Monday, August 16, 2010

"It feels like we put some roots down here"

As we neared the end of our journey, the mixed emotions were clear on many faces. Even though our bodies could certainly use the rest from bug bites, sunburns, and the humidity, Christina said it best: "It feels like we put some roots down here..."

Nineteen people sharing a home on what could best be described as a "vintage" white and teal bus for three weeks can certainly go either way, but I am impressed and proud to say that the Emerald Eagles on this trip represent some of the most tolerant, adaptable, and well mannered people not just at UNT, but whom I have ever met. I have observed them both as a UNT instructor and UNT-I staff member; from group lectures in the rainforest (emphasis on rain), to cheese supplier scavenger hunts, to overcoming ailments, hiking volcanoes, eating whatever is put in front of them, and learning basket weaving, these students have not only formed a unique bond, they have followed the number one rule for the trip: no crankiness. Having jam packed days from 7am to 9pm and little privacy, this says a lot about the character and high quality of these UNT students; something all of our community can be very proud of.

I think I speak for all of the UNT and CATIE leaders (Dr. Spears, Hope, Dr. Vargas, Ree) when I say helping guide this group has been a wonderful opportunity and experience, and taught us all sorts of things outside of the incredible perspectives we have heard on tourism and sustainability throughout the tropical country. Chats about life over dinner, having the opportunity to read student journals, receiving compliments on the group from hosts, fielding academic and philosophical questions...they have all been a wonderful gift from the students that continue to help broaden our own perspectives as teachers and mentors. I am thankful to UNT-International, the School of Merchandising and Hospitality Management, the Emerald Eagle program, Student Development, our partners at CATIE, and numerous other donors who provided the opportunity to spend time abroad with the individuals behind this blog, and I have shared below a few lessons to laugh over that I have learned alongside this superb group of people.

To Angele, Bekah, Chase, Christina, Cynthia, Elia, Elisa, Esther, Jaime, Krista, Kristel, Poulette, Tyler, and Violet: I know this is just the first of many big adventures to come for each of you.

Hasta pronto,

And Some lessons learned....
· When it rains, it pours.
· Just because it looks like a banana does not mean it will taste like one.
· If you tell a staff member you feel dizzy, nauseous, or overall icky, your recent..ahem…digestive processes will become an open discussion amongst staff until you are cured.
· Costa Rica has matrilineal indigenous groups (the Bribri), and communities live “borderless” with other countries – if you’re a Bribri on either side, you share resources, with or without a passport.
· Sloths, rainforests, and howler monkeys all have very appropriate names.
· Water will cure most ailments. For everything else, Powerade, a bottle of ibuprofen and some Pepto should always be on hand.
· Quick fixes for many situations can be fashioned using items only from one’s backpacks…study abroad, MacGyver style.
· If a cow starts to raise up its tail, RUN.
· Although mosquitoes do not like me, hungry ants, spiders, and a wide variety of bugs I may never know the names of, do. But they especially like Hope :)
· Almost all the products we think of as chocolate are really just chocolate flavored cocoa butter. The real stuff (literally crushed and made into chocolate in front of us) is nutty, dark, and wonderful.
· If boys are carrying their clothes around in a trash bag, do not open it. The smell will haunt you.
· I am really, really terrible at archery.
· Texas gals LOVE local tour guides.
· There *is* something worse than a cold shower: a shower with no working water at all. Count your blessings.
· I should follow my own advice on: sunscreen, wearing sneakers at plantations, sunscreen, sorting your photos daily before you become overwhelmed, sunscreen...

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