Average Day as an ASTOP Volunteer

None of us really knew what to expect when we arrived in Parismina, but each of us quickly caught on to the routine of the daily life of an ASTOP volunteer. Each morning, the ten of us gathered for breakfast around 8am. This meal usually consisted of hot chocolate, eggs, melon, bread, and beans/rice. Following breakfast, we participated in activities such as building our own turtle nests and taking a boat tour around the island. This period of time also served as a work session in which we helped organize waste at the recycling center and cleaned debris from the beach.

Lunch began at 12pm every day. Typical lunch food consisted of some type of meat, rice/beans, cucumbers, tomatoes, and sometimes plantains. They even served us hamburgers and french fries one day! Typically, we had a little free time after lunch. Some of us chose to go to the beach, others laid in the hammocks at the hostel, and many of us walked around the town just to explore. The afternoons also provided time for us to help ASTOP keep the beaches clean, and there was one afternoon which we interacted with the children. Playing soccer with them was by far one of the best experiences I had while in Parismina.

Dinner came around 6:30pm each evening, and the foods were much like the items we were served for lunch. Turtle patrol began promptly at 8pm each night. (I love my sleep, so I went on the 8-midnight shift each night. However, we had some true adventurers who took the challenge of a midnight-4am shift!) During each shift, we would walk a few miles up and down the shoreline. We were asked to wear dark clothes, closed-toe shoes, and to refrain from using flashlights. At times, it was nearly impossible to see more than 10 feet in front of us because it was so dark. The nights that it rained made visibility (and trekking through the sand) much more difficult.

All in all, this was a great experience that most people won’t have the pleasure to take part in. I saw a total of 3 turtles in Parismina, and that made the strenuous, nightly walks well worth it. If anyone decides they would like to visit Parismina, my number one piece of advice would be to bring a poncho/jacket that can tolerate torrential downpours! And don’t expect to have a meal that doesn’t include rice and beans.

Jackie

Costa Rican Clocks Run Slower

A big part of the United States’ culture is time. Americans are obsessed with knowing where to be and when. I think I can speak for most everyone in our group when I say we experienced a culture shock with regards to how Costa Ricans view time. In both Parismina and La Fortuna, the natives seemed laid back, relaxed, and never rushed. It did not appear that anyone was concerned when activities would run late or when we began later than the anticipated start time. The time-related situation that made me the most anxious was when John, Katy, Caitlyn, and myself waited at our hostel in La Fortuna for nearly an hour before our transportation arrived. Luckily, Caitlyn and John were able to communicate with the locals, assuring that we could go horseback riding as planned.

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Here’s a photo of Katy on the horseback ride to the waterfall.

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Caitlyn, John, and myself swimming in the La Fortuna waterfall.

Other instances that made us nervous for time were shuttle buses and public transportation. Many of the students had never utilized public transportation, and we soon discovered it isn’t an easy task, especially when traveling in a group of ten people. We all learned to relax a little in order to adjust to their laid back personalities, but it was definitely a challenge for some of us.

 

Jackie

Relaxing in La Fortuna….kinda (Tyler Wallin)

The final stage of our journey was our real ‘spring break’ in  La Fortuna.  It was supposed to be a great time of fun and relaxation…. well that not exactly how it turned out haha. 

We all wanted to do different activities, from caving to horseback riding and rappelling.  We divided into three groups and all tackled different adventures.  

Dr. Jellen, Maggie, and myself all went caving in the morning.  It was an amazing experience.  I never thought I would be caught dead in a tiny carven half full of water over 100 feet below ground, but guess what there I was…

We saw some amazing formations, insects, and creatures.  Maggie even conquered on of her created fears, spiders.  We posed with a giant rock papaya and even saw some bats.  And when we emerged we were in the middle of a jungle?  It was a great adventure and I wish more of us could have experienced it.  

La Fortuna is a great little town.  Its a little touristy, but it is still a great place to experience a part of Costa Rica.  My personal favorite part of the town is the plaza in the center of town that leads up to the church.  On the clear day you can stand at the east end of the plaza and look up the 2 blocks of the park to the church and see the grand Arenal Volcano.  Unfortunately, we did not have the chance to see this.  We still had a great 2 days.  I don’t want to be repetitive.  I’m sure everyone else is raving about it.  I’ll just post some pictures and let you see for yourselves.  

