Living in Costa Rica was Unreal
It took me a while to figure out how to “sum up” my Costa Rica trip. Mainly because an experience like that can’t be summed up in a quick run down of the places I ate and the things I saw. I went down there on a path to self-discovery, like most of us do. But I can’t honestly say that I believed it would happen, then it did. Now being plunged back into reality (motherhood, co-habitation, early adulthood in general) the adjustment has been exhausting. Not only that, but it strangely feels like I’m trying to re-orient myself into this space again and I’m failing miserably.
To talk about my experience the best thing is to start with where I left off:
- I literally had to be talked out of publishing a post titled “I Want My Reparations”.
- I was hothead angry.
- I was constantly battling an internal conflict of God of peace and God of Moses.
When I got to Costa Rica my perspective was forced to change. Before Costa Rica, literally all of my friends were black and not even intentionally. This is just representative of Atlanta’s pretty obvious segregation. [The fact that I’ve lived here almost my whole life and I’ve only had 1 close relationship (like best friend status, sleepovers, etc.) with a white person really says a lot.] So there I was immersed in one culture while simultaneously stepping into another foreign world, the white/European world. Typing it that way makes it sound so intense, but to my own surprise it wasn’t a rigid hard fit. The friendships I made synchronized so effortlessly, that I believed for the first time ever that color can be forgotten.
Don’t get me wrong. Race had to be discussed. One of my main points in the address was to make known that ignoring it does not equate to a post-racial society. Once this understanding was agreed upon, it felt like other layers could then be opened between us strangers. Maybe it was because we only had a month or maybe it was pre-destined for us all to be drawn together, either way the bonds created in Costa Rica were only possible because of our willingness to be vulnerable and transparent.
Vulnerability and transparency require a stripping away of race, colors, bodies and ideas until what’s left is the genuine spirit of the person you’re looking at. And we all know that, that’s why the best friendships are those that require no boundaries. Unfortunately, that openness is also what we’re most afraid of.
I always told myself I was unafraid to “just be me,” which can be a little awkward and weird at times, but nonetheless it’s me. This experience allowed me to prove it to myself and it was powerful. I challenged myself to push back my insecurities and silence my own prejudices while I allowed myself to fully embrace each moment and individual. But even more powerful was the fact that I finally believed racism could end within all of this transparency. When race was no longer a wall between us we shared endlessly about our wild ideas of the future, the past, alternate realities, astrology, love and what ever else that freely flowed from our minds.
And just as smoothly as that transcendence came, I was just as gently eased back into the harsh reality of racial inequalities when I took a trip just across the country to the Limon Province (I spent the month in Quepos/Manuel Antonio). The unsurprisingly familiar and comforting thing was the “hood culture”. The place that everyone (including our own people) sees as unsafe, dirty, and ghetto is oddly where I feel most at home. How messed up is that? After one full month of being 1 of 2 black girls in a town with only 2 Afro-Latinos, you don’t know how comforting it was to see an actual population of black Latinos even if it came with housing projects.
Then plunking back down in America with non-stop updates, constant uncovering of corrupt this and that, and systems failing all over the place. With all my reading and watching, it’s not like I needed anymore black pride fuel yet there’s Instagram with its unending influences. I immediately started to wonder how can a person be rational here? It took no time for me to feel that same rage I felt before leaving.
However, after experiencing those relationships I no longer want to be enraged. I don’t want to “get over” the black issue, but I want to find ways to move forward. I want to celebrate black culture for what it is, yet tear down the systematic racism that creates it. I want to give culture and life to the communities that white America casts shadows over and inspire a different reality for them. Costa Rica helped me to work out my frustrations.
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