By: Eliza Upton
My parents love to ask me to rate things on a scale of one to ten. Whether the rating is for a big life event/experience, a test, a trip, a party, a game, or just a regular day, they want to get my recap, and it’s easy for them to comprehend my overall experience if I give it in a number. However, I hate to do that. My response is usually something along the lines of, “I don’t know, it was good.” And while that response probably doesn’t accurately describe whatever it was I was being questioned about, neither can a number.
The same goes for my time with Gap. While I could easily just give this past semester a 10, five stars, two thumbs up, or however else you could scale it, squishing the bottomless emotions and experiences had these past four months into a single rating would just be impossible and do injustice to Gap. Not only that, but the one-dimensional rating can’t give the full story. Giving something a 10 seems superficial and paints the picture that everything was perfect the entire time when we know that nothing is ever perfect.
So instead of a number recap, I’m going to share a moment that can best summarize my feelings for my time in Costa Rica. Last night my host mom came home from a long day of holiday sales shopping. She came home victorious and exhausted from the purchase of a new fridge, other holiday gifts, and a nine hour drive. Before I went to bed she knocked on my door. I thought she just needed to talk about the morning logistics of breakfast, a conversation that isn’t rare. Instead, she presented me with a bottle of perfume and said, “With all my heart”. Now I could tell you that that moment was a 10, but you wouldn’t understand why. To be honest I’ve never really been a perfume person. I went through a middle school phase, but those three years were like an out of body experience overall and hopefully don’t reflect the person I am today. Anyways, I’m not huge on overwhelming scents, and I don’t like how perfume triggers an allergic reaction for some people. But when Elia gave me that bottle it was one of the best gifts I’ve received.
Coming to Costa Rica I was most nervous about the living situation. Interrupting a stranger’s home for six week and make it work despite language, age, and cultural barriers seemed challenging. However, I quickly discovered for the umpteenth time with Gap, that the challenges are the best part of the journey. My Tica Mama and I found a comfortable life together in her home she so generously shared. We took our languages and meshed it into something that works for both of us, Spanglish. We took the age difference and bonded over what we could relate to, like a mutual love for chocolate and the TV show Dance Moms. And she guided me through the cultural differences by introducing me to friends and family, explaining the nightly news, and giving insight about all the activities Gap participated in in Costa Rica. We found common ground, and even though that spot may differ from my Comfort Zone in the U.S., it works.
So that pink heart-shaped bottle that my Mama so lovingly picked out because the perfume is the one her sister wears and the scent, which she describes as soft and sweet, reminds her of me, was the perfect gift. It reflects the love she has given me the past six weeks and the common ground we’ve reached together. It’s not the perfume she wears, and I don’t usually wear perfume, but it is something that we can both appreciate.
Who knows how many times I will end up spraying that bottle, but I know that when I do I will feel my Tica Mama’s love, just like I will take the lessons of Gap with me long after my days at Elon. So Mom and Dad, you can think of my time in Costa Rica not as a 10, but as the bottle of perfume that I will show you in a few days.