Reflections on a trip to Costa Rica

Madeline Schallmoser, Sports Editor

The time: June 2019. The goal: experience nature, biodiversity, and culture. The place: Costa Rica. DGN’s biennial science department trip taught me lessons far beyond science. 

Travel is worth it because of the anticipation leading up to the trip, the wonder of touching down in an unfamiliar location, and the melancholy feeling when it’s time to say goodbye. When you experience these things, you leave with so much more than your suitcase and some new souvenirs.

Towards the end of the trip we had the opportunity to tour a chocolate plantation. We walked through winding paths of cacao trees, ate raw cacao beans, and met the jolliest soul you could ever imagine. He called himself ‘El Chapo Guapo.’

Finally, time to taste this magical Costa Rican concoction with the toppings of our choosing. Marshmallows, sprinkles, almonds. Boring. “The Volcano.” Not so boring. Two of my most adventurous friends and I placed our chocolate and our tastebuds at the mercy of our new amigo. He loaded our spoons with chile oil, cayenne pepper, and sea salt. On the count of three, we placed the spoons, spice side down, on our coddled American tongues.

I’ll never forget the three of us standing in line, tears running down our cheeks from the combination of spices and laughter. Two spoonfuls later the three of us were forever bonded by the joy in our hearts and the chocolate smeared from cheek to elbow. 

Mr. Heinz grinned at a chocolate-dipped version of myself. 

“You don’t do anything halfway, do you Schallmoser?”

At that moment I realized that I never want to do anything halfway as long as I live. Before my passport was stamped at the San Jóse International airport I did do things halfway, but the people I was with and the beauty that surrounded me in this foreign place spoke to me. They told me to dive in. They told me to talk to the locals, to try to speak Spanish, to taste “The Volcano.” They told me to try anything, try everything. The best decision I’ve ever made was listening.