As part of the Manos Unidas club, I traveled to Costa Rica for a week over spring break to engage in a community service and culture trip. After a long 12 hours of traveling, we arrived at Earth University Saturday.
Sunday: Our day geared up as we all met in the Cafeteria at Earth, ate the staple foods of rice and beans and started our tour of Earth, a four-year college that teaches practical skills and ecologically friendly techniques relating to agriculture. After touring the various projects and farms, we took off to Gandoca, the village where we would begin our home stays. Once we arrived, we participated in a cooking lesson from one of the local families and met our host families.
Monday: We started our morning early at 5:30 a.m. to begin our service projects. My group worked at the school cleaning the walls of the schools and repainting pillars and the welcome sign. Afterwards, we took a four-hour hike through the Costa Rican jungle before meeting back at Gandoca, which is actually home to a turtle conservation. The village helps protect the turtles as they lay eggs and the eggs from predators. We even saw a leatherback turtle (about six feet long and five feet wide) create a nest and bury its eggs.
Tuesday: I worked at the second school varnishing desks and putting windows in to the school’s teacher house. Afterwards, we had plantains, rice and beans and fresh mango for lunch. We spent the afternoon walking along the Caribbean coast and enjoying a boat tour of the Gandoca lagoon. That evening, we exchanged gifts with our host family (they gave us beautiful hand made bracelets while we gave them D.C. memorabilia) and then peeled and ground up cocoa beans to make chocolate.
Wednesday: On the final service day, I worked at a farm site where we hauled and planted over 100 cocoa trees. Then, we set out to our trip leaders’ home to organize the cleats we had spent a month collecting at Whitman to donate to the community. After giving the cleats to almost every member of the community, with some even left over to go to another near by community, we began a soccer game against the locals and were crushed.
Thursday: We spent the morning looking at the work we completed in Gandoca and discussed as a group how we planned to bring back everything we had learned to Bethesda. After a delicious goodbye lunch cooked by one of the local families, we boarded the bus, some of us tearful, and left to spend the night at a nearby beach town for surf lessons and shopping.
Friday: Our morning began early at 6:00 a.m. when we embarked on a white-water rafting trip. After a two hour bus-ride with some boisterous sing-a-longs, we arrived to the rafting site. The raft course was a five-and-a-half hours long down an 18-mile river. We arrived back to the sites with some pretty awful sunburns and then drove to San Jose, where we spent our last night together.
Saturday: We departed from San Jose and headed back to Bethesda after an incredible trip, ready to bring back home all of the knowledge and experience we now had.