Coming home from the field, especially an extended stay out of country, is never easy. It can be jarring, especially when one has to jump immediately back into “the normal”. Work, home, bills, driving in the city, and so on. It overwhelms the senses and the psyche in a way that can be most discomfiting. And most of us have to do it on our own. After spending ten days with a group of people, every waking (and sleeping) hour together, every meal, every lesson and activity, bonds are quickly formed, friendships developed, and a very special relationship is created. Some of them last a lifetime, others fade. But to suddenly be torn away tugs at the soul a tad.
And to then be apart from the group, and be among others who – through no fault of their own – simply do not know or understand what you experienced as a group, can throw one’s spirit into a bit of panic and turmoil. It can feel very alone. We wonder why “life” does not give us the courtesy of a slow re-entry and some calming reassurances that everything will be okay. Life’s a bit of a troll that way.
But we move on, and make it through, and do what we must. Suffice it to say that my trip to Costa Rica was amazing, and connected me with new friends and future partners, as well as some deeper questions for myself and what I need to be doing. The more time I spend surrounded by intelligent, focused people, the more clearly I can see the kind of position I want to be in. I am meant to work with people, help them, lead them, and tell stories. I am good at that, I think. I take ideas and concepts and mold them into a narrative that makes sense and can create engagement. So this trip opened my eyes to some of that, and the realization that I am going to have to make some changes if I am going to get to a place where i am doing what I am meant to do.
This adventure was also a sight for the eyes. I have never been much of a birder; many of them look the same to me and I find myself calling them all “grackle” or even “fluffy-winged jibba-jabba” since that is what so many of the names sound like to me. But I would be lying if I said I was not impressed by the avian diversity in Costa Rica as well as some of the species we saw, such as the resplendent quetzal. It is a beautiful animal, no question.
I get more excited, though, by the reptiles and mammals. Snakes in particular are a favorite, so having a golden eyelash pit viper a mere few feet away was one of the highlights for me. Watching spider monkeys, black howlers, peccary, coati… and then the interaction with the night flyers – bats – was incredible. The opportunity to spend time with an expert in their field is always a treat; even more so when said expert is not only knowledgeable, but funny, clever, and just fun to talk to.
It also makes a difference when your leaders and guides are engaging and fun. As i have said, this was not a vacation or a sight-seeing tour. Yes, it was fun and we saw a lot, but it was also a graduate-level course and there was a lot of work to be done. Reading, writing, inquiry, statistics, data gathering, projects… every day from sun rise to well after sunset. It was wonderful, but exhausting. But we were led by two fantastic facilitators and a truly exceptional in-country guide. I likened him to a cross between Indiana Jones and The Most Interesting Man in the World. I stand by that claim still.
Many have asked me: so how was Costa Rica? I don’t know what kind of answer I can give that fully describes the experience. It was wet and hot, it was exhausting and exhilarating, there was a lot of talking and listening, and rumor has it there was some singing from time to time. We bonded and worked hard, we hiked long trails and rode many miles through beautiful landscapes. We shared ideas, and some personal stories. Some people faced fears; either external fear of the dark or the wild or the creatures they could not see, and other faced the internal fears of failure, anxiety, and keeping what lay back home at bay, just for a few days. We laughed. A lot. We struggled, we played, and we learned. That’s how Costa Rica was. And it was amazing.