“Pura vida!” (Pure life) “YOLO!” (You Only Live Once) These were our mottos throughout our adventures in Costa Rica the summer of my junior year. They describe and represent a myriad of memories which continue to resonate with me. The mind-set encapsulated throughout our mottos and adventures is simple: to seize the moment and appreciate all that surrounds you. I brought back with me this reinvigorated attitude and gratitude, as well as an experience of a lifetime in which I was introduced to a new culture.
The family stay was our first stop, where we were immersed in the culture. We heard Spanish from the get go, although our attempts at speaking it were a little bit shakier. Our host family graciously greeted us regardless, even though we mostly smiled and nodded that first day. We experienced the universal language of expression, though we worked on improving our Spanish as well. I raced a kite through the neighborhood with Erik, 10, and later danced with Cami, 5, while Profe and the others played and sang music at the fiesta with the rest of the host families.
In the area, we set off to explore La Tirimbina rainforest and an organic cocoa farm. The chocolate was incredibly rich, but the cocoa pod was not at all what I had expected. Seeing all kinds of weird plants and animals became normal. At the organic farm, we saw the strangest fruits I had ever seen, and I even tried iguana for lunch! In the rainforest, we saw poison dart frogs, vipers, and toucans! “Adventureee is out there!” from UP, the Pixar movie, became an integral theme and quote/character matchup for the trip, as well as an inspiration, as we were adventurers.
Back in the host family community, or more like family as it seemed, we played soccer. This was another highlight of my trip. I play soccer, but in Costa Rica, playing a pickup game of soccer is something totally different and totally invigorating. I acquired quite a few bruises but loved the game. We played twice at the family stay and later at Los Campesinos, where we played after exchanging some English and Spanish lessons at a local school. One of the greatest feelings ever is jumping into a cool spring of water after being completely sweaty from running around all day playing soccer with the townspeople there. It was so refreshing, and so pura vida! Pure life, being a translation, was just a vibe that we carried throughout the trip; a phrase used more to attract tourists, but one we took to heart.
Our tour guide was great, and he could spot anything from toucans to fruit bats, monkeys, sloths, an anteater, and the whole spectrum of colorful Costa Rican birds in between (of which on a long bus ride, we eagerly assigned each member of our group names, while flipping through our guide’s bird book). Seeing the vast valleys and majestic Arenal Volcano from the observatory lodge and while zip-lining high above the trees was spectacular. And though the white faced monkeys we saw at the beach of Manuel Antonio National Park continued to steal people’s food, they proved very photogenic and comical. The soft blue green water was phenomenal, as was the sunset over the Pacific. While white water rafting, we held up our paddles and shouted “PURA VIDA!” after rapids and ate a pineapple we brought with us on the raft. The might of La Fortuna waterfall amazed me.
Each and every moment contributes to the awe-inspiring and riveting adventures of my trip exploring Costa Rica.
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