The past week has been one to remember. I was privileged to spend my Spring Break at La Gran Vista, an organic farm right outside of San Isidro, Costa Rica with 14 others from App State. The trip was an Alternative Spring Break through our university’s ACT office, an on-campus organization that facilitates community service activities. ASB is one of their largest “events” each year and there are student-led trips in several countries throughout Central and South America. I chose Costa Rica 1) because I wanted to go to Costa Rica, and 2) because it was the cheapest trip offered. Since I was studying abroad last semester when all the applications were due, my dear friend Amber and Mom both did a lot of work to help me make the trip happen and to get all my paperwork in on time.
View from La Gran Vista
I didn’t know anyone on the trip – there were two people I’d met briefly before but had never interacted with on any level. I love that – to me it is part of the adventure to go to a new place with all new people. I sincerely believe that you can learn something from everyone you meet, and I love opportunities to bond with people I may not normally hang around with. In an effort to live out my faith in tangible ways, I really want to love on people who don’t know Jesus and I find that when I am intentional about that, he opens and softens my heart to others in ways that I am not capable of cultivating on my own.
My sweet new friends!
We landed in San Jose and were picked up by Leo, a middle-aged Tico (Costa Ricans are called Ticos/Ticas) man who who told us it was a 2 1/2 hour drive to La Gran Vista. I wanted to practice my Spanish, so I sat in the front middle seat and served as Leo’s copilot. Turns out, he lived in Jersey for 12 years and whenever I spoke to him in Spanish, he’d always reply in English. Still, we grew quite fond of each other and by the time we reached the farm 5 (not 2.5) hours and about 100 songs with me as the ipod DJ later, he had expressed to me many times that I was the best and cutest copilot he’d ever had. #winning
La Gran Vista sits on a mountaintop overlooking San Isidro and certainly lives up to it’s name – The Grand View. It is easily one of the most beautiful and serene places I’ve ever been. Donald and Xinia Villalobos are the owners, and they have built a very sustainable life for themselves that is so appealing to me. Their house was so simple but so beautiful; it was made of Bamboo and Eucalyptus trees from the rain forest that surrounded their property and was very open and spacious, allowing the breeze to blow through. It had a sprawling porch and balcony with swings and chairs and no matter what time of day, the temperature was always perfect on that porch. The first day Donald took us on a tour of the farm and showed us where he grew tomatoes, pineapples, papaya, oranges, carrots, lettuce, cabbage, limes, lemons, star fruit, mangoes, peppers, all kinds of medicinal and cooking herbs, and more. We literally picked things right off of the vine or tree and ate them. The meat we ate consisted of pork and chicken, both literally from the backyard, and any eggs we ate were also laid that day by the chickens they had there. They make their own hot sauce, wine, and shampoo as well from the things they harvest on their property and get all their gas to cook and heat their water from bio gas they collect from pig poop – sounds gross but is actually very simple and smart. It was just about the coolest thing I’ve ever seen. Every day we had the most delicious, fresh food that I’ve ever eaten and it was amazing to know exactly where it came from. Donald is very passionate about what he does and I loved learning from him all week.
The world’s greatest patio hangout.
Every day we woke up at about 5:30AM to the sound of roosters and cows, ate breakfast at 7:00, and started working at 8:00. We did serious manual labor every day, such a digging trenches in the rain forest and hand mixing 20+ bags of concrete to fix the driveway. Our typical workday was 8:00AM-12:00 noon, an hour break for lunch and relaxing, then working again from 1:30 – 5:00PM. After dinner, we usually reflected on the day and hung out for a little while before going to bed around 9:00PM completely exhausted. Although we were all worn out and sun-burnt, we had a blast. It felt good to work hard and our group worked so well together and we all sustained such a good work ethic that it was hard not to enjoy ourselves. We had the day off on Wednesday, so Leo picked us up and drove us to Playa Dominical, an awesome beach about an hour away. We started the day by laying around, swimming, getting even more sun-burnt, and eating coconuts straight off of the tree. After that we went to a marketplace full of Rastafarian people and bought a bunch of handmade goods before heading to a waterfall to relax for a little while longer. It was a perfect day. When we arrived back at La Gran Vista, Donald cut up the hugest, juiciest aloe plant I’ve ever seen and we all slathered our cooked skin in the amazing, fresh goo.
Donald and I chopping up some coconuts to eat right off of the tree.
It was apparent from the start that we were going to be a motley crew, full of dynamic personalities and world views all over the grid. This fact was further exemplified on our first night at the farm when we were sitting on the porch talking after lunch and Donald said, “So, what do you guys think about the afterlife?” Now that got people talking. I feel like I can’t say more out of respect for others, but conversations like this continued to grow more thoughtful as the week went on and it was beautiful to see God’s faithfulness which is never.ending.
Playa Dominical, Costa Rica
Donald referred to our planet as a “sinking ship” and asked us what we were doing to save it. The metaphor was as follows – are we doing our part to get water out of the boat or are we otherwise occupied – living it up at the casino, drinking at the bar, playing in the pool, etc. As for me, I think before this trip I was unaware that the boat was sinking. My week at La Gran Vista really changed the way I think about the environment and has really sparked me interest to learn more about being sustainable.
In summary, the trip was amazing. My group was amazing, our faculty sponsor, Debbie, was amazing, and I’d do it all over again next week if I could. Costa Rica is kind of intoxicating – I want to live there maybe more than anywhere else I’ve ever been. I hope one day I can go back!!