A walkabout is a rite of passage- a person will go out into the wilderness to discover his or her identity and purpose, and then return home.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Deets: Costa Rica

Pretty much all of my time spent in Costa Rica will involve volunteering.

I chose to volunteer for the first portion of my gap year, because I felt like 
1) I wanted to spend some significant time giving back (but in a really fun way, which is why I decided on a gorgeous location)
2) volunteering in a foreign country is a great way to begin meeting other travelers 
3) you can't aid sea turtle conservation too late into the year, since the turtles aren't physically present at that point, and 
4) by volunteering through a program, I won't be completely left to my own devices just yet (so it'll be a great way to ease into independent traveling).

I'll be volunteering through a program called Institute of Field Research and Expedition (IFRE).
IFRE is a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization based in Dallas, Texas, USA. We founded IFRE’s volunteer abroad program in 2005 after realizing the need for safe and affordable volunteer abroad programs. So far, nearly 3000 volunteers have participated in our meaningful volunteer programs in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

I chose IFRE for a few reasons.  Most importantly, they offered programs that fit my criteria- looked interesting, involved traveling, had a language component (either French or Spanish, since those are the two foreign languages I sort of know), were long term, and didn't cost a fortune to do.  Additionally, when I looked up reviews of different programs, it became apparent that some organizations were pretty sketchy/scam-like.  Luckily, IFRE's reviews sounded legit.  And when I contacted them, they've been very good about prompt communication and personalization of programs.  There of course were tons of other similar options, but I've been happy so far with how accommodating and helpful IFRE has been. 

Here is a closer look at what I'll be doing through IFRE in Costa Rica:
-I'll arrive in the middle of September, and take a boat to Pacuare Beach (on the Northeastern, Caribbean side) to work in sea turtle conservation for about one month.  At the time of my stay, Hawksbill and Green turtles will be the kinds I'll encounter.  
Yeah, Pacuare's the circled area.  
The living situation sounds sort of intense.  It's a pretty remote beach (you have to take a 30 min boat ride to get there, and that only comes twice a week), with sketchy electricity and no running water.  Apparently (hopefully) 10-15 other volunteers will be there at that point, so I'll have potential friends.  We'll be bunking together in rustic cabins with outdoor toilets, yay.  

Besides chatting it up with fellow travelers, volunteers work between four and eight hours each day.  The types of activities I'll be doing include: night patrols on the beach (mainly to keep poachers/predators away?), egg collection, releasing turtles, working in the rescue center, and other manual labor-type stuff that goes along with living on a remote beach.  Oh, and maybe I'll fit some relaxing into that schedule somewhere.  It is a beach after all....

-Then I'll move from saving turtles on the coast to a more centralized, inland location (Atenas, in the Alajuela region) to work in an orphanage for the remaining few months.
I'll be somewhere within that circle.
This time, I'll be living with a Costa Rican host family (!).  I get stuck with to have a few little brothers in my family there, so I probably won't miss my biological sibling too much- just kidding, Ash.  I won't lie, I'm a bit nervous about living with a family that's not my own.  But I'm excited as well; it'll be a great way to throw myself into the culture, language, and (hopefully) make some lasting connections.

Unlike the turtle project, I'll have a good amount of free time for those two months.  I'll be volunteering at the orphanage for only four hours a day, from 8:00-12:00 Monday through Friday.  I guess some time will be taken up by transportation (since the orphanage I'll be volunteering at is actually located in a neighboring village- a 40 min bus ride + a 20 min walk every day).  And I'm hoping to take some Spanish classes.  But otherwise I get the rest of the day to myself... right now I'm hoping I make some good friends that I can hang out with.  Plus I can always read and write and explore the town.

Right.  Now you know roughly as much about the first few months of my walkabout as I do.

xoxo, Cleome

No comments:

Post a Comment