shining in a dark corner. Our ability to shift our perceptions and seek creative alternatives to the conondrums of modernity is in direct proportion to our empathy. Can we imagine, witness, and ultimately feel the suffering of another?" 
— Terry Tempest Williams (Finding Beauty in a Broken World)

Now that I got all of my emoting out of the way, the rest of my Costa Rica blog posts will be


Sijbrich said...

Amen, sister, amen. I could leave a novel of a paragraph, but I'll leave it at that, with the anticipation that we'll have lots to talk about at Thanksgiving.

And thanks for thinking of me and posting about your trip. Still waiting for the Italy one (it's never too late) - but Costa Rica leaves me plenty happy for now.:-)

Anonymous said...

Great description of Costa Rica. Now next October it MUST be Africa!!
Interesting what world travel does for your outlook on life and what we have in the U.S.

Kaerlig said...

I once crossed through a futbol field in Bolivia and walked up to a boy who was carrying an actual sloth in his arms like a baby. I was looking for a family in the area who had sheep. Of course, the boy knew exactly who I was talking about and pointed to a pink house on the corner. When I clapped at the door, a man came out wearing a shirt with a print of Strawberry Shortcake on it.

I thought...only in Bolivia. I was so happy.

Lucy said...

This is why I don't label travel as a luxury. Sure, it's expensive and non-essential, but the exposure to different circumstances and the additional understanding to the human condition is not what I consider a souvenir. I think, if you can, it's more of a responsibility to see the world and become a better person for it. I'm so glad you were able to take your children. I'm hoping to do something like that in the future.

lazyeye72 said...

PURA VIDA! Where we goin' next?