On our fourth day in San Carlos, Costa Rica, a handful of students motivated themselves to rise and shine early enough for a morning walk to take photos of the lush vistas with volcanoes off in the distance. Others sat with their host families eating their desayuno and taking in new Spanish phrases specific to Costa Rica. One was “mae,” similar to “dude,” which is how most young Costa Ricans casually address each other. Another was a Costa Rican expression which advises that you “eat breakfast like the wealthy, lunch like a king, and dinner like a pauper.”
At the animal rescue center, we once again divided into groups to conquer the work ahead. Half a dozen volunteers went to clean enclosures on hand and knee, scrubbing away with metal brushes. With harmless animals like the agouti and parrots, we got to interact up close and personal. The agouti, which looks like a capybara or a wild guinea pig, was very friendly, letting us pet her while she sneakily took visible nibbles of our shoes and the garden hose. More territorial creatures including the white-headed capuchin and spider monkeys had to be relocated to a smaller, attached enclosure while we cleaned. Nonetheless, they kept a close watch as they gracefully swung around their habitats. At one point, a capuchin monkey grabbed a hand full of Amber’s hair and got away with several strands.
The second and larger group of students stayed under the central shelter, some painting wire fences green for enclosures to blend in with the natural surroundings, others making hanging toys for the animals out of bamboo and rope. The latter group sawed wood planks into pieces, drilled holes in bamboo cut the day before, then fed rope through the holes and tied knots to hold each part of the ladder in place. Finally, the students stuffed fruit inside the bamboo for the monkeys and parrots to find. Cheyenne and Fajr were brave souls, venturing into the raucous parrot habitat to hang the new playthings. Cheyenne even gained a reputation as the parrot whisperer of the group!
After lunch, host mom Rosy gave us a Costa Rican cooking class! We split into three groups, the first cutting potatoes and other vegetables to make a flavorful picadillo, the second mixing and flattening dough for tortillas, and the third preparing a fried pastry with honey drizzled on top. The food turned out delicious, devoured in minutes by the entire group, and made for a pleasant break from the challenging volunteer work.
We cleaned our dishes and packed up to go home. About an hour later, most of the group came by Rosy’s to finish the scary movie they’d started a couple days before. Once they left, Rosy’s house played 2 competitive rounds of Mexican Train, a dominoes game. Meanwhile, our gracious host and cooking teacher regaled us with stories of past volunteers. Over her 8 years hosting volunteers for the animal rescue center, Rosy has had more than 350 in her home from all over the world. Although she’s never left Costa Rica, she explained that hosting has allowed the world to come to her.