by Devan DeSilva, Costa Rica Tropical Ecology Study Abroad Participant
This Easter break I was blessed with the privilege of being able to travel to one of the most amazing places I have ever been to, Costa Rica. The main focus of this trip was to be able to help assist a group of researchers to study the pollinators on the plants of Costa Rica but it offered so much more. The first night we arrived we stayed at a cute little hotel called Hotel Bougainbillea where we were greeted with one of the horrifying spiders I have ever seen.
During the next 11 days myself and a group of 13 girls and 2 professors traveled to Monteverde, Arenal, La Selva and San Jose. These were some of the most exhausting days I have ever experienced in my whole entire life. We had an itinerary that was jam packed everyday. Every morning started a 6:30 with about 4 hours of research and then we usually went on some kind of adventure such as white water rafting, on boat rides to the volcano, a culture tour, hiking, zip lining over top of the jungle, go to cloud forest and many other things. The only free time that we did have was our nights which we mostly spent bonding as a group. The food was very different from what I am use to. Every meal consisted of a side of rice and beans and some kind of fish or meat dish. While we were in Monteverde the food was made homemade for us, they treated and fed us like family. I must admit though there was only one place that the food was not good but other than that, I would rather the food from Costa Rica over American food any day.
In between eating, researching and doing activities, we spend a lot of time traveling. During most of our travels to the next location it would take a few hours. We spent a ton of time on our bus it was basically our home. To be honest though I didn’t really mind. The sights were breath taking. The stops were always really cool that we would take also. We would stop for coffee or at fruit stands on the side of the road and experience Costa Rica in a not so touristy way.
The people we met on every adventure were all special in a way that is actually pretty hard to explain. Our bus driver didn’t speak much English but some how we all managed to have a significant bond with him. For instance, when my 3 roommates and I got locked out of our room in the middle of the night and he came to our rescue! Left us all in tears while saying goodbye. Our tour guide, Edwin, was amazing. The knowledge of Costa Rica whether it was about the jungle, plants, animals, culture, you name it he knew it. On top of being an open book, he was humble and shared with us about growing up on a farm with his brothers and other personal stories that we could relate to. My guide for white water rafting, Luis, was fantastic. By the time we met him it was day 11 and the group of us were getting slightly home sick and were a bit cranky. The least I can say is that by the end of that rafting trip we all couldn’t stop smiling. He was so energetic and enthusiastic about life and adventure. We all joked and told stories as we went down the river. Of course this was all in between the billions of times I was tossed into the water and everyone got a great laugh out of that too. Of course there were many other people we met but these three specifically will always have a place in my heart forever.
This trip not only taught me a lot about Costa Rica and its culture, food, and people, it taught me about the people who I actually go to school with everyday, the students and professors. I became very close with some of the girls who I wasn’t before this trip. The late night conversations about our similar life goals and the struggles that we have all been though to get to the spot we are in today were honestly the best thing that I experienced there. Defeating our fears of height, bridges, water, whatever it was, we did it as a group. We pushed each other to our limits and it was absolutely exhilarating. There were nights we would laugh until our stomachs hurt and other nights we would cry together. It has made me look forward to new chapters in my life with some of these ladies right by my side during them. If I could do it all over again, I wouldn’t change a thing. Even the bad parts, looking back were some of the best parts.