Ivette Sierra

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My adventure started at twelve in the morning on the day of my flight (keep in mind my flight does not leave until four in the morning). I was so excited to leave to Costa Rica to the point where I did not sleep the night before my departure. I was nervous because I did not know anyone on my trip and I did not know what to expect. I have not been on a plane since I was five so the plane ride alone was going to be exciting for me. I was very sad to leave my family at the airport. However, once I met the nice councilors, I knew I was going to be okay. I made about five new friends at the airport and immediately started to learn about their different yet interesting life styles. Once we got through the five-hour flight and ate our first meal at a beautiful Costa Rican restaurant, we arrived at our hotel. I was lucky enough to have a nice girl as my roommate and to this day, we remain as very close friends. Our schedules were very busy so we rarely had any down time. As we drove around Costa Rica, I noticed how different it was from New York City. No tall buildings, no dogs on leashes, no crowded sidewalks, no deli groceries on every corner. It was the complete opposite. It was hard to get used to for the first few days but over time, I grew to love the simplicity of this country. Every day was a new adventure, especially at the elementary/middle school. The kids at the elementary school (and Costa Rican people in general) are the most humble group of people I have ever met. When I first walked into the classroom, they greeted me with a “pura vida” which means pure life. “Pura vida:” is their own version of “Aloha” that was said everywhere we went. They knew we came from the U.S, but they had no idea I spoke fluent Spanish. They were shocked and exited because they could now learn about me without any boundaries. They asked me many questions about how life was like in America and even introduced me to some of their favorite games. One of which included bottle caps. The bottle caps they had in the classrooms were their version of “Legos”.

Their imaginations went wild as they started stacking up the bottle caps into castles, homes, and all different types of things. I wanted to cry because they did not have toys like the ones I had back home. But, how could I cry? They were so content with what they had and did not complain about anything they were given; they utilized everything they had and incorporated parts of their creative imaginations into their little bottle cap creations. Every day, my group and I would paint different types of games all over the floors of the school. We persisted through the heat and created over six new games including a mural with all the students’ handprints. After the wet paint dried, every student began playing on the games and had a bright smile spread across their whole face. Besides volunteering at the school, I got to experience many different things for the first time. I got the chance to go zip lining through the forest, do yoga , go rafting on a lake, go to natural hot springs, do karaoke, and (my favorite one of all) go surfing in Guanacaste. Although we loved staying at our beautiful hotel “Los Lagos”, it was great to break out of the routine and go to a five star hotel that offered the most stunning pools, beaches, food, and views. After driving four hours from La Fortuna to Guanacaste, every one of my group members were exhausted. However, that all changed when we pulled up to the front of the hotel and saw how enormous and breathtaking it was. This was one of my favorite memories by far. We all began gasping and screaming at the view of the hotel. We all broke out into a dance party and ran into our hotel rooms to go to the pool at night. It felt as if we were a family in paradise. Everyone was having a good time and there was no way we could ever stop smiling. Surfing the next morning was challenging but it was beyond incredible; I felt so proud of myself because after my second try I caught my very first wave. I was also amazed by the variety of animals that were casually roaming in Costa Rican streets. It was nice seeing a sloth and other types of animals first hand rather than seeing them through pictures and videos on the internet.

In addition, the food there was incredible. Rice with chicken and beans was a Costa Rican staple. I do not think there was ever a dish I did not like. Whether we were eating at the hotel buffet or in a restaurant, every meal was delicious (especially the desert). This trip has allowed me to realize how lucky I am to have the life I am living. The friends I made on this trip came from a very different social/economic class than I did. However, that did not stop me from creating beautiful friendships and learning about their different lifestyles. I hope to donate things to the school I volunteered at and expose people around the city to the life people in Costa Rica are living. I hope this exposure will allow them to make changes to their life styles (for example: recycling, not overbuying things, not littering etc.). I also hope to create a YouTube channel about travelling/lifestyle so I can educate people in my community about the opportunities we have, the impact traveling has in people’s lives, and how offering help to the people in need can make difference. Thank you trip of a lifetime for strengthening my love for traveling and allowing me to learn about the beautiful country of Costa Rica.