[Photo: Jennifer Moxley delivering soccer balls to kids in Costa Rica on behalf of Charlotte-based Peace Passers. The balls were donated to Peace Passers by a local Adidas rep.]

by Liz Rothaus Bertrand

When Jennifer Moxley submitted the photo above to our ongoing travel photo contest, we just had to find out more. We caught up with Moxley via email, and she filled us in on her fascinating journey from Charlotte to Tamarindo, Costa Rica, where she’s spending part of this year.

Moxley, a film maker and former TV reporter, first visited Costa Rica’s Nicoya Penninsula in 2013. She fell in love with the region but was frustrated at not being able to communicate. Traveling with her two sons, one of whom had studied Spanish in high school, as well as her Peruvian-born bilingual companion Peter Loli and his brother Paul, she decided to do something about it.

“When I returned to Charlotte in May, I got online to find Spanish classes,” writes Moxley, who is VP of Creative Media at Nomadic Communications. “[The Language Academy of the Carolinas] had a close location to my home, hours that worked with my busy schedule and I appreciated seeing other students say their business skillset improved because they took language classes there.”

Moxley’s interest in learning Spanish was professionally inspired as well. She was in the midst of an ambitious documentary film project that could require her to conduct business negotiations in Spanish. “Finding Neymar” was to chronicle Peter and Paul’s adventures as they learned to sail and attempted to travel 4,500 miles by sailboat to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

As she worked on her Spanish skills, Moxley also started to reach out to soccer affiliates around the globe seeking support for her film project. That’s how she first connected with Charlotte-based Peace Passers, a non-profit organization that helps redistribute recycled soccer equipment to needy communities around the world.

Unfortunately, the Loli brothers’ boat trip took an unplanned course in early 2014. After spending 30 days learning to sail with a captain, they realized they still were not ready to make the trip on their own when the captain’s time with them ended. They put their plans to sail to Brazil on hold.

“Peter and I decided to take off and live in Tamarindo for the month of May to find a new direction,” explains Moxley.

New adventures were, indeed, awaiting them as they arrived with soccer balls from Peace Passers and discovered CEPIA, a Costa Rican non-profit organization that uses education, health, sports and cultural experiences to help kids and teens combat the challenges of poverty. Led by a vibrant, young director “who has done so much with so little. We knew we wanted to also help her,” says Moxley.

map-costa-ricaMoxley and Loli’s 2015 New Year’s resolution was to spend three months in Costa Rica over the course of the year. They are on the tail end of their first month there and plan to return two more times this year. They’ll continue bringing soccer balls and Moxley will make some short videos to help CEPIA with fundraising for various projects.

“Knowing Spanish builds trust among people here, as well as respect, says Moxley. “My Spanish is still rusty. I certainly plan to attend some conversational groups in Charlotte to keep practicing.”

In addition to studying at The Language Academy, Moxley has used Rosetta Stone and Duolingo to practice her Spanish skills. “The CD provided by the Academy stayed in my car for months until I switched over to listening to La Raza [Charlotte’s Spanish language radio station] during my commutes,” says Moxley. “All of these tools worked in unison but the classes were vital. Rosetta Stone and Duolingo are great but don’t explain the “whys” and “what ifs” I frequently asked.”

Moxley marvels at how many opportunities exist for people everywhere to connect with other cultures, citing the President of Costa Rica’s recent visit to Charlotte to discuss partnerships, opportunities and development.

“We can easily forget how small and interconnected our world really is,” says Moxley. “Here in Tamarindo, a guy from Raleigh owns a BBQ restaurant. Back in Charlotte, we watched the Costa Rica team play in the World Cup with other Ticos who call the Queen City home. We’ve seen people with Panthers’ jerseys here and folks from Carolina beaches vacationing.”

We wish Moxley best of luck as she continues her adventures. We’d love to hear how learning a foreign language has changed your life too. Drop us a line if you have a story or photo to share.

Got the travel bug? Join us for our October trip to Argentina! You can find more details at carolinalanguage.com.