Costa Rica 2018

Pura Vida! This phrase, meaning “pure life”, is often used to say hello, goodbye and everything’s cool. For many Costa Ricans, who are often referred to as “Ticos”, this expression represents a way of life, and for ten days the eleventh grade of the German International School New York got to experience this lifestyle. At first, however, it didn’t seem like we were going to make it there. Originally, we were supposed to embark on this journey at the beginning of January. The weather thought otherwise. After  several days of snow storms we made our way to the airport on a frigid day, hoping to soon enjoy warmer weather. Shortly after our arrival at the airport, we faced our first obstacle: we weren’t able to check in. The cause of this: cancellations due to snow storms. Finally, after much discussion, a solution was found. We were going to travel a few days later. At an unreasonable hour and with less time in Costa Rica, but we were going to go then – or so we thought. Second obstacle: the next day we find out the terminal we were supposed to fly from was flooded. At this point we felt like this trip may be jinxed. But we came to a conclusion – we were going to fly when the winter was over. So it came that  from April 21 until May 1 we were able to experience the “Pura Vida” lifestyle. We had a busy schedule that included volunteer work and sightseeing, as well as learning about the country.

Our volunteer work consisted of helping out at Manos de Jesús with the elderly who had been abandoned by their families. From Monday until Friday we got to explore the different ways in which we could help. We could work in the kitchen, or maybe help in the garden, or in occupational therapy. At one point or another, we would probably have had to feed the people who couldn’t do much on their own. On our last day of volunteering, the class also served as entertainment, for a dance show was planned. We prepared a few dances to perform, but we also gave the able bodied an opportunity to dance with us.

Working at Manos de Jésus clearly showed us how privileged we are. Seeing the elderly abandoned by their family was disheartening. Soon after we began our work, we could clearly see how much our presence meant to them. Even though the elder home offers adequate opportunities for the elderly to enjoy the last part of their life, there is still room for improvement. The facilities obviously needed some work. Our class was also able to help with that, especially through the garden work, which included painting. Because the home lacks some staff, our volunteerism was an immense help. Not only were we able to aid those in need, we also grew together as a class bonding over our shared work.

Of course we also had plenty of chances to see different parts of the country. Sightseeing activities included visiting Tapantí National Rainforest, seeing Irazú Volcano, a tour of Cartago, where our Home Base was located, as well as a visit to the arts and crafts market in San José. On our last weekend we were in La Fortuna, where we had a chance to relax. Weekend activities in La Fortuna included zip lining, swimming in the hot springs and seeing the La Fortuna waterfalls.

Besides sightseeing and volunteering, we also took a dance class, learned how to make tortillas and had two Spanish classes.  Because our days were very exhausting, we used the evenings to relax and play games. The home base had the perfect living room type area where we would hang out as class. This was another splendid way to get to know everybody and bond.

All in all, this class trip was extremely beneficial and we all had an outstanding time. Seeing that the elderly so excited by our presence, was extremely moving and we definitely made our mark.

“Moral, das ist wenn man moralisch ist” – “Morality, that is, when you are moral”. This quote originates from the drama “Woyzeck”.  We wrote this on the wall at the home base as a reminder of our stay and our volunteering. Volunteering to help others doesn’t just improve their living situation, it also helps the volunteers grow as moral people. All of us underwent a significant change and learned what it means to be supportive of others.