I have experienced many opportunities in which I was able to be independent here in Costa Rica. Two months in Puerto Viejo served as a great learning experience. For two months I figured out what to eat every day and rode my bike to the local supermarket to shop for food and other necessities. I know it doesn’t sound as much, but for someone who has been raised in a very protective and giving household, this was going out of my comfort zone. First, I would go with my friends to town to get cash or shop for things, and after a while, I was comfortable enough to ride my bike on my own, sometimes in spite of the catcalls or honking horns. Only once I got over the initial fear and paranoia, I was able to travel without overthinking everything I did.
With independence, naturally, and yet surprisingly for me, I was exploring all the beautiful beaches Puerto Viejo has to offer. On afternoons when I would leave work a little later than usual at the Jaguar Rescue Center, I would visit the beach right across the street for an hour or so and watch the sunset to my heart’s content. These moments allowed me to reflect on a lot of things, and unwind. I discovered that living in the moment is just as (if not more) important than planning for future things. I decided that I would no longer stress over things that are not under my control. This resolution has been one that has already been tested progressing through 2020.
My long-yearned plan of visiting Portugal in April has been delayed due to the complicated and unpredictable nature of the coronavirus and its effects on all nations and airlines. The USA has put a travel ban on 26 European countries, so I have decided (though I didn’t have much of a choice, to begin with) to move this dream of mine to May or June, depending on when the prospects of traveling to Europe become better. In the face of this news, I have decided to remain hopeful. I’m not really sure what I will do next, considering that I have a ticket booked to go to Miami on March 25th. Despite this, I will not be deterred further, and I will do what I can to make the rest of my gap year equally as enriching as it has already been.
Right now I am taking my time to soak in the situation. This time of quarantine has been pretty demotivating but what better way to spend it than to just be grateful for every day that I and the loved ones I’m surrounded with are safe and healthy. I read books I always claimed I never had the time to read. I watch all the Netflix shows my friends and family suggested to me and watched ages ago, and yet I pushed away with the excuse of being too busy with homework. I have been studying Portuguese and some Greek here and there (a strong 43-day streak keeping me going!) on Duolingo. I have been logging into Zooniverse almost every evening to contribute some of my time to projects that I’m genuinely interested in and find fun, like transcribing recordings from a Cuban radio show that aired decades ago and identifying different Californian plant species.
Sure, this quarantine has been difficult for me, as I’m sure it has been for anyone reading this. But it’s especially been challenging mentally. The discomfort and restlessness have pushed me to look for myself, however; I will be grateful for this one thing tonight. Though I still have a really long road ahead of me, and I’m still looking for my purpose, these times have taught me that’s it’s OK to not know everything and it’s all right to feel helpless. I will simply continue praying, continue having faith, and continue doing what I have to do.