Today was another exciting day filled with exercise, good food, and interesting conversations! The day began with a breakfast of juice, eggs, and Gallo pinto at Chayito. Next, we walked for about an hour to get to the farm. While the walk was hot and long, it was an enjoyable one where we got to see different residential settings, walk past a high school, and just spend time talking with and getting to know each other.
We learned that the farmer who we were helping had recently been diagnosed with cancer, and had his leg amputated. It truly was a rewarding experience to help the farmer out. I was also amazed by how much land the farmer owned and tended to. While at the farm, we helped plant a type of tree called Jatropha. The jatropha tree can be used for basket weaving, tanning, and even as biofuel! After planting trees, we cooled off in a mini river alongside some horses (pictured below). After a filling lunch at Fogon, we spent the afternoon working on our research projects. For our research project (public health group), we made a map/key of all the healthcare services, both public and private, that are available and accessible to the town.
Before dinner, a couple of us went to go explore town a bit more. We went past a green bridge that led us to the Hogar de Ancianos (old-age Home). It was interesting to see how the homes past the bridge were slightly different when compared to the homes closer to the restaurants and supermarkets on the other side of the bridge. Being able to explore town and creating the map definitely helped me get a better understanding about where I am going to. In terms of understanding what a community means, I think it is also important to consider how safety and security play a role. For instance, whether due to climate or safety, I found it fascinating that everyone’s front doors are kept open or that there are no front doors on many homes. People often come up to the entrances and enter homes, displaying a sign of trust and security within the community.
In the evening, we met our host families for the first time, and had dinner at their homes. At first, I was a little anxious about how we would be able to communicate during the dinner. However, it was one of the most enjoyable evenings of the trip so far! We were able to communicate and practice our Spanish skills, and even spoke to them about our research projects. I found it interesting that even within one family, there was a difference in whether they received healthcare via CCSS (public) or private insurance coverage, depending on their salary and occupation. It was exciting to learn about our hosts’ backgrounds and their experiences living in Las Juntas versus other towns and cities in Costa Rica. Additionally, it amazes me that so many people in the community, including my host family, are so aware and involved in the culture and history of Las Juntas. I feel that this contrasts with my hometown, where not many people are aware or interested in the cultural and historical significance of the community. The community in Las Juntas feels more connected as a whole than my community from back home.
All in all, it was definitely an enjoyable day and I can’t wait to see what the next week and a half bring