I’ve finally arrived home after a month of volunteering at the turtle conservation project in Ostional, followed by travelling around the country for about 20 days. As much of an introvert as I say I am, I can’t help but think that those moments created by the people here are the things I’ll miss most about the turtle project. Don’t get me wrong, I will definitely miss the daily routine of seeing turtles lay their eggs and watching the Arribada happen (An Arribada usually occurs once a month when there’s a new moon, where hundreds and thousands of turtles come to lay their eggs simultaneously. The Arribada usually lasts for around 3-4 days, each day between sunset and sunrise, and over the course of a five-day Arribada, up to 10 million eggs may be left here in Ostional.), but there was just something about the locals that really stuck with me.
I will miss the wonderful Yami’s cooking. I’ve had the opportunity to taste all kinds of flavours that are typical of Costa Rican food. I’ve gotten so used to eating rice and beans every meal, with plantain every second meal too. Funny, I’m already craving them, and it’s Australia Day here today! Yami always rides her bike into the research station with a big smile, and always leaves with the same smile. She’s always willing to talk to you, even when she’s cooking or cleaning. She’s also just an all-round inspirational woman- she cooks three meals a day for us volunteers, she’s a tour guide at night, and she’s a masseuse on weekends. On top of that, she also speaks English, Spanish, Italian and is learning German. When she found out that I was leaving soon, she cooked us my favourite dish again. Go figure!
I will miss those spontaneous salsa dancing sessions in the kitchen with the park rangers. When I first got to Costa Rica, I loved the fact that salsa music was around every corner of San Jose (the capital city), but my budget unfortunately couldn’t include regular salsa lessons in it. Well… One night, the park rangers just insisted on us all to dance, ensuring us that we would not regret it. Never have I thought I made a better decision. Ticos (Costa Ricans) all had salsa dancing in their blood, and once I danced with them, I felt like I was a better dancer already. After that night, we’d dance in the kitchen everyday, even when Yami was cooking. In fact, Yami encouraged it. It was the best way to feel good!
I will miss my favourite park ranger Albert’s spontaneous breakout into a song or a dance every minute. He also has the biggest heart out of everyone I’ve met. My turtle conservation project was on the Pacific coast, and he’s from the Caribbean coast. When he found out that I was going to be on the Caribbean coast right after I leave the project, he quickly checked the dates and confirmed that he would also be there. He’d driven 25km from my bus stop, showed me his beautiful property in the rainforest, and drove me to my hostel late at night. This was on New Year’s Eve, and was also his dad’s birthday. The following day, he picked me up, dropped me off at my next hostel in Cahuita, and even took me on a national park walk. All I can say is, bless him and his beautiful family, and I really hope they could visit me one day.
I will miss our supervisor Jairo, who has taught me so much more than I can hope for about turtles, and about the town of Ostional. Coming into the project, I didn’t know a thing about turtle. Actually, I didn’t even know anything about conservation. Jairo however, was patient enough to explain everything, from our night patrol routines, to the protocols of the Arribada. Everyday he would come in with his cheeky smile, he would make many jokes, but we would still get the work done. Jairo was the person who made the whole experience so enjoyable- none of it felt like work. Thank you!
It also warms my heart that we had to locals from Ostional, Roy and Emanuel, who come and helped us out with beach cleanup.Roy has a nighttime job patrolling the beach, and Emanuel is still at school but had his summer holidays while I was there. These two still came to help us out everyday! Despite having major language barriers, they always tried to talk to us, and joke with us. To me, they spoke a universal language. A language that consists of smiles and jokes. Pura Vida!
How could I also forgot Jairo’s friend Macdonald, who took me on adventures that I could never have dreamt of doing. Macdonald literally saved my life when I almost slipped off from our hike up a waterfall. This was a place that we could complete the whole hike without seeing anyone in sight, and I would’ve definitely been lost if he wasn’t there (we had to bush bash to see it in the first place). Macdonald also took me hiking through mangroves in search for crocodiles, even though it started bucketing down soon after, and I began sinking into the mud.
Hitchhiking also became a regular activity in Ostional, so I am thankful that locals and expats alike were always so willing for a stranger to hop in their car. Whether they spoke English or not, they’d still let you get into the car. Once, someone even let me hitchhike when I was completely soaked in my bikinis!
I am slowly understanding why people say they love this country so much. Having been to a number of countries before, I don’t think I’ve ever fallen for a country as hard as I have for Costa Rica. Ticos somehow just have a special touch that leave marks in people’s hearts, like mine. Pura Vida!