One in Costa Rica.
One back home in the Estados Unidos.
Both so different, that they just might be on a different planet.
There is the food for starters.
Americans and especially college students, have a HUGE tendency for snacking. The traditional, three meals a day approach has faded as I have gotten older, and I am sure it has with my peers as well. On many occasions I will find myself not hungry in the morning, starving at 4 pm and then craving another meal at 11. Almost of the foods I eat back home are processed.
Here in Costa Rica, I eat three healthy, organic meals a day.
In Costa Rica you are forced to maintain a healthy diet. The most common meal here is Rice and Beans along with a meat dish and a side of veggies. It is the sourcing that makes the true difference. The UGA campus hosts an organic farm that provides all our vegetables and some fruits that we eat on property. If UGA doesn’t grow it, then they buy it from a local farmer that does. Through this
process, not only is UGA supporting the local economy and promoting a safer form of farming, they are also promoting a healthy lifestyle for us on campus. This healthy lifestyle can be witnessed throughout the town of San Luis.
I also get a lot of exercise here. Not in the gym or on a treadmill, but simply in the form of hiking up and down the mountains, and going to and back from my home-stay. Even going to the local Tienda to get some unhealthy processed snacks is a long walk!
Sports are big here as well. When I asked my homestay brother (who is 16) what his second favorite sport was, I was extremely surprised when he simply said, running. I always considered running a chore that you needed to do if you wanted to stay in shape. While my mother ran cross-country in high school, I never found any passion for it. Here in Costa Rica, and especially in San Luis, long-distance running is an extremely popular sport. In fact, the town of San Luis has an annual 26 KM race in which they run up the mountain all the way to the neighboring town of Santa Elena, and then back again.
While it was no surprise to me that Costa Rica was very different than the United States, what WAS surprising to me was the number of things we could learn from them. Their principles of health, sustainability and community are all prime examples of what the US should be striving for. The 2018 World Happiness Report
(a yearly study that measures the average level of happiness of a countries citizens) puts Costa Rica as the #13 happiest country in the world. This makes them the leader of all South American countries and second only to Canada when it comes to the happiest country in the Americas. But how? Costa Rica is still a somewhat developing country that lacks a lot of the commodities we deem common here in the US. This just proves that “happiness” is in no way correlated to materialistic things.
What they do have is a different way to approach each day—with good, healthy and organic food, lots of built in exercise and a different way of living. The national slogan (or greetings) here is “Pura Vida”, in English this means “Pure Life.”
If nothing else, I’ll bring that slogan along to my every day in Estados Unidos—when I return home in a short few days.
Pura Vida indeed.