(This post has been previously written, but due to many delays and circumstances, is being posted now)
For the past 4 months I have been placed in a new country, a new people, a new culture, a new language, a new home, a new group of students.
When I first arrived I would have guessed that I would have met everyone and gotten close with a few of the students. What I never would have guessed is how incredibly close I’ve became to such incredible people who encourage me to keep doing what I’m doing, inspire me to do more, and have helped me to see what hard work can truly do for you.
I’ve learned now, moreso than ever, to never judge someone before you get to know them. You honestly have no idea where a person has come from, their past, their dreams, their mistakes, their hopes, their aspirations, their capabilities, their treasures, what they can offer to you & in turn what you can offer to them.
I have come to know so many people from so many different places & each one of them has taught me something about myself.
Casey&Carlos- We came on this trip as the 3 Charlie’s angels with a mission & have come to an end with the mission complete. You two have taught me so much about friendship, life, love, the world, dreams, myself, and so much more. You’ve taught me ad continue to teach me to never stop loving this life that is mine; to enjoy every second because at the end of the day, life is a party & you have to bring your own music if you want to make the rest of the world dance. We’re going so far in life, but we’ll always be in it together. I can’t say thank you enough for what the two of you bring to my life. I love you so much.
Priscilla- You’ve taught me that a laugh is never too loud, a smile never too big & a heart never too big. Your dreams to travel the world inspire me and encourage me to make those same dreams of traveling the world that I have, a reality. You’ve become one of my best friends on this trip &I’m so glad you don’t live too far from me in the U.S. We’ve made so many memories, taken so many trips, eaten so many beans, I’ll never forget any of it..it will be with me for the rest of my life. Love you to the moon & back, P. NEONN SQUIGGGLAYS
Rachel- You’ve taught be so much about holding true to my beliefs. You truly exemplify what it means to stand up for your rights, what you believe in. We have gotten so close and it is so hard to say goodbye to such an amazing friend. But like we said, it’s not goodbye..it’s cya later. You’ve shown me what it means to truly accept everyone, to sit down and truly listen to a friend in need. You mean the world to me raq! DORITOSSSSS
Anna- You’ve taught me what it means to be an incredibly loving, caring, all around amazing human being. Your genuine care and love for everyone you meet is infectious. I can’t believe we haven’t met before & we go to the same school. I’m so excited to get back to school with you and continue this amazing friendship. So many snacks, laughs, cries, trips, stories that we’ll never forget, & study sessions that turned into unstoppable laughs, at who even knows what. You’re the bee’s knees & I love ya to the moon& back.
Nella- You’ve taught me so much about the true meaning of hardword & determination. Your drive to succeed is truly inspiring and I hope to someday be as successful as I know you will be. Your ability to truly think about what you’re going to say because of the true value of each word, is amazing.
Lauren- You’ve taught me so much about, and truly exemplify, patience. You’re such an amazing person and your consistant patience with all that you do, with people, with work, with making your point in class, is so admirable. I’ve learned so much about that from you & know I’ll take it back home with me.
Annalise- You’ve taught me so much about what it truly means to find yourself. You have not once failed to prove that you have no fear in finding yourself, doing what is best for you & bettering your life. I admire that so much in you & I can’t reiterate it enough.
Careese & Mikayla- I’m sorry to place the two of you together but I can’t help place you two together when I think of what I’ve learned about the environment. You two go above and beyond what it means to been enviromental activists. I look up to your passion and your drive to make this world a better place. Because of you two, I have so many changes in mind for how I live my life for when I return home. “You’re not in this alone” …I’ll never forget that from our Panama trip, it will forever be with me.
Katie- You’ve taught me so much about kindness. Maybe this sounds corny, but I truly never received any mean word, look, or feeling from you. How genuinely nice you are is incredible & it reminds me so much of what this world needs more of, pure love and pure kindness.
