From LBCC to Costa Rica – Part 5: There Are Places I Remember All My Life
MORE THAN CREDIT — For the last few days with their host families, adventures, and classes the LBCC Costa Rica study abroad team was settled comfortably into their Tico life. On July 6, 2023, the group woke up early for a bird-watching hike with Olman Sisneros into the Curi-Cancha Reserve in Monteverde. Sisneros spent most of his life tracking native wild birds in the area and was quick to spot any within earshot. Among the birds the team observed were toucanets and the famous bellbird with it’s distinct loud call and three waddles hanging beside it’s beak like a mustache.
Other activities were more dance classes. This time Latin dance including, salsa, merengue, and cumbia, a Costa Rican cooking class, and an opportunity to participate in a reforestation project providing habitat for the diverse community organisms. Among those benefiting from the new trees were the bluebells that use the ecological corridor.
Sustainability is not a practice in Costa Rica, it is a way of life
Costa Rica is a country whose mission is to leave the smallest human imprint. Ticos work to create systems that reduce the impact of waste, industry, and pollution on the environment. Throughout their time in Costa Rica the LBCC team was faced with this value system, whether they were planting trees in the forest or recycling organic material in one of the many bins at the school dedicated to low-impact disposal. They learned about Wilford “Wolf” Guindon a chainsaw salesman who in the early 1950s settled in Monteverde with the Quakers. Giving up his chainsaws, Guindon went on to be one of the most well-known conservationists in Costa Rica.
Each night, team members would sit around the dinner table with their host family discussing ecology, the use of pesticides in farming, and fishing, the trade-off of convenience for sustainability, the military complex, war, and peace, as well as the part that governmental opinion and policy play for environmental impact. This along with discussion over a host mom’s new haircut, similar video game taste, bigfoot, and lots of laughter. For many, these conversations were all or mostly in Spanish.
Learning Through Literature and Life
In their Costa Rican literature class led by LBCC faculty Meg Roland the team learned about the history of poverty and inequality in Costa Rica as well as the deep connection Tico people have with the earth. This was evident in the writings of Costa Ricans from various regions of the country as well as through digging deeply into Costa Rican poetry. Within their Spanish classes, students used their Spanish language skills while attempting to explain Amazon deliveries in the US to their Tico teachers and discuss the popularity of single-use plastics.
Another key topic of discussion was peace in Costa Rica and the need for peace in the rest of the world. Costa Rica became a demilitarized country in 1948 allowing the military budget to go towards education, the country’s security, and culture. The concept of peace is now just as deeply rooted in Costa Rican life as recycling. The conversation of peace-making began with their first day’s visit to University for Peace and carried through their the team’s time in the country.
Two weeks in Costa Rica proved to be far more expansive than the team had originally expected. While there they learned what peacebuilding is from The Peace University, discovered the vast ecosystem in the forest and at the ocean, learned to dance, learned to cook, and were fully immersed in their homes, in the town, and at school with Spanish language, they understood the country through the words of literary authors and poets and learned of more ways to leave less of a footprint on the earth.
Leaving With More Than College Credits
The team also became a part of Tico families and grew close to one another. On July 8 The LBCC team packed up their Tico bedrooms and met their Tico host families at a special lunch. During lunch each participant gave a presentation, some read poetry in Spanish, some of which they had written themselves. Some sang songs of thanks, and Ralph Taddy offered the custom-painted LBCC soccer ball he had brought. The team used this ball in their Tico vs. US fútbol game. The same ball Tadday had waited for the paint to dry on in the Portland airport 2 weeks before.
There Are Places I Remember All My Life
On July 8 the last moment with their host families arrived. With tearful hugs and promises to return the LBCC team boarded a van that would take them back to San Jose. The only goodbyes left would be at the airport the next day to their fearless leader and Monteverde Institute coordinator Paola Rojas. And then to each other, knowing that they would each return to their regular lives away from the Cloud Forest and one another. In the trip’s 17 days, the team spent more time together than apart. Opting out of transportation so they could spend time walking with each other. The team walked some 4 miles to school and home every day. In the words of The Beatles, “Though I remember I’ll never lose affection, for people and things that went before, I know I’ll often stop and think about them.” Leaving their new loved ones and their Tico lives behind the LBCC team returned to the United States forever to remember their time in Costa Rica.
Want an Adventure like this?
LBCC faculty hope to offer more study abroad trips like this one in the future. Keep an eye out for informational meetings in the 2023-24 academic year.