First Impressions of Costa Rica: a Series in Contrasts and Comparisons


By Mikayla Kifer, Bowdoin College ‘19

Mikayla is currently a student on our Fall 2017 Tropical Biology on a Changing Planet program

For most people, travelling is a way to explore differences. We like to contrast our “normal,” boring lives with something foreign and exciting; the distinctions between the two are intriguing. I like to focus on the smallest changes—light switches, systems of garbage disposal, ratios of food pyramid groups. The way that we interact with our surroundings shapes our lives and who we are as people. The neural machinery that bats use to echolocate is something that we can never comprehend because we have not experienced the same stimuli as a bat. I have not experienced the same stimuli as a Tico—until now.

Every night (and morning and afternoon), I eat Costa Rican beans and rice. I gaze across the same marsh as them and lift my upturned binoculars to the same herons. I am not and will never be a Tico. Being here has reminded me how vastly different one human’s experience can be from another’s. Yet we all love to laugh, to feel connected to other humans, and in my case, we’re all here because we love plants and animals and care about this planet. Every day when we go out into the field we do so with the same excitement and the same hatred of mosquitos.

Although this lifestyle is totally foreign to me, seeing people who are adapted to it has made me understand that although our environment shapes us in different and amazing ways, we are still fundamentally the same.


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