B.N. Duke Scholar Blogs

The Best Orange I’ve Ever Had

Written by: on July 17th, 2012

Last Friday a great thing happened to me. I got lost.

After work Friday afternoon, I stayed true to my typical routine and took the bus home from work, changed out of my work clothes, and relaxed a little bit at my host family’s house.

About mid-afternoon, I decided to embark on a cultural experience, and see what the nearby shopping mall was like. I’d been told it was one of the biggest malls in Costa Rica, so I figured it would be worth a look to see how the commercial monstrosities of this country stack up against Southpoint or Crabtree Valley Mall, my Triangle favorites. I knew exactly how to get there by bus, but I figured it was a beautiful afternoon to get to know the city by foot, I needed to shed off a few extra servings of rice and beans from the night before, and most of all, I could save myself the $0.50 bus fare.

So I embarked on a seemingly easy trip, assuring my host mom I would be back by dinner. I took a shortcut through the campus of nearby Universidad de Costa Rica, which dumped me out onto the main drag of San Pedro. I felt pretty confident of how to get there at that point, but 15 minutes and a few near collisions later, I wasn’t so sure.

Any directionally prideful reader (likely male) will sympathize with me when I describe the feeling of thinking, “I’m sure I’ll know where I am if I just go around one more corner” or “Oh, maybe I can cut through here, and then I’ll find it.” Such positive thinking continued on to no avail for quite a bit longer. About an hour before sunset, as I overlooked a ravine with a great view of a typical wall-to-wall Costa Rican neighborhood (space between houses is much less typical here) I realized that I wasn’t making it to the mall that afternoon.

I held a little disappointment for missing out on a J Crew rendezvous, but I figured the afternoon wasn’t lost despite the fact I was. I headed back the way I came so as not to be trapped by dusk and to make it back for dinner. Yet I still didn’t rush past where I was walking. I took time to notice the lime trees I was past, and thought about how strange it was that the locals here call a lemon and a lime the same thing (limón). I saw streams filled with household trash, in stark contrast to Costa Rica’s reputation for being one ofthe world’s most environmentally conscious countries. I passed houses, apartments, restaurants, and each one taught me something new about life down here.

But undoubtedly my favorite part was the shortcut I took through the back of a ritzy neighborhood. I stumbled into an abandoned parking lot that seemed to accommodate a defunct and unrecognizable building, dilapidated by years of disuse. The hallmarks of any good abandoned lot were there: grass, roots, and weather breaking up the asphalt and graffiti of every color with messages you’d prefer not to show your grandma (don’t worry Mimi & Honey, I’ll tell you). As took in the scenery, one tree caught my eye.

I will say that I’ve claimed to be an orchardist fewer times than I’ve claimed to be a doctor, but a quick smell test told me it was an orange tree. I immediately grabbed a stick off the ground, and knocked down the highest and biggest orange off the tree. It wasn’t ripe but I wasn’t about to let that stop me. I grabbed a few more and took a seat to enjoy my snack. Clearly it had grown from when someone threw away a seed years before, possibly before the lot closed up. I thought about brainstorming philosophic analogies about an orange tree growing up in this abandoned lot from the trash of years before, but I put my energy into a worthier cause- enjoying the orange. Without a knife on me, I used a piece of glass off the ground to cut open the peel, and finished it off quickly. It was sour, sweet, and delicious, a good analogy to my trip so far in Costa Rica and Nicaragua. I’ve had sweet moments, sour moments, and a delicious trip.

I got lost, and ended up finding what I was looking for.



Choosing to come to Duke and be a B.N. Duke Scholar had everything to do with choosing the corner where the people would support us the most zealously, where we could explode in pursuit of our passions, and where opportunities were not scarce. Stesha Doku Charlotte, NC

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