Alexis Javier

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My Project Costa Rica Trip

Before my trip to Costa Rica, I was both excited and nervous. I questioned whether my experiences would turn out to be good ones, or ones that I regret. However, I am sure that this past experience was certainly a good memory. Therefore, the program Trip of a Lifetime lives up to its name.

Way before the application process started, I thought this program was too good to be true! I never thought I would be at this point, recalling my experiences in this essay. Days leading up to my departure were excruciatingly long and sluggish. To calm my excitement and anticipation, I would watch travel videos of Costa Rica on YouTube and familiarize myself with the region so I knew what to expect. Despite this effort, this trip still surprised in ways that I wouldn’t have expected.

As I previously mentioned in my application, I once returned back to my birthplace — the Dominican Republic. Recalling back to that time, I remembered enjoying the airplane flight. So, I thought I would enjoy the flight to Costa Rica this time. Oh, what a mistake I made! As my new found friends boarded the plane, my heart is pounding out of nervousness (Did I mention I’m afraid of heights and of tight spaces?). I sit in my cramped window seat (luckily next to a kind woman) and brace for what is to come.

After a few uncomfortable and agonizing minutes, the plane’s engines start ramping up! I can still hear them. They are — to me — one of the scariest sounds I’ve heard. Takeoff was even more painful than just sitting in a stationary plane. It felt like a really intense rollercoaster. (Did I mention I’m afraid of rollercoasters?)! I shut the window, closed my eyes, and pretended I was still on the ground to calm myself. I played some music at full volume to block out the sounds of the engines. “Foolish Alexis, open the window and look outside. You’re hundreds of thousands of feet in the air! You’ll be there for hours so get comfortable!” my unhelpful conscious told me. I reluctantly opened the window and just accepted the fact that I would be suspended miles in the air for a long period of time. And that was that.

Costa Rica was a very rainy place. It rained basically every day. As I knew from my ‘research’ before, Costa Rica was in the midst of its rainy season. Also, there were many pesky mosquitos. Anyways, we arrived at our first of many hotels in the town of La Fortuna. We were greeted by Volcán Arenal, directly behind of our hotel. It was massive. Unfortunately, it was usually covered by clouds, but when the clouds went away, it was a beautiful sight. I captured the image to the right when we went shopping downtown.

Unlike many of my peers, I thought that the food was excellent. However, I am a bit biased when I say that because I am hispanic. The food usually consisted of gallo pinto (rice and beans), sweet plantains, chicken, salad, and lots of tortillas. The Costa Ricans love tortillas — not to mention Fresco, a fruit drink. This is basically what I eat normally in a Dominican household. The image to the right features the food that we eat at the high school/college that we went to for our electives. That food was quite delicious and to be honest, one of the things I will really miss most. This brings up one of the main points I wanted to discuss in my essay: cooking.

For my elective, I participated in cooking basic Costa Rican dishes at the school I mentioned. We cooked rice pudding, arepas, and pineapple empanadas to name a few. However, the best part of this elective was not the cooking. It was the kind and amiable women who taught us these dishes. Unlike my peers, I really bonded with the people of Costa Rica because I, as a latino, spoke spanish as my first language. Because of our shared language, we got to talk more than just cooking and we had the chance to really establish a friendship. On our last day of cooking, I didn’t expect to cry but I did, knowing that I would most likely never see these wonderful women again. If I had to pick the best experience, it would be cooking. It is not what I initially expected, but oh well, you can’t ignore the heart.

The community service we participated in was at a local daycare center. We ended up repainting all of the walls into a more exciting view for the children. Thankfully, we had a wonderful artist on our trip, David Villa. He was the foundation for the art that covered the walls of the Cen-cinai daycare center. We also got to play with the children there. It was super fun and quite sad when we had to leave on our last day.
By far, the best part of this trip was the people I met. The lunch ladies, the counselors, the bus drivers, the waiters, and of course, the other students on my trip. We are all so far away from each other, but still so close in memory. I miss every single person I met and I wish I could meet them again. I remember meeting new people was one of things I looked forward to doing on this trip. Project Costa Rica can be summed up in one of my favorite sayings, “You don’t realize what you have until it’s gone.” The trip is finished and now I realize what an amazing experience it was. Without a doubt, it was truly a trip of a lifetime.