“The Greatest Miracle”

Jonah Kruvant: Grandma Naomi 95 Birthday
 
My adventure to Costa Rica began when I found a job teaching at the Pan American School, an international bilingual high school outside of San Jose. It was there that I spent the majority of my time, teaching adolescents about literature, test-taking, and how to write. The day before my flight back to the U.S.A., I stopped by the Pan American School to pick up my final check, and I chatted with the principal, coworkers, and secretaries, completing my journey where it began.
 
I then went to a hostel near the airport and reread the previous blog posts, reflecting on my past experiences: dancing merengue at the local discoteca; killing spiders in my unfurnished apartment; having shabbat dinner with my student’s family; seeing my first sloth; cutting open a coconut straight from the tree; jumping off a waterfall; living by candlelight.
 
What did I learn from these experiences? Peace has no boundaries. Sometimes the unexpected comes true. How we respond in the face of challenges helps define us. Sometimes, we have to chill. When you work for something, the juice is that much sweeter. Even dogs learn to look both ways. We gain strength by overcoming our fears. There is a tranquil beauty in living the simple life.
 
Walking out the doors of the Pan American School on my last day in Costa Rica, I realized that there was something greater than all the experiences. I was glad to have known Philip Bennie, the vice principal who hired me, Carlos and Monse, who welcomed me into their home when I first arrived and invited me to spend Christmas with their family, and Jacob, who gave tremendous advice on the art of teaching. It was the people, not the experiences, who made the difference.
 
Last spring, I never would have imagined that I’d live in Costa Rica. And then there I was, the humid air against my cheeks, rice and beans on my plate, espaƱol all around me like surround sound. It was surreal. The fact that I had the opportunity to reside in such an inspiring country as Costa Rica – it almost seemed like a miracle.
 
I missed the bright lights of Manhattan, the nightlife of the Village, Brooklyn pizza, New Jersey bagels. I wanted to be in New York when the Giants beat the Patriots. But I didn’t come back home…for home. I came back for my friends, who gathered at Genesis Bar in the Upper East Side the night before I left for the tropics, and for my entire family, who read and commented on every blog I posted, loving and supporting me in whatever I chose to do.
 
The day after I walked out the doors of Newark Airport, feeling the brisk air against my face, I went to Primavera Italian Restaurant in West Orange, New Jersey, for the celebration of my grandmother’s ninety-fifth birthday. Only four months ago, Grandma Naomi had a seizure, and was delirious in St. Barnabas Hospital, the same place I was born, in Livingston, N.J. Somehow, she regained the faculties of her mind, revitalized her spirit, and exited the doors of the hospital in nearly the same state as which she entered.
 
In that hospital, where I came into the world, my grandmother went off to a faraway place, and through a sense of determination nothing short of extraordinary, and with the strength of a mighty waterfall, she came back to life. At her birthday dinner, I asked her what her secret was, living to the ripe old age of ninety-five. She replied, “Well, that’s easy, Jonah. It’s sitting right here, family.” As she blew out the candles on her birthday cake, I realized that here, in New Jersey, I was witnessing the greatest miracle of all.