Day 6: Wrapping up the project

Breakfast today was a treat, a local delicacy featuring a blend of savory seasoned beans and soft white rice, all with a flavorful mix of local herbs and spices.

At this point you may be wondering how much work is actually happening; based on the fatigue levels our students are reporting, quite a bit. The class actually began several weeks ago, with two hour sessions each week to plan and prepare. After we return home, they will continue to meet to process the information they have gathered and generate a report for the organizations we visited. While we are on site our days have been long, and in some cases, longer.

Today’s primary activity is a lengthy meeting to process information and begin the preliminary assessment of what they have observed. Note that you will not see me in these pictures, since I am only on the trip as a ‘faculty spouse.’ In other words, during this meeting…I was doing laundry. Seriously. I did a great job. All socks were accounted for. Finally, around 4 pm, the meeting broke up and the students were set free, though my sense was that they had set their minds free a couple of hours before that. The remainder of the day was spent eating, relaxing, and packing to leave.

Fun fact: CATIE, our university home for most of the trip, is the site of the world’s largest repository of Cacao plants, insuring that even after the zombie apocalypse there will be chocolate chips to fuel the rebuilding of civilization.

Day 7: Play time

Zip-lining and rappelling are just two of the amazing outdoor activities available in Costa Rica, and this final day was our chance to do both. Below please find 6,000 words about this, in the form of three pictures (the exchange rate in Costa Rica is different, and a picture there is worth 2,000 words).IMG_8740IMG_8897IMG_8832

The last item to note was the second unplanned and unplannable event of the trip: a visit with a sloth. Our guides had found a juvenile sloth that had fallen and broken its arm. This ‘rescue sloth’ named Luis was just chilling out (that’s about all sloths do) at their place, sporting a little bandage on his arm, and being so ridiculously cute that I was afraid some of the students were going to pass out.sloth “No, you cannot take a sloth home,” and similar comments were required. And no, sloths do not mistakenly grab their own arm, thinking it’s a branch, and fall to their deaths; credit writer Douglas Adams for that amusing but untrue idea. And I think this picture is probably worth more like 5,000 words.


Day 8: Heading home

Like day 2 of the trip, Day 8 began really, really early, with our bus arriving at 4:15 AM to take us to the airport. Security in San Jose is straight-forward and the officers are pleasant, and after chilling for a while at the gate, we boarded our big bright blue Southwest Airlines plane bound for Houston. The airport in San Jose has a single runway, so our captain came on to explain that we couldn’t depart until a couple of small planes had landed, but once that was done, we were soaring over the mountains on our way home. Thank you again to SWA, for making the trip possible for our students, and for helping our students gain a global perspective while also helping small businesses in Central America.

bookAlso I was pleased to look across the aisle of the plane and see that one of my students had brought his book for my class. I don’t know how much he read it, but students assure me that just having the book helps you learn the material, so we’ll go with that. Also I failed to mention that we left Laura in Costa Rica, where she was living with a local family and taking Spanish language lessons. She returned a week later.

One final observation. Early in the trip, the potter who helped us make things out of clay told us that her job did not pay very much, but that it brought her great joy. Later, the dairy farmer said that keeping cattle and making cheese was not very lucrative, but she enjoyed it very much (apparently even at 4 am when milking had to happen). As we reflected, we realized we had heard this same idea from four or five different people we met along the way.

Each time I visit Central America I come away reminded that the average American is far more affluent, but the average Costa Rican is happier (there is solid research on this and it’s true every single year). I’ll spare you the sermon on why this might be, but I would challenge you to accept it, and perhaps remind yourself to “consider the lilies,” while recognizing that we have some things to learn from nations who have different priorities than we do. In retrospect I wonder if the people we met felt the need to justify their ‘bad’ jobs in the face of rich Americans. Perhaps we should have felt the need to justify our ‘unhappy’ lives to them….

Thanks for reading. See you at the airport.