One of the greatest preocupaciones that I had coming into this trip was how little I knew about Costa Rica. As social workers, we always place such great emphasis on learning from and working al lado de la comunidad. Whenever someone asked me what exactly I would be doing in Costa Rica, I never knew how to respond. I would not be traveling as simply a tourist, nor did I want to consider myself the short-term, at times pesky, volunteer. Somehow responding that I was simply a student was insufficient, yet that is exactly what I have come to terms with in this past week. I am a lifelong learner, and as social workers, we are always on a quest to learn from the community. Thus, it is now sufficient to say that I am here as a learner.
Over the past week, I have come to terms with what it means to simply be a learner. Though the word is simple, it carries so much more meaning. As a social worker, I am always first and foremost a student. This occurred to me in our Spanish classes, when our maestro Tico asked us what would be our first step in creating a better world. Our responses always went back to learning. Learning tolerance, learning from our mistakes, learning from others, everything went back to learning.
This week I have learned to hear rather than to listen. During the first part of the week, I was always looking for “el gran problema.” Whether in our history lecture or observing my surroundings, I felt as though I was looking for a grand key to unlock the mystery. If I could just find the key, I could truly entender rather than merely observe. My bias stemming from my perceived role as a social worker shrouded my true role as a learner and veiled my view. Finally, I realized that like any story, that of Costa Rica is complex, and not all of its strengths and challenges can be unlocked with just one key. One by one, we are given the keys. We simply have to listen and hear as learners. In this manner, it is more than enough to be a simply a learner, it is imperative to be simply a learner.