The back of my throat was on fire as I tried to catch my breath and hold back my tears. My trembling hands held the quickly, scribbled note reading “it’s going to be ok”. The plane had left us and the panic was bubbling up to the surface, I looked at Claire and we both stared at each other in shock. My feelings of guilt, uncertainty, and fear were mirrored in her eyes. Here we were alone in the Mexico City Airport – just two foreigners with mediocre Spanish speaking skills, low funds, and limited knowledge in international travel. Needless to say, things weren’t looking too good for us. Despite the odds, we survived to tell the tale. So if you ever find yourself in this situation, here are some guidelines for survival.
Our second day in Costa Rica we were given the opportunity to hike in the jungle. In order to reach the cabins where we would sleep for our night in the jungle, we had to hike about two hours, led by local guides Deiber and Rigo. Once there the team split up into two groups: one group would embark on a night tour of the jungle, while the second group would stay and have dinner before going into the jungle.
Written by Medha Asthana
The experience was like falling down a rabbit hole to a world that seemed obvious but utterly new at the same time. I’m talking about watching a sunrise for the first time in my life. Yes, a simple sunrise that has happened every morning of my life for the past 19 years.
Yet only 10 days in Costa Rica taught me how to slow down my life and revel in a lifestyle so different from my own – a lifestyle in which I wished to sit surrounded by nature as the sun rose at 5:20 AM.
Every morning, our guide, Marcos,would take a group of us to a nearby mountaintop just across from his farm (La Finca SIempre Verde) where we were staying. Siempre Verde was located on hills that were very close to the sun every morning. On the last day on La Finca Siempre Verde in Mastatal, I decided to join the group. I witnessed my first sunrise as I sat separate from the group, notebook in hand and senses awaiting. I thought the process would be simple enough, but it was so much more different than what I expected it to be.
At first, the light spread its wings of rays of sunshine across the mountain tops, blessing the green canopy with its powerful touch.
Slowly, the wall of light expanded, and its light became strikingly bright as it looked over the mountains.
Then, the blaringly beautiful yellow light dominated everything in its path, and only from the top of the quiet jungle hill could I see the full prowess of the rising force that was the Sun.
It illuminated the world for all to revel in. And for the first time in my life, I became a real witness to this creation of wonder. As I looked at my surroundings now and then, the sun rose faster and faster until it was almost 90 degrees above us.
Around me, I saw tranquil layers of hazed blue mountains in the increasing distance as mist rolled over them. All around me I also heard random soft cracks among the tall grass blades, the sounds of chirping birds and animals and crickets always in the background. I was then conscious of the fact that I was bathed in warm, powerful sunlight.
Costa Rica provided a consummate and natural “silence” – I say that in quotations because it is a silence that fostered loud sounds of life while still inducing a sort of quiet euphoria.
I easily jumped to the idea of the power of the exotic “Costa Rican sun,” but later realized the sun hadn’t changed, but my mindset had. I was finally able to acknowledge it, enjoy it, and to not take it for granted. Sunrises are universal.
In Costa Rica, immersed in a culture of simplicity, a loving community, and the world seemingly at my fingertips, I realized that the sun is not just a sight or a break to enjoy outside the office or classroom, but it is a fact of life and a reminder of the beautiful world in which we’re entwined. Otherwise, the sun’s true beauty went unseen, unwitnessed, unreveled. Costa Rica gave me time to acknowledge and appreciate the sun.
This simple yet almost transcendent experience reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from the Harry Potter movies:
“Happiness can be found in the darkest of places, if only one remembers to turn on the light.”
This new mindset allowed me to really look closer at something which I normally took for granted. Yes, I enjoyed sunshine every day at Irvine, but did I care enough to watch it enter the day, and sit alongside it? I was always a bystander, never an intimate supporter.
Because of how I viewed the idea of time while back in school, I used to think of the rising sun as almost as a burden – a signal of an accompanying groan to yet another fast day as I wake up to another alarm.
I never turned on the light – I never had the time, nor did I ever think to take the time out, to observe something so simple like the sun – why would I? Mornings weren’t exactly fun.
Only when I was in Costa Rica did I begin living for the mornings. I woke up with my eyes bright and ready, ears metaphorically perked ready to hear roosters, cicadas, and very loud morning birds. These sounds became the commonplace music I yearned to hear before I even opened my eyes. I lived for the early beginnings, the day-long bird chirps and morning hikes, always excited for the glorious sun which would shine all day long.
Now, when walking on campus and feeling the soft sunlight of California, I salute my fingers up to that almighty Sun, now a friendly figure which I have had the pleasure to truly meet. But it takes more than just one meeting to preserve a relationship and respect a friend. I may not be able to be atop mountains every morning at 5 AM anymore, or salute it in a yoga tree pose, but until then, I know the sun will be rising and setting for many days to come, and I vow to join it soon in quiet, shared solace once more.