Last week presented a host of many new opportunities as we begin to find a routine and a balance between helping in any way we can and avoiding encroaching on the lives of the La Carpio locals. We are also working on our tans in the hope that we will appear less like really pale “gringas.” Although we work in a Montessori school on a daily basis with the kids, we also find ourselves doing odd jobs in the community as Gail reaches out to help anyone who needs it. There is 8 year-old Angie who just completed her chemotherapy after losing her right arm to a cancerous tumour 2 months ago. Doing very well now, she appears to be managing to have a relatively normal childhood. But the entire experience has left her struggling to stay positive now that the adrenaline of basic survival has receded. We attempt to brighten her surroundings, painting the walls of her backyard sky-blue with big white clouds. Angie’s resilience, honed at such a young age, is truly uplifting to both me and Claire—fluffy white clouds, bright colors, a playground in your backyard, and your best friend—we hope these will brighten her toughest of days. Angie is now looking forward to her new prosthetic arm and being able to finally play with her siblings (who will move to La Carpio from Nicaragua as soon as Gail is able to send money to have their papers processed). Every day in La Carpio, Claire and I witness the powerful effects of the simplest gestures.
Today, one of the teachers in the Montessori school, Estella (a single mother of five young children), was noticeably upset when she arrived at school. As the first measure of circle time, the head teacher explained to the kids that some days we wake up and feel sad, and that is what had happened to Estella. Then she had all the children blow a small kiss (un besito) into a little box and then give it to Estella while all 17 kids literally dog-piled her with hugs. The emotional effect on everyone in the room, not to mention Estella, was incredibly moving. It was an expression of love, untainted by cynicism or mistrust.
We are slowly learning to live in Costa Rican style—“pura vida”; anything goes, and it’s all good!
In the 2nd semester of her 3rd year at UBC, Sarah Kingstone is traveling to Costa Rica in honour of her humanitarian heart. She has given me permission to post her blog entries as she embarks on what will undoubtedly a life changing experience. Come along for the ride!