By Annie Gordon
As Gap students were are blessed with the opportunity to enact transformation within the communities we live and serve. However, with that opportunity comes of the price of being asked to (sometimes blindly) approach each day with no expectations and unyielding flexibility. As a result, we have undeniably separated ourselves from the realm of familiarity. Almost three months ago we were uprooted from our comfortable summer lives and placed in the Wind River Range with fifty-pound packs and seventeen strangers. Our campsite changed almost everyday for a month. From there we began a cross-country road trip. I called a new place home every six or seven days. I became accustomed to living in and using things I could not call my own. A feeling of belonging was something many of us strove for but never found.
Furthermore, daily exposure to unsettling sights, sounds, and statistics that I was previously unaware existed in my own country became physically and emotionally exhausting. Returning “home” for break I had to come to terms with the changes that occurred in my absence. Right as I settled back into that comfortable environment, I had to make a second round of good-byes and promises to keep in touch. This first week in Costa Rica amplified the overwhelming feeling of unfamiliarity. It was not until I arrived in Costa Rica that I had realized that taken for granted the continuity of food, language, and – for the most part – cultural norms during our travels in the United States.
Yesterday the group travelled to Volcan Poas and La Paz Waterfall Gardens. Having visited both sites before, I was notably underwhelmed prior to the drive up into the mountains. Much to my surprise everything up in the mountains seemed to have been completely untouched. The roads were still in the process of being re-paved, no flashy new signs or billboards had been put up, and the cows looked as though they have been waiting to be milked since my last visit three years ago. That sense of familiarity was found at Volcan Poas and again at La Paz. At both sites, I was able to retrace my exact steps, recreate pictures, and reacquaint myself with old sights, smells, tastes, and sounds. These places seemingly unaffected by change and the passing of time offered an indescribable sense of serenity and security. Over the past three months I have found change to be overwhelmingly inescapable. Familiarity used to make me restless but I realize now that it can be incredibly beautiful after spending so long without it. Furthermore, I never expected to identify more closely with tourist traps in Costa Rica than with places and people in my own country.