¡Pura vida! A Way of Life and A Way of Remembering
by Terrell Greene
So many thoughts ran through my mind as I prepared myself for my second study-abroad adventure. I always said that Costa Rica was the one country that I’d like to visit and this was now my opportunity. My flight was booked, my bags were packed, and I knew that I was ready, even if in the back of my mind I was still second guessing my decision.
The anxiety that I felt knowing that I’d be living in a Spanish-speaking country for 11 weeks was both terrifying and liberating. I remember only wishing that I knew someone else at this moment who was doing the same thing. I felt as though I was going into this experience alone, which wasn’t completely untrue, but I knew that if I had someone to relate to at that moment; most of my fears would have gone away. But that’s life. We have to lack something to learn what we need.
I hopped on my flight for my “vacation”, as my friends had called it. I had met with another SOL mate, our name as part of the SOL Education Abroad program, on a connecting flight and soon things calmed. As soon as the plane landed in Alajuela, Costa Rica any thoughts of returning home were replaced with anticipation for the adventures ahead. I would meet my host mom, her son, and my two roommates next, and then it was school and weekend trips through the country from there on.
The first stop was volcán Poas (Poas Volcano), where I can still remember the scent of volcanic fumes that arose. Following that, the group of 23 of us traveled to the rainforest in Manuel Antonio and saw an abundance of iguanas, monkeys, and raccoons. Was this for real? How were we all so lucky to live the ¡Pura vida!, a common phrase used to express/describe the Costa Rican carefree and laid-back attitude?
During my time in Costa Rica, I was able to meet locals and immerse myself within the language. I received the opportunity to volunteer in elementary schools, along with others, to help kids learn English and I even volunteered my time at a Senior Center where I heard stories of those who grew up in Costa Rica. I gained so much appreciation for the Spanish Language and for the privileges I had in the U.S. through SOL.
For me, ¡Pura vida! was not just a phrase to live by, but more of a way for me to remember my experiences and the people that I encountered. After my first six weeks I had to say goodbye to most of the friends that I met in the program. Then after nine weeks I said goodbye to nearly all of them. ¡Pura vida! Is the one thing that will forever link us together, memories and all, no matter where we go, and I’m more than grateful to Costa Rica for giving me that.