This past week has been absolutely surreal. A week of opposites really! One day we are stressed out of our minds studying for finals and preparing final presentations, then the next moment we are free as birds, eating churros in the park afterwards. At times we are so excited to come home, even counting down the days! Then at other times, we’re so sad to have to say goodbye to our professors and friends that we have made here in Costa Rica…Let’s just say, Monday (the day we leave) is going to be a WHIRLWIND of conflicting emotions! But so far, we have tried to make the most of our last few days by checking some things off of our San Ramón bucket list.
First off, we got to celebrate Tika’s 20th birthday by partaking in one of her favorite activities: eating sushi!! Earlier in the day, our professors had pitched in to surprise her with a cake in Ecology class and later, I may or may not have forced her to close her eyes while I spun her around and walked her to the sushi restaurant in an attempt to surprise her…she was a good sport AND surprised, so what do ya know! Tika really enjoyed her birthday celebration, Costa Rican style. Her host family (and remember, her family is very big!) invited us all over for a birthday celebration last weekend and it was so fun! We all ate way too much food and even got some more cake, special from her host mom!
What a place to ring in our twenties, really.
Our next adventure was to a coffee plantation in Naranjo, which Tika (and everyone else in the group) was really stoked about because she loves coffee! I, on the other hand, slightly abhor the taste of it, so I got to be designated picture-taker of the coffee tour! Despite not participating in the taste test (which Kendall the barista swears was the best coffee she’s ever had!), it was really interesting to see how coffee is made and where it comes from. Our guide told us that their coffee is sold in Starbucks, so it was crazy to see where it all begins! We got to taste the raw coffee beans before they are dried and toasted to become packaged coffee that we drink. We also got to try our hand at picking those seeds off the plant, which was, as you can imagine, is a very difficult and tiring task. One huge basket of coffee beans is worth only $2…The work is pretty exhausting and unfortunately, the harvest usually happens during Costa Rican summertime (December-May area) when the heat is intense and dry. The experience was eye-opening in many ways and I think we’ll all definitely remember our attempt at picking coffee beans next time we go to Starbucks on campus!
(Maddy picking coffee like a natural)
(the coffee taste test and the traditional chorreador)
On our next stop, we headed over to Sarchí, the carreta capital of Costa Rica. Here, the wheels and bodies of the traditional carts pulled by oxen are hand painted by different artists. We got the chance to see this work in person, and man, it was stunning! We were all blown away by the extreme detail put into each piece. We visited a workshop that has preserved and still uses machinery from the 19th century to manufacture oxcarts. They showed us the process that each piece goes through and even turned on their old waterwheel that used to power the whole factory. After the visit at the workshop, we went to the town center, which is home to the world’s largest carreta! Unfortunately, we couldn’t ride it…but it was still amazing to look at, especially after learning about the process of making a regular cart! All in all, it was a fun and beautiful way to mark our last field trip.
(world’s largest carreta-had to take a panorama because it wouldn’t fit!)
After our last field trip, time seemed to go by pretty fast. Next came our big research project presentations, then final exams, then Tika’s mom stopped in for a visit, then we had our farewell dinner and now it’s our last day here. Where does the time go?!
(our program’s Thanksgiving dinner! everybody brought a different dish and a secret Santa gift. good times and good memories!)
(last trip to our favorite place, Aroma’s, after our last final exam)
Tika spent this last weekend with her mom and her boyfriend in Sarapiquí where they got to go on a river rafting trip. I stayed here in San Ramón and spent my time hiking with the girls, hanging out with my host family and saying goodbye to some of my favorite places.
One of the highlights of the weekend was probably getting to go on the roof of our school with our friend, Oscar. We have come to know him really well over the past 3 months, as he works at the Centro and opens the door for us everyday, 4 times a day.He is one of the sweetest and most secretly hilarious people you will ever meet, and he was kind enough to humor us in our request to get up on the roof. The view from the top was amazing and it was such a fun, crazy way to say goodbye to our school.
(Oscar took us to dinner as a farewell treat!)
Last night, Fabi and Jose took me to a special sibling dinner to a pizza place with an amazing view (the pizza was pretty great too!). While we were driving around the countryside, I started thinking about how this would be one of the last times where I would get to hang out with them, chilling in the car, listening to them talk and singing along to Spanish songs I don’t know the words to. And it made me so sad! I know we’ll be able to come back someday, and seeing our parents here has definitely made the distance between Costa Rica and the PNW shrink, but it won’t be the same as going to school here, being with our families every day, and living here. That change scares me. But then I also have to think about how scared I was to change my whole life and get on an airplane to Costa Rica three and a half months ago, and look how that turned out!! I don’t know if there’s a point to this rambling, but I guess the number one thing I’ve learned since embarking on this adventure is that change is good. Yes, mom, the lesson you’ve been trying to teach me my whole life has finally sunk in! I didn’t believe you when it meant moving houses in 2nd grade, or trying new activities in awkward middle school, or leaving all my high school friends for college…but I think Tika and I have both learned so much about ourselves and the world around us from this experience. This has been a very good change. We’ve learned to be flexible, to ask for help, to be independent, to be creative, to make the most out of every day and, most importantly in my opinion, we’ve learned to be good listeners.
Today, our last day, will be spent saying goodbye to everyone we’ve come to know and love here, as well as visiting our favorite places. Right now, I’m writing this from one of the cafes we come to basically everyday…sometimes twice a day if we’re being honest. And as I was saying goodbye to the barista who I didn’t even know the name of before today, she gave me a whole box of pineapple empanadas because she remembered that they’re my favorite! We have met so many amazing people here who have been extremely kind to us throughout this journey. Our hearts are so full!! We really would like to thank everyone, near and far, who has supported us thus far in our adventure. As you can probably tell, we’ve had THE BEST time, and have made many lifelong friends and memories. Though the world is in a confusing and violent state right now, it’s comforting to experience these small acts of kindness across the globe. This trip has only inspired us to travel more and meet more amazing people around the world. Because at the end of the day, it’s not necessarily the time we went zip lining or hung out at the beach all day or drank hot chocolate four times a day that we’ll remember; it’s the people we shared the experience with that we’ll never forget.
Thank you for reading and for all your support!! We are so grateful to you all and hope to see you at some point after we arrive in Oregon tomorrow!
Besos y abrazos,
Mack & Tika