It still rings in my ears weeks after leaving Costa Rica’s tropical paradise. Though to many tourists it is simply a phrase splayed across a t-shirt or uttered by the zip-line crew, it means much more to those who travel to this Caribbean escape for more than just a relaxing day at the beach.
It is about much more than America’s superficial “Y.O.L.O” craze, but rather it is an ode to honor those before us, cherish those with us and to preserve for those after us.
“Pura vida” embodies a culture of people who embrace life and value all it has given them. Those we encountered shared a love for their neighbors, the land’s natural resources and newfound friendships.
The Ticos taught us so much about the true significance of life, whether it is your own, a stranger’s or a tree’s.
Guillermo taught us sustainability and the importance of using our resources efficiently. As he pointed out, his methods are working toward conservation for the future, not just the present. Not only does this idea of preservation protect the biological riches found throughout Costa Rica, but it also preserves the beauty of a land free of industrialization and commercialization.
Oldemar taught us the importance of staying true to tradition. Despite the availability of quick machinery, he opts to produce his coffee just like people did decades before him. Though it may be backbreaking work, Oldemar produces a richer, more vibrant product than any one of America’s mass-manufactured brands.
It is through these experiences in which I learned my most valuable field-reporting lesson. I must ask any and all questions, even at the risk of sounding stupid. I need to voice my inquiries in the midst of the moment because I may never have another chance.
Victor, our expert tour guide through The Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve, was asked to recall his favorite experience in the forest. Our instructor Bill proved to us the power of a simple question as Victor took a long pause for reflection. Before long, his eyes lit up as he segued into his filed away memories. Bill’s willingness to ask any and all questions resulted in one of the most colorful responses from any of the trip’s teachers.
Not only did I learn about how to improve as a journalist, but I also learned about new and undiscovered personal interests. Our trip helped me explore a new love for researching where our food comes from, how it is produced and the time and effort devoted to its creation.
The tedious tempering of chocolate, the painstaking picking of each coffee bean and the monotonous milking of a single cow’s utter vastly shifted my views of what I consume.
I can no longer make a single cup o’ Joe before reminiscing about picking the ripe coffee beans or wondering if Folgers uses red or yellow beans or a mixture of both.
It is places like Costa Rica in which people can see the beauty of living both simply and happily.
Unfortunately, even the developing world is vulnerable to the claws of commercialization.
Guillermo revealed to us the intrusion of materialism and the growing greed found in the once quiet farming town of Monteverde. The Internet, cell phones and TV ads have begun to infiltrate the daily grind of local Ticos. Guillermo says he has watched families abandon their traditions to make a quick buck on tourists.
As a result, money and materialistic goods now drive Monteverde’s once community-driven culture.
Though these two weeks provided great insight into the people, culture and riches of Costa Rica, one question still remains- will Costa Rica continue to preserve its natural beauty or will it succumb to the superficiality of materialism?