Jill& Shira- Again sorry to place the two of you together but when I think of hardwork & natural intelligence, I think of you two automatically. From what I’ve gotten to know of the two of you, you both are incredibly intelligent, natuarally. & I admire that so much. Your knowledge of the enviroment, and so much more, and willingness to spread that knowledge, inspirational..& truly an amazing gift to have.
Meagan- You’ve taught me so much about just being myself. I’ve realized so much about how important it is to know yourself more than anything else, just by knowing you. I’ve learned that if I truly come to know myself, everything else will fall into place. You’re an incredible gal & lucky to have such an incredible head on your shoulders. Never lose that, some people search a lifetime for it.
Ashley- You’ve taught me so much about empathy. You shine in that realm. I’m not sure at how much of an idea you have of this, but your ability to feel others emotions so deeply..whether it be happiness, sadness, pain, suffering, joy, laugher, anything..is one of a kind. I look up to you for that and hope to find such a connect with others emotions as you have. Never lose that, although it may be overwhelming at times, that is what will help you to change the world.
Cam- You’ve taught me so much about friendship. Our heart to hearts about our chaotic times happening with our friends back home, really meant so much to me. I could tell how amazing of a friend you are, and what an amazing group of friends you have back home. It is truly a driving force in my determination to rekindle lost friendships back home & to make the ones I still have even stronger. I thank you endlessly for that.
Colin- You’ve taught me so much about adventure. Your sense of adventure, your want to find and try new things, infectious. Your ability to simply skydive and just say “Eh, it was whatever” is so incredible. You, along with your adventurous spirit, have inspired me to never have limits. Life is a crazy adventure waiting for us all to find it, and I have you to thank for that enforced drive to find adventure.
Matt- You’ve taught me so much about individuality. You never ceased to amaze me at your own personal adventures..whether it was at UCR or in a whole new town..you did not hesitate to go off on your own, no matter what others were doing. It’s inspiring and I hope to find myself in future crazy travels, on my own again. I think it enhances an experience. Rock on!
Peter-You’ve taught me about the importance of laughter. You never ceased to make the people around you laugh. Whether it be by your song, your remarks in class, or you sarcastic pauses & stares. So many times people forget how important it is to simply stop, enjoy life, and let out a huge laugh. Stick with that ability to make those around you laugh.
Mike- You’ve taught me so much about holding strongly to your beliefs. I know I find myself sometimes caught up in what I actually believe in myself. You have shown me that it is possible to gain firm beliefs on things & to stand up for them. I hope to one day be as passionate and strong on a belief of my own.
Joe- You’ve taught me so much about beliefs. I myself was raised Catholic but my beliefs have strayed every now and again..whether it be because of getting caught up with everything else going on in my life or because I just had so many unanswered quesitons. I admire your beliefs and your ability to articulate them so well, without at all disrespecting anyone else around you. That, is an inspiring gift to have.
These paragraphs do not do justice for how incredible each and every one of these people are. Along with them, I have met so many incredible, life-changing people that will forever be in my heart: My host family, Lulu, Allyson, Luis, Juanka, Bernal, Gustavo, Brandon, Fer, Oscar, Steven, Joel, Mayela, Jordan, Adrian, Jose, Cait, & so many more.
I can’t say thank you enough for all you’ve done for me. This is not a goodbye, it’s a seeya later! Les amo mucho mucho mucho y nos vemos muy muy muy pronto!
(This post has been previously written, but due to many delays and circumstances, is being posted now)
After Chris passed, my world changed…got flipped upside down.
I sat in my room for days, staring blankly at his Facebook, at old pictures of all of us.
Trying to remember what our last words were.
It killed me that I couldn’t be home for the funeral or services being held at school for him,
What hurt even more was not being able to sit in my apartment by the sides of my best friends.
All I could do was sit on skype, trying to pretend that it was the same.
I’m so grateful to have so many amazing people in my group who are nothing but supportive.
The overwhelming amounts of messages, kind words, and “I’m here if you need me” were incredible.
It’s amazing to know that no matter how far I was from all the chaos happening, I still had multiple shoulders to lean on, an ocean away.
