The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

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CSUN graduate student’s heart takes him to Costa Rica and back

Paul Laverack sits on the scooter he bought in Costa Rica, where he studied Spanish. Laverack drove it home to California from Costa Rica. Photo courtesy of Paul Laverack

Paul Laverack is a graduate student who did not know his admiration for a waitress at his favorite Salvadorian restaurant would lead him on a life-changing journey he’d never forget.

“Just seeing her awoke in me a new-found interest in the Spanish language,” Laverack said. “I realized I wanted to know this person. I wanted to go on dates with this person, and in order to do that, I would need to communicate with this person.”

He immediately enrolled in a Spanish language course at CSUN.  He decided to spend the following semester studying Spanish in Costa Rica to further immerse himself in the language and culture.

Laverack was able to learn Spanish well enough to date the waitress, but communication boundaries still existed and their relationship eventually ended.  However, his drive to become fluent in Spanish continued.

“She got me on this road and my interest in Spanish did not go away when our relationship ended,” Laverack said. “I still wanted to know more. It became a challenge for me and my personal goal.”

Laverack said he decided to fulfill his interest in Central American cultures by taking a one-way flight to Costa Rica. He bought a scooter and used it as his transportation back to United States.

“Do you do the thing you know you are going to like, or do you try something different that you might like even better?” Laverack said. “I was going to come all the way home and I was going to do it on two wheels.”

He spent two months riding his Kymco scooter through different countries in Central and Northern America.  Laverack began his journey home from Costa Rica and made his way through Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico and finally arriving in the United States.

Although the trip was generally safe, Laverack recalls one incident where he feared for his safety.

“I was at a karaoke bar and I was out until around 3 a.m. (because) I was having fun and I ended up staying out too late,” Laverack said. “As I was saying goodbye, the last thing the karaoke waitress told me was ‘get to your hotel fast.’”

On the way back to his hotel, he said he found himself being chased by two thieves, one of whom held a knife.

Laverack justified this negative experience by focusing on memorable events he would have missed if he hadn’t taken a risk and gone on this trip. One memorable event included participating in an indigenous religious ceremony held in a mountainside cave in Guatemala.

“Do you look at the world as scary and violent, or do you look at the world as full of possibilities and wonderment?” Laverack said.

Laverack was able to apply what he learned on his trip towards his studies at CSUN.  He said the events from his trip appeared in a creative writing course.  He began making labor activism videos, and was able to translate for Spanish speaking activists in Los Angeles.

“What is college for? It is to teach us how to learn, so when we leave, we can continue learning on our own,” Laverack said. “It is not just for credit, it is not just for the diploma.”

While Laverack may not have the time to go on the trip again anytime soon, he still enjoys the food and feels the Central American hospitality at his favorite Salvadorian restaurant that started him on his journey.

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