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Acting Director of Service-Learning
Office of Service-Learning
4200 54th Avenue South
St. Petersburg, FL 33711
Costa Rica: Spring Break 08
Traveling to Santa Elena, Costa Rica and doing trail work in the gorgeous Santa Elena Bosque Nuboso (Cloud Forest) was for many of us a transformative experience: some learned how we have grown very used to our creature comforts in the U.S., some learned that we love everything about Costa Rica and will return, some learned about our physical and mental limits, some began to understand the incredible openness that arises when we encounter something new. All of us learned about the rewards and challenges of service.
Most of our time was spent in the cloud forest doing trail maintenance. Carrying sand up trails was both exhausting and rewarding. As we lugged up load after load, we began to see the physical results of working together; while each load of sand was quite small, with twelve of us (plus two or three other volunteers) all working toward the same goal, we could see that we were making a difference on the trails. This, in turn, would help the community of Santa Elena, including the high school, for the cloud forest reserve works in tandem with the community: the community is committed to maintaining the pristine reserve, and the money made at the reserve feeds back into the community. It's a beautiful evocation of the interconnectedness of all things.
Our last day was spent at the high school digging holes (for trees to be planted later) and painting. For many, the tangible results of these activities made this day immensely rewarding. On our time off, we sailed over and through the canopy on zip-lines and visited the gorgeous San Luis waterfall.
All of these experiences were balanced by the time we spent with native Costa Ricans in their homes. For many, these homestays were the most meaningful and profound encounters we had with the culture and people of Costa Rica. Eating galla pinto (sometimes three times a day!) with families, milking goats, touring coffee farms, entertaining babies, and playing cards with 8-year-olds gave us experiences deeper than those we'd have had as tourists.
All of these encounters gave us a sense of connectedness to Costa Rica -- and taught us why so many Costa Ricans answer the question, "¿Como esta?" with an excited "¡Pura Vida!"