bilan travels // costa rica chronicles: caribbean contrasts

Once glance around and it is clear that you are a foreigner.

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Your native language is not spoken in the streets and among winding village roads. Your hair? Not exactly the same texture as the rest. And your style? Not even close to the latest neighborhood trends.

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You are different.

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Sometimes you are a specimen, the recipient of stares and deep analysis. Sometimes, unfortunately, you are harassed with cat calls in all two, three, four languages because God forbid you didn’t understand it the first, second, or third time. Sometimes, you are genuinely appreciated for all that you are. But only sometimes.
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You are different.

Different is beautiful. Similar is beautiful too. We are all beautiful. Beauty is found in the effort you put into being your best self. Beauty lies in your faults, your mistakes, your mishaps, your meltdowns, your…moments.

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Beauty lies in your ability to have an opinion, a question, a passion. Beauty lies not only in how you do what you do (muddy boots, hair nets, and all), but in who you are beyond your work. Beauty lies in who you are now, but also in who it is you want to be.

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On the bus to the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica, I took a moment to look around. I was surrounded by the high-pitched cries of babies, the contemplative conversations of older doñas, the eager exchanges between extranjeros,or foreigners. Every individual on that bus had a different reason for traveling, a different agenda, a different aim.

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They are different. The Caribbean coast of Costa Rica and Panama was the greatest fusion of cultures. Traditions of one culture permeate into another. Cycling along Isla Colon in Bocas del Toro, I pass the rhythms of reggae, merengue, shouting an “hola” at every passing pedestrian who stops and greets me with a, “Buenas”. The smells of fresh bread from the German bakery fill the air alongside the strong scents of the corner Chinese restaurant’s fried rice and patacones.

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It wasn’t a salad bowl but a true melting pot. Differences give it its heartiness, and the type of diversity, its flavor. You are different. I am different. They are different. And it’s a beautiful thing y’all.

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