By Jackie Trahan
Let’s look back on my expectations and see how they turned out.
I never saw a Sloth. I never bought chocolate from an artisan, but I did buy the most decadent brownie I had ever tasted. I drank my first three cups of coffee with copious amounts of sugar. The warm Costa Rican waters where we were to snorkel were actually really cold. I definitely did see a tarantula on my bedroom floor; and for that matter, a scorpion, too.
The culture shock was instant. I looked away from the movie playing on the headrest in from of me on the plane, and out of my window. The stark blue water contrasting so beautifully with the shore was breathtaking. All of my travelling fears melted away and I was just so awe-stricken that I was in another country. We got off the plane and suddenly English wasn’t the primary language spoken. Suddenly I was the person that looked foreign. Every role I had every played with international students was reversed.
I took pictures of the landscape; I took pictures on the bus; I took pictures of the bus. Everything and everyone was remarkable and different and new and everything I had imagined in my mind. It was the adventure I desired that retreated to normalcy all too soon for my liking.
I love hiking and learning about nature, so this trip was awesome for me. My unexplored interest in Biology was stimulated with every lecture. I hiked a lot growing up, but I rarely went on guided tours. The wealth of knowledge in each of our tour guides was remarkable. They had so much to teach and I previously highly underestimated the importance of having a guided tour. The one on one interaction with insects and plants that we got to have was invaluable. We learned about epiphytes and the strangler tree more than a dozen times, but we would have never known if none of the guides had mentioned them.
The Ticos were so willing to talk with us and work with us as well. Every Tico had a story that they were willing to share and wanted to tell. We had several talks with people out of the blue that Bethany set up on the fly. Every Soda we went tom, the waiters were patient and kind, working with us through the language barrier. The laid-back vibe I got from the areas we visited was remarkable. They were so relaxed, but at the same time they worked diligently and were extremely passionate about the things they did.
I’ve had it explained to me in class that the passion I felt from the people we spoke with was probably just because they were the people we spoke with. That if we had maybe gone to other Ticos, they would not have had the same feelings toward the relationship of nature and society in Costa Rica. And maybe that was what the most important thing that I learned about field reporting.
You have to find the right people to talk to and plan ahead. Work with what you have and adjust opportunistically, but never neglect the benefit of research before you arrive. Knowing the questions to ask are invaluable in getting a well rounded story on any subject. It’s how you get not just a report, but also an account of an experience.
I would go to Costa Rica again a million times over. I would write and rewrite my experiences, but more importantly, I would write the Tico’s.