The majority of my time in Costa Rica was spent studying in the Cloud Forest. I would wake up to gloomy, rainy days and by mid afternoon the sun was out with coatis playing in the trees. It was a quiet, easy environment to live in with the immense work loads we have – and the access to coffee and the library encouraged our study habits even more. Nonetheless, it was a great change of pace as we packed the minimal necessities in a small bag and hopped on a bus to head out of the cloud and into a greater Costa Rica.
Our first stop was a home stay in Orosi. I was paired with Madeline and we were welcomed in a family of eleven people. (Quite a house full to say the least!) We broke the ice with a soccer match, and I have to give the twelve year olds we were playing against some credit – they played better than I ever could. Our “host brother” also had a passion for the sport, but considering he was barely three years old, we took him for a one on one game after the bigger kids had left. Upon learning some Spanish from the little boy, we walked back to our temporary home, chowed down on some homemade beans and rice, and said buenos noches for the day.
The next morning we drank fresh juice and awkwardly stumbled throughout a conversation with our host mother until it was time to say hasta luego and meet up with TGS. The plan for the day was relaxed as we drove in a bumpy bus to our first stop, a coffee plantation. The tour guide and founder was a sweet old woman from the states with the most incredible way of describing the pros and cons of coffee agriculture with a sing-songy tone in her voice.
The farm was all organic, which is great for the coffee, but in turn was a nesting ground for mosquitos. Nonetheless, the tour went quite quickly as does time when having fun and learning about bacteria that can grow on coffee.
After sharing a cup of joe with the kind husband-wife coffee farmers, we threw on our swim suits and hiking boots to visit one of the many waterfalls in the jungle. The hike was beautiful on the way up, specifically due to the trees. The area was a secondary forest so the shrubs were quite small, but let the trees to appear even taller. The waterfall was hidden behind these trees and we relaxed our feet in the water for a few moments before paying a visit to a man named Nano.
The man lives near this waterfall and is possibly the most up beat guy with the coolest jungle house I have ever seen. The laughter didn’t end the whole time we were there and neither did the bananas; I swear there must have been hundreds around this home. His smile was grand and even though we had only just met him, he began telling stories as if we were old friends. Considering his very swollen broken ankle, I am sure he just loved the company for the few minutes we were there.
A few strange Spanish interactions and some Salsa dances later, we waved bye-bye to our host families and left Oraci. It was a wonderful experience, but I was quite excited to move forward in our adventure, and first stop was another part of the jungle.
Our first morning here I realized we really were in the middle of “nowhere” which gave a very intriguing and eerie feeling at the same time. I also slept the whole 4 hour bus ride there, so from my perspective we went from civilization to Tarzan’s home very quickly. It was interesting to see the mixed reactions from my grade as we spent the night here: some excited and some afraid of the numerous snakes.
For me, it was nice to have some down time. No wifi, no homework, just some people to chat with and some books to read. I sat on the bench by my room with Fatima for a while as we watched the aggressive rain and the soggy clothes flowing on the line from that morning’s hike. And regarding the hike, thank goodness we had gum boots. We were literally knee deep in a muddy, smelly jungle. The rain cooled us down though, emotionally and physically. Later we had a soccer match against the employees at the location and I played goalie. TGS isn’t that bad at this sport, but we definitely aren’t as good as these guys. (One of the biggest memos I walked away with was that Ticos are serious about their soccer.) We lost by three points the first day and the second day we played heavy on the defense side so we escaped by only losing by one point. On the contrary to those losses, we did play some pretty good pool against the guys that evening.
The final and most amazing part of our weXplore was rafting. I shared a boat with Paul, Yodsel, Madeline, Ronnie, Bev, and our hilarious guide Luis. We spent the majority of our time plotting how to playfully capsize the other rafts including Yodsel grabbing a vine, swinging over the river, into the other TGS raft, and landing on Fatima. To say the least, our raft was slightly mischievous and had a lot of fun. I think the best part of rafting though was our stop at this little waterfall, which was much different than the quick day hike by Nano. As we climbed the rocks to find this secret area, we pulled off our helmets and life jackets and plunged into the chilly water of this hidden paradise. It was quite small in size, but had a swimming hole big enough to jump into from the surrounding rocks accompanied by another rock to stand under the water fall for a make shift shower.
Then, like any other trip, it came to the final bus ride. Six hours on a bus can really bring people together or push them apart, but with our pit stops for sugary bread or photo ops of the scenery, we stayed pretty sane. Of course the last hour of it felt the longest, but that might have to due with my extreme motion sickness from the winding roads and the group consensus of being quite hungry, but both soon ended as we arrived back on campus with about ten pizzas in hand.
Now I sitting in my familiar place in the library, trying to turn on the “school” part of my brain again. Only a few days left here in this interesting and incredibly green country before heading back home to spend some time with my family.