June 16: Second day in Arenal

From Mailyse ’16

Today is Tuesday, and though it was very rainy, we managed to do service at the Agua Azul primary school on the outskirts of the town of La Fortuna. We split into three work brigades. Some of the others GS students cleaned the escuela’s stock room, while others painted the outside walls and washed the windows.  My group’s job was to paint the kindergarten classroom along with Stephanie and Maria. We worked on adding a purple trim to the sky blue color. We did this work as the young children watched and played around us. The children were really sweet, cute and rambunctious. There was a beautiful boy with big brown eyes that gave all the girls hugs and seemed so happy.

The colors of the classroom reflected the spirit of the country: bright ocean blues and an electric lavender, things are exciting and spontaneous here you never know what’s in store next. However, no matter how hard things get, a smiling face by the kids in those escuelas will always greet you.

Afterwards, we all gathered across the street on a large immaculately kept soccer field, and of course, the boys could not turn down the opportunity of playing a quick soccer game, it wasn’t long after the some little boys from the school ran out to join them, disregarding the fact that they were still in their school uniforms. Mario and Carlos, our trusted guide and driver, who are huge soccer fans, organized the pickup game. The rest of us did yoga, played Frisbee, and got eaten alive by bugs. When we all were tired and had enough of our daily dose of physical activity, the kind teachers from the school prepared an intricate carved pineapple dish for us. I feel like many did not know the intensity of this gesture. Pineapples signify friendship and are meant to welcome people. Whether or not this was intentional or not, I feel as if this meant acceptance of us into their home country and their culture.

Laundry in a hot humid place like Arenal is so important. I feel as if people don’t realize how important it is to have dry, clean clothes until you have none left. We all were so happy to pay for perfectly folded clothes and for the chance to help the local economy. I could not thank the woman at La Fortuna enough. To my surprise, next-door was a place that sold the cutest baby chicks I have ever seen. Alas I had to bid them goodbye and waved to them from the window of the van, the heartbreak overwhelmed me for I always wanted a baby chick. After lunch, I mentally prepared myself to hike the base of a volcano, but not just any volcano, but one of the most active ones in the last 45 years. I was terrified! When we arrived, we hiked for approximately thirty minutes. Then, the clouds began to roll in, we could hear rumbling, then the rain began to fall, upon which I had a mini heart attack because the approaching storm had thunder and I thought the volcano was about to erupt… it wasn’t. Thankfully Pacho and Mario thought the safe thing to do would be for us to turn around.

We moved to a sheltered place inside the national park, El Mirador, to see the volcano and pass the storm. It just kept on raining. On the way out the park we saw an eyelash pit viper, one of the recent colonists to the area that has been under ecological succession since the volcano wiped out all life in 1968. Back then, 78 people died in this sparsely populated side of the mountain.

Overall today was a very jam-packed day filled with lots of rain and friendly service. This experience was both rewarding and beneficial to my understanding of the culture and the unpredictability of life in Costa Rica. This is something that I would never trade for anything for this experience has humbled my peers and I, we hope to never leave. !Pura Vida!

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