Thursday, March 27, 2014

Dancing with a Star

In one of my favorite books, Into the Wild, the protagonist writes, “The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon. If you want to get more out of life, you must lose your inclination for monotonous security.” I remember rediscovering this book fall semester when I was considering studying abroad—that quote cemented my decision to study abroad.  
Trying out zip-lining in Monteverde
Since my arrival in Costa Rica, I have had so many new experiences—enough to fill an 80-page Microsoft word document. As I read over those pages, I keep finding that I have written about the joy that I have found in trying things I never thought I would do—zip lining, bungee jumping, caving, engaging in Spanish debates, and trying new foods. Chris McCandless, the protagonist from Into the Wild, was absolutely right.
Coming to a new country, over 2,000 miles away from home, terrified me. Traveling through customs alone terrified me. The thought of making a terrible mistake while speaking Spanish terrified me. And more than anything, Latin dancing terrified me.
I have the worst coordination in the world. Really, I can trip over myself. So, when my friends told me that we were going to a Latin dancing club one Thursday, I laughed at them. This girl, born with two left feet, was not about to embarrass herself in front of complete strangers. However, an hour later, I found myself contentedly watching different dancers twirling across the floor. But someone else had a different idea. A man, who introduced himself as Alonso, probably in his early 30’s, with frizzy hair tied back in a samurai ponytail, glasses, and a huge smile, asked me to dance. I was a little hesitant, but everyone told me to go, and after warning him that I really couldn’t dance very well, he led me to the floor.
Pura Vida at its finest!
It was one of my best experiences in Costa Rica. Alonso knew all the words to the songs and would belt them out, his head thrown back, an expression of pure joy, excitement, enthusiasm, and bliss on his face. I can guarantee you that his expression was not due to my dancing skills. We danced for a solid hour. We did all kinds of flips, and I learned for the first time what it meant to have a guy lead. He would hold up his hand, and I knew that I was supposed to turn, and I knew in which direction I was supposed to turn. We were all over that dance floor, twirling and twisting—him with his smile and me just laughing at the ridiculousness of the entire situation. We even did dips, which I learned are a lot of fun. And then—then, it got even crazier. “Vivir mi Vida” by Marc Anthony came on. This song is incredibly popular in Costa Rica and has become my favorite song and personal anthem. We were spinning all over the place, working well together when out of nowhere, he picks me up and starts spinning me around in a circle. We did the kind of lift that the contestants from “Dancing with Stars” do. I was speechless. Other people stared at us, almost as if they were asking, “Did that just happen?”
Yes, yes it did. And it was an incredible experience.
I returned to my seat with a beat red face, hair out of its braid, jeans that were glued to my skin with sweat, and eyes sparkling. Sometimes, one needs to be terrified into having these “encounters with new experiences,” because as I learned, there is no greater joy than losing one’s “inclination for monotonous security.”
Wishing you a pura vida,

Christina Koehler
Class of 2016

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