The following is the blog I kept whilst on internship in Costa Rica during the summer of 2008. It is verbatim what I wrote then with no corrections or alterations. I had an amazing time meeting new people, experiencing new customs, and learning a new language. I hope you enjoy!
To view the video I compiled for this internship, click here.
JE SUIS ICI! – 6/17/08
After a long day of travel, Jenni and I finally made it to the San Jose airport around 2 pm local time (which is only one hour ahead of Seattle). We are staying in the small community of Alto de Monde outside of Atenas, in a guesthouse on our supervisor’s property. The view is gorgeous! Being 3,000 feet above sea level, we have a distant view of the Pacific Ocean in the morning. As soon as the afternoon hits, the clouds roll in, masking the entire view below.
We have the luxury of internet, however, it is pretty shifty. The speed is very slow, but it works for our purposes.
Come Friday, Jenni and I are leaving for Estacion Las Tortugas for a week or so, then we are traveling around with a group from Scotland to Puerta Viejo and the village of the BriBri tribe. Overall, it looks like the next month is booked pretty solid. I hope to keep this updated, but who knows when I will have internet. I know for sure that the turtle reserve doesn’t though.
Other than that, the food is great, the weather is wonderful (a little chilly right now), and the future of the summer looks good.
MANCHEGO! – 6/19/08
After a few days, we are still staying with our supervisors, Margarita and Ralph, getting settled, identifying our summer projects, learning about the culture, enjoying delicious food, etc. As you can see from the picture, it is definitely not the worst place to be (photo is backwards because it was taken by the camera on my laptop, but yes, there is a pool). Originally we were scheduled to leave for Estacion Las Tortugas tomorrow, but there was a flight cancellation, so the group we were going to accompany will not be in the country for another day. So we will just be taking it easy until then. Tranquilo, that’s what they tell us (like chill out or relax). Some of the projects we will be working on include interviews of various people involved in the organization for the website, perfecting the newsletter (and actually sending it out!), and developing a postcard to send to students who have completed the program encouraging them to share their stories so we can put them in print. We are to approach all of our experiences as “critical observers;” consultants, if you will.
Yesterday we were able to ride down to Atenas with a guide and driver to meet their group from San Francisco for their final dinner. It was really great to see how excited the students were about the experience they shared with their peers. It makes me eager to see what the following weeks will bring.
Today we watched Ralph make manchego cheese out of fresh cow milk. We also met two people from the Maleku village who brought goods to give to the family here. I have been taking it all in as we are introduced to various cultural norms.
MISSING THE CARIBBEAN – 7/10/08
Sorry for the delayed update, as I have been without internet for about two weeks, but no worries, here is a bit of a breakdown of what I have been up to lately…
We left for Estacion Las Tortugas on Saturday, June 21, which is on the Caribbean Coast. It was hot, wet, dirty, sweaty, sandy, and salty, with no hot water, savage mosquitoes, relentless howler monkeys, and little variety in food besides rice and beans. It was AMAZING. I loved just about every minute. I met some awesome locals, as well as some girls from England and Greece, who I plan on keeping in touch with for sure. Language was a bit of an issue in some cases, but a smile means the same thing in every country, thank God. As you can imagine, there were a lot of charade – like gestures used to communicate. In those two weeks, I saw four mommy leatherback turtles, and about 500 hatchlings, which fit inside your hand! Played beach volleyball, did laundry by hand, went swimming in the Caribbean Sea, jogged the beach, watched the sunrise, and danced the night away.
After our time was over at the station, it was a bitter goodbye for me. As uncomfortable as it was at some points, I really enjoyed myself. The company was great as well. We left the station early on the morning of July 5th – a 10-minute boat ride through the crocodile-ridden canals, a 40-minute taxi ride in the bed of a truck through the banana plantations to Matina, a 30-minute bus ride to Limon, and a 60-minute bus ride to Puerto Viejo where Jenni and I spent two nights. It was a great, laid-back town with a strong Rastafarian culture, set on the Caribbean coast and lined with beautiful white and black sand beaches. We stayed at an amazing hostel laid from top to bottom with artwork and mosaics done by guests. Our days were spent walking the town, hanging at the beach, shopping, and bike riding, while our nights consisted of live music, happy hours, and sleeping in hammocks.
