by Hannah Nevitt, Greenheart Travel volunteer abroad participant
My latest “learning moments” include the realization that I am constantly surrounded by exotic animals and foreign insects. Monkeys, raccoons, and yes, even bugs are a part of my daily life. The “hot” shower is more of a potential idea, as it has the potential to heat the water but it doesn’t. I now usually try to shower in the middle of day so the cool water becomes “refreshing.”
Along with overcoming the difficult situations, I have also observed cultural differences that are positive. The other day I watched “The little Mermaid” in Spanish for Dilany’s 10th birthday party. It was a surreal experience to watch a film in its entirety without understanding many of the words. It is amazing how much more I was able to focus on without relying solely on the language…the characters in the background, their expressions and the significance of body language and sound effects.
Another major difference is the closeness between the families. What a foreign concept to live so close to your relatives. I observe these interactions daily just as I did in the movie. Every day the kids from neighboring houses come over to our house to visit. The kids are gorgeous with beautiful brown eyes and dark hair, smiling and laughing at my attempts to speak with them. The walls of my bedroom are now covered with art projects, drawings, and notes from them.
I watch as my mother, Dinia, dances in the living room with little Veronika (her niece)…she is one year old and loves to be held! She has the most adorable Shirley Temple curls. Moments like this occur frequently, with Dinia singing cheesy love songs while she cooks or the kids singing “head…shoulders, knees, & toes” while in the shower. Her 17 year old son still giving his mother hugs and kissing her on the cheek before he heads off to school…a rare occurrence for any teenage boy!
It is called, “Culture Shock,” and many a person who has traveled can speak about its complexities and impact. For some it is slight, and for others more intense. But the way in which we observe and cope with these experiences is important. I believe we can learn so much from our experiences, and that we can use them to influence future decisions.
As I approach the one-month mark, I will continue on armed with the only weapons I will ever need: my patience, an open-mind, and a dash of optimism to overcome the culture shock, and learn to indulge in the unfamiliar comforts of my new home in Costa Rica.