There were many upsides to living in a shack with no walls in a nameless rural town somewhere in Costa Rica. One: Next to the ocean. Two: Got to hang out with horses and turtles. Three: I woke up to a breathtaking view everyday.
My parents, ever so graciously sent me off to Costa Rica after I got into a huge fight with my Spanish teacher. Eventually, I was forced out of my charter high school by her and my principal. Perhaps, my parents were trying to show me not all language teachers were the spawn of Satan and learning can be fun, not a toxic hell hole of bickering with my elders.
The plot did work. I was inspired to learn a language, travel the world and become a more well-rounded, well-traveled, well-read, young woman.
I was mostly in it for hanging out with turtles and get out of Albuquerque. For the first two weeks, I was taking Spanish classes and living with a Costa Rican family. They were all very nice but I fell in love with the dog.
The little guy would wake me up in the morning, stand outside the shower with me and sit on my bed when I got home. When I packed up he sat in my bag and cried. I almost cried when I left. I joked that I was going to pack him in the suitcase. My host mother was not amused because the dog seemed much more fond of me than her.
What We Did
The program was lovely. They took us to a dance class, horseback riding and to planting trees.
Then I went to another program for 9 day. My time was spent traveling to two rural turtle conservations and one resort town. We stayed in little shacks with no walls and slept on the floor. It was all worth the back pains to fall asleep next to the majestic ocean. During the day, we cleaned the beaches and painted schools. Then I got to watch turtles lay eggs when we patrolled at night. This included wandering in the dark for two hours and sweeping away turtle tracks to make it harder to find the nests.
There was a whole issue because we were children and scary people steal turtle eggs and sell them on the black market. How will our little flashlight defend the turtles? I was not able to get a hold of my pictures with turtles because my camp counselor was lazy and never e-mailed them to me. However I do have the couple snapshots I took on my cheap disposable cameras.
There was also a good three days we spent in a beach resort town. We swam, I took a surfing lesson (accidentally flashed my teacher, oops!) and went gift shopping.
I started being vegetarian toward the end of my sophomore year. So before I went to Costa Rica, I had to ask myself whether I should keep my diet or not. Some people disagreed with my decision to take a break because I could of requested vegetarian food. Actually, it isn’t very difficult to be vegetarian in Costa Rica. They generally eat is black beans, this strange cheese (sort of mozzarella but watery) and rice. Then there is a side of bananas and meat. So I could have just ordered without meat but I wanted to take in the culture and all that. Now I’ve taken on the duty of maintaining my diet abroad no matter the problem.
Surprisingly, I never got sick. Many students got food poisoning or the flu. I avoided this because I took garlic pills twice a day. The vitamin C helps the immune system and the smell of my sweat made it less likely I get bit by mosquito.
What I Learned
Traveling is amazing and addicting. I knew I needed to learn some sort of language in life to connect with people and gain a better perspective of the world. I also found that I was surprisingly adept to the rural life. While I adore living in Madrid, a giant and interesting city, there was a beautiful calm to rural Costa Rica. The sight of empty beaches and being so close to wildlife was phenomenal.
There was even a day when a random horse blocked our door. It meandered from a local farm to front of our door. We couldn’t get it to move for about half an hour. She seemed to just want some attention and petting. So after she was don’t being doted on she meandered back home.
Then of course, turtles were awesome! You can just pet them. They just ignore you completely. Al the moms want to do is lay their eggs and get back in the water. They really couldn’t care less about us. It was magical to see turtles waddles out of the ocean to the beach and dig a nest for their eggs. We even would help the mother dig a little to make it easier on her (don’t worry we were coached on the appropriate depth for the eggs to be buried).
The program was called Rustic Pathways and I went on the Nicoya Turtle Expedition and Spanish Immersion Program. I definitely recommend it. It was a life changing camp.