I’m sitting in the middle of the Mexico City airport where my flight is laid over—completely out of it for the time being. It might be the fact that I woke up at 2:50 this morning to take a shuttle from a San Jose hostel to the airport, and haven’t slept since. It might be due to crying pretty consistently since parting ways with Hanna once her flight took off, or it might simply be that the weight of the fact that my time in Costa Rica has ended has finally descended upon me. In spite of being completely mentally absent I’ve somehow managed to make it out of Costa Rica, into Mexico, through customs (even though I’ll be in this country a grand total of 3 hours) and into the food court. However once in the food court I managed to miscalculate the exchange rate for pesos and ended up spending 8500 colones or, that’s right, 17 dollars on a super small portion of crappy food that—you guessed it—had meat hiding inside.
But all in all, the journey so far has been pretty easy. Its been crazy traveling alone and having time to reflect on the last three months. It’s a little scary to me that its already starting to feel surreal, almost like a dream. I can only imagine it will feel even more that way when I’m back to my usual routine at home. I can only hope that it never stops feeling real for me. I can’t even tell you how many ways this experience has changed my life. I’ve learned SO much. More than any other quarter I’m positive, and most vitally I’ve learned so much about myself and what I’m interested in and what I want out of the world and how much I actually might be able to achieve. I’ve never been more inspired by teachers than by those I had in Monteverde. They weren’t just teachers, they were friends, and they cared SO much about igniting our interests and pushing our limits. My interest in biology and nature has been so revitalized thanks to them, and thanks to the beauty and diversity that Costa Rica boasts.
Maybe most importantly were the friends I made: mis companeros through this entire experience. From the first two weeks where we were dropped on an island and then the middle of a dry forest without electricity or hot water or any civilization and had no choice but to learn about each other, its been an insane ride. I’m not sure I could ever find a better group of 26 people to enjoy this journey with. I was constantly surprised and inspired by every single person’s enthusiasm for life, enthusiasm for nature and their knowledge of both. I will never forget the hikes and field trips we shared together, finding frogs and fungi and insects and seeing joy in every discovery. Or the nights at Mata e’ Cana, rollin in with our huge group of gringos and taking over the dance floor, looking like idiots and making Ticos jealous. My biggest hope is that we stay in contact throughout the years. California is an incredible place and we are lucky enough to be able to bring back what we’ve learned to such an amazing and naturally diverse state. All the same I can’t express how much I’ll miss seeing everyone together every day. I’ll be thinking about you guys a lot when I get back.
Coming back to the present, the past week has fallen right in line with the rest of my time here in terms of enjoyment. This was my third time to the Caribbean and I never cease to be amazed by this part of the world. Puerto Viejo, where we stayed is a party town to be sure, but now in the off-season its pretty mild. The town runs right along the crystal-blue water’s edge. Coconut trees line the shores and pretty much any view from any angle looks like a desktop that would come with your mac. Marvin, the girls, and I (along with Harrison and Mike a few days later) made some amazing snorkeling excursions down the coast. Two of the days we rented beach cruisers to take us a couple miles down the coast through some beautiful forest. Sometimes everything just seemed more like a Jack Johnson music video than real life. The snorkeling was some of the best I’ve ever seen. On Hanna’s and my last full day we made a 6 km trek through some seriously beautiful poison dart frog and eyelash viper-filled rain forest to a beach that had a tiny island only a couple hundred meters away. We were able to swim around the entire thing and all of us did. Different sides of the island were home to different species of fish, and the entire area was so rich in life. It was so incredible.
We tried taking advantage of as much beauty as we could...even getting up with the sunrise.
The hostel itself was quite entertaining as well. We took up most of the rooms—I think we only really encountered one other couple the entire time we were there. Vista Verde is run by Olaf and his wife Katy (Cat-ee). They are extremely German and extremely adorable. If you are ever in Puero Viejo I highly recommend staying with them, their three-legged cat that we called Tripod, several dogs-including Hansel who is pretty much bald due to a skin disease, their collection of poison dart frogs, and several other rag-tag animals. They are very sweet and very accommodating, and most importantly their hostel has lots of hammocks. I’ve never been more attached to colorful pieces of fabric. Its possible I bought one or two to bring back…
As for the journey back from the Coast, Hanna and I left on a 4 o’clock bus last night that took us 4 hours away to San Jose, then took a taxi across the city in which I thought once again that I was going to lose my life. I do not recommend taxis in San Jose. They drive on the wrong side of the road, blow through red lights, come perilously close to pedestrians and will give you a heart attack if you are used to gentle American driving. We stayed at Hostel Pangea, a “party hostel” that resembled a tacky abandoned MTV beach house but per usual managed to make some good times out of it.
And now I am here, still in complete disbelief that I will b in Los Angeles in just a few hours. I am incredibly excited to see everyone, but still a little apprehensive about going back to “normal”. Frank has said several times over this program that you can prepare yourself for the culture shock coming into Costa Rica, but its much harder to prepare for the culture shock of returning to the U.S. I suppose only time will tell!