What do you do here? Part 3

by Becca Hurliman

In previous posts, I discussed the local food culture and some of the active entertainment volunteers can seek out in Potrero and the surrounding area.  This week I decided to take a look at the personal changes one undergoes whilst living in Potrero, and what people do here on a more internal and personal level.  These are a few characteristics that volunteers and interns are certain to work on while living in Potrero:

1.       Go With The Flow  – Adaptability/Flexibility

I’d say I’m a pretty adaptable person in general, but since moving to Costa Rica I have become increasingly so.  Schedules change here.  Fast.  Things don’t work out for reasons you could never anticipate.  Your car will be filled up with the wrong type of gas, and your whole day is thrown off.  It rains and no one shows up to class.  The electricity will go out, and you’ll find yourself playing Jenga by flashlight.  The bus will break down, i.e. it will screech to a halt in the middle of a mountain highway and there will be no hope to fix it that same day.  (You’ll hop on the first bus that drives by and eventually you’ll make it to your final destination.)  Perhaps, on your way to Surfside via the beach, you’ll cross a small stream on the beach only to find it is waist deep and be soaking wet the rest of the day.  Eventually you’ll learn to expect things to go wrong, but it always remains a surprise exactly how things will go differently than planned.

Moral of the stories: you can never be completely prepared for what life will throw your way here each day, so being adaptable and flexible is your best bet to finding your way through it all.

Perhaps as a kind gesture, someone will give you soup with a pig hoof or chicken foot in it.

2.       Patience is a virtue.

A lot of times, one just has to wait here.  Wait for students to show up, wait for the rain to stop, wait for the bus to arrive, wait for the person in front of you in the grocery store who keeps walking away to get one more thing.  Life moves very slowly.  Perhaps not as slow as sloths move, but I’m sure some days feel like they could challenge that statement.  Potrero just isn’t a hopping place most of the time.  It is sometimes even a struggle to slow down so much, especially when you’ve been raised in a culture that values time management so much.  This also reads: if you’re the kind of person who needs constant stimulation from your surrounding environment, perhaps moving to Potrero just isn’t quite for you.  But, either way, after living in Potrero you’re bound to have a bit more patience with everything.

Rain will inevitably fall, and it will make traveling – walking, biking, or driving – much slower.

3.       Independence

First things first: Abriendo Mentes typically has super awesome people coming through its doors all the time.  I’ve met some wonderful friends throughout my months here.  That being said, having the guts and the peace of mind to go out and do things by yourself will get you further here than it would if you prefer/need to do everything with someone else.  This may mean grabbing a snack, going to the beach, or visiting a nearby town alone.  There’s not always a ton of people (we average around 15 volunteers/interns in Potrero at any given time) in Potrero to hang out with.  Social circles are very small here, and everyone eventually gets tired of being with the same people 24/7.   Of course, volunteers are free to branch out into the local community, but that is not without its struggles: while Costa Ricans are quite welcoming, it is still a challenge to break into their social circles, especially when you have plans to only be here a few months.

While AM would not be what it is without the countless hours of assistance provided by volunteers, volunteers definitely have down time here.  I’d say that the volunteers who have enjoyed their time in Potrero the most are those who have found ways to spend their free time working on personal goals or pursuing their own interests: learning how to surf, taking an online class, teaching private English lessons, studying their Spanish, or working out for example. 

Don’t let fear of going it alone – as the gringa solita – keep you from taking part in patron saint parades on the single float as it drives through deserted country roads with music blasting. These will be the more memorable moments.

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