Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Strangers in a Strange Land

The concept of seeking to "learn with humility" is not just a fundamental principle of our travel goals, but a daily necessity of our new life.  We intrinsically understood this from the very first morning as we woke up in Costa Rica to a way of being, not a vacation.

We are "students" in the lessons taught to us by the "Ticos" or natives of Costa Rica, as well as from the myriad young folks who have and are traveling the world.  We know nothing of hostel life (which we are loving), little of public transportation (having grown up in the USA), and only a moderate amount about the biology or the reserve designs of this wonderful country in Central America.  Our ignorance cannot be diminished by Spanish dictionaries or translation programs alone.  For example, each meal is an adventure as each place and country has unique names for its restaurants (Sodas in Costa Rica and Picantrias in Peru), and its cuisine, drinks and deserts. Even the word "menu" means meal of the day rather than a description of restaurant offerings in Peru.

So, we must study our texts, ask questions with humility and a thirst for knowledge, and learn from our teachers, wherever they appear.   We have always understood that personal growth comes from learning.  We need a new language of global travel and the hard earned knowledge of locals who have encouraged us to, as one put it with a reference to Oz, "look behind the curtain" of the gringo trail, the tours, the landscape and better understand the social and environmental costs of what we "buy" or see.  Such knowledge has taken us a lifetime in our fields of resource management, conservation, and education so we have little illusion of what a year or two abroad can teach us.  But we can try to learn with humility.

Costa Rica is an amazing place, with people who have valued clean water and land and conservation decades before most of the world.  But it is also a place in which the natural world suffers as economic development for tourism and agriculture competes with preservationist and conservationist ideals.  The diversity is amazing, but like our own county, animals such as the golden toad, once an icon in Monterverde, have been driven extinct by anthropogenic actions and choices.  Like the arctic in our "beauty and the beast" blog entry, this is a place that is a harbinger of change and choice.

Posted in Lima, Peru.  Images are of a tour guide, a hostel room, and an Emerald Basilisk or "Jesus Christ Lizard" which walks on water.

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