Costa Rica; re-learning America.

“Have you traveled much?”

The sweet Dutch girl asked me as the airplane had finally pushed off from the ground and into the air. She pulled three packets of tissues out of her carry-on and pushed them into the seat-back pocket in front of me; her nose red from constant blowing.

I swallowed, and shifted in my seat. The last thing I wanted was to be sick.

“Yeah,” I said, sliding the window up to see the ground slowly disappearing beneath us as it always does when taking off. “I’ve been Italy, German, Austria, and lived in France for a while.”

You could say I’m pretty well traveled. 

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“Ever been to South or Central America?” she asked dabbing her nose with her delicate fingers

“Uh, no I don’t think so.” I said, sharply inhaling through my nose to ensure it was still fully functioning.

“Well it sounds like you have a lot more traveling to do,” she said cheekily.

uh, okaaay… What is that supposed to mean? 

What would a pretty Dutch girl know about America.  I am American. 

Only now, after spending almost a week and a half in Costa Rica – my new home for the semester – am I beginning to scratch the surface of what it means to be American.

You never know what you don’t know.

It sounds easy enough folks, but I thought I knew everything about America. Being from the United States, I never thought that there anything more to “American” than the Star Spangled Banner and our love of greasy, fast food.

Little did I know that there were entire continents, living, thriving without the help of their “Big Brother”. With mountains so strong and tall that they stretch all the way to the sea. Beaches of black volcanic sand, so fine, it shines when the light touches it.

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Playa del Jaco, Costa Rica
Needless to say, I think the Dutch girl was right, I think I have a lot more traveling to do.

What does it mean when the local people ask where you are from and you say “American,”?

Walking around the streets of Costa Rica, it became clear to me that for the first time in my life, I am a minority. Everyone who looks at me here in Costa Rica instantly knows that I am from somewhere else.

Gringa. 

Is Central, any less American than the North?

What makes someone American?

I don’t know the answers to these questions, but during my time here in the sweet isthmus of Costa Rica, I’m attempting to find out.

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