During my summer holidays I spent a month in Costa Rica, a Central American country separated from Honduras by Nicaragua, with a volunteering organisation called GVI. The first week was cultural immersion with eight other teenagers from all around the world - we had Americans, Canadians, more Brits and even a Swiss boy. Cultural immersion meant four hours of Spanish lessons a day, salsa class and cooking class and staying with a host family for a week.
This was one of my favourite parts of my whole trip. Staying with the host family improved my Spanish more than the lessons did because my family didn't speak much English so it was up to me to make conversation and pass along information in Spanish. My tican family (tico is a term Costa Ricans use to refer to themselves) were absolutely amazing and I loved spending a whole week as part of their family, with an American girl from my group and two other American students they had staying with them. It was a very busy house!
|My tica parents and roommate Kelly|
After spending a week in Quepos with our host families, we moved to a hostel in the neighbouring hillside town of Manuel Antonio where we were joined by another eight volunteers. The next two weeks were spent doing construction work at a school in a community called Roncador. It was hard work under a hot sun but we got through a massive amount of work, more than anyone expected. We dug drains to stop the playground flooding, cleared, levelled and landscaped an area behind the kindergarten classroom for a new playground for the kindergarten kids, wirebrushed and painted tin panels for a new roof for the GVI English classroom, filled in the holes in the wall with cement and gave the lunch hall, kindergarten classroom, outside wall and English classroom all a fresh coat of paint!
|The playground we made for the kindergarten children|
One day we got to have a sports day with the kids, and while we'd seen them in their lessons and running around during their breaks this was the first time we got to interact with them. They practised their English on us and we practised our Spanish on them, and we got to really meet the people that we were doing all this work for. It reminded us all why we were there, where all our sweat and effort was actually going.
|The English classroom as we left it - complete with GVI mural!|
They day we left the project for the last time after two weeks there was a sad one and I think part of us wished we could stay for another week and do more. I am so proud of what we achieved throughout those two weeks and I know that the difference we have made will have a very real impact on the kids. It gives them a safer, cleaner, nicer learning environment to learn in and be proud of.
After two weeks of hard work we moved into our adventure week! We started with a trip to the Manuel Antonio National Park where we saw everything from monkeys and baby boa constrictors to spiders, lizards and crabs climbing trees and even a sloth! The next day we took to the beach where I learnt that surfing is just as hard as it looks (which is hard!) but about a hundred times more fun!
On the Monday of our last week we left the Quepos-Manuel Antonio area which had been my home for the last three weeks and drove across to the other side of Costa Rica to Turrialba. For our next adventure we went ziplining and abseiling in the rainforest before embarking on a rafting trip down the Rio Pacuare, one of the best rivers in the world for rafting. We spent two days navigating down class III and IV rapids and on the day in between we hiked to an indigenous village.
When it was time to leave Costa Rica, I was heartbroken. It is such a beautiful country, from the stunning landscape to the warm, welcoming people. Costa Rica will always be very special to me, as my first proper experience of travelling, as will the global friendships that I formed there. For now all I will say is pura vida Costa Rica, and you never know, I might make it down to see you while I'm in Honduras!
Now I am back in Scotland and back at school and it's time to start fundraising again! This week in school I'm running a 'Guess the Number of Sweets on the Jar' at school and on Sunday morning I'm hosting a coffee morning at my house to share my stories and photos from Costa Rica.
Costa Rica felt like a mini version of what it will be like in Honduras and it has made the excitement real and given me something solid to look forward to. I can't wait to get further into my fundraising and closer to my year on Honduras!