After all of our twenty-three students arrived in Liberia, we began the three-hour drive to home base. Rain poured and lightning ripped through the sky as we drove, making it an all around exciting welcome to Costa Rica. The next morning we were able to see and explore our home base, the Nosara B&B Retreat, in the daylight. Our orientation day was a long day and looking back later in the session, we would laugh at how everyone was “extra nice” to each other as we broke the ice and quickly became one big family.
At first everyone was freaking out at the billions of bugs and insects but after sharing our new home with them for a while, the students started to warm up. I remember a group of students passing a harmless but huge centipede from hand to hand, admiring it. Or at service when one of the girls put on a pair of thick work gloves and fearlessly picked up a scorpion to move it somewhere safe!
From our first day at service site we began digging massive meter-deep holes until we were filthy, sweaty, and feeling the burn. Pulling into the school at Esperanza every morning, the local boys Chino, Brandon, and Justin would come running up beside our bus to greet us. Even though it was early and also their days off from school, they were always up and ready to work beside us, and show off their skills throwing and picking up their spinning “string-top” toys.
We worked alongside Chacho and Ramon, local handymen who had actually went to school at Esperanza. They helped guide us with smiles and patience through difficult tasks like sealing cement to the sides of the drinking fountains and making support beams for the seats and tables. Our final day of service ended with a big soccer game with everyone on the field across the street from the school.
With a local musician Alex Piedra visiting Nosara, we were able to have our own private concert one night. The rhythms hit home and Alex sang a number of Costa Rican classics in addition to his own jams. Our adventure days near home base consisted of horseback rides along the beach and through the jungle, learning to surf on some of the best waves that Costa Rica has to offer at Playa Guiones, and zip lining through the sky above the jungle canopy of the surrounding mountains.
Around our two-week mark, we hit the road north and made our way up to Rio Celeste. The first day we stretched our legs and hiked the hanging bridges, where we were able to spot a sloth lounging in a tree! The next day we milked a cow, hiked through Tenorio National Park to the waterfall, the blue lagoon, the hot spring, and the junction of the river. During the hike, the students walking with me gave every passer-by a fist bump saying “pura vida mae!” which always brought out a big smile and laugh.
The water was truly a celeste blue color, which our guide described to us saying: “After God painted the sky, he washed his brush in the river here.” We then went on a tour of the trapiche (sugarcane) farm, where we tried out the machines, sampled sugar in several forms, and heard the grandmother of the family tell us her story and the adversity she overcame as a single woman to keep and work the land there.
After our service in the mornings, our afternoons were filled with activities. We made bread at a local family’s home, while a man played guitar, his daughters sang, and everyone danced. We had a snake presentation from a local firefighter, visited the recycle center with Alvaro, had a cafécito at a local home, had a dance class with Willy and a cooking class with Lisbia, rode in an oxcart with Quinco, and experienced the traditional baile folklorico. All in all, our students embraced the Costa Rican culture with open hearts.
Our group was able to experience the holiday, el Día de Guanacaste on July 25th. The school at Esperanza was packed with locals. We participated with the community through the traditional activities of Guanacaste such as splitting wood, making tortillas, baile flokorico, and a marimba concert. We also presented the children of the school with a memory game our students made for them and taught them how to play it.
After our final dinner, which included an incredible cake from the of our chef Kim’s bakery, we descended to the yoga pavilion. The moment we came close the lights flashed on and a marimba started to play. Everyone flooded the area and started to dance. Then out of nowhere, Chacho and Ramon appeared. With the band consisting of three brothers all playing the marimba together, everyone was up and we all danced the night away after three weeks of living la pura vida.