I’ve done a lot of thinking.
I can’t help but wonder about how crazy life truly is.
One day we’re here, the next we’re gone.
It feels like just yesterday was my first day of kindergarden, my 8th grade graduation, my 1st day of highschool, my highschool graduation, receiving my college acceptance letters, moving into my dorm, etc.
I can’t believe I am in my third year of college.
Time doesn’t stop for anyone.
If there is anything that I’ve learned through all of this chaos, full of tears and endless thought-filled nights, it’s to appreciate every single moment, especially with those whom you love most.
Never take a second of these precious moments for granted.
I have grown so much, and so much more from this chaotic time, during my time abroad.
I know I will return home with a positive outlook and a larger appreciation for life & the beauty which it beholds.
Here’s to you, Chris, cheers…I love you
This past weekend a few friends and I decided to up our belongings and take a trip to Panama. The pure thrill of knowing I’m going to a new country that I’ve never visited, is over-whelming and overtakes me completely. Being able to find new people, new treasures behind every corner (&of course the stamp on my passport) is a pure high.
My good friend Priscilla was fabulous in planning our trip and so Friday morning 7:30 am we were at the Parque Central de Curri (our neighborhood center park) to wait for the bus. Myself along with Casey, Priscilla, Raquel, Mikayla & Caresse planned to meet up in San Jose at the bus stop by 8am. However, once Casey, Priscilla & I got into San Jose & hopped into a taxi headed to where we needed to be, our taxi driver decided to tell us he knew where he was going, when in reality he knew little more than us. With time running short, we got out of the cab with a quick “gracias….” and eventually found our way once we recognized where we were.
Once we met the rest of the group I went with Rach to exchange her colones into dolares porque Panama’s currency is US$ (sup globalization?) After a quick sprint to the ATM and back, we finally boarded the bus, snacks in hand, and were off to Panama! YEEEHAW!
Bus rides really get the best of me, it’s an amazing time to self-reflect and on all in your life. Headphones in ear, Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car” blasting, scenery passing to your left…thoughts can’t stop swirling around in my mind like the leaves on the ground during a windy Fall afternoon. What could I expect from Panama? What awesome people would I encounter? What fabulous memories are going to made with my amazing amigas?
Crossing the border was a bit strange, but nothing too bad. The bus gets stopped a few minutes away from the border, everyone has to get off the bus & the Costa Rican policia have everyone line up, bags on the ground, and bring a dog across each bag for sniffing. I’m not going to lie, even knowing we completely fine with our belongings, it’s still a bit intimidating. “What if my deoderant smells funky?!” Your mind wanders to crazy places in intimidating situations.
We were all set and got back onto the bus. We approached the border, what an awesome feeling. New adventures, new thoughts, fresh faces. After having our passports scanned, we were allowed to cross the bridge, one side for cars/buses/trucks, the other for people. Let me tell you something, it is one thing making it to the border, its a completely other thing making it ACROSS the border. The bridge we had to cross was not in the best of conditions, to say the least. Although, there was a breath-taking view once you hit mid-point. I kept having to remind myself “Don’t look down, don’t look down!!!”
YES! I did make it across, woohoo! Little did we know that our bus would not be taking us past this point….so in turn we had to semi-bargain with an owner of a bus to get up to Point B. Wishing we could get lower, but knowing we couldn’t, be paid a hefty $10 to get to our next stop. We were put into two seperate buses and took a 45 minute long drive to a run down line of water taxi stops. Rachel & I bought our $5 ticket to cross the water and waited for the rest of the group. We were a bit confused because they had left before us, but hey ..when in Panama, right?
After 15 or 20 minutes Caresse and her bus driver came to find us to tell us that we needed to go to a different station…but seeing as we already paid $5 we told them we would just meet them on the other side of the water.
