“Si.” That was my answer to any question that I didn’t understand. Incomprehensible questions came rapido because they were asked by Spanish speaking children who spoke too fast and mumbled their words. During three weeks in Costa Rica, I would say that simple little word countless times. Though I had five years of Spanish in school and what I thought was a proficient understanding of basic dialogue, I was quickly humbled and found myself relying on that one word: “S.i”
With my ultimate desire being to pursue nursing abroad, this summer I grasped the opportunity to work for Global Leadership Adventures educating young students as an avenue to help under privileged children. This experience provided me with an unexpected perspective, and in just three weeks made me realize how much I love making a difference.
When I walked into La Libertad, a one room classroom, I noticed it was too small for the number of students it housed. The first day was awkward; the few students that spoke did so only to others who were fluent in Spanish. Surprisingly, I felt expendable and slightly intimidated due to the inability to properly communicate. I was never in a situation where I solely had to rely on Spanish and I knew I was butchering their language. The turning point soon came: after a basic conversation, a couple of weird drawings, and a tickle fight, the language barrier started to breach but no fully apparently.
In Costa Rica I found myself wearing sunglasses as a necessity. Naturally when I was inside the children would find them and try them on. Soon a photo-shoot began. When a leader took out a camera, there would be a crowd of eager, young faces seeking out the lens. Most of the kids had not seen a picture of themselves before. One boy was Esteven, who I photographed wearing my aviators and his Top-Gun T-shirt. After I showed him the picture, he said something that made me believe it was a question. His eyebrows were raised and a smile stretched from ear to ear. I said “repita por favor” twice before I turned to my favorite word, “Si.” He walked away with the glasses tucked into his pants pocket. I slowly became aware that he asked for my glasses and I apparently said yes.
It took my interaction with Esteven to gain perspective on how difficult the inability to communicate can be. Children like him needed to learn English not as a extra-curricular activity, but as a necessary tool to better their lives.
Overall I had accomplished far more in three weeks than expected because I was a difference maker. Eventually, I want to make a difference in their health. Although it was a struggle, I was able give children the foundation for a priceless tool. Sure, I don’t have my favorite sunglasses anymore, but I have something better now- a passion for what I want to do for the rest of my life.