Mañana Es Otro Dia

By: Courtney Greene, API Vice President of Student Services and Policy, API Texas

It’s not uncommon for me to feel overwhelmed by looming deadlines that seem beyond my capabilities. At such times, my husband often urges me to have patience. His refrain of “what a difference a day makes” is usually mildly irritating during the moment in question, but the next day I often must begrudgingly thank him for the gentle reminder when a solution to my perceived crisis reveals itself.

I have been gifted with the opportunity to spend nearly six weeks in Costa Rica working with a group of API students. Though this gift has at times taken the form of exhausting physical and emotional stressors, it is an incredible opportunity to witness the transformative experience of study abroad firsthand and be reminded how much of a challenge our students face when confronting new languages and cultures.

As I work with our onsite staff to prepare for a series of cultural charlas (discussions) with our students, I have had a number of stimulating conversations about differences between the U.S. and Costa Rica. My colleague explained to me that ticos (as Costa Ricans are called) live by the adage, hay mas tiempo que vida. (There is more time than life.) Though initially quite confusing for a typical type A gringa like myself, my colleague’s explanation of this adage makes a great deal of sense. Unlike Americans, who hail from a country where “time is money,” ticos recognize that time will continue, regardless of whether you are still around to make use of it or not. Since every human being’s time on earth is inevitably limited, rather than worry ourselves over what we can and cannot accomplish in a day, it is better to slow down and make the most of the time that our short life affords us. Mañana (tomorrow) would surely be a better time to complete school projects, work obligations or a home repair project. Eventually, of course, the work must all get done, but not without a fair amount of healthy procrastination.

When I take a moment to consider my priorities and the pace of life, I am heartened by how cultural extremes often point to a middle ground. Perhaps waiting until mañana isn’t always the solution, but surely “24/7/365” isn’t a healthy philosophy either. While my U.S. cultural lens won’t allow me to fully concede that time isn’t money, I cannot deny the attraction of viewing time as a gift that must be enjoyed and celebrated, not constantly berated for being in too short supply.

So, though my husband has never himself had a study abroad experience in Latin America, it would seem that he already has a better handle on living like a tico than I, an international educator who has lived abroad and traveled in Latin America for more than a decade. For just as he tells me, everything does look different as a new day dawns, and time begins again.

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  1. This is a such a lovely post! It echoes a lot of the same sentiments I had (and still have!) about my study abroad experience last summer with API in Tuscania, Italy. Though I still admit to crafting daily to-do lists that are often impossible to complete in a day’s time, I don’t beat myself up about not being able to do it all. In fact, allowing myself extra time to complete a nagging task often–not always, but often–brings me back to whatever the task is with a fresh perspective. No matter how overwhelmed I might feel, I know that I can go back to my memories from Tuscania–whether they involve spending an afternoon relaxing after my plans were thwarted by rain or taking my time with my morning espresso–when I get too caught up in the 24/7/365 mentality. Thank you for this lovely reminder of what I gained from studying abroad, Courtney!

  2. Estoy de acuerdo!! Cuando estaba estudiando en Mexico, aprendí una filosofía muy similar que aprendiste en Costa Rica. Me da mucho gusto que tu tiempo en Costa Rica va muy bien!! (:

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