For all those currently wondering out there: yes, I made it to Costa Rica and I am still alive!
As I stepped off the plane and entered the San Jose airport, a feeling of déjà vu overwhelmed me. Standing in line for customs, I immediately looked to my right I to find a memorable giant green mural of rainforest trees looking back at me. Then once I got my bags, I checked across the street to locate the grassy area under the overpass. Carrying the same EMS Summit 4500 bag with red tape still wrapped around the straps, I walked to a familiar type of bus and took up a window seat. By this point, I was more than expecting to drive along the Cerro de la Muerte and arrive in Tres Piedras to go see El Duke! Nearly everything I did and saw in the first hour of arriving in Costa Rica this time around reminded me of my first trip to the country two years ago. I was a nervous freshman, signed up for the Costa Rica tree climbing course, embarking on a journey that – I would later come to realize – had shaped my college life.
But even with all of the similarities to my previous journey, I quickly realized that it was going to be quite different this time around. Instead of looking for Keyser Arbolski’s friendly face, I was searching for a sign that read “Duke/OTS Semester Abroad.” And once I had found that, I was not greeted with a bear hug by friends and ushered over to a slackline, but I awaited further instructions from an unknown professor, clinging tightly to the bags that were to be my only possessions for the next four months. And stepping onto the bus, I did not find the faces of Cornell kids with whom I had practiced tying knots in the COE basement, but I saw eager, unknown faces amazingly not from Cornell at all. As the bus drove us to a hotel in San Jose, I struggled to stay in control of the flood of feelings and memories that were washing over me, pulling me back in time to a sunny afternoon spent kicking a hacky sack and walking a slackline as planes screamed overhead. I was certainly not expecting this nostalgia aspect of the trip – what other surprises will be in store for me?