When it was time to go, Raquel & I clearly plopped ourselves in the front of the bus, ready to take on the tides! After very bumpy ride, a lot of “OUCH, MY BUM!”s, a lot of friendly laughs our way, we arrived to Colon island! YAY. We met with the rest of the group and signed up for a day-long tour for the following day with a local company. $25 total but only needed a $5 down payment and we were set. We grabbed some food and drinks to take with us to our hostel & onto another water taxi (&another $5) we boarded towards Bastimentos where our hostel “Bocas Bound” awaited us.
We were literally dropped off at a dock and left to find our way. Thank goodness some of us had flashlights because it was pitch black outside! After wandering around what seemed like a dead town, we encountered human life who kindly pointed us in the right, very uphill, direction. We arrived at our cozy little hostel, paid & received our room key. We were shown our room and we were very pleased! One of the cleanest, and thee only air conditioned, hostel I’ve been too…with bathrooms and showers within the room, hellllllo awesome!
We picked our beds and off to the kitchen we went to make great use of our abundance of tortillas, refried beans, cheese & avocados. Que delicioso!! This, along with crackers and avocado is what we would be living off of on our budget for the whole weekend. We met an awesome couple who was currently TRAVELING THE WORLD. UHMMM HELLO IDOLS?! The told us about all the amazing places that they had been and their experiences thus far. We had such great conversations and I know I can speak for all of us when I say that they truly inspired us all to continue with our dreams of traveling and wanting to save the world. Some may think it to be a long-shot to use the phrase “save the world” but as Steve Jobs once said…
“The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world…
Are the ones who do”
& we won’t stop until we do.This couple ensured us that we gave them hope for the future, that we are the future and we make them feel good in knowing that younger people are so well-informed and concerned about the future of humanity, of the world at large. It was very encouraging and reassuring to know that there are people out there that are fighting along side us, even if we are thousands of miles apart.
It’s funny how tiring a day of traveling can be…after simply sitting on a bus all day, sleeping & listening to our iPods, all we wanted to do after dinner was to sleep more. After great conversation with great people, we all relaxed a bit and I read some of a great book recommended by Casey called “How to be a woman”… it is a great read and I highly recommend it for the future of us women!!
After a wee bit, we went and hung out with some friends we had made earlier in the kitchen from the U.S. Coast Guard. They were stationed in port and were taking the night to relax and explore the area. It was yet another huge moment of my trip here thus far, seeing globalization at its finest. Fellow United States citizens, here in Central America, yet for a completely different reason than I. They are currently on watch for drug lords and cartels moving along the coast.
They had some extraordinary stories and points of view to share. It was an enormous mix of feelings. Seeing the U.S.’s position within this area, but also being in contact with members of our service. I really can’t explain the feelings I had but it added on to my thoughts of our position within Latin America and my thoughts on it.
They were some great guys and we planned to see them the following day. So we woke up bright and early, ready to go on our tour! Our U.S. Coast Guard friends happily gave us a ride to the dock on their golf cart so we could get there exactly on time! Thanks, fellas! On our way, with our new German friend Martin (who was also staying in our hostel), to Colon Island to meet our tourguide we were! After another glorious (do you sense the sarcasm yet?) we met our guide who got us ready to leave for our tour! We headed out on the BEAUTIFUL Caribbean Sea where we went dolphin watching (we spotted TWO!!!) and then stopped at a tiki-looking restaurant/bar/rest-stop for a 15 minute break. The water was like no other…warm, a spectacular mixture of dark and light blues & teal water. Unbelievable. We headed back our onto the water and after a bit stopped, were given some snorkeling gear and were told to hop of the boat!
Well shoot, I was not completely prepared, but boy oh boy was I excited! I promptly hopped of and tried to get a steady breathing sequence going. I’ll admit, it took me about 10 or 15 mintues to get it fully down, but I eventually did (still swallowing some water here and there haha). This moment was one which I wish I had an underwater camera handy. The sights I saw will forever be in my mind. There is something so amazing about being able to see a world different from your own. Seeing coral reef that were splattered with hundreds of different colors, hundreds of different species, words cannot even begin to describe the emotion I felt within me. A whole new appreciation of the underwater world and its affect on ours overwhelmed me.
