Playa Potrero is a small rural village of about 300 inhabitants that is composed of a few blocks of houses in the center and some on the outskirts by the forest where most local families live. There is a football court which everyone calls the main square or ‘plaza’ and where all Potrereños gather to play sports or just hang out. This plaza is a focal point in the village as everyone living in and around Potrero describes their home address by measuring the kilometers between their home and the plaza.
All the important public places of Potrero are located either directly around or very close to this football court. There are two tiny supermarkets, which are insanely expensive, as they have to import everything from other parts of the country. Their product selection seemed very limited at first because I wasn’t able to recognize many products due to their different packages and the way everything is just cramped up together on shelves without having different sections for different kinds of products. Next to Super Potrero, my favorite supermarket because of the nice lady that is always behind the counter, there is the ‘salon communal’, which I described in my previous post, and is used as the main gathering point for festivities and local activities of the community. Beside the ‘salon communal’ is where the main classroom of Abriendo Mentes is located and where all children and adults can come to receive English and computer classes as well as academic support or participate in community development or sports programs. The community school is located opposite to the Abriendo Mentes classroom on the other side of the football court and is a tiny place with three classrooms, a small kitchen that provides children with lunch, a tiny office for the director and a hall where parents and children can gather. I had never seen such a tiny complex operating as a school for that many children, but it seems to work.
I learned that Potrero used to be an agricultural community made up of only ticos who lived of fishing and working their lands. In recent years there has been a huge influx of “Gringos” (the Costa Rican name for Americans), who started buying the lands of locals for very low prices and turning them into tourist resorts all around the area of Potrero. The more foreigners arrived in the community the more locals have spread out throughout the area and moved inland to keep working in agriculture. However, soon locals have been pushed out of business because of foreigners implanting a third-sector economy into one that used to function perfectly as a primary-sector one. This has led to increasing poverty of locals who can’t compete with the modern businesses that have been set up, lacking the education and skills most of the time to find a job in this new tourism-based economy. As prices of commodities have also risen with this change, many locals are too poor to be able to afford basic needs.
Even though much has changed in the community, the old soul of the village still remains. People live pure and simple lives, connected to their natural surroundings, which creates an immense serenity. With every single day that goes by I feel increasingly at home here in this tiny village. The first days of living in Potrero drove me crazy and made me nostalgic for the many impulses and distractions The Hague provided me with. During the first month, I used to wake up with a hyperactive state of mind, searching for productive things to do and accelerating my pace of life to match my city routine. I became frustrated here because I felt I was doing nothing useful with my time, or at least not getting enough useful results. Every moment of the day for me lasted an eternity. I had so much time to spend with myself it made my deepest and most frightening thoughts and emotions surface to be confronted. In the Netherlands, I was able to avoid them by filling my day with more tasks than I could get done and by letting myself be carried away by many distractions. Here there is silence and there is no escape.
With time I have gotten used to the different pace of life and the serenity that reined the place. I learned to give every moment of my day the time it required to live it in a state of deep consciousness. By practicing this I have been able to confront the thoughts and emotions came to haunt me from the dark and closed place I had put them in. I started feeling at peace with myself in total solitude. The emptiness that had once grown inside of me when I felt I had lost the essence of whom I was had now been filled up again. Spending time alone allowed me to reconnect with the rawest, purest and most instinctual version of myself. This has put my mind, heart and soul at peace. The old soul of the village has knocked on my door and I have embraced its ways. I know understand the magic of living a simple and pure life, of feeling connected to nature and allowing its serenity to penetrate my soul.