Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Understanding “Pura Vida” by Julia Erskine

            My independent project working around Puerto Viejo, Sarapiquí was the perfect culmination of my trip. When I arrived to Costa Rica four months ago, “Costa Rican Culture!” books in hand I thought I knew about the trip I was embarking on. I was quickly welcomed into my Costa Rican family and loved my Mama Tica instantly.
During my not-quite-independent project I was able to work with three curious, motivated classmates – characteristics which, I regret to say, can be hard to find. We studied antibiotic resistance in cattle farms in the region by surveying farmers about their knowledge and use of antibiotics and following up by taking cow pat samples and river samples to analyze them for antibiotic resistance. At Skidmore I work in a biochemistry lab, a place I’ve actually really come to miss this semester. My research at school gave me the tools needed to do lab analysis on the project, and moreover allowed me to teach my classmates on the subject. At first I felt like hiding in the lab, staying in my comfort zone rather than trying to communicate with local farmers. But I remembered my Costa Rican family telling me how wonderful Ticos are, and knew that only good things would come from “putting myself out there”. So I spent a few mornings in the field (literally) as well, and am so glad I did. What amazed me about this project, and probably my entire semester in Costa Rica, was how incredibly kind the people are. Kind is perhaps an understatement – most all of the people I have met are inviting, helpful and sweet.
Collecting a sample from a cow pat.
Farmers that we met during a cattle auction never hesitated to invite us back to their farm to help us continue our project. Even when we were on the road finding farms people were just as enthusiastic. In this way we were able to see many types of farms – we went to a farm with seven cows and a farm with 600! The willingness to help us and desire to learn about their own farm’s results was encouraging both for my project and for my understanding of Costa Rica.
The lab and fieldwork complemented each other perfectly the last few weeks. From this project I will remember lessons learned both on an academic and personal level. From farmers and family to shopkeepers and beachgoers, I was never hesitant to smile at a stranger and was met more often than not with a “pura vida”. 

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