By Bill Allen
MONTEVERDE, Costa Rica — I’m sitting on the front porch of the Monteverde Institute, looking out over a pleasant mix of tropical colors—deep greens of the forest in the distance, the reds and yellows of flowers on the bushes near me, and the iridescent blues and purples of the hummingbirds flitting among the flowers. Countless other birds, hiding in the foliage, chatter a complicated symphony.
This elegant scene of nature’s art should relax me, but it doesn’t. That’s because the students have fanned out across the Monteverde landscape today, without me.
I’ve been with them for little more than three days, overseeing their first journalistic encounters with Costa Rica, its culture and its natural resources. Like anyone learning to ride a bicycle, they didn’t notice the guide. They concentrated only on balancing, and what was ahead. Now they’re out there on their own, and the guide is a bit nervous.
One of the students is investigating an education and rescue center for sloths. Two others are following a hydroponic farmer. The final two are with another farmer, who also works in the local tourism industry.
My thoughts are split.
On the one hand, I’m worried. (What if one of them scrapes a knee?) But I remind myself: they’re not kids. They’re intelligent adults nearing the top of their game as they prepare for the world of journalism.
On the other hand, I’m excited for them—giddy beyond reason. They’re experiencing the excitement of a journey into new cultures that are strange to them, including Latin America, developing-world agriculture and tropical biology and conservation.
Suddenly, a revelation: that was me, more than three decades ago.
Now my bicycle is locked up on the rack of academia, and I’m helping others to become good riders. (Well, these five are already good. So I want them to be great.)
I can’t wait to hear them talk about their experiences. I can’t wait to see the stories they produce.
I know they’ll be pedaling back soon, safely. No doubt with aplomb—and at a high rate of speed.