Today is the last day of classes. Tomorrow is my last full day in Costa Rica. Sunday...I will be home.
It is strange how much and how little I have become accustom to this place over the last ten weeks. I’ve learned the restaurants, the roads, the stores, the bus routes. I’ve learned how to avoid the rain and how to escape the heat. I’ve even somehow managed to pick up a little of the language. I look at the new students; see how they gaze wide-eyed at the tour guides, chat excitedly about new restaurants they’ve discovered, and even try to fit their own habits and customs, however awkwardly, in this strange, new world. I cannot help but smile inwardly when I watch them. They will soon transform from the “idealistic freshmen” to the “veteran” sophomores. They will become accustomed to this place and move on.
I have had the slightly unusual opportunity to spend my entire time at CPI studying in the same town throughout my entire time here. Most students here study for much less time and almost no one chooses to spend all their time in only one of CPI’s three campuses. In that sense, I have had a somewhat unique ability to come in as a student and not just travel around, but to live here for ten weeks. At the same time, though I have been living in this place, I haven't lived here. It has been only an extended visit – a journey to finish, not a destination or place of rest.
This idea stirred the question in my mind: What is a home? What makes a place that you go back to rather than just come back to? Obviously spending a mere seventy days in a foreign country is unlikely to replace the roots and ties a person has to the place he has been living his entire life. But what would be enough to make that change? Is it merely a matter of time? If so how can so many of the students at Patrick Henry, after spending a few short weeks on campus, a semester length in the decades of a lifetime, consider the school their home? Does it depend on the people you are with? If so, how are new homes ever established? How did the pioneers leave their families to stake out new homesteads in the frontier? How do grown, single sons and daughters leave their parents and make homes for themselves miles away from the family that raised them?
Maybe “home” is just a preference. “Home is where your heart is” and thus wherever you feel most comfortable, that is your home. But I think that is a dangerous idea because I believe that “home” is an objective, not subjective idea. We can choose to be comfortable in many places. It is even easier to choose to be uncomfortable in many places. I have seen both here. I have seen how a more tranquil lifestyle, a lifestyle that makes time for just hanging out with other people with nothing in particular to do, is restful, comfortable, and important. I have also seen how hours, afternoons, and dare I say even lifetimes can be wasted lounging “comfortably” in your bed, mindlessly watching television all day; how when the very real responsibilities of exerting energy to some higher purpose, of living for other people and not just working for them, become uncomfortable, they remain ignored responsibilities.
I believe and hope that I have learned many things here in Costa Rica. I have learned to value a more tranquil lifestyle. I have learned just how little I actually “need” to use the internet. How blessed we are to live in a world where doctors and medicines are available, where consumer products and department stores exist, where food is readily available and is stacked in piles. I’ve gained an increased appreciation for the unique and rare opportunity to spend time simply learning and educating oneself – a luxury that for most of history was reserved for kings and nobles. I have seen patience, kindness, and boundless hospitality displayed by my tico family whose generosity has humbled me and made my ask myself if I would be as selfless as they. There are many lessons I hope to take home with me, but that again raises the question: What is home?
Home, is the idea of permanence. It is an objective concept in the sense that you should match your subjective expectations to the objective realities, but we view “home” to be the place we expect to be our permanent shelter and refuge. This is why you cannot truly feel at home when you know you are leaving in ten weeks, or even ten years. This is why people are so devastated when that idea of permanence is shattered by losing their homes, even how an entire civilization can be gone with the wind. For us, home is the place where we understand our shelter ultimately is, our journey ultimately ends, and our responsibilities ultimately lie.
Where is that, I wonder? And am I living knowing, not just understanding mentally, that place might not be exactly where most people would consider it to be?
One day more. Another day, another destiny. This is my final day of studying Spanish at CPI. This is also my final blog post.
In a way, this post is the essay I wanted to write for my final Spanish project. The ideas that I can but express in my mother tongue alone. Only this time, I write in a matter of hours rather than weeks. It is an essay with much less revision than the one I submitted this morning, but hopefully one that conveys what I really mean.
I am incredibly excited and looking forward to be returning home. I will truly miss Costa Rica. But I yearn for someplace else. I miss my family, my friends, my home...and yet I also know that deep inside, I yearn for Home.
Thank you for reading.
This is Tico Adventure, signing off.