January 9, 2015

This morning at the orphanage we stayed outside for the majority of the time making bracelets and painting which the kids loved! We also helped the orphanage director, Emilia, with lesson plans to start teaching the kids next week. A lot of the crafts are similar to the ones I make with my one and two year olds at my job back home. Although these children are older, they never learned any fine motor skills while growing up. I’m really interested to see how well the kids do in a classroom setting. Walking into the orphanage every morning and getting bombarded with hugs is a feeling so rewarding I can’t even put it into words. This afternoon was the warmest it has been all week so we all laid out on the front patio to tan.

Sorry mom, you’re not gonna like this one but god, am I sunburned. We only laid out for about 45 minutes but afterwards we all looked like lobsters. Although it feels like Massachusetts summer sun it is so much stronger since we’re so much closer to the equator. Tonight was Helen, Victoria and Nicole’s last night here which is sad. One tiny detail I forgot to mention was all of the handprints on the walls. They are everywhere and everyone who has ever volunteered here in the past 10 years has made a painted handprint before they left. So tonight they all got to make theirs.  On Sunday the new students are arriving and Molly and I will be getting four new roommates; Jenna, Jessica, Riordan and Ansley. I am nervous to see what this group will be like but hopefully we become fast friends. Tomorrow we get to sleep in a little bit later because we aren’t leaving until 9am to go to the La Paz waterfalls. Late afternoon I went on a run through Cartago and the views I saw definitely beat the treadmills at the YMCA gym. I ran by fields of cows and horses and looking at the most beautiful mountainous skyline. With the clouds and sun shining through them it was so perfect that it looked like it was photoshopped into the background.

Seeing the girls go home has made me a little homesick knowing I still have three weeks left here but I’m going to Skype with my family tomorrow night which I am really looking forward to. The wifi is down tonight so I am unable to talk to anyone but I’ll probably end up falling asleep earlier than usual which won’t be such a bad thing. Goodnight!

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January 10, 2015

Today we went to La Paz waterfalls and it was probably one of the coolest things I’ve ever experienced. We first walked through the animal sanctuaries and got to see some gorgeous creatures. Toucans, parrots, butterflies, hummingbirds and jaguars. We also got to walk through a coffee plantation and sample the coffee from beans picked from the tree. Afterwards we hiked a little ways to the waterfalls. We saw about three or four different waterfalls and we could stand so close that if I reached out I could touch the water with my hand. Words and pictures can’t even begin to show how stunning this waterfall rainforest was. On our way back home we stopped at a strawberry farm and all got a huge basket of fresh strawberries that were so yummy! Fortunately I was able to connect to the wifi for a few minutes at the sanctuary to check in with my parents but the wifi at the home base has been down for almost 36 hours! I’m not gonna lie, I don’t even know what to do with myself without my phone for two days. (I know, pathetic right?) But, for the first time in months I actually picked up a book and have been reading it in my free time.

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January 11, 2015

Today was our first free day since we got here. It’s so weird that I’ve already been here for a week. I can’t tell if the time went by slowly or quickly. Anyways, this morning I woke up and my sunburn from last week looked like it was gone. The sun was out all morning an I wanted to take advantage of that so I laid out to tan. Not realizing that two hours had passed, I got up and looked in the mirror to see I was super burnt! Not just a little pink, I was fire engine red! I don’t think I have ever been so burnt. I am feeling better tonight but I’m still really red – sorry mom!

Tonight the group from Birmingham Southern College came. My roommates seem super nice and I am definitely happy to have some other kids my age here. That’s all for today, goodnight!

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!

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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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