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  • When I was in 6th grade, my father, a high school history teacher, was given a sabbatical from his school, and decided to take my entire family to Costa Rica for the year. He had been to Monteverde, a town in the cloud forest, and decided this would be a good place to bring our family. My brother and I went to school at the Cloud Forest School, a school where most of the classes were in English, but most of the students Spanish. I had an intense daily Spanish class, and as a result of this, I am now almost fluent in Spanish.

    However, there were many drawbacks. I had barely been out of the US before, and now, all of a sudden, I was thrown into a new environment and told to deal with it. I had trouble making friends with the Costa Rican kids, and missed my friends at home.

    I was living in a tiny house up in the middle of the cloud forest with dial-up internet and no television, and I hated it. Everyone in my family took something new up to pass the time. I read more books that year than I possibly have my whole life. My mom decided to start knitting.

    She knitted all sorts of things, but my favorite was a small yellow hat. I wore that hat everywhere. To be honest, I don't exactly know why I wore it all the time. I just clung to it like it was all I had.

    One day, I lost the hat (as I am prone to doing with many things). I was devastated.

    I came home and went straight up to my room. All of the things I had been facing over the past year crashed down on my shoulders. I lay on my bed and cried to myself. I cried because I missed my friends. I cried because I missed my house. I cried because I was stuck in a place I did not want to be and there was nothing I could do about it.

    My mom eventually knit me another yellow hat, but I never wore it. We left Costa Rica and returned to Pepperell, MA, where I had lived all my life until I was uprooted and transferred.

    I still have the second hat, and every once in a while I look at it and think about the year I spent in Costa Rica. I think to myself, maybe it wasn't that bad. After all, there were parts of it I enjoyed. I'm glad that I went. It was an experience very few kids get, and it helped define me as a person. I never wear the hat, though. I'm too scared I'll lose it.
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