Ravi smiles (Written by Dr. Jorge Benavides)
It is the first day of the semester, we are telling a group of students about all the different places we are going to visit, about the difficulties and lack of comfort, about the different cultures they will meet. They look scared. But not Ravi. Ravi smiles. This is what he came for.
There are 14 girls, one boy. That could intimidate anyone. Not Ravi. His caring manner, his respectful yet playful personality quickly won their hearts over. Just a few days had passed, and they were already Ravi´s angels. Ravi smiles.
Ravi is sitting in class, taking notes, looking excited. He raises his hand. Now I am scared. Ravi never asks an easy one. I know I am in for a challenge. And of course he delivers. Man, Ravi, I will have to get back to you on that one, you just gave me homework again. Ravi smiles.
Ravi spoke softly, almost whispering. I teased him about it, “You are pulling a Ravi again, let your classmates hear you too.” But I get it now. We all had to be quiet, to shut up, and listen, so we could be amazed by him. He spoke just a little louder and smiled.
Ravi looks for Jennifer, he tells her jokingly “You know, Jorge picks on me.” She replies, “Don´t worry, he picks on me too.” He learns from her that I like making these jokes to those people I like, to those I trust, to those whose personalities are fun and jovial and who will play along. And so he did. “Jorge, you are such a Diva,” he tells me. Last weekend he came to me and asked, “Promise you will never stop picking on me.” I promise. Ravi smiles.
Saturday night some students were telling me how Ravi was going on and on about how much he had loved being with us, how much he had learned, and how much he had changed. What he didn’t know was that he had transformed us, all of us, everyone who shared more than a minute with him. After being with Ravi you would see the world differently. Everything looks beautiful, and there are no hardships, just challenges that make us grow and become better.
Ravi had his mind set on changing the world, on making it better. At 19 he had already done that. He impacted not only those who were close to him, but those he met sporadically and those in communities that he had never seen before.
Ravi you already have a legacy, a legacy we will all strive to honor and live by. Thank you Rav.
For Ravi (Written by Dr. Melissa Ceuterick)
I remember the first time I spoke to Ravi. It was on our first excursion and he came to sit next to me on the bus. So, Melissa, tell me, which ones of all the plants that you studied, you have actually used yourself? That kept us busy for a while. He was extremely interested and kept on asking me all sorts of questions. We clicked right away, and I immediately knew he was going to be special to me.
So he ended up choosing for all ethnobiological fieldwork projects he could. In Boruca we had several different projects randomly assigned. One was on wild foods. When he heard that he was selected for another group his disappointment was so big that I decided to make an exception for him and change so he could be in my group. He clearly enjoyed all of it.
He would also tease me a lot. And when I said something he really liked he would always give me a high five.
For his final research project he also chose to be in the ethnobio project. We spent a week in La Casona investigating the types of fuel wood people use in the village and what is considered bad and good wood. It was during one of those trips on which we went to collect voucher specimens that I invented the name voucherman, in line with other super heros like superman, because he had been doing a tremendous job collecting specimens all day in the blistering heat and walking all day without any complaint and always with a smile. Actually I first called him voucherboy, but he teased me that that wasn’t fair, so voucherboy became voucherman.
Ravi loved every little bit of it, although it wasn’t always easy. I remember one night, 9 in the evening he and Rebecca came knocking on my door, upset because the plant dryer with all the specimens wasn’t working anymore. He asked me if I could come to have a look. So we went there and when we arrived it had started working again. So we giggled a bit about that and he said sorry to bother me so late. When I left he asked me if he could give me a hug for that.
He ended up making a wonderful and outstanding final project. Together with Rebecca and Sarah, Ravi developed a brochure in Spanish for the local community members who would come attend the poster session where they presented their results. When dr. Ortiz the head of the health district saw this, he was so exited about it that he decided to have it translated by UNICEF into Ngöbere, the local language.
So you can imagine how extremely proud I was of Ravi. Saturday I was writing feedback on the final paper, underlining that once more. He had a 98 for his final paper. He asked me that evening about how he had been doing, so he knew how proud I was and how well he had been doing.
I am extremely grateful to have known Ravi. He will be in my heart forever. His amazing enthusiasm will continue to inspire me teaching ethnobio to other students.
There is one more moment that I want to share with you. We were sitting in the back of the safari after a draining long day in the field and everyone was tired and our spirits where low. That’s when he looked at me and smiled and said, Melissa, don’t frown cause that is not going to make it any better. Ravi was the only person who would ever say something like that to me. And he was right. Thank you so much Ravi.
Dr. Tammy Watkins:
As has already been mentioned, Ravi was such a joy. Whether it was asking us tough questions in class or making a joke just when one was needed and making us smile. There is one story I haven't shared yet. It was the day of the poster presentation of final projects. It was at the end, after all of our guests had gone and we had invited the students to help us 'clean up' our refreshments. Of course, they all descended on the table to help us out and as we were all outside, on the balcony a troop of capuchin monkeys came near, just beyond the balcony. The students were all excited, pointing and exclaiming as the monkeys jumped from tree to tree. One student had her video camera there and was getting set up to take video. Ravi was doing his best 'Crocodile Hunter' imitation right up until the camera was on. He seemed embarrassed and didn't want to speak up when the camera was on. I heard someone say 'Come on Ravi, now's your time to shine' and he replied, 'I don't shine'. I have to disagree with Ravi this one time. He did shine, all of the time.