I know this post is long overdue, but before catching up to India, I wanted to share a few pictures and stories from my alternative spring break trip to Costa Rica. In March, myself and 13 other Northeastern students traveled to San Marcos de Tarrazu, Costa Rica to serve in an elementary school and to learn more about the fair trade coffee process. As an avid coffee drinker, this was pretty much my dream trip.
After a 24 hour journey (including a 7 hour layover in Mexico City), we arrived in San Marcos and immediately went to sleep. The next morning, we explored the small town we were staying in and we’re lucky enough to be in town for the first annual ExpoCafe, a giant fair celebrating the coffee that comes from Tarrazu. Tarrazu is one of the best coffee regions in the world and they supply a lot of coffee that is consumed in the States at places such as Peet’s and Whole Foods.
After walking around the coffee expo and getting our first taste of Costa Rican coffee, we headed over to Coopedota, a coffee cooperative. We got to pick coffee, learn about how it is dried, how it is roasted, and how to perform a quality control test. It is definitely a lot of work to prepare one good cup of coffee!
We also visited a micro-mill coffee farm run by a man named Roger and his sons. Roger grows all the coffee in his backyard, which also happens to be a side of a mountain, and he and his sons perform the entire coffee picking and drying process themselves. While this was a much smaller operation that at Coopedota, in my opinion, the coffee was even better! Maybe it was the care that Roger seemed to take over each bean that made it so fantastic. Roger and his wife even invited us all into their home to drink his coffee and eat arepas (Costa Rican pancakes – I miss these every day) with them. Their generosity was so incredible. A bunch of us purchased coffee from Roger, but he did not have enough already roasted, so the next day we got to meet him at a local roaster and pick up our freshly roasted beans!
In terms of service, we served for four days at a local elementary school in San Marcos. Every morning, we would wake up and eat breakfast at a local restaurant and then begin the mile long trek uphill to the school. The school board had decided they wanted us to paint their gym, which we gladly obliged to. We sanded all the bleachers down and began to cover the rusted blue paint with a fresh coat of orange. We also painted the soccer goals a bright white and attached new nets to both of them. Lastly, we painted new court lines on the ground. By the end of the week, the gym looked brand new and the looks of the children’s faces when they saw it was very rewarding. In addition to painting, we also got to play with the children in their English and PE classes. I really loved being able to practice my Spanish again since it had grown a bit rusty since being in Ecuador last year.
Saying goodbye to the community was bittersweet, but it also meant we were heading for the coast and Manuel Antonio National Park for a short beach day before heading home. The park was also a sloth sanctuary and we got to see a few lazy sloths in their natural habitat – what strange looking creatures! The beach was beautiful and the water was some of the warmest water I have ever been in. Hiking around the cliffs was a hot and sweaty experience filled with monkeys, iguanas, and beautiful views.
After a week in Costa Rica, it was time to head back to cold Boston and back to class. Even though the trip was just a week, it felt so refreshing to be back in Latin America and back to speaking Spanish. I am now very sure that I want to return to Latin America sometime in the near future for an extended amount of time, maybe for work or research. Pura vida!