Loading Praxis Center site...
Part 1: The Basic Blunders

Part 1: The Basic Blunders

Before we left Santa Rosa, Costa Rica, our program director Heidi Michelson put us through a re-entry workshop. We talked about the things we would miss, what we have learned, and about some serious fears and doubts we had about returning home. Fears that our friends and family will not understand us and how we have changed, that people will not listen to our stories, or, worst of all, that we will forget it all and revert back to the people we were 5 months ago. But, whether we were mentally prepared for it or not, May 10th came, and we had to say heartbreaking goodbyes to our host families and to the country we have grown to love.

As I took-off in the first flight of a line of planes that lead from Costa Rica to Denver, CO – home— I was a little overwhelmed by all of the emotional and exciting things that had happened already that day. Saying goodbye to my host family was harder than I had even imagined and saying goodbye to Costa Rica itself, the beautiful country full of mountains and trees, through the small and just-slightly-lower-than-is-comfortable plane window was unexpectedly difficult. And the forecast was for more emotional turmoil in the coming hours, as I knew that I would see my real family for the first time in months. Little was I to know that this was only the beginning of my travels that day—and travel is never adventure-less.  Recorded here, in a 3 part series, is the epic tale of my journey home, physically and mentally, and the record of a re-entering experience with plenty of lessons to be learned. In the end, you will find that in all my experiences in Costa Rica, of all the time spent with “ticos”, no one has truly driven home the heart of Pura Vida like an old Granny I met from Houston, and she was able to drive away the fears I had of home.  

Part 1: The Basic Blunders

Erin, another student in the Valpo Costa Rica Study Abroad program, had the same flight as me to Houston. While her connecting flight heads off to Chicago and mine goes to Denver, we got to spend the last few hours in Costa Rica together. As we flew out of Costa Rica and passed over Nicaragua, I happened to look out the window and notice a mountain with clouds around it. But that was no mountain, and those were not clouds either. On second look, I saw that it was an erupting volcano. I elbowed Erin, and we marveled at Central America giving us a last glimpse of its natural beauty. We visited Nicaragua a couple weeks before, we hiked one of its many volcanos, but the view of an erupting volcano, from a safe distance away, was another level of cool. Around the cone, you could see bright red lava, and down the sides, you could see trails of black where the magma had cooled. The steam coming out the top spiraled into the sky. Before you get worried, the volcano didn’t hurt anyone, it was in a rural area and even so, the lava didn’t travel much past it’s base.

As the attendant came around with drinks, both Erin and I responded in Spanish, which I’m sure he found confusing. As we arrived, I creaked my neck to look at Houston through the plane window. Everything was…perfect. Big. Placed with perfect spacing between buildings. The roofs were white—there were none of the cheap and typical tin roof rusty-orange color roofs or green roofs that mark the houses in Costa Rica. Neighborhood blocks were perfect squares and each high school had its own meticulously kept sports fields. To look at all of the wealth, in every direction, it’s easy to forget that most people in the world don’t live this way. Most people couldn’t afford to keep their lawn perfectly trimmed with manicured flowers and bushes rimming it. In fact, my host family couldn’t even afford a lawn. What are lawns for anyways? Do they have a purpose other than to impress neighbors? As all these thoughts ran through my head and we landed in Texas, I had to admit that everyone was right when they said that culture shock is always harder on the way back. As we went to the bathroom for the first time in the US for months, both Erin and I made the mistake of throwing the toilet paper in the trash can and laughed at ourselves for it afterwards.

Immigration in Houston went without a hitch. Well, except for the one moment that Erin tripped on her shoelaces and wiped out as we walked toward the security checkpoint. But we made it through the whole first step of returning to the US with only a few minor scrapes and bruises. We decided to head towards Erin’s gate together, since my flight was leaving an hour later– and unbeknownst to her, her real mother and I had planned a surprise for her! Conveniently, Erin’s mom also needed to take a flight from Houston to Chicago, and had set it up so that she and Erin could take the flight together, but she wanted this to be a surprise for Erin. I knew that this plan was going to result in tears– Erin had barely slept the night before, trying to make the most of her time in Costa Rica and putting off packing until midnight, and she had also already cried a couple times today when saying goodbye to her host family and to Costa Rica. As soon as Erin saw her mom, she erupted in tears, and the two enveloped each other in a great big hug. After a couple moments of happy sobbing, and some cute pictures, the two of them had to get in line to board. And after all we had been through together, Erin and I had to say goodbye (for now).


26 June 2017


Kortney Cena