January 12, 2015

Today was one of the best days here so far. It is so awesome to have other girls here who are my age. It has made me a lot more confident about making friends in college because I so easily became friends with the kids here. Two of the girls, Jenna and Riordan are really cool and are also two of my four new roommates. Tonight the three of us and two of the guys, Colin and Russell, all hung out in the living room listening to music and talking. I feel so much more in my element now that they are all here. Anyways, it’s pretty late so I’ll write more tomorrow!



January 13, 2015

It was another beautiful, sunny day in Cartago today which is nice after the rainy days we had last week. There is a little 6 year old girl at the orphanage named Celeste who I just adore. Whenever she sees me coming she’ll run over and jump into my arms. It is such a great feeling knowing she feels safe and loved by me. This afternoon we went to dance class again and it was so much more fun having more kids there! Everyone is having such a good time that you don’t even realize how good of a workout it is! I can’t wait to go again next week.

Tonight after dinner a big group of us walked into the city in search of bakeries. We stopped at 3 different ones and everything was so yummy, especially the Colombian bakery! (but don’t tell the Ticos that!) Afterwards some people decided to walk back to the home base but me, Riordan, Jenna, Russell and Colin stayed out a little while longer just walking around in the rain.

We finalized our plans for this weekend today so tonight the five of us sat in the living room making a playlist for our 4 hour road trip on Friday! We all have the same taste in music which was really cool. It’s crazy how comfortable I feel with them after only a few days. I really click with them and it feels good to have made some awesome new friends. I don’t want to wish my days away here but I can’t wait for Friday! This weekend is going to be so much fun. Well, more tomorrow…

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January 14, 2015

I had a sort of difficult day at the orphanage this morning. There were a few of our kids acting very angry and stand offish. Even Celeste who usually runs to jump into my arms whenever she sees me! This was something that really upset me because I had been there everyday for over a week and I thought they trusted me. But they would just pull away if I tried to sit and talk to them. I expressed my feelings to Emilia, the orphanage director, and she said that this was very normal behavior for these kids. Anything could trigger them; another child at the orphanage or a memory and their only coping mechanism is to become angry and/or violent because most of them grew up in homes with verbal or physical abuse. Although I left volunteering a bit discouraged today, our afternoon adventure totally turned my mood around for the better.

We drove about an hour to go hiking through a rainforest on the longest hiking trail in Costa Rica. The car rides are always have the fun because the views are absolutely breathtaking. We drove through these mountains that were covered in vegetation. Besides the blue sky, all you could see was green for miles. Our hike was a lot of fun and it was actually pretty hot out. We were lucky to have the rain hold off until we were leaving. We hiked to two separate waterfalls/rivers that were lined with these massive rocks that we climbed up on to take pictures. Climbing up and down them was a bit of an obstacle because they were so slippery and by the end of our trip we were covered in mud and moss.

I got to Skype with my family tonight which was so awesome, seeing their faces and hearing their voices…I miss them so much! Buenos noches!

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January 18, 2015

I swear on our walk back I can’t believe I haven’t written in four days! This weekend was so crazy and I was always so exhausted before bed that I forgot to write. Ok, let’s see…Thursday night we walked a few blocks to a stadium to watch the professional Costa Rican men’s soccer team play. The atmosphere was so energetic and fun! There were fireworks, loud music and even though everyone in the stands were screaming in Spanish, being apart of the crowd of screaming fans was so exciting! We ended up winning the game 2-0. There were three stray dogs that followed us all the way back to the house and Riordan started crying because we couldn’t let them inside. It was hysterical.

I haven’t seen Celeste in 2 days now. We didn’t even see her house door open once. Once volunteering was over we got back to the home base and it was a mad dash to pack for our weekend trip. The car ride was 4 hours long but it went by pretty quickly. Russell and Colin played the playlist they made which made the drive a lot of fun with everyone singing together. Once we got to the hostel we all went out to dinner. The area we were staying in was really touristy so the restaurant food was more Americanized. It was nice to take a break from rice and beans with every meal.

We were up early Saturday morning and left our hostel for the day at 7:30am. Our first stop of the day was a Canopy Tour of a rainforest walking across bridges suspended 30 meters above ground level. We then had to walk down 460 steps (and then later had to climb back up them) which led us to this huge waterfall. The water was pretty cold but the guys still went in. They looked like they had a lot of fun but they said it was pretty scary climbing through the rocks with the currents.

For lunch we went to this family owned restaurant where they served us food that was all grown and raised in the fields that we could see right outside. I am not much of a coffee drinker but the Costa Rican coffee was amazing! Before we left we all got poured a shot of their homemade rum and a stick of sugar cane to chase it with. We all had to repeat a traditional prayer before drinking it.

