“Slow down everyone. You’re moving too fast” – Jack Johnson.
This quotation exemplifies the atmosphere in Costa Rica. Upon arriving in Costa Rica, the 5 human senses come alive; the 5 senses consists of sight, sound, taste, smell, and touch. Let me take you on a short journey to Acosta Palmichal, where these 5 senses go on an adventure so grand that it is easy to forget that you are volunteering!
I was immediately amazed at the beauty of Costa Rica; throughout the entire drive to Palmichal the picturesque mountains appearing in the distance and the extension of branches from trees leaning over the highway created a feeling of driving into something that was grand beyond human recognition. The Mountain View left me stunned as I witnessed the development in the area mixed with the amount of green landscape; it was a wondrous sight like nothing I’ve ever seen before. The coffee plantations up the side of the mountain and the lime trees growing near the road, mixed in with different fruits, all demonstrate the versatility of the soil in the area.
Once arriving at our location, it was absolutely spectacular to know there was fresh lime right at my doorstep! And the different species of birds in the area was astonishing; from eagles, toucans and even hummingbirds. Meeting the members of ADESSARU (English translation: Association for the sustainable development of the rural San Jose) gave me an insight to the area, but what made the area even more enjoyable were the smiling faces of the people as I greeted them.
One of the first things I noticed was the sound of the rushing river; it creates a peaceful sound throughout the day and night. It exemplifies the saying around here “tranquillo”, meaning relax and take your time. During the day you hear motorcycles going up the mountains and cars carrying people to work in the coffee plantations up high in the mountain. Striking up a conversation is as simple as saying hello or inviting someone to have coffee. Enjoying coffee together is the simplest way to get to know the person you are talking to, for it is a sign of welcome and friendship. The chatter of the young children and adults echoing in the distance mixed in with tranquility of the area during the day created a very welcoming work environment.
The birds singing in the background, the sounds of crickets and other bugs communicating to each other showed the activity that happens during the day up in the trees. At night it is a different story, the area comes to life. The howling of the dogs in the area breaks the smooth tranquility of the area… at least on the first day. After that the first night the barking of the dogs mixed in with the smooth rush of the river was the equivalent of a lullaby sang by the most magnificent and soothing voice in the world. Insomnia? Never heard of it.
Before arriving in Palmichal, I was warned about the abundance of rice and beans that would make up my diet here. However it wasn’t mentioned that cilantro would add flavour to many of the foods that are prepared in the area. In our household another major part of our diet was pancakes as a side dish to go with anything else that was cooked. It was a unanimous decision to add pancakes or to make an excuse to add them to our meals!
There is a trout restaurant here where you get to fish for the trout and then it is cooked using traditional ingredients right over the fire; it is incredible! One of the people we became quite familiar with was Vivian who was in charge of the ADESSARU lodge. She showed us how to cook some of the local dishes with flair. She showed us different ways to cook certain types of meat such as chicken and beef and different types of desserts. It always left you wanting more.
The production of coffee is an important part of the monetary income in the area. Drinking coffee is also just as important as any other activity in the area. Since I’m not a coffee drinker I wouldn’t know how great it tastes, but I’ve been told that the coffee here is incredible. Sergio, a new friend of mine, once told me “great coffee never needs milk or sugar”.
The amount of cooking in the area fills the air with the aroma of sweet fragrances that makes one hungry even minutes after just eating. The smell of coffee being made in the morning, midday and the evening fills the air with its aroma. The flowers in the area have a very distinct sweet smell that once you walk by, you have to stop yourself to smell the flowers. The lime trees provide a sweet scent inviting you to pick some to incorporate in your food or drink. The smell of the jungle invites you to explore deeper into the area. There is a flower, la Reina de la Noche (Queen of the Night) that emits a beautiful smell when you walk by it, but only at night. I cannot explain the smell very well, but it is worth it to stop and take in the aroma as they leave a pleasant smell in the area during the night.
Working on projects allows you to feel your surroundings, such as the trees and plants. Certain plants have a rough feel at the top, while on the bottom it is very smooth. Deep in the jungle there is a certain plant by the name of Ortiga, that has a worse reputation than poison ivy; the slightest touch causes awful pain and itchiness. Luckily those that come across it cut it down and place it out of harm’s way.
A warm hearty handshake to begin the day, a hug to announce your arrival and the high fives that the group gives each other once a job has been finished. A simple human interaction that makes volunteering such a wonderful experience, that no matter the language barrier it is a simple way of insuring that you are now friends. “Slow down everyone, you’re moving too fast”, enjoy the simple things that life has to offer.
– Sheriff Wiredu, Youth Discovery Volunteer, Costa Rica 2012
If you are interested in volunteering in Costa Rica in the upcoming year, check out our 4-week program leaving next February. For information on all our overseas placements, check out our Program Calendar.