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The Chisme Group


29th of June, 2023


Costa Rica (Tourism)

For the first time in the last two weeks, the group yesterday had a traditional ¨tourist day.¨ We took a boat tour of Marino Ballena National Park and saw the four principal beaches of the park. Along the coast was a stretch of cliffs with huge caverns. Many of the caverns were large enough for a brave kayaker to paddle through (or a crazy one, as our guide put it), and through many of the caverns we could see beautiful views of the water, sand, palm trees, and mountains of Costa Rica. For any future travelers to Costa Rica, those four elements are the defining traits of the country. Halfway through the tour, the group took a snorkeling break off la Isla Ballena. The island has that name because of some caverns that pull in water and then explode it like a whale’s blowhole. Because of the rain the previous day, the churned-up sand prevented us from seeing almost all marine life, save for one unstoppable turtle.
After the group finished the tour, we thought about the fact that for almost two weeks, all of our activities have been part of a service learning trip. For some of us, the ¨vacation¨ day was relaxing, but we all agreed that it was a strange feeling to not be doing our activities with a very intentional purpose. According to Hannah, ¨the time felt very stagnant, like something was missing.¨ Naheema says that she has had less energy during our returning travel because she was doing less organized work.
For the duration of the trip, each member of the group has commented that we are uniquely close with one another. Each person came to the program excited to learn something new, whether that be a new landscape, language, or community. That shared motivation has led all of us to immediately click with one another and helped us form an efficient, curious organism out of ourselves. On our tourist day, without the need to tap into our group dynamic to learn about the community of Rancho Quemado, we don’t quite know what to do with our time.
We also believe that our instant chemistry came from our tradition of ¨chisme nights.¨ Chisme is a term for gossip, but we used the first few nights to just be vulnerable with each other. We knew that for the next two weeks we would be each other’s only support system, and we each took full advantage of the chance to build a stronger community. Each night of teenager gossip was free of judgement, and because we were vulnerable in that moment (and because we assumed we were telling secrets to people we would never see again), we all formed bonds that kept us dependent on one another. During our time in Rancho Quemado, almost nothing was stable, but every night we had time to decompress with one another and recharge with our newly formed friends.
Chisme nights strengthened our group’s relationship so much that even members of the Rancho Quemado community commented on it. Alice, one of the cooks at Rancho Verde, mentioned to our instructor Matthew that our group is uniquely compatible with the work done at Rancho Quemado. She said that all of us are excited to do the work assigned to us and that we were excited to work with each other in the community. During one of our daily reflection circles, we needed to come up with ¨pros and grows¨ of our group dynamic, and all students and instructors said that our ¨pro¨ was how willing we all were to contribute to discussions and conversations with community members. Even writing this final journal now, we collectively agreed that we should tell our readers about how well we get along.
Despite our assumption that we would never see each other again, we’ve been planning out our reunion trips together. Everyone’s individuality made each day of the trip fun. Not one person tried to change anyone else because we truly loved getting to know all of the special people that chose to come on this program. We helped each other adjust to the heat, the humidity, and the bugs, and even though we won’t be able to experience these same moments again, we hope that through care packages and reunion trips we can always remember how hard we worked, how curious we were, and how much we challenged ourselves to think deeply about the world around us.
~Co written by all of the students on the Costa Rica Ecology Trip aka ¨The Chisme Group¨


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