On Monday, the 7th, we caught an 11 o’clock bus to San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica. Unfortunately I was motion sick for a good portion of the 5-hour bus ride. Upon arriving in the city, we got lost looking for our hostel – two gringos with bags as big as themselves wandering the streets. It was pretty pathetic when we discovered that we had already passed it… We spent one full day there, in which we met up with Jenni’s family and went to Cartago to visit a botanical garden and a famous Catholic church. After our time with them, we were able to meet up with one of the locals that we met at the station, as well as two of his friends in which we enjoyed some Chifrijo – a traditional Costa Rican dish, and then we went to a few bars and ended the night playing guitar at the hostel. I’m back in Atenas now, after visiting the market in San Jose and spending too much money this morning.
It’s a bit hard to adjust to being back here. I really miss the hot weather, the minimalistic lifestyle, and being around people my age. It’s kind of sad that I’m depressed to be back at the house with great meals, hot water, and soap, but I really enjoyed being on the go and taking part in true cultural experiences in which I am challenged both physically and mentally. I think I grew a lot in the past couple weeks, and I am really looking forward to what our 10-day tour will bring in terms of new friendships and new challenges. We are scheduled to depart on the 14th.
After our jaunt around the country, I suddenly had an epiphany that I should either open a sweet-action hostel, or write for a guide-book… As for now, I have to play some catch-up on schoolwork that I could not complete without internet or a computer, so feel free to email! I will try to respond.
ANOTHER ADVENTURE – 7/13/08
Yesterday, Jenni and I bussed to Playa Jaco on the Pacific coast, where we were promised to find a happening town. We got there just before lunch to find a fairly dirty, depressed place, but we made our way to the beach nonetheless. About two minutes after watching a kite surfer, the rain came, chasing everyone undercover for the rest of the afternoon. It figures that our day at the beach would be corrupted with a thunderstorm. We returned to Atenas shortly after, with nothing to show for our experience accept a belly-full of gross beach food. It’s all part of the experience!
Tomorrow, I’m off on another adventure! We leave at the crack of dawn to meet up with a student group from New York in Atenas at the bottom of the mountain (we are staying in Alto de Monte). Our ten-day tour of the country is to include another visit to the butterfly garden, a local school, and a different turtle reserve – and that’s all in the first day.
The rest of our trip revolves around white-water rafting, hiking an active volcano, visiting a hot spring, reforestation, learning about organic farming, going to the beach at Punta Leona, working with Macaws, and zip lining over the rainforest. It’s a pretty fatty itinerary for ten days, but I am looking forward to being on the go again. I feel too stagnant here.
Needless to say, I will be out of contact until the 24th, I believe. I hope you all are doing wonderfully!
HIGHLIGHTS – 7/25/08
So… the trip was even better than I had expected. We spent 11 days with a group of students between the ages of 13 and 16 from New York, all of whom I was able to create a personal connection with thanks to my camp counselor experience. Together, we discovered a green turtle on the Caribbean beaches of the remote town of Parismina, rafted the white water of Rio Saripique, milked a cow on a family farm in Santa Elena, swam in the pool of a 300-foot waterfall, and zipped through the rainforest canopy on suspended cables. These are only a few of the highlights, mind you.
Our adventure together was really valuable. I thoroughly enjoyed being able to connect with a young group again. I miss my camp days. It was great though! We picked them up at the airport on the 15th, and headed for the Caribbean the next morning, stopping at a butterfly garden again and the local school.
