By: Nathan Hunnicutt
One year ago, I was bound to this fate, the fate of eating rice and beans for six weeks. A little over half a year ago, I sat in a room containing thirteen of the fifteen Gap Semester Experience students. We were split up at two different tables listening to three different experiences from three prior Gap Semester students. One of the things that I remember being told about over and over again was the amount of rice and beans I would be consuming in Costa Rica. I was told that by the end of it, I would be sick of them. Rice and beans every day for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. What I did not know at the time was how delicious the rice and beans are here in Costa Rica, otherwise known as Casado or Gallo Pinto.
When I first arrived here in Costa Rica, the first thing that my host mom cooked for me was rice and beans, and it was amazing, the flavors were indescribable. My preconception was that it would taste the like the rice my parents would make for me almost every night as a kid, but it did not! The flavors were woven into unexpected tales. True, I had been sitting on a plan for a really long time, I was starving, and really missed my family for the first time on the Gap Semester Experience, but those rice and beans were the best thing I had ever had.
Then this past week I thought about it, at Rising Phoenix weekend all that they had told me about Costa Rican cuisine was that it consisted of rice and beans, but my plate consisted of so much more. There was also fried plantains and a stuffed vegetable with goodness inside, with a side of broccoli soup to pour on the stuffed vegetable. It was a meal of mouthwatering proportions. The food here in Costa Rica have gotten better and better as time has progressed. Ever bit has been better than the previous one and I never want it to end.
Just like the rice and beans, at Rising Phoenix Weekend I was told how amazing this experience would be, that it would be the time of my life, and one of the best experience I would ever have. I was so excited for what time had instore for my cohort and me, listening to them. I was thinking about the wonderful and hilarious stories I would have to tell and the endless inside jokes we would share. I was thinking, as I looked around the room, that these twelve others would be my new friends, my new family. Excitement had rushed through my veins, without ever having any experience of the journey itself. I was living through other people’s thoughts and experiences, other people’s jokes and stories.
As I got my first bite of the semester, I started to get the taste of those stories, those jokes, and those experiences, except this time I could claim them as my own. Every new day with this fun and diverse group of individuals has been better than the previous one, and I have gone to bed without any regrets or second guess. But just like Costa Rican cuisine, there has been so much more to my experience than I could have ever imagined, and I could not be more thankful for that. Not only have I gained a whole new family, new experiences, stories, inside jokes, and more, but I have also changed. I have grown into a new person. The Nathan that walked into the Colorado Airport back in August, is not the same Nathan that will be walking into the Richmond Airport on Wednesday, December 2nd, and I am forever thankfuk for that.
I would never trade this experience for anything else in the world. I love my cohort, and I can honestly say that. I could not wish for a better group of individuals than the ones that surround me today. This journey, this experience, this first semester of college has been better than I could have ever imagined. It has been the best moment of my life.
“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” (Robert Frost)