Written by Carolyn C. of Head Royce School
Day 10: Tuesday June 24
We woke up that morning slightly earlier than usual (luckily the time had been pushed back a few hours after our pleading the previous night upon hearing the time) to have our luggage ready by around 6. We packed up our things, said good-bye to the rooms we had shared for three nights, and wheeled our bags to the van, where Humberto and Sammy were lashing them to the roof. While they laded our luggage, we gaped at a humongous winged insect perched on the side of the van! It was nearly as big as a fully outstretched hand, which was both awesome and slightly terrifying. Once we ate our last breakfast at the hotel, we set out for our last grand adventure in Costa Rica: surf lessons! Humberto and Sammy played another joke on us: once we had driven a far ways away from the motel, Sammy claimed he had left his phone behind. As we prepared to reluctantly turn around and fetch it, they revealed their deceit. Our trip with them was always sure to contain unexpected surprises!
Once we arrived at the beach, we donned swim shirts and gathered in a circle to listen to their instructions and demonstrations of the surfing positions. The surfing guides showed us the four positions and where on the board we should be on for a successful ride: where and how to lie down and paddle, then push yourself up, then get into a crouching position, and finally stand up. We practiced these four poses on fake boards the surfing guides had artfully drawn for us on the stretch of beach. Once we had practiced enough, we split into two groups and grabbed a board. Then we jumped into the waves. The day was relatively clear (we were used to cloudy days, a precursor of the daily showers of rain) and the dark blue waves were lapping at the edge of the hazy light blue sky. The water was warm, and we floated our boards over the waves while trying to avoid being hit by the breakers themselves. Once we cleared the smaller waves, we met with guides, who helped pull our boards out further as we lay on them, toes curled under our feet ready to jump into action, rocking in anticipation for just the right wave. Soon, our guides instructed us to paddle, and helped swivel our boards around. They held our boards for a few moments, letting the murmurs of water pass under until the precise moment. Then they thrust the board forward. As the wave swelled in preparation to turn into a mass of foam beneath me, I tried to stay balanced as I pushed myself up, crouched into position, and stood shakily onto my feet. It was working for a brief while: I was up, and moving forward as the water pulsed beneath me! Just as quickly as I had found my footing on the board, the ride was over and I fell and skidded into the now shallow water, as the board floated on, stopping when the rope mooring it to my ankle grew taut. Grabbing it up, I headed out against the waves for another attempt, hoping for success.
After a few rides, we swapped our boards with the other group and rehydrated while we watched their first efforts at surfing. We spent a short while watching them stand on their boards and ride toward us, or slipping off the surfboards and splashing into the waves. We cheered them on regardless. The next round of surfing flew by, and although I failed pretty miserably at some parts, the successful runs made it worth it. We spent another hour or so just playing in the waves, enjoying our last few moments in Costa Rican waters splashing around or bodysurfing.
Once we all showered and changed into dry clothes, we began driving back towards our hotel in San Jose. After a few hours on the road making up for lost sleep and admiring the beautiful setting, we arrived at our lunch spot. The first thing you noticed was the view on both sides. The restaurant was perched on a small hillside: on one side were soft, foliage-covered green hills leading up to magnificent blue mountains, cloaked with shreds of white cloud; and on the other side down green slopes was the sea, a soft blue expanse against a ridge of coastline.
With one eye on the Costa Rica match showing that day, we ate our lunch: bruschetta, sweet fruit juice, and whatever choice of main dish you ordered: for me, it was the classic rice, beans, cooked vegetables, and shredded salad I had come to love. While we finished our meal, we marveled at the majestic views, and spotted some more wildlife: a large lizard perched between the restaurant’s red corrugated metal overhangs!
Once we had finished our last lunch in Costa Rica (it was unbelievable how long, yet how short the trip had lasted), we drank in our last glimpses of the gorgeous view and continued our drive on towards San Jose. We ate cookies, napped, and stopped for restrooms, smoothies, and to purchase our last souvenirs. In the late afternoon, it began to rain and water streamed down the sides of the van, turning the countryside into blurs of green. The voyage back gradually became more urban: the road turned from gravel and dirt to asphalt, buildings and even skyscrapers came up, and barely any green or wildlife was to be seen. The only reminder that this whole trip hadn’t been some dream were the blue mountains in the distance, reminding us of all the stunning landscapes and variety of wildlife we had seen.
We arrived at our hotel, glad for the luxuries like hot water, carpeted floors, the absence of insects, and quiet hours, but missing the nature that surrounded us at every turn, the animals and insects that could be spotted unexpectedly in a tree or fluttering through the air, missing the warmth of the people that had surrounded us and shared their food and culture with us, missing all of our experiences, which we would never have again, not in quite the same way.
Even with soft towels and bedspreads and air conditioning, I still missed the turtle outpost, where we slept on thin mattresses among insects and in the humid, hot air, and walked up and down the beach all night looking for a miracle. I missed staying in the hotel, where glimpses of Volcano Arenal were right outside the window. I missed the homestays, where we had the chance to see the lifestyle of locals and be welcomed into their homes. I even missed the motel, where forests of Palm trees stretched out right beneath the common area. Most of all, I missed the memories associated with all of those places: the adventure of protecting and searching for turtles by moon and starlight, surreal boat rides, countless rounds of word games, sitting in hammocks, eating cookies, being surprised, splashing in hot springs, eating bitter and sweet plants, getting soaked in the multiple rainstorms, finding shelter in genuinely kind people, drinking varieties of tropical fruit juice, clambering in bat caves where light was hard to come by, swimming in the warm, salty Pacific Ocean, feeding animals and holding their hands, eating rice and beans, flying through the rain forest, watching soccer, bodysurfing and actual surfing, jokes, homemade food, thunderstorms, double rainbows, baby turtles, and so much more. Those ten days were filled with so many new, terrifying, amazing, beautiful experiences, numerous and unforgettable, and more awesome and serendipitous than words can ever hope to convey. I was so fortunate to have had them. And even more fortunate to have shared them with all the friendly and fun-loving classmates and leaders that had constantly supported each other throughout the trip, whether it was sharing sunscreen, insect spray, food, jokes, advice, or company (or even the remedy for a jellyfish sting).
So in those last few hours in Costa Rica, we explored the rain-soaked facilities, splashed in pools for the last time, and ate our last rice and beans. Before we went off to enjoy the comfortable hotel amenities we no longer took for granted, as we did before the trip, we all met together and sat in a circle in the synthetic grass of a mini-soccer field, and reflected. We passed around our most treasured moments in Costa Rica, the ones we didn’t want to ever forget, and passed around green string with it. Soon, everyone had spoken of their experiences, the breathtaking (the wildlife, the beauty of the world, the baby turtles) and the amusing (Humberto and Sammy’s practical jokes, the rounds of word games) and the heartfelt (bonding with each other, getting to know the host families, the hospitality of everyone we had met). Soon, a web of green string had been woven between us, which we cut into pieces and wore around our wrists and ankles, to carry our memories with us always.
At last, we played our last rounds of word games together before our time in such a varied and beautiful place, with such varied and beautiful people, would come to an end. We fell asleep in the most comfortable beds, where paintings in the hallway detailed houses with red corrugated metal roofs, and our memories of the past several days already began to feel like dreams.