Tag Archives: love

Pop-Tarts and Traffic Laws

The water pressure in my shower is glorious.  The hot water is, indeed, hot.  And the internet– it’s so fast!  It’s everywhere!

Why did I ever leave?  The United States are great.  There are traffic laws.  And pop-tarts.  And American coffee.

Being able to go barefoot around the house?  For the first time in four months?  Because I’m no longer living in the Middle East?  Awesome.

Telling people I’m vegetarian?  And having them know what that means?  And not debate me about it?  Awesome.

Public transportation being regular and timely?  And having set routes?  That I can actually look up online?  Awesome.

We might as well be the United States of Awesome.  So I’d like to take this opportunity to express my great appreciation for the US.  In the less serious ways, and the more serious ones– personal liberties, freedom of press, etc.  I’m grateful to the four months away from it to remind me of the big things and make me, for the first time ever, really think about the little ones.

But.

(You knew that conjunction was coming, didn’t you?)

But there’s a lot to be said for Jordan as well.  For the call to prayer, a beautiful, ethereal sound to punctuate the day with moments of reflection.  For the ability to find a taxi anywhere, any time, and make it all the way across town for less than $7.  For the fact that there’s no such thing as nosy, so you and a complete stranger will go from “Hello!” to “So why don’t you have children?” in five seconds flat.  For the family-oriented culture that reminded me to appreciate my own.  Even for the strict social rules, since they helped me to become more conscientious, polite, and professional.  Jordan was beautiful, in so many ways, and I am honored to have experienced its culture.

I love the US– more than when I left, even– but the magic thing about love is that it’s not a finite resource.  Coming home and realizing the amazing things I’ve taken for granted in no way diminishes my love of Jordan.

And, really, that’s why I left in the first place: to find someplace I love, be it a new place or new appreciation for an old one.  Next year is senior year, so I’ve got some downright terrifying decisions coming up, and a big one for me is– do I want to live in the Middle East after graduation?  Stay to work in the US?  Return to North Africa, where I first discovered my love of Arabic?  And now, I think I know– but that’s for me to occasionally agonize over in sleepless nights, and you to find out.

Suffice it to say, being in Jordan has taught me about Arab culture, American culture, and myself.  And trading four months of really, really amazing showers and speedy internet for that understanding was totally worth it.

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Pura Vida, Costa Rica

“The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.” – G. K. Chesterton

Watching from the plane window as the sun began to sink below the rolling surface of the clouds was a surreal phenomenon.  I told myself the last time that I was on a plane – when I was on route to Costa Rica – that I was embarking on the grandest adventure of my life.  There are none compared to the stories I now possess, and I never imagined my experience would lead me in the directions that it did.  Unforeseen trials and adventures were had by all – close friendships were made, but most of all there was a sense of fulfillment amongst my fifteen classmates aboard the returning vessel.   Some cried of happiness, and some of sadness; some cried because the conclusion had registered, and others because the reintroduction to a reminisced life was like greeting an old friend.  I, however, sat and watched the flaps while the wheels steadily projected from the bottom of this flying ship.  Overwhelmed with the memories that I now possessed, I read the unfasten seatbelt sign above our heads, and unbuckled from the greatest ride of my life.

Some expected my group and I to have reverse culture shock upon our return to the United States, but I felt the adjustment to be a comfortable one. I was content to leave one adventure and resume the previous with new perspectives and experiences that would forever change my frame of mind.  In a matter of hours, I regressed to English, familiar faces, and the familiar atmosphere of my university.  At first, it seemed like another weekend adventure – like the ones that were so prevalent over the course of my past semester, but when I remained in this place I began to get restless.  Many new assignments passed through my mind and I was welcomed again into my old, over scheduled life.  The mechanization of life in the States compared to that of San Jose, and the paradises that I had visited, was the most challenging readjustment.  Also, I missed the natural food that had graced my plate frequently in my host country.  My body quickly felt the effects of the unnatural foods that are unavoidable in the States, and I have grown very health-conscious as a result.

By the time I became reacquainted with my schedule, and my upcoming tasks, I grew to greatly appreciate the communication that was always accessible to me.  In both the United States and Costa Rica, I had the communication necessary to remain content in each respective location.  Before departing for a new country for the first time, I was very scattered across my many passions.  I am involved in a number of organizations, and loved seeing multiple groups of friends throughout my day.  Costa Rica encouraged me to see another side of myself that is stronger than I previously believed.  I was abroad with about thirteen students from my university, and the majority of them were introverted.  This was one of the greatest blessings that this experience had to offer, because in addition to the friends that I made in Costa Rica – I decelerated to find a cohesive unit of students that truly supported each other throughout our four-month excursion.   They taught me how to love and listen to others and I am truly thankful for the characteristics and kindness that each of them added to the group’s dynamic.

