My routine usually began when I woke up and headed off to start a survey in the pre-dawn darkness. With a head torch lighting my way, I found myself fully waking up as the sun rose and our survey began. At the end of each day, I would get to see a different side of the jungle wilderness, sharing my home with all of the creatures of the night. And in between the sun’s rise and set, there were ample chances for me to improve upon what I knew of the world of science. My knowledge base grew in leaps and bounds, helped by workshops on scientific paper reviews, environmental policy discussions, and a wide range of workshops on cooking, photography, and Spanish lessons.
It was also great that many volunteers also led workshops on a range of topics that they had experience in, such as falconry and botany to name a couple. And, it was such a treat getting to help in the English lessons we taught to the children at the school next to our camp. But life at Camp Osita wasn’t all just work and learning! Our jungle pong tournaments and beach volleyball matches brought us all even closer together. And beyond this, I enjoyed so much my opportunities to go off camp and explore the area by visiting waterfalls, bird watching at the lagoon, walking along the beach, or simply just chilling in a hammock just behind camp (which was obviously essential)!
I learned never to leave camp without a camera. I created over 30 gigabytes of photos and video of my time here! Costa Rica, with it’s incredible amounts of wildlife, completely surpassed my expectations of just how much enjoyment I could get out of nature. Learning how to identify all the local species really added to the experience. By knowing just what species I was looking at helped me to feel completely immersed i the wildlife and the work. Some of the animal sightings I feel most lucky to have witnessed were seeing a green sea turtle nesting and laying a clutch of eggs, as well as witnessing an explosion of sea turtle hatchlings coming out of another nest one night (over 80 little turtles carpeting the beach as they scrambled for the sea). I also encountered families of coatis and monkey troops crossing the road, rare bird species in primary rainforest, and I witnessed four tapirs, coincidentally, after four months of frustratingly only seeing their tracks. And of course, none were so memorable as when we saw a puma munching on a howler monkey just 100 meters from camp. Also incredible was capturing footage of ocelots and a puma on our own camera traps that were set up just behind camp. All of this was so much more than I could of ever hoped for!
And I’ll never forget the meals! I’m such a carnivore at home, but our camp diet is completely vegetarian! Spending six months learning not only to live with this new diet, but also learning how to cook for others without meat, has inspired me to attempt to change my diet when I return home and eat far less meat than I used to. This will undoubtedly be a shock to my friends and family! Some of my favorite dishes we made on camp were the black bean burgers with French fries, re-fried beans with homemade tortillas and salsa, pumpkin soup, vegetarian chili, and curries! Our staff and volunteers had endless imaginations when it came to preparing meals, and again, far surpassed my expectations for what our diet would be (I was prepared for eating nothing but rice and beans everyday)! Suffice it to say that we were well fed at Camp Osita, and there were always plenty of opportunity for seconds helpings!
And of course, it wouldn't have been the experience it was if not for the incredible staff and volunteers with whom I shared this crazy experience with on Camp Osita. It amazes me that people of so many different countries of origin and different kinds of background came together to create what was like a big family! You would think that with so many personality types living and working together day in and day out, that it would be a struggle, but here at Camp Osita, we just clicked. As I came to know each person better and better through all those days living together, I was able to make some incredible friendships that I know will last a lifetime.
My time living in Costa Rica and being part of this project has been an unforgettable adventure, and in a magical place that just kept on giving and never failed to surprise me.
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