Monday, March 23, 2015

Pura vida, Costa Rica


“Aloha” can mean “hello” or “goodbye.” English has no shortage of words that can have drastically different meanings, depending on the context. I’m sure the same goes for other languages.

But I don’t think there’s a phrase that can match the functional diversity of Costa Rica’s favorite saying, “Pura vida,” which literally translates to “Pure life.”

The phrase has been around for as long as locals can remember. According to Ignasio, one of the tour guides I spent some time with this week, it can be used in any situation and can have any meaning, depending on how you say it.

For example, he said if someone asks how the food is, you could answer “Pura vida!” enthusiastically and have it mean “good.” If it’s bad, though, you could make a face and whine, “Pura vida….”

It’s also a greeting, farewell and response to questions like, “How are you?”

As I spent my last day with LAST, I thought about how fitting “pura vida” is to describe this country and its inhabitants. Everyone seems so calm and relaxed. Though the drivers are un poco loco, all the honking is what Selena perfectly described as “happy honking.” I never saw anyone shout at anyone else or act unkindly.

The people who visit Costa Rica adopt the pure life quickly, judging by my experiences with the other volunteers. 

A friendly game of soccer while waiting on the beach.

When it was time to say our goodbyes, I was sad. No, we hadn’t caught any turtles, but honestly, that would have just been the cherry on top of a fantastic week.

I learned so much about local culture, met people who have never been outside of Costa Rica and talked to others who have traveled the world. I saw animals and plants that I’d only read about or watched on TV. I tried so many new foods and, even though I couldn’t identify the ingredients in most of them without asking our host mom, I loved them all (with the exception of plantains. Plantains and I will never be friends).

While the Murrow College sent me to Costa Rica to report, I’ll be going home with so much more than a video package. Thanks to the generosity of my school, my entire outlook on life has changed. I stepped outside of my comfort zone and embraced adventure. I’m so grateful for this incredible experience.

Pura vida, Costa Rica. Until next time.

Sunset on the bike ride home.

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