By Meg Pulling, Jackie Trahan, Natalie Cheng, Jenna Lewis and Marie French
MONTEVERDE, Costa Rica — As we embark on our tour of Costa Rica, our first full day has further reminded us of the miles separating us from Shakespeare’s Pizza and SEC football. Howler monkeys, wind turbines, sugar cane juice and a night hike through the Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve comprised our first full day on Central American soil. The exhaustive day exposed us to new foods, species and knowledge about the rich Costa Rican land and culture.
As we attempt to abandon our American ways, we have come to realize the importance of adapting to Costa Rican customs and traditions.
The following pieces reflect life’s little discoveries as well as the trials and tribulations of learning la vida de Costa Rica:
“I don’t like vegetables. More surprising, I don’t like many fruits. I stick to bananas, apples, strawberries and grapes in their respective whole fruit forms. I have embraced the Tico culture and experimented with papayas, pineapple and watermelon. In doing this, I found that I am positive I still don’t like many fruits. However, at dinner I had the most delicious lemon beverage ever invented. I was told it tasted like pear but I’ve never had one so I couldn’t speak for it. The fruit was “Cas” and is not available in the United States I may never get to have it again, but I’m so glad I got the chance to experience it here.” — Jackie Trahan
“From Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote, as translated by Walter Starkie:
Just then they came in sight of thirty or forty windmills that rise from that plain, and no sooner did Don Quixote see them than he said to his squire: “Fortune is guiding our affairs better than we ourselves could have wished. Do you see over yonder, friend Sancho, thirty or forty hulking giants?
I encountered the Quixotic beast and discovered it was no where near as imposing as its invisible fuel. This was the theme of my day. I went into both visiting the wind farm and the night hike expecting to simply see the sights and take a few pictures, but instead, both trips left me with more profound experiences. Instead of seeing a few insects and frogs on the night hike, I observed the gravity of nature’s interwoven ecosystems. Instead of seeing wind mills, I literally felt the force that makes trees grow crooked and powers a portion of a country.” — Natalie Cheng
“The road from Liberia to Monteverde was uneven and strenuous. The large divots and bumps settled firmly in the gravel roads allowed me to catch some airtime sitting in the very back of Salvador’s bus. Today’s journey was rough but the discovery was harmonious. This evening’s night hike led by Mark Wainwright helped me realize that every plant, animal and creature in the cloud forest is connected together in purposeful way. Wainwright pointed out a small green flower with a white lining that emitted a skunk like odor. All of these aspects make this flower attractive to some nighttime creatures. When the sun goes down, this flower spreads its scent to attract willing hosts for its pollen. Every aspect of each species is synced together. The road to Monteverde was a bit bumpy, but ended with a new and insightful discovery.” — Jenna Lewis
“Darkness reveals hidden mysteries in the cloud forest. Not just the dark of evening, but the complete dark when we turned off our flashlights. Our guide, Mark Wainwright, discovered – and shared – a leaf covered in a glowing fungus. The fungus is plant-specific, meaning it only grows on that particular species of plant. He told us that researchers aren’t quite sure what the fungus evolved to do, but one theory is that it attracts insects to eat the fungus and then spread it. So it isn’t just about discovery – it’s also about sharing.” — Marie French
The next few days present a multitude of physical, mental and cultural challenges. But we are excited about the opportunities ahead of us. As French author André Gide said, “Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.”