tania machiote

Tania Machiote

Summer 2018

There is a popular phrase in Costa Rica that has taken over the country. This phrase has been around since beyond the foundation of Costa Rica as a country when they were freed from the control of Spain. In fact, this phrase is more of a light within a place that doesn’t have much happiness in its history. Costa Ricans call this phrase “Pura Vida”, which can directly be translated to ‘Pure Life’. ‘Pura Vida’ is more than just a phrase that people say carelessly; It is more than a greeting or a well wish, it is a form of one’s livelihood.

With this phrase instilled in everyone, from the moment they are old enough to truly understand its meaning, naïve Costa Rican children grow up to be wiser adults. Ingrained in the minds of all who choose to listen, the expression should never carry a negative meaning because the speaker should always want the best for the receiving party. Even an action as seemingly simple as, holding the door open for someone or thanking them might result in a very grateful, “Pura Vida”. The expression itself cannot be interpreted another way because it is direct and straightforward.

Costa Rica is a country with a history that is gruesome and painful. Starting with its beginning days of colonization by the Spaniards, through the times of liberation and even in moderately recent history with the establishing of more communist health care reforms and the rise of José Figueres Ferrer (A Costa Rican Revolutionary). The difficulties that the people have gone through have not deteriorated their patriotism nor their love for their country, but strengthened it because they were able to see how in times of need, they could rely on one another for support. In Costa Rica, I always saw people around us working hard, staying positive, giving the task at hand all their effort because it was the only way but working so hard and not reaping any significant benefits wouldn’t make sense, Right?

To the capitalist mentalities that we have had carved into ourselves, most think that money and a well paying job means that you have reached success yet we also know that family and emotional support is also the definition of success. Seeing that there were people who loved their families but also enjoyed their jobs, made me think: Surely there have to be people that enjoy every aspect of their lives, but how do they like to live when they are working a job that may not pay them as well as they’d like? I came to realize that it was support, a common theme that kept appearing everywhere; In the short history lessons that our Tour Guides gave us to the thrill seeking rides that we took such as Skydiving and water repelling. We all support each other which inspires one another to continue.

This support is honestly what allows the country of Costa Rica to keep moving forward. On the Trip, given to me by Trip of A Lifetime and their Sponsors, I was able to have seen, first-hand,  the true Costa Rican way. Coming from a Afro-Latina background, I have been very open to diversity and have always been surrounded by people who have different cultures than me but being in Costa Rica, I felt more at home than I have ever felt in New York. I was free to speak the language of my parents, which was passed down to me and allowed to literally feast on food that reminded me of home. There was never a moment where I felt out of my element because, in a way, I was right where I needed to be.

I believe that although we may not recognize it, the city is too stressful for us. We are always surrounded by people who seem to have themselves put together; We see people who have steady jobs, have gone to great schools to further their education, have good relationships with their families and yet we can’t even find it within ourselves to truly to smile. In my eyes, this Trip was a Blessing. It came at a time where I felt suffocated because just a few weeks before departing, I was told that I had failed ⅖ Regents and if I failed my Geometry again, I would have to retake the class in September even though I got high marks in the class itself. At that moment, I felt as if my life was already heading towards a downwards spiral because colleges wouldn’t want a student who has to retake a class; All of my plans for my Junior year were cancelled. To say that I was falling back into the darker parts of my mental health, would be the simplest way to word things. To me, all I had were my grades and only taking 3 AP classes weren’t going to cut it. So I accidentally fell into a very bad state of mind that made me feel as if I wasn’t worth as much as had I seemed and I needed to humble myself because “people who actually try don’t fail.” I knew that my mental state wasn’t where it needed to be, but it was the only way I could cope with myself until the Trip, that I thought I had mistakenly earned, came to.

My Trip to Costa Rica made such a big difference in my life because, through the actions of others and the things I had experienced, I realized that my problems were only temporary and didn’t mean they couldn’t be fixed. Throughout those 3 weeks, I saw people overcome their fears and create new bonds. I witnessed the silencing of 23 students who couldn’t have prepared themselves for the emotional connection they would eventually develop with two selfless men named Jorge and Jesus, who gave every moment they had to be with kids that weren’t their own, simply trying to make a living by dedicating themselves to their respective jobs of tour guide and bus driver. I viewed the breathtaking Arenal Volcano in La Fortuna and played in the Beaches of Tamarindo. I lived, despite the fact that a few weeks earlier I felt like I was slipping away. The realization that I have so much more within myself and upcoming in my life, was too valuable to disregard. In the time I spent in Costa Rica, I only gave up on myself once, but that was because I chose to ignore the support that everyone was offering… the second I quit I regretted it and promised myself to never do it again.

I would say the greatest difference between Costa Rica and the United States, wouldn’t be the lesser structural and developmental architecture nor the the health care plans,  judicial systems, or even, where personal priorities lie; The greatest difference, in the eyes of a young traveller whomst had never seen any other home but her own, would be support.

America, with all it’s glory and magnificence, tends to uphold the standard that one must slave away for most of their lives in order to have earned The American Dream”; As Patriots. We respect those who risk their lives for us in our military, yet as the working class on our own, forget that our Troops need help re-adjusting and re-integrating themselves into society.

Metaphorically speaking, couldn’t we also refer to the children on our underprivileged and lower-class communities as our Soldiers? There are children who wake up in the morning afraid that that day could potentially be their last, if they do so much, as to look at someone wearing a colour that they haven't been able to touch in years; We have communities that are filled with silence but when they step into their own private sectors, they can hear the agonizing scream of a child begging their parents not to hurt them, promising they would do better the next time. Many of the children that are surrounded by negativity and hatred their entire lives, don’t have the ability to break free from what they have seen or experienced on their own. They will push away anyone who tries to interfere with their lives and will repeat a track that has been passed on from Generation to Generation, “You wouldn’t understand… Don’t act like you know me. No one actually cares.”

When we start to neglect and ignore the situation at hand, minority groups begin to misunderstand the intentions of certain people. Most people in my community, feel exactly the same feeling of a situational claustrophobia, which is essentially a feeling of being afraid of their confinement to the situation they are living in. It becomes more of a paranoia, if there is someone who has broken their trust and now there is another trying to repair what someone else left. Many people in my neighbourhood value loyalty but don’t seem to value themselves because they aren’t surrounded by people who appreciate them or support them, therefore if  they ever encounter someone that does see them as more than a pawn in their way to financial success, they become frightened and run away.

If people in my community knew how to value themselves and tried to spread positivity, the changes would be so drastic that they wouldn’t even feel like they were the same people. If I can implement my single grain of support to the kids around me, I know that they will absorb it and start trying to put little pieces of  appreciation and motivation in those around them; The Domino Effect doesn’t necessarily have to be a series of negative events that lead to one positive…. It can be one big great movement of general changing of attitude, that will eventually lead to a world of no attitude at all.

Using what I know now, I will continue my prearranged plan to open and lead a club in my school that will be used to bring to light subjects that may be difficult to speak about and allow it as a place to speak freely. Many kids in my part of Queens are missing a place where there is no judgement and where they can say what they want not have to put up a façade in front of their peers. I choose to do this with teens because the youth are what will shape our country and lead the way for future generations. If they lead using the example that it is okay to have pain in our past and help others to move on, we will see a future of openness and the most unscathed form of humanity’s love than we have ever seen before. Trips like the one I took to Costa Rica are what allow people to become enlightened to how the world can be and how they, themselves, can shape it to do good.