Saving the turtles in Costa Rica Blog 2- The People

Anne’s blog continues about the people she is meeting in Costa Rica at her first project site- The Community Project.

I am struck by how amazingly kind and open the people here are. On my first day, over my breakfast of rice and beans, which I have found to make the basis of the majority of meals here, Isabella, my hostess, suggested that we go for a walk around the village and down to the beach so that I could find my bearings and settle in properly. We headed down to the sea, me bombarding her with poorly formulated questions about the amazing flora and fauna, and her pointing out sights that she believed would be of interest to me.

Seeing the beach by day was completely different to at night time. It is beautiful in a different way. Seeing the cliffs, the driftwood, the palm trees and the vegetation in the moonlight casts an eerie glow over them, but by daylight it is the stereotypical gorgeous tropical sandy beach, only with black sand rather than the cliché white.

We walked along the Pacific through the waves, until the far end of the beach where we encountered a river. In order to reach the house where the assistants are living, this river needed to be crossed. With the absence of a bridge, I found myself following Isabella waist deep into the fast moving river, arriving at the other side slightly exhilarated by the bizarre experience. Only on the other side did Isabella find it necessary to point out the Beware of the Crocodiles sign.

Over the next couple of days I was struck by other acts of selflessness by the people here. Everyone is very welcoming to you as a volunteer, and will keenly chat with you about the projects as you walk down the street, pop into the local shop or relax on the beach. Whilst walking to the next town which offers free internet approximately 6km away, a taxi driver heading in that direction stopped to pick me up free of charge. We chatted away for the journey about the turtles before he found out where I could use the internet and dropped me off there. Once I had finished, I ran into the village policeman, who decided that an impromptu Spanish lesson would be fun, and that he would pop down to the beach tonight to say hello. Often the police will come to the beach at night to warn off poachers- we have no position to be able to tell them to go away and leave the eggs alone, so the police step in to fulfil this role.

After exploring the town and the stunning beach that is there, I started the uphill trek towards home. En route I stood captivated watching monkeys playing in the trees, when a local fisherman who had recognised me from the beach the other day came by and stopped for a chat, before offering to take me fishing with him. Such behaviour back at home is unfortunately often interpreted as creepy, and that person becomes someone to avoid- and sadly here this is still my first reaction, to be cautious. As people drive past in lorries, on motorbikes or in the car, you get such an enthusiastic wave and often a Buenas Días, that at first you would be forgiven to think that they are taking the mick- it’s just something we are not accustomed to. After a few days I learned to become less guarded, and to embrace these people back, but it is still so different.

The final act of kindness of the day as I trudged on through the torrential rain was a man stopping his scooter to drive me the final stretch down the winding potholed track towards my village. As I hopped onto the back of his bike and we teetered off down the bumpy road, I admittedly did question how wise this decision was. Without a helmet, and with my vision filled with the maze of potholes littering our route, I tried my best to pretend that I had absolute faith in the driver, repressing all thoughts of computer games where you are zooming ahead trying to avoid objects flying at you. Soon though, all thoughts of health and safety were lost as I took in the views- the Pacific extended as far as the eye could see, occasionally punctuated by the rugged coastline and the sprawling rainforests. It was stunning, and felt so right to be clinging to the back of some random stranger who had stopped to pick up the stupid foreigner who got caught in the rain. Unfortunately my journey was ended on a sour note: whilst trying to gracefully peel myself off this stranger’s back to get off his bike I managed to catch my leg on a piping hot part of the bike- I could feel searing pain and my skin burning as soon as it happened, and I felt very sick. Today, as proof of my stupidity, I unfortunately have a blister the size of half a golf ball on my leg. I guess this will be a lasting reminder of the kind gentleman and his motorbike.

All these acts of kindness, from taking me for a walk to driving me between villages without me having to hitch hike, have really struck me about Costa Rica. The people all seem to go out of their way to make sure that you enjoy your stay here, that you make the most of it and that you appreciate their beautiful country fully. Even after just three days here, I feel very settled, accepted and happy.

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