I’m not going to waste time with false modesty — I have a really good idea for my repurposing essay. It comes from the privilege of being able to spend last winter semester studying in Costa Rica, when I had the opportunity of planning and executing my own research project, as well as writing a long fifteen-page followup paper.
I went to Yorkin, an indigenous Bribri community on the border of Costa Rica and Panama. Previously, it had been accessible only by river, but just a month before I got there the municipality built a road; I spent my time in the community talking to people who supported the road and people who opposed it, trying to figure out why it was built, why some people were opposing it, and how people expected it might affect Yorkin.
During this time, I was living with a huge extended family in a stilted thatch-roof house, stumbling over Spanish and going to three-hour Adventist church services and beginning to understand the family and community dynamics. So much happened behind-the-scenes of that research paper, and ever since I got back I’ve wanted to write about the actual experience, rather than just the road. This repurposing essay is just the excuse I need!
My research paper is full of information about community dynamics, because it was almost entirely based off of interviews with community members, as well as statistics and outside information from other indigenous groups. I kept a journal every day (although much of it was lists of not-white-rice foods I would eat once I got back), and I plan on looking back at those journals and re-framing my experience with a more narrative, rather than research-based, lens. It will be nice to be able to discuss my experience as a subjective formative experience, rather than as a project.
My repurposed essay is most likely going to come out in a memoir/creative non-fiction style, unless I suddenly feel compelled to write a longform poem or a five-page song. I took a class over the summer that focused on the personal essay, and I really enjoyed that format. I don’t think I’ve been this excited about an essay in a long, long time — it’s such a good opportunity to reexamine my time abroad and think about that place in a different way.