After lunch we hiked up a volcano that was 7,000 years old! We learned about all of its past eruptions and got to climb on lava rocks that were 4,000 years old. The view at the top was absolutely breathtaking. We were lucky that the fog cleared right as we got to the top so we could look out and see a huge man made lake and all of the greenery breaking through the fog. Finally after a long day of hiking (7 miles of it!) we got dropped off at this gorgeous resort for dinner and to swim in the hot springs. There were half a dozen hot pools with swim up bars with flashing lights and loud music playing. Floating on my back in the hot water and looking up at the palm trees, there was absolutely no place I would have rather been. After an amazing dinner we finally got back to the hostel at about 10 at night and all hung out at the pool for a little while. It started raining but we were all having such a good time we stayed outside dancing until we were exhausted. I could not have hoped for anything more from this weekend. It was truly unforgettable.

But still, that is not all…this morning we woke up early again but this time to go zip lining. There are no words or photographs taken to show how beautiful the view was. It was the most nerve wracking, exhilarating, amazing experience. We got to go on 12 different cables, one of which was a half a mile long! We were flying over the trees canopies and looking out at this surreal mountainous skyline. We got back and packed up our bags and dragged our overtired selves to grab some breakfast before hitting the road again.

I have to say, even after an amazing weekend, the highlight of it all was Skyping with my sister while she was in the hospital after having hip surgery. Tonight was difficult for me because I was feeling pretty emotional and homesick but I am just so proud of how strong and brave my baby sister is.  It was so weird, when we were leaving the hostel I kept thinking that I just wanted to be home in my bed but I wasn’t thinking of my bed at home in Marblehead, I was thinking about my bed in Cartago! It’s crazy to think this is my halfway point in my trip, but I can’t wait for the next two weeks!

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January 20, 2015

Not much happened yesterday which is why I didn’t write an entry last night. Everyone was exhausted from the weekend so after volunteering we just hung out around the house and fell asleep early. I got a video from my mom last night of Kaelyn walking on her crutches which of course made me tear up. I am so proud of her.

Today was the first day at the orphanage that we had some of the kids in a classroom setting. We have been preparing materials throughout the past week and we had Emilia (the orphanage director) in the classroom with us. Having her there was definitely a huge help because she can speak both Spanish and some English so we didn’t have as much of a language barrier. We were in the classroom with the kids for the majority of the morning but we had a little bit of free time afterwards to play outside with them. Molly and I sat at one of the picnic tables but none of the kids were really outside. One of the older boys named Jason came over to talk to us. He had introduced himself to us in passing before but we never really talked to him besides that. We discovered that he knew enough English and we knew enough Spanish to easily communicate with each other. He told us he was 17 years old and has been at the orphanage since he was 11 years old. He said he doesn’t really have a lot of friends there but was really passionate about music. We found some songs that all of us knew and spent the next hour playing soccer and singing together.

This afternoon we had another dance class and I swear it just keeps getting better and better. It feels so good to break a sweat and have so much fun while doing it. One thing I am looking forward to when I get back home is getting back into my workout routine. This week has been going by so quickly, I don’t want my trip to end! It’s getting late…more tomorrow!

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January 21, 2015

We had school at the orphanage again today and it went really well. We had an older group of kids today and it amazed me how smart they are. They were all so excited to be learning new things.

This afternoon we went on a tour around Costa Rica. We started by stopping at this lookout point looking over this valley and I took so many beautiful pictures. I am so grateful to be experiencing these things. We made a few other stops this afternoon. We saw a man made damn that flows into a lake which produces 80% of the energy in the entire country of Costa Rica. We also stopped at this super cute wooden cabin that sold these incredible craved wooden sculptures made from coffee wood. We then went to a park that held “Las Ruinas de Vjarras” that were built in the 1500s! Our last stop was a hanging bridge that crossed a river connecting two valleys. We walked across it to the cutest little town. It’s so funny that seeing cows and horses walking down the street has become so normal. Earlier today I saw someone washing their horse on the sidewalk like someone would wash their car back home! A little ways into the town we stopped at a church that was hundreds of years old. There was a funeral going on so we couldn’t go inside but we went next door and saw the original alter, priests robes and statutes from when the church was first open. We all came back to the home base exhausted from a long day so I’m going to sleep! Buenos noches!

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January 22, 2015

Today at the orphanage, I brought my phone to take pictures and the kids loved posing for the photos! These moments captured are memories I could never possibly forget.

It was our last night with Molly because she leaves on Saturday. Some of the girls and I went out to dinner at this Italian restaurant in our neighborhood which was so delicious. When we got back to the home base we all got into our pajamas and played Apples to Apples. It’s sad to see Molly leave because she has been such a nice friend to me. I’m going to have to volunteer by myself since she won’t be here. That should be interesting…

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January 26, 2015

Friday was Molly’s last day at the orphanage so we had a huge water balloon fight with all of the kids. Everyone was laughing the whole time and we all got soaked!

