HELLO EVERYONE!! If you’re reading this, it means I’ve landed safely in Costa Rica, and I am alive and absolutely thriving. I’m writing this introduction now from the evening of our first full day, and all I can say is that I actually successfully ran on two hours of sleep:) The travel there was quick and easy, especially with a group of 30, and my nerves didn’t get the best of me during the plane ride. When we got to the San Jose airport, we were met by our guides for the week, and basically ate and got situated in our first hotel. Everyone was exhausted from the travels so it was an early night.
Day Two (First full day in Costa):
Today was our fun day, which was zip-lining!! I actually visited Costa Rica previously when I was nine with my family, and zip lining was one of the activities we had done. That being said, it was amazing to be able to see the rainforest with new eyes, and to relive that exhilarating feeling once again.
After zip lining, we packed our bags, went shopping for a bit around town, and then drove to our next community. The food here has been AHmazing, with the food being fresh and the portions being the right size (I truly think we as Americans have a lot to learn about portion control. Everything in this country is about having only what you need, and even something as simple as food opened my eyes to the fact.) When we got to the new location, we were able to hike to Lake Arenal, which is literally one of the best places I’ve ever seen. Pictures don’t do anything justice here, so just keep in mind that there is so much more depth and hugeness to EVERYTHING. After that excursion, we had dinner and now I’m currently in bed ready for a day of worship and work!
Today is Sunday, so at 8:45 we dressed in casual attire and headed to a service at Arenal Christian Church ten minutes down the road. They were a small congregation (around 6 people), but we made the whole room full of music and worship. We went over Galatians 5:13-21, which talk about the different conflicts the flesh has with the spirit. It was truly interesting to hear sermons from a different church, in a whole different part of the world at that. After arriving back to home base, we then walked to the Kid’s Learning Center to help a lady named Bettye finish renovating before the grand re-opening. This place is doing absolute wonders for the community; it teaches kids English for free so that they can go on to lead a more opportunistic life. Part of what we did to make the place better was organizing a room full of teaching supplies, laying sod down in the courtyard, and hanging string lights. It looked WAY better than when we started, and I was absolutely ecstatic to see how clean and functional the room would be for the kids. For dinner, we went to a family owned restaurant on Lake Arenal, which was known for its incredible sunsets. This truly captivated “dinner with a view.” I’m now in bed writing this after going to a general store for some provisions, but I do know that I’m working with kids tomorrow!! I absolutely cannot wait, until then!
This morning really got the best of me. My calves are BURNING from walking everywhere, and a lot of people ended up sick today, so it was pretty relaxed. I went back to the house to help with the grand re-opening of the Kids Learning Center. I pretty much set up tables, rocks for kids to paint, and finalized the room with the school supplies. Afterwards, we recollected for lunch at the local high school, which was amazing to see. I felt like I was living through their eyes, eating a fresh school lunch. At two, people started showing up at the center, and I finally got to meet some of the kids she was teaching. There was one little boy named Santiago who was extremely shy, but he opened up to me while we were playing games of tic tac toe. He didn’t understand very much English, but we still got along quite well:) I helped paint rocks with two little girls, and soon enough it was time to clean up and go back for dinner. I honestly didn’t imagine eating pizza in a Central American country, but after eating four slices I can definitely say they’re doing it right. I’m subbing for a singer at worship since one of the girls got sick, so wish me luck! I’ve never really sang in front of a crowd before so I’m a little nervous.
(A few hours later…)
I DID IT!! I faced a long time fear of mine and sang in front of a crowd. Although the guitarist had a couple of technical difficulties, it didn’t take away from the moment shared between our group, and the members of a local church. Cookies and desserts were served, after a little while we returned to the hotel. By this time things had gotten worse in the group, health wise, so we all pretty much went to bed early.
This morning I was able to sleep in because the leaders decided we all needed to take care of the people who weren’t feeling good. Post-a drawn out breakfast/devotion, we hopped on a bus to a reforestation project, only to be met with Florida-like bursts of rain. Just as it started to feel like it wasn’t going to end, it lessened, and we were able to at least plant a couple of trees, and even pick a few pineapples. Upon arrival back to home base, we packed our bags, bought snacks from the supermarket, and headed to the last community. We’re living on a farm, complete with horse stables and a beautiful lake. I hammocked with my friend Maddie for a hot minute, then we had dinner, and now I’m writing from a cozy bunk in the main farm house. Tomorrow is the first day of our diy vacation bible school (the theme being “Jesus is Your Friend”), and I’m in the craft group leading kids with making friendship bracelets. I’m super excited!
FIRST DAY OF VBS DONE!! We made friendship bracelets with the kids, and I was able to meet Ashley, Victoria, Oscar, and so many more beautiful children. We sang bible songs, went over a bible story in both Spanish and English, and then we went back home to eat lunch. At three, we went to partake in a community event which was with the same kids as the morning. We sang the same bible songs, and then went out to the soccer field and hung out for an hour, just playing and chasing and having fun. That honestly made my day, just being able to have fun without any schedule. Dinner was really short, and wasted no time taking a shower and going to bed.
It was SO. HOT. Today was the last day of VBS, and boy was it emotional. We had the kids draw pictures of themselves and Jesus, framed them, and went over the story of Jesus washing His disciples’ feet. The last thirty minutes we all played in the field again, and I played catch with Ashley and her friend Yeilin. It was so hard leaving them, it was the perfect way for me to practice my Spanish and form connections with people from another country. We have an opportunity to send them letters in a couple weeks, I CANT wait to see how they’re all doing.
On our arrival back to the farmhouse, my friends and I jumped in the lake right besides the property. The water was a perfect temperature, and we enjoyed taking boomerangs and videos while the rain started to pour. Dinner, again, was quick. We had to be up at 5 to leave for the airport, so I packed my things and slept in what I was going to wear to the airport.
Day Eight (Travel Day):
Y’all. This day could not have gone any more rough. We drove three hours to the airport, went through security, waited to board (which was another three hours), and attempted to fly back to the Orlando airport. There ended up being thunderstorms surrounding the area, which made it impossible to land, so we had to take a detour and land in Fort Lauderdale. After another two hours of waiting, we finally got to the airport, and drove three hours back to the church to meet our families. What. A. Doozy. Nonetheless, I was ecstatic to be home.
This trip has honestly been life changing. In a span of a week, through sickness, we helped with the grand opening of an English learning center for kids, made connections with Costa Rican school children using a DIY VBS, and zip lined across a rainforest. I truly saw God in every one of those things, and the people I met. I loved having the opportunity to be exposed to how people live their lives differently (in a much better way to be honest). Although this was my second time here, it was the most special to me. I gave back in such a real and impactful way, so it’s hard for me to put into words how amazing this trip was. I thank everyone who donated, prayed, or even thought to ask how it went. Let the pictures tell their thousands of words, and don’t hesitate to talk to me more about my trip and what it meant to me.