|Name: Scott Adams||Project: : Sports Education|
|From: USA||Age: 21|
We arrived at the dorm and were given a complete tour of the house. The staff told us everything we needed to know, showed us where everything was and how to use it, and introduced us to the other volunteers who were already living there. After helping us get settled the staff members left and we were alone at the house. This was the moment where we realized how much freedom we were going to have. Although the staff is very hands on, they also leave you to your own devises and let you make your own day.
Our second day two of the AVIC staff members took us on our walking tour through San Ramon, showing us where we could pick up anything that we might want or need. This was a huge help because a lot of the town looks similar, and the tour helped us gain our bearings. They also showed us where the farmers market was if we wanted some fresh food to bring back to the dorm, and the best restaurants in town if we felt like going out.
After the tour three of the AVIC coordinators sat down with us and went through, in great detail, exactly what we would be doing in our project, where it would be, and how much time they would need us every day. In addition they gave us a crash course in Costa Rican culture. This included informing us about certain ways of life in Costa Rica, things we should or should not do, things to watch out for, etc… As well as a great deal of information about the history of Costa Rica, and San Ramon specifically. They provided us with all the information we could want on how to have a great time volunteering and traveling in Costa Rica, and how to do it smartly and safely.
On the first day of our project, one of the AVIC coordinators walked us to the school we would be working at. My friend from college who was volunteering with me and I were the only volunteers to be working at this particular school. The walk from the dorm to the school took about 20 minutes, and on the way Laura, our volunteer coordinator, filled us in on a little history of the school and the principal who worked there. When we arrived at the school we met the principal, who was a very sweet woman named Dona Cecelia. My buddy and I didn't speak Spanish very well at the time, and almost no one at the school spoke English, so Laura stayed with us the entire first day to make sure we knew what we were doing. We were introduced to the different classes of students, which ranged from first grade to sixth grade. Each day we would work with three different classes of students. That first day was difficult because we went into it without a clue of how to teach the kids, or how they would respond to us giving them instructions in our poor Spanish. Laura made the first day possible by communicating what we wanted to say and do to the children. Without her that first day we would have been up a river without a paddle. Although it was long and difficult, we were able to bond a little bit with the students, and figure out how to make the days after easier and more fun for the students and for us. We figured out that they are crazy about baseball, thanks to a past volunteer who taught them a little. It was their game of choice. However they were actually very easy to entertain, because they would enjoy doing anything that allowed them to run around, and the more we as volunteers joined in on the games, the more they wanted to bond and interact with us.
While in Costa Rica we were also able to do a great deal of traveling. Our second week in the country was Semana Santa, which is a week long holiday in Costa Rica. The other volunteers living at the dorm and I decided to take the entire week to travel. We started by going to Puerto Viejo, which is a little beach town on the Caribbean side of Costa Rica. It ended up being one of my favorite places in Costa Rica. It's a small town with beautiful beaches, friendly people, and good bars and restaurants. We spent our days their relaxing on the beach, snorkeling, and surfing. It was my first time surfing and I was able to catch a wave my first time out, which was a great feeling of accomplishment for me. We spent our nights eating good food, dancing, and having drinks at the bars and small clubs.
After a few days in Puerto Viejo we caught a shuttle to Panama, with the help of some friendly Americans who live there and run a scuba shop. The shuttle brought us to and across the border of Panama, and to a boat shuttle that we took to Bocas Del Toro, an island in Panama. We spent three days in Bocas, which is a very touristy, very active party area. We stayed in a great hostel that had a back deck right on the water, so you could take a swim right off the hostel. The deck had hammocks, tables, couches, and chairs where many of the people staying at the hostel could hangout, have some drinks, a meet different people. We ended up making friends with a group of people from Denmark and London, and went out with them later. After a few days in Bocas we were all pretty worn out, and took a bus back to Costa Rica and San Ramon, which was like coming home.
We were also able to travel to La Fortuna, which is home to Volcano Arenal, the most active volcano in Costa Rica. We stayed at a five star hostel called The Backpackers. The staff were very cool, and they helped us book a zip lining tour through the canopy, and a white water rafting trip down the Rio Toro, which is the most fun outside of the project that I had in Costa Rica.
Looking back I feel like I accomplished many of the things that I wanted to starting out in Costa Rica. I saw a lot of the country, met many different people from different places, vastly improved my Spanish, and most importantly made a difference in the lives of the students I worked with, even if just a little bit. Our last day at the school the students and teachers presented us with a gift, and all of the students wrote thank you and farewell cards for us. It's a great feeling knowing that, even for just a short period of time, you impacted a group of people in a very positive way. It's a feeling and experience that I'll never forget, and one I will always be thankful for.