We headed back onto the boat after awhile and went back to the tiki area for lunch. After some delicious crackers & avocado we were on the boat once again. This time, towards another island, Zapatilla Island. This is a seculded island and beach. Although it was raining, a bit of a bummer, I have never in my young life of traveling seen such amazing water. It was a beautiful sensation, getting off the boat, toes in the best feeling sand I’ve ever felt, and taking a bittersweet breath of paradise into my lungs.
We made the best of the rainy weather and stayed in the water for the whole 2.5 hours, hehe. Casey, Raquel & I enjoyed our time by singing Disney classics & Bohemian Rhapsody at the top of our lungs while doing the best flips and dives that one has ever witnessed! Our fellow travelers can attest, and did attest, to this! Haha, such a moving experience & such a reminder of how truly blessed I am and how beautiful and fruitful life continues to be. I continue to be truly reminded of why I am where I am. I have been eternally blessed with so much, that there is no other way to live but to commit my life to helping those who do not have a voice, who have not been as lucky as I. I know that I have been blessed for a reason, and will live my life in the pursuit of a better life for the world and others around me.
My trip to Panama ended with us ending our time at our hostel meeting some great guys from Canada. We heard their stories, and they ours. We entered back into Costa Rica and were back in San Jose in time for a yummy (&processed!) Pizza Hut cena.
This trip to Panama really helped me gain a new appreciation for both Costa Rica and all of the incredible people around me. I feel inspired everyday by the amazing people that are in my program. Each one of us has our goals ahead of us, wanting all for the better of the world in which we live. I know that because we are crazy enough to think that we can change the world, we are the ones who will. Just wait and see.
Cheers to all of the 22 students in my program hoping and striving towards a better tomorrow!
The day finally arrived and to the Lady Gaga concert we went! I really had no idea what to except. On with my crazy leggings with gems and studs all over, a white blouse & my 4 inch black closed-toe wedges, hoping for a spectacular night.
As I should have known, the concert exceeded every single expectation I had.
Despite many people not liking the woman’s music/style/craziness, one can’t deny her overwhelming warmth and love for the equality of every single one of us. She is truly a beautiful person. Songs, sung every word. Lights, flashing everywhere around me. Stage, set with a full castle. Atmosphere, welcoming. Her words, humbling..not scripted.
She is a woman who truly engages with her fans. She encourages love and supports equality. I can not help but admire such an amazing human being.
Who has time to hate anyways? Who are we to judge anyone? What someone wears, the way someone talks, who one loves… who are we to say what is right, wrong, weird, normal?
While dancing next to my best friend Casey, not caring at all how crazy our obnoxious dance moves and screaming voices sounded…we let it all out and it couldn’t have felt better or more right. Life …devine. I encourage each and every one of you to take a minute to think about someone you judged too quickly, someone you wrote off before truly getting to know them. Think back to a time when someone did the same to you and how you felt. Take the time now to not beat yourself up, but forgive yourself and get to know that person now. You’ll be surprised at how lovely it will turn out to be. Don’t be too quick to judge, don’t be too quick to shoot someone down as being wrong. When you really take the time to get to know someone past their appearance and your assumptions, it is such a beautiful thing and you learn so much, especially about yourself.
Thank you Lady Gaga, for continuously spreading the message of love, peace, acceptance & equality.
Cheers to equality!
xo PURA VIDA!
In the midst of learning a lot about U.S./Latin America relations… I can’t help but think about all the bad that has been done & all the hurt that has occurred. One would think there would exist so much hate between the peoples. I’m sure there is..somewhere. But everyone I’ve met.. I’ve made such great relationships with. It really makes you sit back and think about how there truly exists the recognition amongst us that we are all human…we are united. What our governments do does not define us. We take one another as we are, we come together & enjoy life.
Truly feeling blessed & even more faith restored in humanity.