Having packed two suitcases, one which consisted of every survival material you can think of, ranging from a sleeping bag to macaroni & cheese to about five different types of insect repellent spray, it would not have been difficult to have spent my whole 5 weeks at the airport at San Jose. However, to my relief I suddenly saw my name on a paper on the window and instantly knew my journey was about to begin in Costa Rica.
My time was spent in a small community called Santa Cruz de Leon Cortes that is situated in the mountains and is about two hours away from San Jose (capital of Costa Rica).
My group consisted of myself and Kashmala, who basically became my other half during the project as we were always together other than when we went to the bathroom! Due to the fact that there was only the two of us on the project, we had the opportunity to have a homestay and lived with two great families, one for the first week and the remaining of our time was spent with our second family. Kashmala and I both shared a room but got our own beds to sleep on so there was ample space for us. Since I thought I would be sleeping on the ground covered in bugs, it was a very pleasant outcome . Our meals consisted of beans and rice, beans and rice and more beans and rice; it was a staple part of all three meals of the day, and yes, including breakfast. However, we also had pasta, fish, and a lot of fresh fruit to go along with it. Overall bugs were not a very big issue while on project (they were my number one concern going into the project), but every night I would do a search of the room providing comedic relief for Kashmala. In addition, every time we left the house it was mandatory to take an umbrella, as it would rain at random intervals. The most amazing aspect about the community were the people who were so welcoming and made us feel at home, and the beautiful view just topped it all off.
The main workshops we did in the community were computer workshops, where we went over basic concepts such as sending emails and how to navigate the internet. We taught English classes for the boy scouts going over the basic fundamentals of English. One of our other projects was to re-paint the nutrition center and start an outdoor garden. The garden was the most difficult task; I can say confidently ripping weeds out of the ground is a great arm workout.
One of my favourite workshops was sports day which we had every Tuesday and Thursday with the elementary school children. We got to teach them how to play badminton and California kickball. Also, we played soccer with the kids, or more like they played soccer and I ran around trying to keep up with the ball; their skills were amazing.
On our down time we would walk around the community enjoying the view and visit the market to stock up on chocolate or anything else we needed. We couldn’t leave the community on weekdays as no buses travelled through and the nearest city was more than an hour away. My most relaxing time was sitting on the bench outside of my room with my headphones in my ears staring out into the mountains; it had a very calming effect.
On the weekends we got to explore more of Costa Rica. We went to San Jose and did some sightseeing and shopping. In addition, we got to see the La Paz Waterfall Gardens, which gave us a little taste of the wildlife that you can find in Costa Rica. Also, we got to explore the rainforest and admire all the waterfalls in the garden.
Moreover, we went to Jaco, which is a beach town on the pacific coast of Costa Rica. Here, I got to take surfing lessons and basically got beat up by the ocean. Overall it was a great experience and we got to meet a lot of nice people from all around the world.
Having volunteered in Costa Rica was one of the best decisions and experiences of my life. Not only did I get to see the country, I got to live the Costa Rican lifestyle; Pura Vida!!
-Bhavjit Grewal, Youth Ambassador, Costa Rica 2011
To see when you could live the ‘Pura Vida’ in Costa Rica, check out our Program Calendar.