By Matthew Grothaus, FC 19 Costa Rica
So here’s a cool thing, I am a Costa Rican resident. Last week the other volunteers and I made the trek into Costa Rica’s capital city and finished up the process of legal immigration voiding our tourist visa. As dumb as it is, being handed my new ID card (goofy photo and all) and officially no longer being a tourist in this nation had a significant mental impact. Really we have never just been tourists here but I still didn’t think of myself as a more permanent resident either. But, with the shock of receiving that ID card, I took a moment to look back and realize how much this country and those that I interact with really have become my home and family.
During one of the first sit down meetings we had as a volunteer community, we asked each other what were some of the things we really wanted to get out of living together for a year. We all had varied answers and usually said more than just one thing but what I remember genuinely answering was that in addition to experiencing personal and spiritual growth, by the end of the year, I really wanted to be able to call the other volunteers my “family” without that feeling forced or awkward. Since that meeting we’ve been through a lot. We’ve cooked with each other, laughed, argued, cried, and fought. We’ve explored Costa Rica and traveled to Nicaragua. We’ve gone to rodeos, birthday parties of coworkers, and we’ve lived every moment of these past 7 months together. That is A LOT. But really, it’d be tough to pick a better group of individuals to do it with. Each of these people I live with chose to give a year of their life to move away from their support system in the US and serve God’s people directly. As biased as it is, I think it’s safe to say that means it’s a group of young people who have the right priorities in their life and part of the beauty is that being part of this group only ends up attracting more people of similar focus to become our friends.
The more I think about it the more I realize how ingrained in the local community we have all become. It’s become especially apparent to me as two of the community members have just had guests come visit. At the start of this year we were all searching for ways to get to know “real Ticos” and now as we plan out activities for guests, we not only know great places to eat and things to do but also tend to have friends at those places. “You’d like to go to the beach? Let me call up one of my friends and see if she wants to come! You want some good coffee? I know the best place!” We all now are regulars at one place or frequent participants of particular activities like dance classes or zumba. I guess I say all of this just to express the same realization that went through my mind upon being handed that resident card. FrancisCorps has absolutely given me an opportunity to not just spend time living in a different culture but rather to really become a part of it. I am a resident of Costa Rica and truly feel it. That’s a memory and emotion that I know will stick with me for the rest of my life.