This group did their turtle patrols in a town called Parismina, reached only by boat. It was extremely different than my experience at Estacion Las Tortugas. This was an actual community rather than a family plot on the beach. There are about 430 residents of Parismina, meaning that it is a pretty tight-knit place. We saw a green turtle, toucans, monkeys, sloths, and lots of iguanas! Even rhinoceros beetles (they are HUGE)! Obviously I created a quick connection with the group and the community, seeing as they felt no remorse in dragging me into the lagoon fully clothed!
After Parismina (in which there was hair braiding, soccer, and lots of dancing), we visited the Del Monte banana plantation and packing factory. It was really interesting but I felt like such a tourist. It was disgusting. Rafting, swimming, and cliff-jumping into Rio Saripique was fabulous. I only wish there rapids were bigger!
I did a sugar cane shot at an organic farm at the base of Volcan Arenal, ziplined upside-down over the rainforest in Punta Leona, cut my finger open with a coconut (the only time I didn’t use my knife), and salsa danced with a Rastafarian. I am in Atenas for a few days and then I leave for another tour with a different group either Monday or Tuesday. Beginning then, I will be out of contact once more for another ten days. Hope all is well!
BACK AGAIN – 8/6/08
I am back again! And by back, I mean in Atenas, my home base. Once more sad at saying goodbye to another stellar group of students, this time an all-girl catholic high school group from L.A. Certain stereotypes obviously accompany that description, but I am happy to say that those stereotypes were shattered from the start.
Our tour was virtually the same as before, but we had a few alterations, some great, some unfortunate. To begin with, we spent two nights just outside the community of Parimina, rather than within. We still did turtle patrols, of which we saw one green turtle, and had a large community dance the night before leaving. From there we went river rafting once more and then directly on to the community of Garabito for our two-night homestays, which were fabulous! Not only was I able to connect with the two girls I stayed with, but I also had the opportunity to socialize with locals, practicing my Spanish, and immersing myself in their ways of life, including reforestation, hikes, games, cooking, and a glorious game of soccer in the mud and rain. That was the best activity we did there. I have never been so dirty, wet, and full of drive to kick a stupid little ball past and through all the young kids, who dominated in skill and speed. It was so much fun though!
After our goodbyes, we spent some time at a hot spring before heading to La Fortuna near Arenal Volcano. Once again we went swimming in the pool of the fall, where once again I was able to bathe with my biodegradable soap. Our experience at the organic farm differed from the last one because the owner was there this time. Before, he was in Iowa promoting organic farming. While the students were cooking dinner using all ingredients grown at the farm, he called the adults to help him get firewood for the kitchen. We all picked a piece and he rejected each of them, saying that he would show us the best firewood. He snuck around the corner and came back carrying firewater made from sugar cane and corn, and 8 shot glasses. What an experience! It burned the whole way down. The next challenge was returning to the students with the actual firewood, acting inconspicuous and trying not to breathe on any of them! That night we drove to watch the volcano spit out red-hot rocks and lava. As the second most active volcano in the world, it’s constantly stirring and burping up debris. It was really cool to watch against the dark night sky, but it was a total tourist trap.
The rest of the trip was of course fabulous. The ziplining, the swimming, the eating. We even stopped at a bridge that is known for its collection of crocodiles. As we peered down into the river and bank below, we counted 23. 23 CROCODILES. In the wild. Of all shapes and sizes. It was way cool.
After our wonderful adventure together, we developed a real friendship. Then came the saying goodbye part. That was rough. It has definitely become a common theme. I keep meeting great people, but either I leave or they do. It’s definitely depressing. I cried as I said goodbye to them this morning.
Anyway, I leave three weeks from today. 21 days left. I have mixed feelings about that for sure. Hope all is well and thanks for reading! Keep in touch.
SIN VENTANAS – 8/10/08
I am back from my adventures for now just getting some work done. I have completed and turned in two of my projects, and I have a few left to finish. I moved up from the guesthouse and into the main house, since the other intern has left for explorations in Ecuador and Panama. The main house has garage doors that cover the windows at night to keep it dark and lock up the house. I spent two full days in my room working on the computer in the dark. Today, my third day here, I finally found out how to open the door. Prize idiot. I was trying to use a light switch, but everybody knows that garage doors only open with the help of garage door openers. It was in Japanese. This morning I tried a bunch of combinations of button pushing until, without warning it lurched up so suddenly and loudly that I nearly had a heart attack. And now, my room has light.
