Being Graciously Welcomed in Costa Rica

Posted: February 28, 2012

Name: Lindsay Buckwell
School: Marietta College
Program: Sustainable Development Studies

The past few weeks have been no different from the rest in terms of being extremely busy and educational. Along with our regular three classes, and a few Spanish language classes in between, we went on multiple, powerful field trips. I would say I can speak for the entire group by saying that our perspectives on many things were changed within the past few weeks alone.

Two weekends ago, we went to a part of Costa Rica called “El Sur”. Located on the boundaries of Carrara National Park, El Sur has endured the growing pains of an area transitioned from privately owned property to agricultural property to government owned property, and now property being transformed into secondary rainforests.

This community of now approximately 60 people has seen at least three major influxes in their population within the past three generations. As the government changes their opinions on what the optimal usage of the land will be, people have found opportunities in El Sur, settled, and when government ideas change, so does the population. Yet the current 60 residents have stuck by their land and are now implementing their own ideals of what is right.

El Sur, is an ecotourist town. They are provided with subsidies from multiple NGOs worldwide in order to start up sustainable tourism opportunities. They have a small hotel, where volunteers of students stay and can roam the rainforest on their “trail” (an incredibly adventurous bushwhacking hike), work with students, visit their old school sugar factory, or explore the process of bee keeping.

The townspeople welcome new members of the community with open arms, and strive to do things that not all resorts do; provide tourists with a way of experiencing Costa Rica in a way that doesn’t deplete the environment, teach people Spanish while learning English, and serving typical Costa Rican dishes and housing in typical Costa Rican living spaces. The lifestyle of the people in “El Sur” was inspirational to us all.

This weekend we all spent two days at Costa Rican homes. Between shopping, attending soccer games, and helping plan for baby showers (and also the birth of a baby), we all did very different things. Family dynamics varied greatly, some with children and some without, some with husbands and also some without. Regardless of the family dynamic, though, I would say we can all agree that we were all welcomed with open arms and all also experienced our fair share of awkward moments. Plenty of things were lost in translation, but the kindness of these Costa Rican families to take us into their homes for cultural enhancement was easy to translate.

We are all incredibly lucky that 34 families are around us wanted to share their lives, traditions, and homes with us this weekend. Although, upon walking in the doors of The SFS Center for Sustainable Development Studies last night, most people were thrilled to speak English once again and they all sadly stated that they already missed their host family. I can only hope that our presence in their homes had half the positive impact on them that their presence in our lives had on us.

In the midst of these trips, we have been learning about different national park systems, the effects of globalization on developing countries, genetically modified organisms, and also starting our reviews for this week’s midterm exams. Our time at the Center continues to be a whirlwind of education, surreal views, and lots and lots of laughter. It’s hard to imagine we are already at midterms.

Send us all positive thoughts for a successful exam week!