It is hard to believe that I have already completed my first week in Costa Rica. Just this week I have met so many new people, taken a Latin dance class, a cooking class and two Spanish classes, played Spanish “Clue” and “Monopoly”, experienced 11,000’ elevation, visited volcanoes, relaxed in hot springs and overall had what I would consider a very successful first week.

Each morning from 7:30am until noon was spent at PANI Orphanage with about 8 kids, who only speak Spanish, and two other volunteers who had been here for many weeks. This week, the kids at PANI were between the ages of 7-16 and there was one 2-year-old. Though these kids were here this week, that could change next week.  Some of the kids have been at PANI for a few years while some have only been there a few weeks. As much as I would love to share pictures of these great kids, I will not be doing so to protect their privacy. I feel so fortunate to have had the opportunity to volunteer alongside Julie and Dorothea my first week because without their experience at PANI, I would not have had any assistance there with translating. They gave me useful tips such as downloading Google Translate to use when necessary and to start listening to the playlist “Viva Latino” on Spotify which plays popular music that the kids love listening to.  Working with the kids alongside Julie and Dorothea made my adjustment here in Cartago much easier. Their time with CCS Cartago came to an end this weekend which means I will be working with the kids by myself next week.

After our volunteer placement, all the volunteers come back to home-base for lunch then either have free time, a field trip or some cultural activity. On Monday we went on a tour of Cartago and visited the Basilica and a popular food market, Tuesday was our Latin dance class at home-base which was more intense than anticipated, on Wednesday we drove an hour or so to Irazú Volcano National Park and stood at 11,000’ elevation and on Thursday we had cooking class with the home-base where we made empanadas then afterwards the kids from PANI visited to make pizzas.

Just when I thought the week could not be any better, all 8 new volunteers traveled about 4 hours to La Fortuna for the weekend. Saturday some of the volunteers went on a hike of Volcán Arenal while the rest of us toured the town. The whole group spent the rest of the afternoon and night at Baldi Hot Springs which was absolutely amazing. It had water slides, about 25 different thermal water pools and was completely surrounded by vegetation. We all left feeling totally relaxed and ready for bed! The following morning we woke up early to go horseback riding to the La Fortuna Waterfall. I had only been on a horse maybe twice in my life, so to be on horse who was walking up inclines, through mud and water, and galloping through a field was incredible! The ride to the waterfall was about an hour and it felt great to take a break from the ride and enjoy the cold water. What were not that enjoyable were the 500+ steps down to the waterfall and back up again. All of the volunteers were very sore by the time we arrived back at home-base.

My first week with CCS is going to be something I never forget. The people I am surrounded by are so helpful, the food we are served at each meal is delicious, and the memories I have already made make me excited for whatever else is in store. I have to say, the adjustment here might not have been quite the same if my best friend had not traveled here with me. This experience is going to help both of us grow so much and I feel so thankful to have her here with me! I am eager to share more with you next week but until then, Pura Vida!

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