Thursday, October 15, 2015

We Are All Family by Addie Cady

The bull’s mask falls off mid-charge. He ducks to the ground, turning away from the audience as the anteater he just killed tries to tie it back on. A minute later all the animals are laughing and trying their hands at putting back together the bull's costume. The elderly man with the conch shell chuckles under his breath, the flautist plays a jovial little tune, and the whole audience cracks big smiles. We are watching the traditional dance of the Brunca indigenous tribe. And, although we’ve studied its profound and almost dark significance (the bull killing all the animals representing the Spaniard persecution of the Brunca), right now all I’m thinking of is how much fun these boys seem to be having running and taunting and tackling and now trying to fix the poor bull, and how much they remind me of my own family.
Coming to Costa Rica I was told to expect “culture shock,” a feeling of disorientation, of not belonging, of homesickness. Yet the more time I spend here the more I realize that Costa Rica doesn’t feel far from home at all. Between long meals with my host mother in San José, chatting about her family drama and the antics of the little girl she watches during the day, and the nights I spent in the Las Cruces biological station helping the women in the kitchen wash dishes, being shown recipes and learning the Spanish names of the most obscure foods, I have always felt welcomed with open arms. When on the third day at Las Cruces Carlos started calling me “little sister” and I got hugs from both women in the kitchen and big kisses on the cheek as they thanked me for my help, I truly felt as if I were a part of the “tico” family.
Here are the things I have learned about the “tico” people: they say “muchas gracias” and “con mucho gusto” (thank you and you’re welcome) more in a day than the average person in the U.S. probably says in a month; when they ask to help you it’s not politeness, they mean it; and if you strike up a conversation, no matter how shaky your Spanish, they’ll be thrilled to talk. There is a genuine culture of kindness and welcoming here, and so it’s easy to understand why Costa Ricans are continuously rated some of the happiest people in the world and why it’s so natural for me to feel at peace here.

From 20-page research papers to bachata dance classes, this semester has been a blur of adventure. Yet what still sticks out the most to me are the small personal moments: the bull’s fallen mask, a kiss on the cheek, the teary hug of my host mother as we said goodbye, the encouraging smiles I get as I try to communicate something difficult in Spanish. The culture is what has made this trip vibrant and eye-opening. It has made me feel more like a citizen of the world. It has reminded me that when it comes down to it we really are all family.

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