In Costa Rica, it feels as though the entire world has slowed down. Time is irrelevant. The days are long, and yet short. I had fallen into the charm of the small village called Cerritos within the first few minutes of arriving.
When my youth group and I, traveling with Pura Vida Missions (http://www.pvmonline.org/), arrived in the village of Cerritos, everyone had come out to see the “Gringos”. We were ushered into the only church in the village and assigned to families we would stay with for the next five days.
As I walked back to the home of the family I was staying with , they asked me if I could speak any Spanish. Having recently completed Spanish II, I responded by saying I knew only a little. I then asked if they spoke any English. They emphatically replied that they did not. I had mused that it would be an interesting five days, and it certainly was.
The next days blended together like melted neapolitan ice cream, one mixing with the next.
We spent the mornings together, to eat breakfast and connect for the day. Then we would split up, walking through the village to find a beautiful spot to sit and talk with God. It was not difficult to find a beautiful spot; the entire place was beautiful. We followed quiet time with construction work.
The rest of the day could be spent in any number of ways. Often we simply sat in the hang out spot of the town, called the Pulperia, and spent time with the Ticos (Costa Ricans). Sometimes we would stay in the village’s only church, teaching songs and dances to the children and performing skits for them to watch.
One day we traveled to another village, accompanied by many of the Ticos from Cerritos. In the community center of the other village we passed out cola and performed dramas and sang songs with the children.
Another day we had a soccer, or futbol, game, Ticos vs. Gringos. We lost, of course, 5-0. We followed the game with a trip to the river, swimming and splashing and jumping off a ledge into the water.
Whenever I had free time, it was spent with other members of my youth group. We learned to take care of each other, whether that meant attempting to translate, helping to carry heavy objects, or offering a shoulder to cry on.
Travel is not only about seeing new places, watching a sunrise from the other side of the world, or eating food you have never tried. Travel is about learning to understand a new culture and learning to communicate with people of a different language. It is about compromise, about making silly mistakes, about learning, and about giving. It is about falling in love with people you may never see again. Travel is about appreciating the land others live in and being thankful for what you have. At it’s best, travel is about learning to understand people that you see every day: at work, at church, at school. I believe this is because travel, like everything else in life, is more than just where you are; it’s where you are from and where you are going.
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