Costa Rica – Volunteer Project

Costa Rica, Inspiration, RTW: 2007-2008, World - other travel posts — By on October 16, 2007 7:58 PM

My first experience traveling alone and volunteering abroad occurred i Costa Rica in March 2007. How little did I know back then that this trip would be one of the most pivotal experiences of my entire life and would for ever alter my path.

I worked as a volunteer at Hone Creek Elementary School in Puerto Viejo, a small beach town on the Caribbean Coast near the border of Panama, surrounded by beautiful beaches and jungles. The town has a laid back feel with a reggae roots vibe and music always playing. That wonderful Carribean music lulled me to sleep each night as I laid underneath my mosquito net.

I spent my mornings with the children at the school. We read, played games, made necklaces, and I attempted to help them with their English. The latter was the hardest part for me as I only speak “un pequeno Espanol.” My inability to fully communicate with the children was the most frustrating part of the project. I wanted to understand, talk to, and learn about each of them, but it was not to be the case, not with only two weeks to try. The schools there are in very poor conditions with no running water or other such “luxuries.” The country is gorgeous but is in need of much assistance. I worked on a few other volunteer projects including a beach cleaning day and an art project with children at the Roots of Love Foundation.

When I completed my volunteer project each day, I rode my bike to my Spanish teacher’s house and practiced speaking with her for several hours. I was free the rest of the day to explore the town, and I usually did so on my bike, as that is how everyone gets around in Puerto Viejo. I had not rode a bike in years but realized how much I enjoyed the easy freedom it afforded me. This was the first of many interests and loves I would discover while being on my own, and I realized how much always being in a relationship had hindered my ability to truly know my self.

Despite the occasional painful encounter with a pothole, I enjoyed every minute of exploration on my little red bike. I explored every inch of town, checked out the shops, stopped to rest at each neighboring beach. One of my favorite afternoons was one in which I rode my bike 10 miles South to Punta Uva while admiring the Caribbean Ocean to my left, surrounded by lush rainforests.

I went kayaking through the Punta Uva River which was surrounded by jungles and exotic wildlife. I saw howler monkeys, sloth, spiders, iguanas, bats, turtles, and the poisonous dart frog. I took surfing lessons at and even was able to stand up one time!

When I had explored as far by bike as my legs could take me, I wanted to go further. I rented a scooter and drove further to  Manzanillo National Park, where I would learn a very valuable life lesson … do not drive a scooter in the sand. You will get stuck, and you are not strong enough to pick it up and you will get laughed at by all the locals who are actually nice and save you from your predicament.

After a week I left Puerto Viejo and took a bus to Arenal where I met a friend from college, Brooke, and her boyfriend Brett who both live in San Jose. We did the zipline tour near the Arenal Volcano which was a rush of fun! It was raining that day so we went extra fast! We were only together one day and then I was on my own again for the rest of my trip. I did a day hike through the rainforests to the Arenal Volcano.
The next day I decided to conquer my fear of horses and I rode a horse for two hours to La Fortuna Waterfall and back. Next I took a jeep/boat/jeep ride to Monte Verde Cloud Forest where I intended to spend the rest of my trip. I hiked through the Cloud Forest Reserve but there was not much more to do and I longed to be back at the beach, so I looked at the map for the closest beach town and headed to Joco. Two weeks was definitely not enough time to explore Costa Rica … I guess I will just have to go back again one day.

Tarzan Swing – Monteverde, Costa Rica

Zipline near Arenal Volcano – Costa Rica

To see all my photos from Costa Rica, CLICK HERE!

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