Guanacaste Snapshots
Experiences in Rural Costa Rica

by Susan Gordon (Costa Rica 1964–66)
!Universe, Inc.
July 2004
150 pages

    Reviewed by Stacey L. Flanagan (Costa Rica 1994–97)

    SUSAN'S COLLECTION of essays or short stories is about her experiences as a young woman living in a world unlike the one she had known. And yet, almost 30 years later, I was walking into Costa Rica and experiencing a very similar Peace Corps to that of Susan Gordon. I guess there is something to that saying, “the more things change, the more they stay the same.”
         As I read about Susan’s first visit to Costa Rica and her experiences as a Volunteer, it seemed all too familiar. A gringa making friends, a gringa helping others, a gringa finding the magically powers that rest in the wisdom of older women. I felt like I was reading my own journal at times —
         I felt somewhat kindred to Susan’s experience in Peace Corps and her expression of those times left me with my head spinning just as my first experience learning Spanish had done. I would begin to read each essay about her experience and get lost in how many people were involved in the plot — it truly did take a village! Susan’s writing was more like a telenovela — soap opera — as they say in Costa Rica.
         Her essays are about her transition into adulthood through her experience living in Costa Rica for ten years but not necessarily about her experiences as a Peace Corps Volunteer. I felt she was tough on Peace Corps in her writing and that she holds a bit of a grudge 35 years later. I think maybe Susan grew up more during her days as a Volunteer than her later years in Costa Rica. And since this isn’t the end of Susan Gordon’s writing, I hope her future writing takes her to a place where she can find peace with her experience.

    Stacey Flanagan is the National Manager of Operation Frontline at Share Our Strength, the nation’s leading anti-hunger nonprofit. She has a B.A. from Michigan State in Political Science and an M.S. in Nonprofit Management from the New School and lives in New York.