Leaving Costa Rica was as bittersweet as coffee. On one hand I was ready to eat something other than rice and beans again. On the other I was going to miss the one-on one interactions with the local farms and the firsthand experience with the coffee. If you had asked me before this trip, I would have said that I thought I knew a lot about coffee. Now I realize how little I knew and the scope how much I still have to learn. To Costa Rican’s coffee is a drink that is shared with family. Its more than just that hot cup of caffeine that gets you out of bed in the morning. Through the adventures of zipping in the jungle, hiking to the top of a volcano, and careening around the side of steep cliffs I made my Costa Rica family of friends that I shared this trip with.
This was the first Thanksgiving I spent away from my actual family. I would be lying if I said that was easy. I knew it wouldn’t be when I signed up for this trip but I thought the experience would outweigh my sacrifice. Thankfully the faculty, the naturalist at UGA Costa Rica, and my fellow peers all came together to make sure this was as traditional a Thanksgiving as possible. I even streamed the Macy Thanksgiving Day Parade to my phone while we ate. In a way the people I traveled with on this trip become my surrogate family. I am very thankful and grateful for the experiences we shared.
Now that I am back in the United States my view on the global production of agriculture is changed. I’ve seen the large scale production operations, the farm families, and even the effects of outsiders trying to come in and shake up the way things have always been done. The take away I got from all of it was it doesn’t matter whether you’re big or small. It doesn’t matter if you’re a local or a gringo. What matters is if you’re going to put in the hard work and the passion into it. I think that lesson extends beyond coffee. But if coffee is symbolic of family, then the hard work needs to be put into maintaining those close relationships. I really hope I’ll be able to stay in touch with the friends I made on this trip. I very excited to see how each of us is impacted by what we learned.