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Giving without Receiving

by Caroline Baker

Last Updated on November 7, 2014 by

Our host family and us three exchange students on their mountain property after a morning of hard work and very ready for lunch!


It’s funny how I have become so accustomed to living in a Spanish-speaking culture that when I began thinking about this blog post out in my head, I was trying to figure out how to say it all in Spanish.  Probably best I keep it in English though, right? It’s been a while since I last wrote – October was a crazy month here. Between 6-10 hours of classes a day really takes a lot out of a person! But I am no longer taking Spanish classes so we will see how dedicated I remain to studying it on my own and practicing as often as I can. More free time, however, means more time with my Mama Tica which is good in so many ways. The most obvious, I am only speaking Spanish when I am with her. But also it is an opportunity to experience more of the Costa Rican culture, which is so different than just being an American in Costa Rica. And finally, I learn so much from her about how to be absolutely selfless.

I noticed how loving and giving she was from my first day here in August, and since then have only become more and more humbled by her. Earlier in the month, the whole family got extremely sick (thankfully we three students made it through without a cough) and she was basically bed-ridden for three days. We left her a note offering to let her stay in bed and get better, and that we could make our own food and clean our own rooms for the week – something we were all more than capable of doing. I shouldn’t have been surprised, however, when she pulled herself out of bed every morning to make us breakfast, and each night to make us dinner, then went back to sleep because she herself couldn’t eat. I am sure cooking (extravagant meals as always) was the last thing she wanted to do but she put our needs ahead of her own.

Her giving didn’t stop there. This past weekend our host family took us up to the mountains to see the property on which they are building their new house. We rented cabins, ate a lot, and swam in the fresh mountain water. It was a wonderful two days and also happened to be the weekend of our Papa Tico’s birthday, so you know what that means – cake and ice cream! The cabin kitchen was a bit too small for the celebration so we carried all our food down to a hotel restaurant and used the tables there for our feast. After she served us our abundance of food she started making up more plates and passing them out among the employees as a thank you for allowing us to use their space. When we cut the cake she did the same thing, sharing the desserts with anyone around whether she knew them or not. I was initially surprised she did this because our American culture teaches us to be a bit selfish and gluttonous when it comes to our food – especially dessert! But I sat there with a big smile on my face watching Mama Tica, yet again, put everyone else before herself.

These are just two examples of her selfless nature, but she daily exemplifies what it is to be a truly loving and giving human being. When she goes to visit a friend, she always arrives bearing a small gift. When she sees a homeless or crippled person, she offers them food. When one of us needs help with something or is struggling in some way, she puts down her work to help us. And we never leave the house without her saying “Tenga un buen día y Dios te acompaña” (“Have a great day and may God be with you”) accompanied with a big hug and a kiss on the cheek. And it’s not only her. I notice these qualities spilling from the hearts of most Costa Ricans I encounter. Often we may think we have to read a book, watch a documentary or sit in a class to learn, but if we open our eyes to what is right around us, we will begin to learn things of true value – life lessons. I thank my Mama Tica for showing me what it means to put others before myself and for constantly loving us as if we are her own children – which in her eyes we are.

Two months down, two months to go! Good thing I’m keeping a journal so I can remember every detail of this whirlwind of a semester. Stay tuned for what November brings! (How is it already November?!)

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