Here in Limon Dos days start when the roosters start crowing, which for some is well before the sun rises. Mornings are spent feeding animals, spreading water around one’s yard (to prevent polvo/dust), and pitching in with morning chores. My days begin around 6 am and starts by de-securing the house with my host mom, Lesbia, and my abuelita, Carlota. After these chores are done we sit on the porch drinking coffee and eating a light breakfast. This moment does not last long but is among my favorites in the day – the porch provides a perfect place to watch the world go by. Students, in their crisp blue and white uniforms, pass on their way to school while others bike, moto, or walk by on their way to work. While their uniforms can distinguish most of the students there is an even easier way to determine the difference between the two groups, by the direction they are traveling. Towards the left, Las Lajas (the road I live on) leads to the beach and the entrances of a few hotels and a large luxury resort that boarders Limon Dos and Limon Uno. To the right leads to the main road that stretches to the south to Rivas and to north which leads to the primary school of Limon dos and further to Las Salinas, the nearest community with a secondary school. The secondary school sits about 5km down the main road. Some student’s use the bus while others walk or take bikes, sometimes two or three to a bike.
This time in the morning observing the traffic and morning commutes has made me think about the two clear directions or paths people take in this community. Well actually, three. One group that is not represented are those who are already at work, in their own homes. Three paths, three directions, none of them any better or more prestigious than the other.
Most of those that pass by exchange greetings with us porch sitters while some even stop to sit with us and drink a cup of coffee. One of the frequent visitors is Louis Alberto. One of the beautiful things about Louis is his contagious smile and attitude. Every time he stops by the house on his way to work he always bears the best attitude. Which lead me to ask him a question. Are you happy? This question came after we were talking about how he did not complete school, in fact dropping out after 6th grade. His response was interesting and strangely caught me off guard; no he said without hesitation, he wanted to study more, complete his high school degree and to study English. He is 28 years old and has spent the last six years working construction in towns close to his house. For this job he worked three days a week and made close to 800 cordobas in one day ($31 dollars a day on the days he worked, but only $4.25 a day when it is spread out in a week). During this time he was saving for the costs of school that he hoped to complete in his days off. However the construction work and jobs dried up and he now works at one of the hotels that is located on Las Lajas near the beach. He has been working there for close to a month and works 6-7 days a week and makes 2,000 cordobas every 15 days ($79 dollars for 15 days of work and $5.25 a day). While he makes a dollar more the commute time on bike is close to an hour and a half both ways and does not leave him time to complete schooling. With 50% of the population unemployed and another 20-25% underemployed Louis Alberto had no choice but to take another job and commute
For the majority of families in Limon dos, and the surrounding area, schooling past secondary school is not an option for mainly economic reasons, for some primary school is not even a viable option. Only 43% of individuals have ever attended high school, with almost 25% dropping out (ChildInfo 2005). In contrast the graduation rate for Fenix students is 93%, with the majority who graduate moving on to further education. While education provides many future gains the reality of life and the need for more providers in a household often keeps children and youth from continuing education. This unfortunately stunts the potential opportunities for individuals as well as the economic growth of the community. Fenix places immense value in education by supporting students through tutoring and by providing school materials. However I think the real secret to the academic success of Fenix students is that its shifting views around the tie between continued education and economic success. This is a sentiment often realized by individuals later in life and a sentiment that is growing in the community. By imparting that to students early on there is a higher probability that they will stay in school, possibly move on to higher education, and attain higher quality of life. How we start our day and our lives in the world directly impacts where we go and where we end.