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We were tricked…

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Jackie rappelling like a pro

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She really was kinda scared!

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She wasn’t really upset, but this was the greatest face ever!

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So… in the stores in Costa Rica they kinda like to use bright colors… just a little!

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The fountain in the middle of the plaza, and their Peace Pole!

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The church… see the volcano in the background… oh thats right its cloudy

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The church and the plaza.

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The local art gallery.

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We had to get a group picture! Nice red crocs hahaha!

Day 5–Double Duty

This morning I felt like a million bucks. It’s astounding what a full night’s sleep will do for you.

We did beach cleanup this morning and fixed more posts. It was less than 2 kilometers this time (roundtrip). At the very end, we saw an estuary or where the river meets the ocean. It was neat. The coolest thing though was seeing a puffer fish. It had washed up on the beach, the night before. The locals call it a “toadfish”. I believe it because the toads here are the size of tennis balls.

During lunch, it poured. The food was great as always though.

After lunch, there was another beach cleanup. We just collected trash. There was everything from flip-flops to straws to a kid’s princess toothbrush.

Tonight, I enjoyed walking on the beach one last time. It rained, but I was prepared with my poncho. I got to see two sea turtles. One was just finishing up nesting and had been found by the other group (from 8-12), so no one in our group really counted it. The other was just a little farther and she was just starting to nest. This was my favorite turtle because Lauren and I got to help collect her eggs and Tyler took a picture of her.

Kristin

Day 4–River Tours and Soccer Tournaments

We woke up early this morning and took a boat tour. It was very peaceful. I loved looking out over the water into the jungle. On the tour, we saw caimans, howler monkeys, toucans, bats, and many other birds.

Afterwards, we went to the school to pass out school supplies. The kids were very cute.

Then, we gave donations to the soccer team. They let us play a game of soccer with them. I loved it. I haven’t played soccer before, so I basically amounted to a moving obstacle for the kids to get past.

To relax after our workout, we all went to get fresh coconuts and smoothies. I tried a fresh coconut. It was really good.

Tonight, I slept! No turtles for me. I picked a good night because it rained the entire time.

Kristin

Helping Out

Our whole trip was not just about the turtles. During the day We would pick up trash on the beach, and replace post that are use to determine where you are when patrolling. We also went to deliver school supplies to the grade school and the high school. We really enjoyed seeing the kids. The little ones were really excited when we showed them the dry erase boards we bought for them. There is still more. We brought down soccer equipment, and played soccer with the kids. The coach really appreciated this, and used us as role models for the kids. He wanted them to see that you can get an education, help others, and have fun just like we were doing. Another project we helped with was working in the recycling center. We learned that Parismina has no means of removing trash or getting rid of their recycling. The trash gets burned or buried, and the recycling sits in bags in a vacant building. They say they are close to finding a solution, but in the mean time two women on the island try to keep everything bagged an organized for when that day comes.

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Replacing post

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Visiting the grade school

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visiting the high school

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Showing the soccer equipment. The coach will keep everything and pass out what is needed during games and practices. This is just to make sure the equipment stays nice and does not get lost.

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Recycling center. The bags are bigger and taller than we are.

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Bagging everything up!

—-Maggie M.—-

Day 3–Turtle Time

Today, we went on beach cleanup duty. This was no ordinary beach cleanup. It was like a type of boot camp. We walked 9.4 kilometers replacing posts that mark distance and where guides bury the turtle eggs. We made it all the way to the mouth of the river. It was very beautiful.

Tonight, I did turtle watch from 8-12 with John, Maggie, Tyler, and Dr. Capron. There was no moon, so there was no light. I forgot the number one rule ofCosta   Rica—always bring your poncho. That’s right, it poured and we all got drenched (except for Maggie who was smart enough to remember her rain jacket). Because of the rain we sprinted through the jungle and away from the beach, after our guide. After we made it through the jungle to a trail, we heard a howler monkey growl from behind us (At the time we didn’t know what it was, so it was a lot more creepy). We made it all the way back to the airstrip, when it stopped raining. Then, we headed back onto the beach. Finally, we saw a huge turtle preparing her nest. She was very methodical in her work. As soon as the guides were done working with her, we had to leave so that way we would not attract the attention of poachers. So, one guide led us back toward the hostel and the other headed away from us to bury the eggs.

It was by far the most eventful day and night yet.

Kristin