By Katelyn Hawkes
Blog Content Contributor
Over Spring Break, I had the amazing opportunity to go to Costa Rica with H.E.A.T., the organization on campus I am apart of. We volunteered at an animal sanctuary that has just been relocated to Turrucares in Alajuela. While there, my group painted the volunteer dorms, bottle-fed a premature Howler monkey, hugged sloths, and cleaned cages of kinkajous, parrots, and toucans.The sanctuary had only been there for about 2 weeks before my group and I arrived, so everything had to be built again from the ground up.
A typical day on the sanctuary grounds included waking up at 7 a.m. to the rooster cries, eat breakfast, then, at 9 a.m. we began morning chores. We were able to sign up for the chore we wanted, but I usually helped with the morning food prep for the parrots, toucans, and monkeys. Even though I got a little nervous going inside the monkeys’ cages, I liked to feed them fruit through the holes in the cage. After we were done with food prep, I would either clean the cages of the kinkajous and toucans, or rake the pathways to be paved with cement. After we were done with morning chores, we had a break until lunchtime at noon. This was prime pool time. The water baked in the sun all morning and was the perfect temperature to cool off after the morning chores. Lunch usually consisted of rice and black beans, salad, and mashed sweet potatoes.
At 1 p.m., we began afternoon chores. Sometimes I would babysit Elvis, the sloth from Memphis, or feed Matthew. Since kinkajous are nocturnal, Matthew would fall asleep inside my shirt (so cute!) after he ate. We also made a swing and some toys for the monkeys and kinkajous. At 3 p.m., the WiFi was turned on and we could connect with the rest of the world for the remainder of the evening. Then, at 6 p.m. we had dinner, and we had a variety of food from nachos to spaghetti and lasagna, usually with a salad. After dinner, we would play card games like Uno and Butt*Head and talked until we couldn’t stay awake anymore.
Not only did we connect with these wonderful creatures (I personally bonded with Matthew, the baby kinkajou), we also connected with other international volunteers from Germany, France, London and Sweden. It was astounding to me to meet people from different parts of the world that shared similar belief systems and values. I even connected with more volunteers from our own group that I had never met before. I will cherish those friendships I made on this trip, as well as appreciate this experience. Before our trip was over, our group took a weekend trip to Puerto Viejo along the Caribbean. We stayed at a hostel that was filled with mosaic tiles all over the walls, benches, and floors. I thought that hostels were going to be scary, but the vibes there were very positive and comforting. We also rented bikes and rode 20 minutes to tour a jaguar sanctuary. On the left side of me, thick jungle; on the right side of me, crystal blue ocean. That was the most beautiful ocean I have ever seen. There is something so calming about such a vast expanse of endlessness. After the jaguar sanctuary, we rode our bikes to a local Caribbean restaurant. Even the food is delicious! I had the best salad with avocado, fruits and chicken drizzled in a Caribbean sauce. We relaxed on the beach for the remainder of the trip before heading back to the states on Sunday. I wish I could have stayed longer. This trip has definitely inspired me to see what else is out there, and to experience as many different cultures as I can.
I had never been out of the States before this trip, and Costa Rica was definitely the perfect country for my first time. If you ever have a chance to travel abroad, I encourage you to take the opportunity! It may change your life.