Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Rat and Wonderland 

The main CATIE building, where my office is located. 

It was 2 o’clock in the morning and I could hear something very close to me. It sounded like it was in the walls. No my dresser. Or maybe the garbage can. I flicked on the light and put on my glasses, just in time to see a GIANT rat squeeze through the crack between the floor and the door to my room. I was disgusted and terrified.

Looking back now it seems rather ridiculous, that such a small animal could inflict such fear in a human being. What’s the worst it could do? Other than bite, possibly transmitting rat-bite fever, the plague, salmonellosis and about 8 other diseases? I spent two nights tossing and turning, half awake making sure my little ‘roommate’ didn’t mistake me for dinner. After seeing him dash out of the room, I promptly barricaded my door, with my yoga mat, umbrella and moldy knapsack. There, I could get 5 hours of sleep before getting up and moving to Turrialba.

My last week in San Jose felt bitter sweet. I had really enjoyed the time with Maria and Marlene, the Costa Rican ladies I was staying with, practicing Spanish with my friend Laura, and treating myself to a latte at the coffee shop around the corner in the afternoons. I spent my last afternoon walking through the side streets of the city, stumbling on parks and buildings I wished I had discovered early. My favourite encounter was of the Rainbow Eucalyptus trees. Why aren’t these planted everywhere? Surely oxygen and rainbows would make everyone’s day a little bit happier. Maybe The Model Forest of Rainbows should be our next venture?

Whatever state of euphoria the trees had put me in, the rat certainly snapped me out of, and I was quite happy to move to my final destination, the Center for Tropical Agriculture Research and Education (CATIE) where I will be living and working for the next year.

My apartment is wonderful. My new abode is on the ground floor, has a great kitchen for whipping up delectable dishes made with fresh fruits and veggies from the farmer’s market. I was also pleasantly surprised that there are two bedrooms. One for me, and one for my guests! Start booking your flights people, this place is a wonderland! Seriously though, I took a walk through the CATIE campus and it looked like I just stepped into a fantasy. The afternoon rain ‘shower’ or as you may call it, downpour, left the air fresh and mist hanging over the mountains. Walking through my new wonderland, clouds hung low in my head, as they did in the sky. The first few raindrops of homesickness and culture shock hit the ground. Luckily they dissipated, but inevitably the storm is coming. Good thing the weather is always changing, and once the rainy season is over the dry season will follow.

The lake on the CATIE campus. Beautiful birds and no crocodile sitings today. 
 I walked down my street, and over to the lake, which boasts our very own resident crocodiles (don’t worry, they are the small species, only 2.5 meters in length) and various birds. There are over 850 bird species in Costa Rica, and 300 of those have been spotted in and around the CATIE campus. I continued along the road, gazing up in awe at the trees, completely mesmerized by the various mosses, plants, vines, flowers and birds that engulfed them. I smiled to myself, reflecting on the words of another CUSO co-operant, ‘CATIE is the luxury location of volunteering’. I think I would have to agree.  

Tomorrow will be my first day with the Bosque Modelo Reventazon! Wish me luck and thanks for reading!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Living my Pura Vida

 La Pura Vida. I think this Tico proverb captures the essence of Costa Rican culture. Pura Vida, the ‘pure life’ or the ‘good life’, is something that is used in everyday greetings. From hello, “Pura Vida.” To ‘how are you?’ “Pura Vida?” to ‘I am good’ “Si, Pura Vida.” To ‘Cheers’ “Pura Vida”. For me, it is a subtle reminder to enjoy the small things in life, and embrace the ‘good life’.

For me, La Pura Vida means:
1.     Enjoying the moment.
2.     Embracing new experiences
3.     Realizing that you are one small piece of life’s puzzle.
4.     Accepting that you can’t control everything.

Monday, November 11, 2013


“An unhurried sense of time is in itself a sort of wealth.”-Bonnie Friedman

I arrived in Costa Rica with a lot of baggage, both literally and figuratively. The weeks leading up to my trip were scheduled and booked solid. On top of tying loose ends at the Canadian Model Forest
Our CUSO Volunteer Training group!
Network, I rushed around to appointments, attended a five day volunteer training, made a trip to Montreal, threw a party, packed my suitcases, packed up my room and most difficult of all, said goodbye to my friends and family.

Too often in North America we rush through the day, scheduling every hour, so that we do not ‘lose’ a second. There is a sense of urgency and impatience, that somehow the earth would be thrown off its axis, if we dared to abandon the clock, turn off the computer screen and let life’s beautiful unexpected moments, unfold.

I knew coming to Costa Rica that one of the most challenging adaptations I would need to make is my perception of time. Arriving, with my life in a suitcase, after weeks of chaos and scheduling, I suddenly had hours on end simply, free! 

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Digging Into San Jose

The rain pours down hard on the roof, thunder rumbles, the curtains blow gently in the breeze, as the open window lets the cool air in, cutting slightly, the humid and mildew blanketed air in my bedroom.  I have now spent five days in San Jose, and the 4 o’clock down pour is becoming expected. The sun greets me in the morning at about 5am with clear skies, quickly heating up to a slightly humid 27 degrees Celsius. As it approaches mid-day the clouds begin to appear, hanging low over the mountains, teasing me with sprinkles of rain before the skies open up in the late afternoon.