It’s so sad to think this was my last weekend here. We went to this national park and the beaches in Manuel Antonio which was so incredible! After lunch we left home base to catch our 4:30 bus in San Jose. It was a very long afternoon on the bus but it was all worth it when we were greeted with 90+ degree weather when we got there. Once we got settled in our hotel room we all got dressed up nice and went to this bar/dance place for the night. It was a very touristy area so we met a lot of other people there who spoke English. At the end of the night we walked the short distance back to the hotel. The atmosphere here at night is very different from back home but I felt safer since we had Colin and Russell with us. We could hear the waves from our hotel room but it was too dark to see where they were coming from at night. It was a very comforting sound for me to fall asleep to because it reminded me of home.

Saturday was our first beach day of the weekend! We changed into our swim suits and walked down the street to this ocean side restaurant that served breakfast. All of the food here is so fresh and delicious, which is something I’m definitely going to miss. After breakfast, we walked to Manuel Antonio National Park. It was about a 20 minute walk through the park to get to the beach and everyone was sweating! I didn’t ever think I would say this while I was here but it was miserably hot. As soon as we got to the beach we all ran into the beautiful aqua blue ocean. The water here is so much warmer than it is at home during the summer. When we got back to our bags I was startled to see four or five monkeys standing not even 3 feet away. The beach bumped right up to the national park so when you looked up into the trees there were monkeys swinging around right in the trees above your head. We spent the day swimming, tanning and exploring the beach. My friends and I walked down the beach to these huge rocks with these huge tide pools. The boys went farther to a cave in the rocks. A lot of the caves here are full of tarantulas and bats so there was no chance I would have done that. We were all salty, sandy, sweaty and exhausted from being in the sun all day so around 4 o’clock we walked back to the hotel to shower and chill out for a little before going out that night. We walked back down to the stretch of restaurants over looking the beach for dinner. Once we got back to the hotel we stayed up talking till 3am. I’m going to miss all of my friends here so much. It’s weird to think I’ve only known them for two weeks because I feel like I’ve known them for so much longer than that.

Sunday morning we woke up, got smoothies and coffee for breakfast and then went to the public beach. Lindsay, Jenna, Colin and I went paddle boarding which was so much more fun than paddle boarding through Marblehead harbor. There were fish jumping out of the water just a few feet away from us and the views were absolutely stunning. The surrounding beaches were covered with white sand, the water was a beautiful turquoise color and there were palm trees everywhere. Later that morning once we were back on the beach, Lindsay and I spent an hour doing beach yoga. It felt good to get in a workout and it was also one of the most peaceful moments I’ve had this whole trip. We didn’t know but the entire time we were practicing there was a little Costa Rican girl behind us who was following all of our movements. It was a very cool feeling knowing that even when I wasn’t trying to, I was inspiring the youth here.

The bus ride home was very long. It’s so strange looking back at my first few journal entries and seeing how scared I was and now I don’t want to leave. I do miss my family but I am definitely not looking forward to coming home to 2+ feet of snow! It’s sad to think this is my last week but I am going to make the absolute most out of my last few days here!

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January 27, 2015

Not much happened yesterday which is why I didn’t write an entry. After volunteering we walked around Cartago for a little in the afternoon and then had Spanish class at night.

Today at Pueblito the younger kids had school for a few hours in the morning. We did some worksheets on counting and writing numbers. When it was snack time the kids were handed two big round wafer crackers. One of the little girls, Fatima, broke one of her crackers in half and tried to had me one of the halves. For obvious reasons, I declined, but that small gesture left me speechless. Even though they are given so little, she was trying to make someone else happy. That moment will stick with me in the back of my mind for a long time.

We had our last dance and spanish class today. I am definitely going to miss the dance classes but it was really cool to learn some of the different kinds of Latin dancing and to see how much I progressed over the course of the month.

Everyone is sitting in the living room writing in their journals too. I’m going to miss them all so much. I have been missing my family a lot these past two days and I’m really excited to see them at the end of the week but leaving here is going to be very difficult. That’s all for today…Buenos noches!

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January 28, 2015

I feel like this week has slipped away from me so quickly. Today at Pueblito we had class with the older kids. They made these signs with their names on them that they could decorate with colored paper. Walking out of the classroom they looked so happy to take something back to their houses that they made with their name on it. It was interesting to see how each child decorated their sign. Some of the kids put the pieces of paper in piles sorted by color while other kids just used the pieces randomly.

Tonight me Ansley and Jessica (my other roommates), were hanging out in our room just cracking up about everything. I Skyped with Kaelyn and my mom tonight which made me a lot more homesick than I already was. Although I am not looking forward to going back to the snow there are a lot of things I miss back home. My bed, showers with high water pressure, singing around the house, and being able to flush toilet paper down the toilet. (Oh the luxuries of living in America)

Tonight Lindsay, Riordan, Jenna, Russell and Colin were hanging out in the living room laughing and talking and just enjoying each others company. Leaving them all when I go home is going to be really tough. Well, I’m off to bed! Ciao!

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