Today Ellen and I are volunteering at a farm two kilometers away from a tiny village nobody has ever heard of, overlooking a national park that no one knows about, two hours away from a small town nobody has bothered to visit. We’ve been pleased to discover it’s exactly what we were looking for when we envisioned this trip.
Right now I’m lying in a hammock, watching a hummingbird chirp at me from six feet away. We’ve done our work for the day and everyone is doing their own thing for the afternoon – Ellen is translating her journal entries into Spanish, I’m blogging, another volunteer is painting the dormitory wall, and the others are probably off reading books or wandering the jungle looking for monkeys.
We start our day at about six thirty in the morning, with chores before breakfast. After breakfast is a quick meeting (conducted in Spanish) to plan the day, and we assign projects to various volunteers based on our skills and interests. Yesterday everyone helped terrace a hill for planting yuccas, and then Ellen and I put screens over the mouths of the pipes in the hydroponic system to stop the pipes getting plugged up with rocks and soil.
Today’s project was clearing leaves from the trail through the jungle, and bagging the leaves to use for mulch. Then Ellen and I made up a barrel of water, molasses, decomposing leaves, compost, and soil from the jungle floor, to propagate beneficial microorganisms to add to the compost pile. We finish the work before lunch and have the rest of the day to ourselves.
All the volunteers take turns cooking meals, using plenty of rice, beans, and fresh fruits and veggies grown on the farm. Most of us are English-speakers, but we try to speak Spanish as much as possible. Some people are volunteering to save money, others want to experience life in another place. One guy got a university scholarship to spend a gap year doing service-related tourism, and another guy comes to this farm every year to volunteer.
I don’t know about spending a season here every year, but right now this farm has everything we need. We’ve seen toucans and monkeys, toads and hummingbirds. We’re working for our keep but paying a small daily fee to cover food costs. We’re not changing the world or saving the rainforests, but we’re experiencing small-town life in Costa Rica, and that’s good enough for me. I could see living happily here for quite some time, but we’ll probably spend a few weeks here and then go see what’s over the next hill, in the next province, or in the next country.