On my first day of class here in Costa Rica, my wise intern Annie used this quote to introduce us to one of the challenges of living in Latin America:
"That day Haji Ali taught me the most important lesson I've ever learned in my life. We Americans think you have to accomplish everything quickly. We're the country of thirty-minute power lunches and two-minute football drills...Haji Ali taught me to share three cups of tea, to slow down and make building relationships as important as building projects. He taught me that I had more to learn from the people I work with than I could ever hope to teach them."
Life is slower here in Latin America, which is both awesome and awful depending on my mood. Slowing down was easy in Nicaragua because I didn't have anything to do but play with adorable kids and hang out by the river. However, here in Chahuites, a beautiful little town in the mountains of Costa Rica, where I have a "job," I'm still learning how to slow down and take three cups of tea. I am here to work in a school and spend time with my host family and there have been both good and bad parts to my experience so far. Last week in school, I helped teach the English class once. I wish it was more, but the teacher didn't do much teaching herself, so there wasn't much need for help. This week I am helping teach a bunch of precious first graders. It seems like the teachers in this school don't care much about teaching. They leave the class for long periods of time, leaving the kids to just color and talk and goof around. Today the teacher prepared the day's lesson in class as the kids were sitting there, waiting to be taught. It's frustrating for me to be there and see so much potential in these kids. But, I am here to learn not to teach. So, I walked around the class and talked to the kids and helped out when the teacher gave me something to do.
Likewise, at home, slowing down takes patience. I live with my mami and my 78 year old abuelita (and my host brother Fabian, but he's always at work). My family is wonderful, but they're a little older and spend most of their free time relaxing on the patio in rocking chairs or watching t.v. My adventurous, young self longs to play soccer with anyone who can kick a ball or talk with people my own age or even play with rocks with little kids. Anything active that involves moving. Alas, there are no little kids in my family or 20 year olds, so I'm learning to put aside my restlessness and enjoy just sitting. Tonight after watching a bit of tele, my mami, abuela and I ate an apple and sat on the front porch watching the birds and the random dogs go by. My mom commented on the trees and we simply sat and enjoyed the beautiful evening. I must say, it was really enjoyable.
I don't think I have to give up being adventurous and active, but I do think it is valuable to take time to slow down, relax, reflect and enjoy life. When I'm not in school or eating delicious meals with my family, I spend my time reading, journaling, running at the local soccer field, watching the afternoon novella with my mami and abuelita and simply relaxing on the porch, talking and learning more about my host family.
I can't lie, the first week was a little rough. As in, I felt homesick and lonely each afternoon. But an afternoon nap helped with that and so did my splendid weekend. It's hard to be here on my own with no American friends to talk and laugh with, but the internet is a miracle and I am learning to rely on my host family when I feel lonely. Even though I can't express to them all my deepest thoughts, nor am I able to say all the little things I want to say, they are people who listen if I have something to say and talk to me and greet me each morning with "buenas dias mi linda!" My family here is great and I have a lot to learn from them. Each day I feel more comfortable and everything gets a little easier. Before coming on my internship, I really wanted to be fully present here and just be completely engaged in my family and community here. But, I realize that I can't be fully present here because some of the most important people in my life are not here. Joshua, my family and my friends are often on my mind and I don't think I should ignore them just because I'm in a different country. So, I am trying to be fully engaged when I am with my family and stretch myself to constantly think in Spanish in their presence. But if I get the chance to skype with my family or Josh or read a wonderful letter from Niquita, I will thoroughly enjoy that as well.
Although my life here is slower, I can't deny that it is an adventure in it's self.