Saturday, April 20, 2013
The hillside coffee plantations that line the thinly paved Pan-American highway from the central pacific region to the outskirts of the capital city’s province in Costa Rica terrace down toward valleys that for even the best of growers would seem a burden to harvest.
I caught my roommate for the trip, a parent at Fox Creek, marveling at each steppe as if one bean was cascading window frame by window frame from outside a 43-passenger coach – a ride outsized for the narrow mountain roads; out-manuevered by much smaller cars – and as if he was trying to see it come to rest.
Likewise, the sugarcane has its lure. The scarecrow colored stems beneath divine shades of green produce a barreling amount of rum – a top export of the country.
From what was told to our group, senior adventurers from Fox Creek’s class of 2013, friendly folks from schools in the South Carolina Public Charter School District and the superintendent himself, Wayne Brazell, sugar cane in this particular region is harvested three times a year. Our guide, Christopher Alfaro, said that they burn the remnant to fertilize fresh each time. The controlled burn guarantees a healthy return on the crop.
An indescribable amount of awareness is put into education and government in Costa Rica to assure that biodiversity, and protection of resources are maintained. By in large, Costa Rica leads the world in this cause. In many ways, as was learned from our trip, Costa Rica is trying to maintain a standard of natural living and its fruitfulness that is very unlike our own. To that, we commend them, shouting, "Pura Vida" – students of Spanish would translate this literally to "pure life" but it is the all-inclusive phrase for anything from "It’s all good" to "What’s up?"
Where in the states we would chop the tree that hangs over our three bedroom ranch clear down to the stem, Costa Rica is branching out government services to assure not only that the tree is cut down effectively, but that others take its place somewhere else. (Some of our students planted a tree).
Of course us Americans hear this protection as the reason why we cannot throw toilet paper in the toilet and flush.
The real reason has to do with the strength of the pipes running from the septic tanks. Nevertheless, our unaccustomed nature to the Costa Rican standard took its toll.
Some of us couldn’t muster the strength to climb one more step to see a caterpillar on a leaf, nor look another plate of rice and beans eye to grain.
To these standards, it wasn’t rare to hear a student, adult or my own inner self say, "I couldn’t live here."
Upon close examination, that is probably an accurate assumption. As I said to a parent, and faithful reader of my column on the ride back, these students enjoyed what they could from the trip, many will come back with a fervor for travel, but its an unrealistic expectation that their ideas about America and their hotter showers and Zaxby’s are ever going to be replaced. The two ways of culture follow very different standards.
In regards to life and standards, upon my return from the trip, I was saddened by the news that Rachel Gaudet, a joyful occupant of one of my fifth period desks, had passed away.
For the Gaudet family, I hope student and staff prayers abound in rival numbers to the plantations of Costa Rica.
Pura vida, Rachel, Pura vida.