June 30, 2006


What do a catamaran cruise from Tortuga Island in the Pacific Ocean, a private van ride from Manuel Antonio National Park and a local bus ride from a day´s work in the San Jose Children´s Hospital have in common? For me, it has been the song Another Day in Paradise by Phil Collins. In each of these situations this song was playing and each time it felt like it was playing just for me. When I heard it, it seemed to last forever and I found myself locked in moments of powerful reflection.

The song speaks on how lucky we all are to have what we do, whether it is health, money, or simply the ability to enjoy our lives. Especially in Costa Rica this dynamic is evident to me, both as an outsider and as an American. No matter how bad my days are or how difficult things might seem for me, I am surrounded by people who have it much harder and can´t just take a plane ride away from all of it. I see hundreds of situations I want to understand and thousands of people I want to help, but like the song says, I often feel incapacitated by how overwhelming it all is.

Oh, think twice, it´s just another day for you and me in paradise. Oh, think twice, it´s just another day for you, you and me in paradise...Think about it. As sad and hard as it is, this is where I have always stopped. I see the things around me and I think about them, but what can I do? Where do I start? How do I help? Oh lord, is there nothing more anybody can do, oh lord, they must be something you can say. I think there is something I can say. In the book I´m currently reading, What About the Big Stuff by Richard Carlson, there is a story of a meditation student who wanted to make compassion more a part of his everyday life. He lived in an apartment in a major city and at the bottom of his stairs, on the sidewalk, there lived a man who was homeless. For a long time, like most other people, he walked right past the homeless man, never making eye contact. Occasionally he would give him change, but more out of guilt than anything else. However, one day after thinking more about compassion and how he could use it more in his everyday life, he decided to try something new. That morning when we walked out his door he looked the man in the eye as if he were a close friend. The homeless man looked down to the ground uncomfortably and didn´t want to look at him back. Although it was small, it was the start of something greater between the two men. As the weeks went by, the student continued to look at the man everytime they met and would politely say, ¨Good morning, how are you today?¨ in the mornings and ¨How was your day?¨when he came home. Little by little the other man began to respond back, first with glances, then with answers like, "I´m doing even better than I was this morning. Thank you very much." Eventually the exchange became an enjoyment for the student and he would look forward to seeing his friend each day when he came home. One day, however, the man was not there. Days and weeks and months went by without a trace of the man by the stairs and, although sad, the student eventually went on his way and continued with his life as usual.

One day, months later, the student came home and found a strange man sitting on his steps who stood up immediately to greet him. He didn´t recognize him, but he looked vaguely familiar. "I´m sorry to bother you, sir," said the man, "but I just had to come back and thank you." For what, said the student. "You see," said the man, "I used to live right here, under these steps. I was so ashamed of myself and had so little self-respect, that no one really knew me. For as long as I can remember, no one was nice to me. No one would look at me or give me the time of day. I had no friends and no self-respect. But then you started to be nice to me. Eventually I realized that if you could be nice to me and show me some respect, then maybe I could show myself some respect too. So I went and found myself a job and a place to live. I got some new clothes. My life has changed. And you know what? It´s because of you. Your kindness and willingness to respect me and be nice to me changed my life. I just wanted to say thank you."

Oh yes, think twice, it´s just another day for you and me in paradise. Oh yes, think twice, it´s just another day for you, you and me in paradise. Just think about it. Think about it. It´s just another day for you and me in paradise. It´s just another day for you, you and me in paradise. Paradise.

June 18, 2006

Icing on the Cake

Hay muchas cosas aquí en Costa Rica y muchase más que puedo ver, pero he visto muchas y también he sido a muchas lugares. Sin embargo, por cada cosa que you he visto hay muchas que no he sacado con mi cámara, por cada cosa que he eschuchado hay muchas cosas que no he recordado, y por cada cosa que he experimentado hay muchas cosas que no escrito. Cuando estoy jugando con mis amigos y niños aquí, mirando mi familia, caminando en la calle hablando con Amy o experimentando otra cosa muy increible yo quiero recordarlo, escribirlo, tenerlo y salvarlo siempre pero al mismo tiempo no quiero. Esta vida esta llena con cosas y experiencias que son increibles y la habilidad de tener esta experiencia posiblimente es la cosa importante. Las fotgrafias son buenas y los diarios, los videos y las grabaciones son buenos tambien pero pienso que la cosa más importante es recordar y advanzar su mente y carácter. El resto es lustre en el quéqué.

This was my journal entry last weekend and I thought it rang true this weekend as well. It is in Spanish, but here is the translation:

Although there are many things here in Costa Rica and much more that I can see, I have seen many things and done many things already. However, for every thing I have seen there are many things I did not capture with my camera, for every thing I heard there are many things I did not record and for every thing I experienced there are many I didn´t write about. When I play with my friends and the children here, when I look at my family, when I walk in the street talking to Amy or experience some other incredible thing I want to record it, write about it, have it and save it forever. Yet at the same time I don´t want to. This life is full of things and experiences that are incredible and the ability to experience these things is, possibly, the most important thing. Photographs are good and journals, videos and recordings are good too but I think the most important thing is to remember and advance your own mind and character. The rest is icing on the cake.

June 12, 2006


Chances to write here on the internet come few and far between, but I have had plenty of time to write in my journal while here in Costa Rica. In fact, I have had plenty of time to do many things which I hardly ever do in the United States; playing, for example. Here I play almost every day with my host brothers (Cesar 15, Marco 12, Pablo 8) and my host parents (Julio and Grissel) whether in fútbol, frisbee, or fútbol americano (football). I write, read, talk and think in Spanish. I eat Spanish food (with the exception of corn flakes at breakfast) and I walk and I walk and I walk. Here people walk miles a day and I am one of them. The institute is about forty minutes from my house, up and down hills, and then it is about ten minutes from the bus which can take you into the town of Alajuela. Riding in a bus and walking are like past-times here, but I won´t hear me complaining.
Doing all of these things gives me a lot of time to think; sometimes in English, but mostly in Spanish. I think about realidad (reality), personas (people), los estados unidos (the USA), virtuosidad (virtues and principles), vecindarios (neighborhoods) y sobre mi (myself). I wonder about what life is all about and if people here in Costa Rica have it figured out more than people in the United States have. We have a lot more things, stuff, cosas, in the United States than they have here, but the important things like love, affection, family and kindness are here in a plenty.
I know those things are in me, and in people back home too, but sometimes I think we lose it beneath all the other stuff. Henry David Thoreau said "Simplify, simplify, simplify," and I think I agree. I think people here understand that and I hope I can bring that back with me to the United States.