BY: Ally Hellenga
Then: Disheveled, I roll out of bed and trudge downstairs to make myself breakfast. Still half asleep, I reach into the refrigerator for a carton of orange juice and a couple of eggs to scramble. The chill refrigerator air reeks of last night’s Chinese food and I slam the door shut thinking to myself that I’ll deal with the smell later. After breakfast, I decide to take a hot, twenty-minute shower and continue my morning routine by blow-drying my hair while listening to the muffled radio drone on in the background. Now: My mornings in Costa Rica are different. They do not consist of long showers, processed food from around the globe, wasted water and electricity and most definitely not leftover Chinese food. Mornings instead consist of a five minute shower, organic and local food, and a focus on sustainability. The transformation began with Fabricio—the general manager for UGA Costa Rica. My first encounter with Fabricio was during an uphill hike in the drizzly rain to the organic garden. I was surprised to see another person on the seemingly deserted trail. As we passed, I managed to gabble a simple “Hola. ¿Cómo estás?” between my heavy breathing. With a friendly demeanor, he introduced himself as Fabricio and flashed me a smile—he must have met many a huffing puffing student toiling up this hill. After another steep incline I reached the farm. Rows of lettuce, carrots, tomatoes, oranges, and cuadrados filled the garden and surrounding trees in abundance. These vibrant rows of natural food overlooked a lush cloud forest composed of endless shades of tranquil greens. I glanced and noticed a familiar face: it was Fabricio. Somehow he had appeared at the farm before me. He stood up, basket of lettuce in hand to speak with me. With an open manner and undeniable charisma, he spoke of his love of Costa Rica, the Earth and above all, sustainability. So, what exactly does it mean to live sustainably? For Fabricio, it means eating locally, educating the community, and speaking out for the environment. Listening to him, I realized that for me, the overarching definition of sustainability means taking as little from the Earth as possible. It means leaving as small a footprint as you can. The question is, how can we change our long-set ways of living that we have grown accustomed to? I learned a new word in class at Costa Rica. That word is “metanoia.” It means the transformation of one’s whole being: fundamentally, a change in one’s paradigm. We all need to have our own change of heart, or metanioa to be fully successful in protecting our planet. I hear Fabricio calling from behind a tree. He offers me cuadrados and carrots that I gratefully accept and enjoyed as I descend back down the trail toward campus: my stomach full and my mind beginning a new journey.