Costa Rica Revisted. 2015 Global PEACE Program Initial Reflections.

I’m feeling a surge of emotions.  I think that happens a lot with me.

I’m happy, sad, and feeling an overwhelming sense of loss & purpose at the same time. I feel like one minute I could cry and the next, I’ll start laughing.  It’s like puberty all over again.

Going back to Costa Rica was a completely new and enriching experience for me. When you go to a place for the first time, everything is exciting.  All of your senses are soaking in new details.  But, when you return to a place, especially after some time — a year, in my case– different things happen.  You begin to analyze the things you never really noticed before.  You see a lot of good things that you saw before, but you also begin to evaluate other nuances.  It’s something I never really experienced before because I’ve never been to a foreign country more than once.  And out of the things I’ve learnt from this trip, I’ve learnt that revisiting places can be a very valuable and important thing.

I feel like I will say this about every place in the world I’ll travel to, but I can say with confidence that Costa Rica will always hold a very close and special place in my heart. I learned a good amount from the people I’ve met there and the friendships I’ve cultivated.  And, I’d be lying if I said I weren’t getting a bit emotional as I’m typing this whole thing.  I’ve only been in my apartment for less than an hour and I’m already dreading so many things that come with returning home from somewhere else.  I am thinking ahead–thinking of ways to return to my home away from home, to a place where I don’t think I’ve ever felt more at peace with myself and my place in the world, even when I don’t speak the language completely.

From Alajuela to San Jose to Caldera to Mastatal, each and every person I had the privilege of interacting with have given me so much strength and joy.  I am so grateful for the group of peacebuilders I worked with and to the many individuals I’ve met along the way.  I think of them and I am filled with so much happiness, and I know that that is what peace is.  That it is powerful and capable of doing so much good in the world.  Because what happiness I feel inside of me, I know I can use to motivate others around me.  It has shifted and guided me, even when I am 100% sure that I do not know what journey I will take to attain my goals in this world.

When I left, I told my peers that I did not want to go back to the US–that I did not want to return to reality. But, upon reflection, I know that sentiment to be flawed.  My reality is what I choose it to be.  Costa Rica is a lovely, wonderful, powerful reality for me.  I learned about peace as a system from professors and citizens alike.  I learned that demilitarization cannot be the only answer and that every government has its flaws, but that people everywhere are resilient, beautiful, unique humans.  And that gives me an amazing amount of hope about our world.  I am amazed at how at home I could feel in a foreign place from only being there for a short amount of time, and if I could feel that connected to people and places in less than two weeks, I am so excited to think of how much love can flow from person to person with more time than that.

I don’t know what will happen in my future, but I know that I am capable of doing and creating great things in the world so that others can learn what I have learnt and live purposeful, extraordinary lives.

All I know is that I will do everything in my own power to return to Costa Rica again, to work with and perhaps live amongst the families and friends I have met there, and to create a more peaceful & prosperous global community.

Even though I am thinking about my future and how I can return again to Costa Rica, I know that living too much in the future can do no good for our present.  Although it will be an internal struggle for me, I’m ready for today and cannot wait for the many tomorrows we all have to build a kinder world together.

With peace, love, and pura vida,

Christina

Growing Up and Growing Out

So I suppose that graduating from university and starting a full time job, as well as looking for a “big kid” apartment calls for a new “big kid” wardrobe.

I mean, that just makes sense, right?

Growing up in my household, with a dad who loves shopping, but also loves bargains and with a mom who is frugal to an extreme, but still loves designer brand purses, gave me an interesting mix of sentiments about shopping in general.

I love it.

I do.

The sort of adrenaline rush you get from scoring an item with a friendly, big, red sticker that marks 50% off the original price…nothing beats that.

I admit, it’s a kind of disease. I have to contain myself still from purchasing items if they’re on sale and I even remotely like the cut, fit, or pattern.

It has made keeping my promise to purchase sustainable, socially conscious items really difficult. But I am still trying my best.

Which brings me to my next point.

I am trying my best. It is ridiculously frustrating when the companies surrounding you consistently utilize irresponsible and unethical working conditions for their laborers and source materials just as unethically. And the worst part is that even though you try and work against it, those options are so easily accessible compared to the more ethical, fair trade, sustainable versions.

Luckily, with being a real life adult now, I’ve tried to make some concessions.
Sacrificing cheap alternatives that you know have been produced through slave labor, under arduous conditions, using materials that are not sustainable or healthy for people or the planet is so much more worth it when you get a quality product that does some social good. I’m still trying to push this lesson into my mind and shift my perspectives, but it is a definitely a learning process.

I have come across some really wonderful companies that are working to do their part in making the fashion industry a more globally and socially conscious industry.

After the jump, I’ll dive right into them!

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Conscious Consumerism: A Commitment I Can Keep

Ever since I was young, I knew the value of a dollar–and that dollar could buy you a lot if you knew how to navigate sales racks and bargain bins.

In a world of fast fashion, I quickly became immersed in a desire for more, more, more.  New clothes gave (and still does to some extent) a kind of euphoria I never knew how to explain.  Materialism and American consumerism at its finest.

And yet, as I grew older and learned things about child labor, unfair wages, and unethically sourced materials, the satisfaction of getting that $5 top rapidly shrank.

I tried my best, though, to push those thoughts aside.  Those issues never became a reality for me.  It was and is easy to slip back into the mindset where you think your impact does not matter.

But let’s face it–the decisions we make, especially the decisions about what we buy and what companies we choose to support definitely do matter.

After returning from Kenya and Costa Rica, I find it extremely difficult to justify buying something for cheap if I know the person who made it could never afford to buy it for him or herself.  And it is equally difficult to justify knowing just how much the fashion industry pollutes our environment–that I know our unwanted donated clothes are actually shipped off to developing countries, purchased for cheap, and then sold in markets to families in poverty.

It is still difficult for me to reconcile the differences in what I am so passionate about.  Fashion is something I find to be such a vital part of creative expression and the human experience, though if it comes at the expense of our environmental sustainability or social well-being, I don’t know if it’s worth it.

It’s not to say that I would never buy clothes again, though.

Which brings me to the commitment I’m hoping to keep–and that I’m hoping you too can join me in.

 

I commit to minimizing the negative impact I will have on our earth and global society.  I commit to not buying items that are not sustainably sourced and where workers are not given a living or fair wage.  I commit to sticking to thrift stores if I am seeking cheap thrills, and investing in companies and clothes that are people-friendly (not made using slave or child labor) from companies that commit to minimizing their carbon footprint if I feel the need to buy something new.

I know it will be difficult, especially as a struggling university student and soon-to-be graduate.  But in the grand scheme of things, is the sacrifice I’m making really a sacrifice?  Ultimately, not really.

I will document my experiences here.  Please let me know if you decide to join me in this.

Cheers!