Pura Vida!

No, this is not a blog. This is Medium.

It’s a storytelling platform, and that’s exactly what I intend to do. Tell stories. Stories of my adventures in Costa Rica: providing tidbits of intelligence that I may or may not pick up along the way, and hopefully continuing to provide stories even once I return home from my journey in Central America.

Day 1, May 12, 2015.

Despite a suitcase that was 15-pounds overweight and having to hurriedly add an extra carry-on bag to account for my persistent tendency to overpack, I made it to Hartsfield-Jackson right on schedule…two and a half hours before my flight to the home of the ticos.

Pink is definitely my signature color.

Being the overly-social character that I am, I instantly tried to befriend the people I’d be living and learning with for the next three weeks. After a hearty breakfast of McDonald’s washed down with an Arby’s Jamocha shake, we boarded. Luckily, this lanky six foot tall goober was able to swap seats to not only sit next to some friends I had met, but I also got myself an aisle seat. Obviously, an international flight would not be complete without an in-flight viewing of Interstellar (s/o Amanda Vargas). Upon arrival in San Jose, the pilot informed us that despite being 25 minutes early, construction at the Juan Santamaria Airport would force us to exit out of the plan onto the tarmac.

Yes, the man in the center is reppin’ Morehouse State.

We were all desperate to evacuate the horrific stench that was overwhelming the cabin of that tiny Delta plane. At the “it’s tough to be a bug” show at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Orlando, a stink bug farts into the audience and because the show is 4-D, the audience smells an artificial (albeit still disgusting) fart — that’s what we were escaping…plus that charming stale pee smell that lingers by the onboard bathrooms. We walked down the portable staircase onto the tarmac and boarded a bus to the main terminal.

artsy or nah?

We packed onto the bus like sardines (or a more relatable example, like sweaty college students fighting at Tate for an Orbit bus at 12:10 on a hot Wednesday afternoon in Athens). Arriving in the airport, we trudged through immigration and customs until finally exiting the airport onto a charter bus. However, let me describe to you my professor — Dr. Spenser Simrill. Spenser is an intriguing fellow. I had him as my English professor last semester, but his teaching style definitely qualifies as unique. He provides visions of grandeur peppered with specific, minute details to help you bring an idea or a concept to life — mainly through imagery (at least that’s our focus on this trip).

Cat: seeing the world through the point of view of a child.

Amidst his expertise, it’s easy to get caught up in his goofy personality, but the man is a wicked genius. Especially when it comes to photography and cinematography. Just outside the airport, this man whips out a case of cameras and lenses of all sorts of sizes and resolutions and simply hands them out to student volunteers. Not only does he provide students with the opportunity to succeed, he trusts us to. We board our charter bus and prepare for a four-hour drive through the Cordillera de Tilaran. I’m currently training to be a staff member for a camp for incoming first-years at UGA called Dawg Camp, and our training director, Allie, is on the trip with me. The two of us sit in the two raised seats in the back of the bus.

Halfway on our ride to UGA’s campus in Monteverde, we stop off at a coastal restaurant for a late-afternoon lunch. Ignoring everything I once believed about foreign water and seafood, I drank local tap water and shrimp and rice. Feeling just fine for now…I’ll be sure to keep you updated on my status. With the cameras Spenser gave us, we explored the surrounding areas, as well. We encountered a herd of lizards by a bridge near the restaurant, and then explored the beach across the street.

We photographed average family’s enjoying a mid-day trip to the beach. The black sand had a fascinating texture that I hadn’t ever experienced before. The sand was finely grained and my tennis shoes sank to my ankles with every step. Soon enough, the entire group was walking around this beach taking selfies, playing in the waves, and embracing the sweltering heat of a sun that we were now much closer to. Boarding the bus again, we began a treacherous climb to UGA’s campus. Little did we know that the roads we would traverse were roads that were technically not safe for us to traverse on a bus. BUT WE DID IT ANYWAY.

Sure, the wind blowing up the mountains was an added challenge to a bus already attempting to navigate hairpin turns on a single lane road. To make matters worse, the driver had to slam on his brakes on a steep incline down one of the various hills we climbed up because a tree had fallen in the middle of the road. No need to fear — Spenser Simrill was here. Spenser and the driver moved the tree out of the way, and we continued our journey up and down a seemingly endless series of unpaved mountain “roads.” They’re basically just unpaved sidewalks at this point. It was all worth being jostled from my nap when I saw the brightest, most vivid rainbow I’d ever seen. I SAW BOTH ENDS. This was some Lucky Charms-Skittles stuff. I was literally kilometers away from tasting that damn rainbow.

literally kilometres.

The rainbow ended up being our welcome party to our arrival at the UGA campus in Monteverde. We got off the bus in a casual rainstorm and a mass of college students gathered on the porch of the student center desperately ravaging for the slightest morsel of wifi. Thankfully, we were all able to tell our parents that yes, we were in deed alive and well in Costa Rica. I unpacked my luggage into my “spacious bungalow,” yes, my “spacious bungalow.”

Dinner was more rice, yeehaw. But the hot chocolate was as good as advertised. It gets dark frighteningly quick in the rainforest — no joke, it was visible light when I left my “spacious bungalow” and thirty seconds later it was pitch black outside. After dinner, we met up in a classroom for an introductory orientation session to learn about the campus itself. Yes, there are pumas. And jaguars, apparently. And also some kind of viper that’s super deadly. THANKS UGA :-)

Finishing the night, a group of me and my newfound friends walked through the pitch black rainforest to the rec center for ping pong and foosball (and more wifi). Sure, the violent windstorm outside has knocked out the power 18 times already (and counting), but I’m about to study what I love in the actual rainforest. How could I ever complain? Or even consider complaining?

My “spacious bungalow” is calling my name, so I hope those of you that follow my story enjoy and continue to read my writing even when I return to the states. They’ll only get better from here.

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