Starting with the Diversity Project as a Rookie Scholar, I didn’t know what to expect. The group was new to me and the topics for the interactions were controversial, but nine interactions, a retreat at East Bay Camp, a visit to the Normal Theater and one trip to Costa Rica later, I am proud to call myself a Scholar of the McLean County Diversity Project.
In honor of the 2013-2014 topic of "The Diversity of Politics" members of political parties, the Editor of the Pantagraph, Mayors of both Bloomington and Normal, the County Clerk, a State Representative and a local Circuit Judge were invited to share their thoughts.
To be honest, I thought the interactions would be boring and long. But to my surprise, after every interaction I would reflect on what I learned that day and saw the world in a whole new perspective. As the interactions progressed, I learned that there is no bad person in politics. Everybody is trying to better the government, but they have their own way of reaching that end goal, whether it be to tax the rich or reduce the government’s involvement in citizen’s life.
During the training at East Bay Camp, I learned that there is no one definition to Politics. Politics is defined on
as, "The practice or profession of conducting political affairs". But I learned that there is so much more to politics than just that.
When the question of "What is Politics?" was asked during training, people had so many ideas, like the allocation of power, money, and resources; and the art of managing or controlling the government. This made me wonder, is there really a true definition for politics? And I concluded that there really is none.
Costa Rica was by far the most fun I’ve had this year.
When we landed in Costa Rica, the first thing I noticed were the very nice people. Wherever we went, people would always greet us with "Pura Vida" meaning pure life. I was mesmerized by how open the people were; especially at school. Instead of criticizing our Spanish they would help us out. The high school kids would try their best to use their "kindergarten" Spanish to communicate with us. Same way with their English practice; we would ask them a question and they would try their best to respond in English.
At my host family’s home I noticed that what we do in our free time is very alike with the Costa Ricans. We were sharing our high scores on popular phone games like, Flappy Bird and Don’t Touch the White Tiles. We also played a lot of hide and seek with the five year old girl named Sofia, who I stayed with. The experience of diversity first hand with my host family really brought home the message that even though we live in a different country and have different cultures; we are still similar in many ways.
Even before coming to Costa Rica, I knew that Costa Rica was a big fan of soccer, or futbol as they call it there. It’s kind of the relationship people in the United States have with American football. That is what really brought everybody together on the day of the big Costa Rica vs. Uruguay match. For 90 minutes, all of us had one thing in common, the love for the Costa Rican soccer team.
Food is a big part of the Costa Rican culture, just like it is for the American culture. My host family ate everything with queso, or cheese. Another food that people in Costa Rica eat is rice. We had rice in every meal. But don’t get me wrong, the food was amazing. In fact, everything about Costa Rica was amazing, including the beautiful landscape.
As I write today, I treasure the various interactions, the Kids on the Block Puppet Troupe (my personal project commitment) and the never-ending challenges of being out of my comfort zone. I have made many new friends and even learned a foreign language.
I never imagined that I would learn so much in one year of the Diversity Project, and can’t wait for what I’ll learn next year.
I have become a more responsible and independent person.
McLean County Diversity Project