Travel Journal: Costa Rica
This particular journal entry has been a long time coming. I’ve been with my host family for some days now, and it's been an incredible experience. My Spanish skills are improving each day, little by little. I'm fortunate to be able to converse with my family without many problems. I surprised myself at what I'm capable of! Right now, I'm sitting at the table with Fabiola, the family’s seven-year-old daughter. She's showing off her English skills to me and Tyler, another member of the trip. We’re getting a solid review of phrases like “wash your hair,” “brush your teeth,” and “brush your hair” in both English and Spanish.
A few nights ago, I had one of the most significant conversations of my life with my host father, Elian. We found ourselves talking outside the house on the patio well into the night. He doesn’t speak any English and I’m not a native Spanish speaker, but that did not take away from the conversation. He told me about his job as a sugar-cane farmer, a very important industry in this community called La Paz. We talked about how his job is not so different from the coal industry in Eastern Kentucky and West Virginia. It seems that the only future many people have is with the sugar cane or coffee fields and coal mines, respectively. I told him about many of the environmental effects of mining and the fact that many workers are disrespected. He described how workers here work as much as they can and do whatever they are told. We both agreed that it doesn’t matter what country you are in, there will always be people who are mistreated in their jobs. There was a small silence before he said, “Es como esclavo” (It’s like slavery). I'll never forget that moment.
We read things about modern slavery and many are tempted to believe that it's a construct of sensationalist journalism. To be clear, I'm not MSNBC, Fox News, or CNN. I'm a college student from Prospect, Kentucky, whose life is being dramatically influenced by people who live in a different country, don't speak my first language, and embrace a completely different culture. To think that I've only been here a week makes me uncomfortably excited for the next four.
Until the next entry!
P.S. We’re headed to see the Arenal Volcano and swim in natural hot springs this weekend. Not a bad way to spend my summer!
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