Nothing compared to ziplining and river rafting, but sadly, this was my adventure of the day.
THE “BUG” – 8/18/08
Exctiment has returned to my experience. This past Friday was Mother’s day, which is a big deal here. Schools are closed, businesses are shut down. There was a huge party here that night, but I opted to go to the airport to pick a fellow gringo, who will be here teaching English until December.
Anyway, we left Saturday morning for San Jose to purchase mother’s day gifts. In that venture, we hit up the Central Market, where you could by any part of meat…gross! From San Jose, we continued on to Saripique, where Leti and Yadi’s (my hosts) parents live at the farm. I stayed at a house nearby where I got some work done with an affiliate of EcoTeach.
Other than work, I juiced sugar cane, milked a cow, rode a horse, and made cheese. Not to mention ate a ton! They kept feeding us. I think they share the perception that Americans eat a lot. We left Sariqpique to return to Atenas today, which was a difficult task since I spent all night throwing up. I don’t know what hit me. Leti thinks I was dehydrated, which could be the case because I was skimpily rationing my water over the weekend.
This morning, I cleaned up and sat in at the school where Bob teaches English and watched as the students were tested on their communication skills. At that point, another wave of sicknesses rushed over me, and I decided to wait outside for class to finish. I was so weak and lethargic, that moving just a short distance put me out of breath.
After taking some vitamins and medicine, we boarded the bus to San Jose. I am sorry to say that it was packed. There were no seats, so we stood in the crowded, hot bus, until I became faint before we reached the halfway mark of the trip. At that point, I sat on the stairs of the back exit, drifting in and out of awareness. I was sweating so bad that Leti fanned me the whole time. Without much warning, a weird feeling came over me. My hands went numb, and my head wanted to explode. I threw up while riding over the continental divide. I was so embarrassed, but I felt much better afterward.
As we wandered through the bus station after that awful ride, I had to tote with me my bag of fresh vomit. My first time getting sick, with only one week left. It felt really good to return to familiarity in Atenas.
THE END IS NEAR – 8/26/08
So, after returning to Atenas, I completed my final project of creating the newsletter. We even did a daytrip to San Jose to deliver it to the printer by hand. Unfortunately I received some bad news today that they are going to have to reassemble it in a different program, which will cost an extra $150 for the foundation. I just hope that it works and gets delivered, but I cannot assure that since I am leaving tomorrow.
Anyway, after turning the document in to the printers, Katherine (my fellow gringo) and I left the next morning to go to Puerto Viejo for three nights where we slept in hammocks, enjoyed happy hours, went swimming on a coral reef, endured a 20 mile bike ride through the jungle, and did some last minute souvenir shopping. It is a fantastic place, hence the reason I went back. Live music every night, open-air restaurants and bars – it’s nothing like anything I am used to. It was a great way to chill out after a stressful last few days with the newsletter.
We parted ways yesterday morning. She returned to the farm in Saripique where she will be teaching English until December, and I hopped a bus to San Jose to spend my remaining two nights. It felt really good to make it here by myself. I sat next to a guy on the bus who is from Vancouver, WA. That was a really random coincidence, and it provided fun conversation. So far being alone isn’t as bad as I thought it would be. It gives you the choice to be social or not, which is nice. I went out for dinner with some girls from Montana last night and I even ran into a Puerto Viejo local at this hostel in San Jose. Another random coincidence, especially since we enjoyed drinks with him on our second night there.
My day looks pretty chill today. I might meet up with a friend I met my first week here at the turtle station, but that may change. After last night, I am still pretty tired. It was way loud here and they made me change bunks after I had already fallen asleep. Crazy unorganized. At least the free pancake breakfast was nice this morning.
Tomorrow is my flight! Yay! I am eager to come back home!