My apologies it has taken so long to post another update. We’ve been busy in site and although with the quiet here you would think I’d have much more time to reflect and do some writing, but the truth is that when I’m not working, I like to slow down and do little to nothing. I’m not very disciplined when it comes to writing and when I sit down to write I don’t want to think of it as a chore. So, I just sit and wait for an inspiration to come or something else to stir me to pick up the computer and scribble down a few words.
Anyway, since taking a little over two-week vacation back to the States to see our friends’ (and former Peace Corps volunteers who met while serving in Peru) wedding in Big Sur and to visit our families, and then returning to Costa Rica I’ve had this feeling that I’m somehow living between two very distinct worlds. The trip was a whirlwind, never leaving us in one place for more than 3 days at a time, which was probably good because we wouldn’t want to feel too settled. We want to thank our good friends, Charlie and Erika, who hosted us the majority of our stay in the Bay Area, for their incredible generosity and hospitality during our stay. Erika, the thoughtfulness of putting water on the nightstands near the beds was an incredibly thoughtful gesture, among all the other kind considerations including the multiple trips you and Charlie made taking and picking us up from BART, not to mention the Bay sail which Erika took us on to commemorate our last night in San Francisco.
We also want to thank our families: First to my mother who coordinated renting a houseboat at Lake Shasta and invited all of my family, 15 in total, to spend three days/nights swimming, jet-skiing, fishing, eating and generally spending good, quality family time with each other. We’d also like to thank Melinda’s family for hosting us, inviting over her brother and family for dinner and for treating us to a movie and ice-cream sandwiches in downtown Sacramento. All in all, the experiences were overwhelming decadent and made us feel much loved.
We also want to thank our friends Ryan and Ashley for inviting us to their lovely wedding in Big Sur. We got to know Ryan and Ashley the year before we left San Francisco for the Peace Corps, as Melinda and Ashley worked at the same high school. With our shared interest in social justice, the environment, stimulating conversation and the coincidence that Ryan and Ashley are former Peace Corps volunteers themselves, we immediately bonded with them and were very honored that they would invite us to their wedding despite the short time which we’ve known each other. They got married under a stand of redwood trees in one of the most beautiful parts of California and the wedding was a picture perfect representation of them as a couple and we wish them nothing but the best in their marriage together as well as wishing them a safe and wildly fantastic adventure in Nepal and beyond during their year off together (what a honeymoon!).
So, back to being between both worlds…
When we touched down in San Francisco in the evening on June 27th my first observation was how parched the coastal hills were and how the sun was still shining long after it would have gone down in Costa Rica (more or less 6 pm every day). Going through Customs was also quite an odd experience, the throngs of people, the flat screen TVs with subtitles in French walking visitors through the Customs check process, and not to mention the paperwork in which we were unsure of what address we should list, despite the fact that we were calling ourselves “residents” of the United States. Given the omission of address we were asked to go through a separate security check, which we were quickly rushed through when the officer noticed that we were Peace Corps volunteers. Yes, it had been 17 months since we’d last been on US soil and it would take just a little getting used to.
So, I won’t go into a play-for-play of every day while home, but here are images which stood out which reminded me of how different our two worlds are:
-Taking BART in the East Bay looking over stretches of housing, to the Bay and all the way to the San Francisco skyline, all of this input barraging me at breakneck speed as the rush-hour train bolted toward downtown Oakland from MacArthur station with throngs of people packed onboard, listening to music, reading books on their Kindles, playing with their iPhones and/or generally trying to stare in some direction trying to avoid too much eye contact.
-The quarters that came out of the BART ticket vending machine seemed so small. What is this? Generally, the change in Costa Rica is much larger a heavier than US change.
-Looking upward in downtown San Francisco Financial District, once again in awe of the skyscrapers which had once been a part of my daily trek to work.
-The choices, whether it be at a coffee shop or in the gourmet grocery store. Instant gratification on so many levels, but also could be paralyzing to make a selection with so many options. For example, Melinda and I went through a drive through café with free flavored syrup for the coffee and Melinda asked if they had sugar free alternatives and yes they said that they had “only” 8 options. It was difficult not to get caught up in the consumerism which we’d done such a good job of shedding in our experience in Costa Rica. We’ll have to ponder how we’ll maintain this consumer independence when we move back as the urge to spend and consume is so strong, especially after a couple of years of having less choice, which is not such a bad thing.
-We had to remind ourselves that people are generally on-time. We also found ourselves rushing around to make it to the many appointments, chores, visiting friends/family, etc. Was this the pace we sustained before our PC journey?
-We found ourselves appreciating the humidity of Costa Rica. Our lips were chapped and our skin dry. I also had a ton of allergies which I didn’t have in Costa Rica (strange with all the foliage in CR).
-The roads are so efficient and so flat. We drove a newly paved stretch near Emeryville in the East Bay and it felt like heaven.
At the end of the day, whether we have one foot in Costa Rica or the other foot in the US, what I realized from our trip is that perhaps the most important element which I will take from my Peace Corps experience is appreciation. Simply put, when you have less and when you see others have less, you appreciate more. I believe the yoga practice that Melinda and I have also taken up during our service has also reinforced this sense of appreciation. We, especially as Americans, have so many things to be thankful for. There are aspects of living in the States which are far from ideal, equally with living here in Costa Rica. However, both places offer something different, something unexpected, but sometimes so evidentially essential that you wouldn’t notice it if you hadn’t taken the time to stop, listen and allow yourself the opportunity to feel grateful.
Once again, thanks and much love to our family and friends who’ve supported us along this journey.