By: Hector Cruz
Coming from an immigrant family living in the United States, I’ve often marveled over the thought of a land of opportunity, underscored in the clichéd phrase “the American Dream”. Yet a society immersed in wealth has its fair share of sins. I can’t help but notice as I go into town that the people I walk past are completely unrelated, save for their smartphones and white earbuds. We are living in a society enjoying luxury, where one’s dress determines social stature, where money and power dominate, and where phones and tablets and computers are must-have necessities.
My experience in rural Costa Rica has convinced me that communities uncorrupted by modern luxury do exist. I had the privilege of residing with a beautiful family of four in a town of 70-100 people called Quebradas de Nando. My hostparents Nena and Richard met me with open arms, along with their two children Arley and Andrey. I remember our joy as Richard and Andrey taught me how to play Marimba. Though I was rusty at first, Andrey taught me how to play by ear; together we reconstructed our own tunes from popular songs. He showed us all his passionate guitar with excerpts from Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds”. The next morning we set out to make concrete for a new sidewalk by the town’s one room schoolhouse. After that, we gathered all the kids from town for a game of football; I feel it an insult to them to call it “soccer”. And as I stood beside as a spectator, afraid to join the game (these kids, especially Arley, play
hard!), the word “community” instantly redefined itself. These kids are united by the sport, less a game and more a passionate art, a simple pleasure in living a simple life. As we returned back home for dinner, Nena showed us her herb garden beside her house, and the chickens in the back. To our joy, she picked some oregano and bay leaves and let us all have a sniff. What a wonderful way to end an exhausting day.
I still feel that I hit the jackpot living with Nena and Richard, if only for three days. They taught us what distancing ourselves from society was truly like, with hot water and grocery stores deemed a luxury. They taught us what living is like in its barest, most simple form, away from egos and computers and social media, away from paved city streets and stoplights. We are all too cocooned by what we take for granted. And for that lesson, I will always be thankful.