Bienvenidos A Costa Rica!

Playing in the Sarapiqui river our first day together.

Written By: Mia

At varying moments during the early morning hours of Wednesday, February the 11th, twelve intrepid young adults left their respective hometowns and everything they know to be familiar en route to Costa Rica. I, Mia Bluestein, happen to be one of those individuals. Our staggered departures gave way to staggered arrivals and and by the time we arrived in San Jose (in the second of three waves) it was already dark. After the slow shuffle through customs we piled into a van with one of our two Overseas Educators, Adam, and began to make our way to our orientation site. During the ride we could barely make out the countryside through the darkness of the night time air apart from the scattered glimmering of light from faraway homes. It looked as though someone had torn the fabric from the night sky, stars and all, and laid it out across the rolling hills. When at long last we arrived to the Chilamate Rainforest Eco Retreat, we were greeted by a security force of barking dogs and hot plates piled high with fresh food. We were immediately introduced to our proprietress, Meghan, a Canadian (now Costa Rican) national who came to Costa Rica on a whim for a job opportunity and hasn’t left since. Throughout the years she’s been here, she, alongside her family, have been able to preserve and nurture a part of the world that was on the brink of being lost forever. To call this place a paradise would be an understatement.

Our first days here have been a non-stop whirlwind of adventure, the first of which was a guided nature tour through the biodiversity that exists right outside our doors. One of our guides, William, was the most impassioned and knowledgable naturalist I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet. Pure, unadulterated enthusiasm poured from his every word as he pointed out massive millipedes, bullet ants, lines of industrious tree-cutter ants, at least a dozen howler monkeys, and more birds than I can name let alone remember. He was even able to spot, with a naked eye, an iguana lazing in a tree from what seemed to be a mile away (only visible to us through a powerful viewing apparatus).

Our next notable adventure was the guided riverboat tour with our charismatic guide, vallardo, and his lconic captain, Solomon. We floated down El Rio De Sarapiqui, named after Siripiqui, the matriarchal chief of the original inhabitants of this area, los Botos. On this cruise we saw many of the creatures we’ve come to associate with Costa Rica, such as various vibrant birds, bats, and four different species of monkeys. As we were nearing the end of the tour, were were met with an unexpected attraction. Our guide started motioning excitedly to a bumpy patch of discolored mud by the river’s edge and directed the captain to get closer. In seconds we were within 2-3 feet of a sizable albeit seemingly lazy crocodile that barely lifted an eyelid as we murmured with excitement, wondering if we’d ever see such a monster at our favorite swimming spots.

Sarapiqui boat tour; we saw bats, iguanas, tropical birds, & a crocodile!

Later in the week we visited El Pozo Azul, a spot that seemed straight out of our wildest dreams of paradise. After a short hike through the forest we found ourselves descending a long and rather rickety staircase to get to the spot. Once there, we were all amazed by the sheer majesty of the rushing waterfall and the pristine quality of this secret swimming hole. We splashed, swam, and lounged underneath the smaller rivulets for the better part of the day.

In between our scheduled adventures we find plenty to do at and around the Chilamate Rainforest Eco Retreat. One of our fast favorites has been swimming in El Rio de Sarapiqui, at a a spot sans crocodiles. The cool water and swift current make for a perfect, naturally occurring lazy river and the sheltered spots are ideal for floating like a log. Another favorite activity has been yoga classes taught by our other OE, Rachel, who is a certified and very gracious teacher. Our downtime is punctuated by laughter, games, and the in-house petting zoo. In addition to the security dogs, there are also puppies and a rather affectionate cat, all of which are thankfully safe and domesticated. Although our new roommates are bats and bugs and our new arms clocks are howler monkeys (Mono Congo in Costa Rica), we all revel at the opportunity to exists amongst such biodiversity.

The group with Don Daniel at his Finca Organica. We learned about his experience working in industrial fruit farms and toured his family’s small, organic farm.

On the very last day of our very first week here, we were introduced to a side of Costa Rica that had been previously obscured from our sunny dispositions. We were awoken that morning by a thunderous cacophony of pouring rain. For this writer, that rain washed away all preconceptions of this Costa Rican paradise. An adventure it is, a perfect paradise it is not. We have all come here at different stages of becoming and I foolishly though that this trip would be a reprieve from a world that has been so scary and unpredictable as of late. I imagined that once here, those literal and figurative dark days would cease to exist. The rain shattered that illusion and gave life to reality. Costa Rica, although a seemingly unblemished corner of the world, is subject to her own struggles and strife, and underneath that, is an inexhaustible source of life and love. In the words of Kali Uchis, after the storm is when the flowers bloom.