You know how people always say that you never know what you have until it’s gone?
Well, those people are right.
Since arriving in Guanacaste on Monday, there have been quite a few new adventures. For starters, Sanjana and I found out that the shower in our room doesn’t work very well. This has been a little tricky considering that it is quite a bit hotter here than it was in La Sabana. At the same time, it has made me realize how lucky I am to live the way that I do. I often forget that there are so many small things in my life that could be considered luxuries to others. Things like having a functional showerhead, having good Wi-Fi, and having a choice of what you want to eat for dinner. For our first week in Guanacaste, I have been using my water bottle to take showers, sitting in the cafeteria at random hours to use the internet, and eating gallo pinto (rice and beans) for almost every meal, and even though it may be easy to complain about those things, it has been eye-opening and has added a lot of meaning to this incredible adventure that we’ve only just begun. Being disconnected from my phone for the majority of each day has been refreshing. It has reminded me of how focused I can be in my work, and it has allowed me to separate from the all of the social media that tends to dominate our lives and take in all of the beauty this country has to offer. As for the shower situation and the similarity in a lot of our meals, it has reminded me to not sweat the small stuff. Dr. Richardson has continually reminded us and shown us the importance of being flexible, and I am trying to adopt that mindset, despite being different than what I’m used to.
Since my last blog post, we have been pretty busy. On Sunday, all 8 of us went to La Paz Waterfall Gardens. We fed hummingbirds, hiked, saw 5 waterfalls, held butterflies, saw a bunch of animals, and went swimming/hot tubbing.
On Monday, we presented our projects from the short course with Dr. Richardson and Dr. Wettergreen. I am really proud of my group, especially Nazareth and Susana for presenting so well in English (English is their second language—can you imagine?!). All of the groups did an excellent job, and all of the Costa Rican students were sad to say goodbye to us. Fortunately, we will be able to meet up with all of them again when we go back to San Jose! One of my favorite things about Costa Rica is how friendly and welcoming everyone is.
After our presentations, we left for Guanacaste, and finally got to try Pops ice cream (which is very yummy!). Before we checked in at our second location for the summer, we stopped for dinner with our driver, Hector (he’s the best!), and had probably my favorite meal so far, volcano rice (it tastes as good as it looks) with a sweet strawberry juice—Costa Rica has excellent fruit juices.
Over the past few days, we have met with the President of Earth University, almost met the president of Costa Rica (we were all really sad that we missed him), toured Invenio University and Ad Astra Rocket Company, began a Sprint with Dr. Richardson for our implementation project (a Sprint is essentially just a really fast project that ends in a prototype that is tested with real customers for feedback), began designing our prototype with the engineers at Invenio, observed at Hospital Liberia twice, where we spoke to a pathologist, saw a uterus and cervix in a jar, discussed cervical cancer with an epidemiologist, spoke to several physical and occupational therapists, and observed a peritoneal dialysis procedure.
Observing at the various hospitals around Costa Rica and talking to the physicians about the difficulties they encounter on a regular basis has made me realize that there is an endless amount of problems to be solved in healthcare systems around the world, and it is exciting to know that I could help solve some of them.
One of my favorite parts about this week was observing the peritoneal dialysis procedure and getting to meet some of the patients that could benefit from the project we are trying to implement. As it is now, these patients have to spend all day at the hospital for 6 days a week in order to receive treatment. If we are able to successfully implement our project, they would be able to get their treatment at home, which would significantly improve their quality of life. We will be spending all of next week trying to make significant strides forward, which will certainly be a challenge, but knowing the impact that we could have on these people’s lives makes all of the hard work worth it.
At the end of each day (typically feeling pretty tired), I think back to my last few days in the US leading up to this trip and laugh at the fact that my friends and family were so jealous I would be in Costa Rica all summer for basically an “extended vacation.” While these last two and a half weeks have been quite different from a vacation, we got a little taste yesterday when we visited Playa Tamarindo. One of the Costa Rican students from the short course, Sofia, decided to join us for the day, and she showed us some of the best places to eat and get drinks.
Today, we are spending the day at Playa Hermosa to relax a bit before our busy week starts. Pure Vida!