Last night I was reading my students' blogs and ran across some graffiti artwork around which one student is developing a "This I Believe" essay. The art reminded me of two paintings that hang above my bed and the story of how I met the artist.
Last summer in Costa Rica, my wife and I drove from the Nicoya Peninsula where I'd been surfing for ten days to the cloud forests of Vulcan Arenal. On the way, we circumnavigated Lake Arenal. Rounding the southern end of the lake, we saw several increasingly bright, painted signs saying "Espresso." We hadn't seen that word since flying out of LAX, so we decided to make a stop (at this point, we'd been driving nearly 6 hours straight). With an uninterrupted view of the lake and countryside, a small concrete building stood and housed a restaurant, espresso bar, and art studio and gallery. Nobody else was there, so the artist and proprietor Juan Carlos, sat with us and talked; he practiced English; we practiced Spanish. We learned about his dream of starting an artists' retreat where students and artists could come from around the world and study. He also showed us his project for university. In Limon, he brought together hundreds in the community to paint a mural that stretched for miles. As teachers, we felt akin to Juan Carlos. We hope to see him again someday.