The Bittersweet Truth

Cacao beans with grinding stones.

I wish someone had been more honest with me. Have you ever believed in something to be so true that you could almost taste it? As a child, your life was as sweet as the chocolate melting on your fingertips on a hot summer morning… But growing up, you come to realize that it really isn’t like that. Life is bitter and so is real chocolate. Continue reading

Travel Tips for the Wallflower

A father and son enjoy shaved ice on the warm Saturday morning in the park.Our recent trip to Costa Rica was, well,… AMAZING to say the least. We laughed, we learned, we explored, but we were also challenged. We were challenged to be vulnerable and to really put ourselves out there.  Now, I wouldn’t necessarily label myself as a “wallflower,” but I’m definitely one who enjoys observing more than participating, and enjoys listening rather than talking.  That being said, when we first arrived in Costa Rica I was immediately faced with my first challenge of the trip.

My first real challenge happened in a park in the center of town. Many locals were sitting on the benches and enjoying their Saturday morning talking to each other, playing board games, people watching etc. It’s definitely not something you see often here in California. It was such a relaxing environment to be around and it felt like no one had any worries. Not only that, but there was a music festival happening as well. A live band came to play in the park where a rather large crowd of people gathered around to listen, dance, and enjoy the music. It was beautiful. I loved watching everything that was happening around me, but that was just it: I loved watching. I loved seeing the vibrant colors everywhere, listening to the music playing with laughter in the background. Continue reading

The First Costa Rica Night Fair

CostaRicanNight_8-5x11_May2015

Outreach is an important part of the Costa Rica Program and one of the ways we share our learning with the campus community is through a collaboration with UCI Dining & Hospitality. This year that collaboration led to our first ever Costa Rica Night Fair and small lunch promotion.

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Homestay Away from Home

Participants Danny, Erick and Guia with host Jimmy

Being dropped off was like the first day of Kindergarten, except we were college kids in a foreign country! It felt odd at first. Not because we were placed in the homes of complete strangers in a foreign country, but because by this point, we had already done a lot throughout the day and the week as a whole team that it felt weird to split up and experience similar, yet different situations.

Our Costa Rica trip came to a close only recently, but those ten days feel so close and so far away at the same time. I can vividly remember everything, but still feel the need to refer back to my journal to remind myself of how I felt at those exact moments. Continue reading

Bowel Movements Without Borders: What is Privacy Doing to Community?

Sunrise over Mastatal in Costa Rica.

Shadows might lurk in the valley of Mastatal, but no secrets are found here.

During my stay in Costa Rica, I spent two nights with a local host in the small rural community of Mastatal. The home, like many others in the community, was constructed in familiar fashion: floor, external walls, internal walls and roof were all accounted for. Notably, however, there was no ceiling; that is, there was substantial space between the top of the internal walls and the roof above.

This seemed of little consequence until I found myself familiarized with the bowel movements of our host: Lus Milda.

Photo depicting bedroom with gap between interior wall and roof.

See that gap between wall and roof – that’s the culprit right there!

And her daughter. And her son-in-law. Not to mention the construction worker, the elementary school teacher, the high school teacher and the assistant principal of the regional school board, and of course, the two other program participants who were all sharing in Lus Milda’s hospitality. Having the bed positioned immediately adjacent to the bathroom I would hear everything (and more!) that is to be expected from a diet of rice and beans. Subsequently, when it came time for me to make a deposit, I was very aware of the fact that I had an unwilling audience. Privacy, then, was compromised.

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