In Costa Rica, a common expression is, “Pura Vida,” which is translated to mean pure life.  Altogether, I believe that is what I discovered while outside of the United States.  I went abroad in search of a new culture. I sought complete immersion into language and lifestyle that were unlike my own.  Costa Rica had plenty of differences, and surely enough to fulfill these desires.  However, there was something even greater that I discovered.  I found culture to look like a circle, in several facets of its existence there are cycles, rituals, and behaviors that make it rich. A circle is my chosen symbol because it is the essence of the whole.  While searching for contrast, I discovered comparison.  Culture, regardless of location can be whittled down to the same items that make us all inherently human.  We have the need for stability, for love, and for community, etc., and it is fascinating to see the ways in which a different country can accomplish the same feat.  When one becomes an ethnographer and sees an outwardly dissimilar world from within – it becomes visible that the individual is attempting to examine a similarity’s difference.  Pure life, or pura vida, is what lies at the heart of society’s inner-workings, and this is how we identify with one another.  Whether I am in Costa Rica, or in the United States, the hearts of people around me are not to be contrasted, but rather compared.

Immediately upon returning, my family and friends wanted to know what I had learned from the experience and the tales of my several adventures.  This is hard because I am continuing to grow as a result of this experience, and this process is just beginning.  With each new adventure comes an expansion of mind that will only continue to place into practice its newfound ideas.  I am grateful for the family I have made, and the memories I have shared with so many in such a short period of time.  So now I begin another adventure-

 

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Día de San Valentín

To: El Mundo

From: A Costa Rican

Valentine’s Day in Costa Rica, is not just a day for lovers, but rather a day that celebrates love in the most nonspecific form.  It is for friends and romantics alike to celebrate the greatest of human emotions.  I have had a philosophy on love for quite some time now, and it is one that is not easily put into words.  Upon being asked what love is, initially, I would answer that I do not know, but I believe people strive to find it either directly or indirectly every day of their lives.  We strive for meaningful relationships because they bring us the greatest feeling on Earth, and it is with that feeling that we understand the inter-connected nature of humanity; whether it is a grandmother who has baked a batch of cookies for her two young grandchildren, a sick mother who lives for the next conversation with her boys, or the unity that a couple can feel while interlacing fingertips.  This is love – regardless of circumstance.

The smallest gestures can leave the greatest impact.  Arts and crafts in Spanish class helped me revert back to my Kindergarten self as each student made a Valentine’s Day card for someone else in the class.  After a day of “work”, I explored the city a bit, bought a flower for my Costa Rican mother, Noemy, and returned home.  Shortly thereafter, the two other students, Noemy, and I gathered in the kitchen for dinner.  We had lasagna for dinner, which reminded me a lot of my home in the USA – my grandmother in North Carolina is a wonderful Italian cook. Just as we were about to finish, the doorbell rang twice.  It was Noemy’s son and her ex-husband.  Both entered, and we all sat together at the table in her kitchen.  The older man had brought a cake for her, sat next to me, and began to speak in English – only I could understand.  He said, “There is only one woman for me in this entire world, and she is here in this kitchen.  I can die happy because I know that I have found her.”  I was taken aback to say the least.  An elderly man of dwindling health sat next to me and shared his wisdom of love.  His relationship had transformed from marriage into a friendship that had grown stronger now that the two are apart.  I can only hope that one day I will understand the depth of his statement.

Stories have the power to recount history, but they also evoke emotion and reveal character. The old man was not the only appalling part of tonight, for a great love story had yet to be delivered.  A story that this family holds closely to their hearts is that of how Noemy’s son found his wife. He began the tale by describing his relationship with the woman that he would later wed.  The two were exclusive for three years at their university before going their separate ways.  They did not talk for nine years, and were both in relationships with other individuals.  One night, his former girlfriend had a dream of his father suffering from a terrible accident.  It sounds unusual to contact someone after nearly a decade based off of something one saw in a dream, but she called him the next day.  The two began to talk, and rediscovered a spark that had not been present for 9 years.  Within the next two months, the couple had moved in together, and in ten they were married.  From an objective perspective, this seems completely ridiculous.  However, my grandmother did something similar – she rejected a scholarship to a university in order to get married at age eighteen.  Love is not logical.  It is not able to be understood, yet when one finds it he/she knows exactly what it is.  Perhaps that is the greatest mystery of all.

~ I hope you all had a wonderful Día de San Valentín!

Sincerely,

Dan

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