Monday, November 28, 2016

The Beginning of the End

This is a blog post shared by Lindsey Broek, from Northwestern University. 

Two weeks ago the goodbyes began. I said goodbye to my San Jose family and moved in with my new host family in San Pedro, the place I am calling home for my last couple weeks in Costa Rica. This semester has been such a whirlwind of new things, new experiences, and new people. Sometimes I’ve been in awe and excitement of all of the “new.” Other times I haven’t been quite sure what to think. Still other times I was wishing I could just be at home again in my comfort zone (but then I remember how cold it is in Iowa and that feeling usually goes away). I felt so at home with my family in San Jose and so it was difficult to have to say goodbye, not knowing if it would be goodbye for a year, or goodbye forever. My nephew Matias did say he was going to ride in my suitcase and go back to the US with me, so I should be seeing him again in about a week or so.๐Ÿ˜‰

In my new immersion, I am living with a host family in San Pedro, with a mom, dad, and 9 year old sister, Maria Lucia. They have been so welcoming to me since I arrived, and have treated me as one of their own. I definitely feel like I am never grateful enough for everything they do for me, be it taking time out of their day to show me around town, or just buying me a coke because they know how much I like it. Last week my dad was showing me various English songs on YouTube; he loves to listen to American music from the 60s and 70s, and he wanted to see if I knew the songs (I did know most of them, surprisingly). We also ended up watching almost 2 hours-worth of his favorite singing videos from shows like “America’s Got Talent.” We laughed; we cried; it was a good time. Really though, we laughed, and, well, I didn’t cry but I’m pretty sure my dad started tearing up at one point.

I am also currently volunteering at a children’s shelter, hanging out and playing games with the kids. These kids at this shelter have some of the biggest hearts I’ve ever seen. Some of them I’m sure have been through a lot, and still they are so full of joy and love. Almost every day that I’ve gone I’ve received a gift from one of the kids, something like a bracelet, a picture, or various paintings of trees (that seems to be the popular painting of choice lately). Each day I’m welcomed with smiling hellos and hugs, and when I leave I get frantic goodbyes (there’s a little girl who will run after me, yell “adio!”and blow kisses until I walk out the door). Magic card tricks are super popular with the boys there, and most of them have shown me a card trick, which usually involves quickly shoving cards underneath their legs when they think I’m not looking to show that they “magically” disappeared, or asking me to pick a card and put it on the bottom, so they can “magically” whip out the card from the bottom. It’s good stuff. But this volunteering has been one of my favorite parts of the semester, even if one of the kids thought my name was “Gypsy” last week.๐Ÿ™‚ I can truly feel the love of Jesus in that building, and I really, really hope the kids feel that love, and know that they are loved, no matter what their backgrounds may be.

Overall, as I think about how I’m in the last 2 weeks of the semester, I feel mixed emotions. Having to meet a whole new family and start a “new” life again felt a little bit like the beginning of the semester, and so that was frustrating for me, after becoming super comfortable in my San Jose home. I’ve also been preparing for the next semester, figuring out student teaching, graduation info, etc. And just the fact that there’s only two weeks left has made it a tad difficult to fully be here. However, I realize I’m still in Costa Rica. I need to be here, not just physically, but mentally. I have a wonderful host family who wants to get to know me and include me as one of their own.  One of the favorite words of Costa Ricans (and has become one of mine) is “tranquila,”  which essentially means “relax.” Life doesn’t need to be rushed. I don’t need to worry about things that aren’t happening for a few weeks; I can relax and worry about those things when the time comes. Life is going to move so fast when I go back to the US, so I want to cherish the time I have left here. I’ve got two more weeks to continue making some of the best memories of my life, with some of the coolest people๐Ÿ™‚

Friday, November 11, 2016

Students Are Finishing Up their Concentration Classes.

Upon returning form our Nicaragua study trip, students divided up into their classes, based on the concentration of their choice: International Business, Advanced Language and Literature, and Latin American Studies. This a reflection shared from one of our business students, Vanessa Herrera, from Northwest University. Students will leave on Monday for their Community Immersion Experiences. 

Wrestling with the issue of poverty is a very new practice for me. I grew up in a small-town of 1,000 people in eastern Oregon. My family did not start out middle-class, but they worked their way up long enough to have what we have now. Ive seen so many people, including my parents, increase their quality of life by working hard. I assumed everyone could do the same. Then, to also think that the processes and systems I am studying are the causes of so much poverty around the world is another thing to wrestle with, as well. The readings in the International Business Concentration have brought me out of the ignorance I was in before, which is always uncomfortable. This was no exception. However, I have learned to take these kinds of experiences as opportunities to think differently about the world and my impact on it.
                I used to romanticize the idea of ending poverty as just giving them a few key resources and letting them take care of the rest. People have all these theories on why these countries are as poor as they are, without any admittance that some of them just are not, or were not, as lucky. Some of these people are simply facing the negative consequences of their countrys history and living in areas that are perfect for a lot of bad things. One article that I read gave the example of some sub-Saharan African countries suffering for malaria because they are the perfect environment for malaria-infested mosquitoes. They do not have the resources to fight against the bad luck they were born with.
                I am the consequence of some luck too. I am living with the consequences of my countrys history, which came at the expense of these other countries' suffering. I got a hand of good luck, just like most of the poor got their hand of bad luck. As a Christian, I do not think this is for nothing. I cannot help that I was born where I was, when I was; but, I can help people who cannot help themselves just because they were born where they were, at the time that they were. I especially believe that business can play such a vital role in this effect.
                Business sustains. Business brings people to people. Business can play the role of networking people with resources, like me, to people with a lack of resources in a practical manner. The reality for most people is that the more distance there is between people and social issues, the less they care. The reason I never gave a second thought to poverty was because I had never seen the reality of it, and it did not pertain to me directly.  I am thinking of poverty and development differently, and I can bring these new ways of thinking of success into whatever career I choose. People get so caught up in their career and being successful in the way the market defines success that they lose who they are in the process. They lose their sense of humanity. Its important to be people of character, through our words and actions. I am going to be that person in all aspects of my personal and professional life- business, school, church- with this new perspective in hopes of bringing other people to re-evaluate these so-called truths we have been taught.