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Me gusta aqui, es muy bonito.

Me gusta aqui, es muy bonito.

“I like it here, it is very beautiful.”

I have been in Costa Rica for a week now. During the first few days, people would ask me how I was feeling about being here. With my limited Spanish vocabulary, this was the simple phrase I could use to express what I think about what I have seen of the country. As I walk to class at Casa Adobe, I enjoy the beautiful weather which I do not usually have this time of year, with a warmth of 72 degrees. I like the sun, the wind, the plants, and the sky. In many ways it is different here than it is back in Valpo, and I feel very lucky to be studying abroad here. In the yard outside of my open-doored classroom, there is a garden, a swing set, picnic tables, a hammock, dogs, cats, children playing, and even a cow. How lucky am I? I should be blown away by my good fortune at being able to go to school in such a place. But, honestly, I am not.

The streets and sidewalk are uneven, there are powerlines, paint on picnic tables and the walls of houses is peeling, and alleyways are crocked and, at times, grey. Santa Rosa is not a perfect paradise; it is a place. And just like every other place in the world, it is filled with both beautiful and less-glamorous aspects. I could choose to look at only the glamorous aspects and say that this is a paradise, and Valpo could never compare. But I won’t.

Asserting that I like it here, and that it is beautiful is a natural and appropriate response from a student who is studying abroad. But, in the contrasting beauty and imperfections of this place I realize it is alike in many ways to every other place on earth. I am not going to be duped into belittling other places in comparison. There is beauty to be found everywhere. I can visualize Valparaiso University right now, with its similar colored brick buildings, zig-zagged sidewalks, covered in thick layers of snow. There isn’t a cow in the front yard of the classroom. But, it is saturated in beauty just like every other place in the world. And I am lucky to call Valparaiso one of my homes.

But, what about Costa Rica made it obvious to me that I am fortunate, surrounded by beauty no matter where I am? I could be filled with gratitude for the place I am in, always. Perhaps the answer lies in my expectations for something different. Aware that I am in a new country, I have focused on my surrounding, intent on learning what it is like here. And in doing so I found things that were good, and things that were imperfect. In my anticipation, Costa Rica has simultaneously mystified and under-whelmed my heart and mind. I am left with a desire to travel to more places on this earth, so that I may again observe the beauty and imperfection which underlies everywhere.


06 February 2019


Sarah Germann