I had finally come home, or so I thought. The United States was the place I was born in, not the place I was meant to be. There are qualities, though, that I attempt to recall from the U.S. whenever I get a case of a deeper homesickness for my newly discovered home - Costa Rica. Of course, we as humans dwell on the past and flaws in our country as soon as we return from a trip to somewhere across a border, a state line, or even the seas. I had dreaded to come home from Costa Rica for the second time. In fact, the whole plane ride back to the United States I had tried to forget the flaws I was coming back to: the majority-ridden population of greedy people with their ungratefulness, their deep love for the materialistic things in life, overly processed cuisine, and, of course, all other personal issues in my life that I had left behind momentarily for the summer leading into my Junior year.
Volcanic sand near to where we had stayed.
Everyone thinks they know what to expect when going to another country, especially when going on a mission trip. There were frequent daydreams I had encountered where I thought of barren streets, disaster, filth, and harshness in a typical society where our mission group would magically fly in and save these poor, poor people. And to think I once thought that about my own home, needless to say, I am a little disappointed in who I once was. Phones confiscated, becoming the minority, sleeping in a stranger’s home - these were all things I was extremely eager about. I had no way to talk to or experience the world through social media, and that was freeing. The only news I had heard about the United States was that gay marriage had become legal and that my mother had broken her ankle. Other than that, it was just me, Costa Rica, and a whole lot of Jesus.
It was the little things in this journey that made the most to me, like a little moment I like to refer to as the Mango Moment. My mission group and I had just tried to comprehend a completely Spanish sermon praised in one of the churches located within the heart of Desamparados: the place I most commonly visualize when thinking of Costa Rica. It consists of cracked roads, rambunctious drivers, abundances of begging cats and pigeons, and a panadería that my roommate and I would stop by on the way home from our mission sites in order to munch on a late night snack.
Streets of Desamparados, Costa Rica.
The trip was nearly over, and it was time to completely live in every bit of our last moments in Costa Rica. My mission group and I were returning from the church, walking alongside the road where we would eventually catch a public bus to Jeff’s house (the leader of the program) for an evening of team bonding. Everyone quickly changed into more comfortable clothing, signaling for the fun to begin. There were countless rounds of intense four-square, exotic fruit tastings, freshly brewed Costa Rican coffee, and homemade empanadas with a cheese so rich, it would take a simple bat of the eyes to believe that you had been spending your time in Italy. This all, of course, took place beneath the mango trees that beautifully danced around Jeff’s property.
The evening began to settle down, and the night dusted over the day. Jeff lead us all to the top of a rocky hill located right by his house. If there was one picture I could store deep within my heart forever and ever, it would be the sight I had seen from that little hill. We overlooked what seemed to be all of Costa Rica’s mountains, speckled with tea lights. In that moment, I felt completely at peace. The air was still, my breathing was quiet, and I thought of nothing except how amazing it felt to be alive. Once everyone tried to take in all of what Costa Rica had painted for them, we gathered around a campfire that lay right on the very tippy-top of the hill. I closed my eyes and lifted my voice in unison with my mission group, singing until our throats ran dry. Singing for the brokenness, singing for the pain. We all experienced this moment together, releasing our worries for all of Costa Rica to hear – and I knew this had made Costa Rica weep. It was just me and Jesus, under the mango trees. That was all that I needed, and that is all I will ever need. Just give it to God and go to sleep.