Hope everyone is enjoying their Homecoming weekend! GO BEARCATS!
Just thought I’d let everyone know what I’ve been up to lately. I’m slowly but surely realizing that I only have 49 days left in this beautiful country, so I am trying to enjoy it as much as I possibly can. This past weekend we travelled to an island called Isla Venado. It’s located in the Nicoya Gulf of Costa Rica. (I’ll post a picture so you can all see). The island is SUPER small: population 900 give or take a few. I went there as part of a volunteer work program set up by IFSA. However, is was no easy journey to get there. I woke up at 4:30 a.m. Friday morning to leave my house by 5:30, met with everyone on campus at 6 a.m., took an hour-long bus ride to San Jose, then a 2.5 hour bus ride to Puntarenas on the coast. From there we took a ferry to Naranjo Beach, followed by an hour-long bus ride to… well, the middle of nowhere, where we walked to a small docking area, and then took a boat to finally arrive at the island. Only a 7 hour journey. No big deal.
When we did finally get there though, it was well worth the trip. The island was beautiful. It was a different kind of beauty than most people would think of when imagining an island however. The beauty came more from within: from the landscape, the small beaches, the humility of the people, and the never-ending smiles from the children. Upon our arrival, we were welcomed by about 20 kids of all ages playing around the “Casona.” The Casona is basically a youth-center, if you can even call it that. It’s a place where the kids hang out, play soccer, listen to music, and try to stay out of trouble because that’s all they really have. From there, about ten of the students took us on a walking tour around the entire island (a whopping 9 mile trip). During this time, I was able to ask them questions and get to know the kids a little better. I asked them things about life on the island, if any of them had ever travelled outside of the island, if they had boyfriends/girlfriends, etc. I was shocked by some of their answers. (But I’ll save that for later) 🙂
Friday night we spent dancing, playing games, building a campfire on the beach, and just talking. To us, it was just a normal Friday evening, but to the kids… You could see in their eyes how much they admired every single one of us; asking us questions about the world, the United States, college life. Just seeing and knowing how much these conversations meant to them was… awesome. – Saturday morning we woke up early and headed to the school to help fix up some things; we tore down broken screens on windows, moved broken rock piles, and whatever else the people needed us to do. Towards the end of the afternoon, all of our hard-working efforts turned into a giant dance with everyone. It was so much fun. After our “hard-days-work,” we went kayaking with the kids, and finished the night at a local karaoke bar. Here, I was able to see a lot more than just people singing and dancing. I was amazed when I walked into the “bar” and it was full of men. Not a single woman was there, besides us. I had heard that the island was very “machismo,” but I had no idea it was this bad. When I asked a local where all the women were, he replied, “in the house, cleaning.” It is almost as if the women are not even allowed out of the house, (which I cannot imagine, while living on such a small island with little to no contact with any other part of the world). It was a fun night, don’t get me wrong, but I just felt bad for all the poor, almost stranded women. – Sunday morning we woke up early to finish the trip fishing! As you can imagine on the island, almost all of their business and income comes from catching and selling fish. So, some of the locals took us out in the morning to see if we could catch something. Of course, I caught nothing, but it was fun to see the costarricans in their “natural habitat.”
If I had to reflect on my trip to the island, I would say it was one of, if not THE, best trip I’ve taken so far in Costa Rica. It was not always glorious, sunny, and beautiful… but it was real. Real people, real problems, real children, real lives. We went to the island for the children; to try to talk and help with some of the problems the children are having. One can only imagine the problems that can arise when 900 people are living on the same island for the entirety of their lives, never visiting any other part of the world, and 80% of the people on the island are your relatives. I’ll let you guys do the thinking yourselves on that one. But many of the kids were just so happy to have someone to talk to, someone who would listen, and that to me was worth more than any weekend on a beautiful beach with a bunch of friends could ever be. The people on the island are so poor, indescribably poor; and they still managed to open their homes, their hearts, and their island to us with pleasure. To IFSA, I did some 50 hours of community service. To me, those kids taught me more than I could ever teach them. They’re happy, just the way they are. Here I am wanting a bunch of useless things, taking so many things for granted, that these kids would never even imagine having.
I wish they was something I could do for those people. Open a rec-center for the kids to have something to do, make travel to the mainland easier so the kids would actually have ambitions to go to and believe they could make it in college, open a women’s center so the women didn’t feel so ostracized and abused, or educated the children more about things like sex and drugs so they know there are more things to do in their spare time than the obvious. There is one girl on the island who is attending college regularly on the mainland. It costs her about $12 every day to get to and from the university on boat and bus; which, on a fisherman’s salary, is almost impossible for anyone on the island, but she somehow manages. She is studying business hoping that, in the future, she can open a tourist center on the island to try to help her family and fellow-islanders. Her story is inspiring, and I hope she can fulfill her dreams one day.
At the end of an amazing, life-changing trip… I managed to make about 15 new Facebook friends! 🙂 haha
Until next time 🙂