We've been in Costa Rica for about two weeks now. We've pretty much settled into life at Rancho Mastatal. Every morning I wake up around 6 and go down to the classroom for a bit of yoga. At 7 breakfast is ready – usually pancakes, eggs, fuit, kefir, granola, and pinto (rice and beans). At all of the meals we help ourselves and then can take seconds once everyone has gotten firsts. After breakfast and clean up, we have a morning meeting where we choose which projects we will work on. Some of the things we have helped with so far: making kim chi, making ginger beer, making glasses from bottles, digging up vetiver* for planting elsewhere, turning piles of tierra fermentada (compost that has a lot ofsubsoil added, making light fixtures for one of the houses, planting, working on building the walls for the biodigestor, and probably some other things.
After the meeting we start our morning projects and work until around noon when the sound of the conch being blown lets us know that lunch is ready. The food here is great – during the week a couple of local women do most of the cooking with help from whoever is signed up to help with lunch or dinner. On the weekends, three volunteers/interns etc cook. The food is pretty much all vegetarian, whole foods, as much local as possible. The gardens here are still being started so not a lot of the food is grown on site, but some certainly comes from nearby. While I'm on the topic of food, I must say that every time I eat a piece of pineapple here, I can't believe how deliciously sweet it is. So good!
After lunch we usually take some time to relax/read/nap or hang out in a hammock. Then, back to working on projects. Ray and I are now working on framing the interior walls for the biodigestor toilet. We are using large pieces of bamboo for the posts. Bamboo here grows to the diameter of small trees and it is used a lot in building the frame work of buildings as well as for walls and so many other things as it is really versatile and I think, also, quite strong. I don't really know a lot about building walls or anything, this is a good chance to learn and also to experiment a little bit since there is some room for error and practice. Ray and I are getting lots of ideas for future projects, such as finally building an earth oven, some carpentry (maybe joinery?) projects, and maybe some day using natural building to make ourselves a house. There are plenty of opportunities to learn here.
We usually work until 4 or 5 and then maybe take a shower, perhaps hand wash some laundry, and read/write/hang out until the conch is blown for dinner. At dinner we all gather around the table and people have a chance to say things that they are thankful for. After dinner usually more reading, hanging out, relaxing. By the time dinner is over, it often seems quite late since it consistently gets dark at 6. We are usually reading in bed by 8.30 or 9 and asleep soon after that.
Although we are in a small town without the noise of highways or airplanes, the air is filled with the sounds of frogs, tree frogs, and insects at night. In the morning the birds start again. The rainy season is beginning here. Apparently, this area gets about 12 feet of rain yearly! Lately, most afternoons have clouded over and thunder circulates in the distance. By late afternoon or early evening we have a huge downpour, probably the most torrential I have ever experienced. It doesn't downpour every day, but as the rainy season progresses there will be more and more.
There are so many insects here! I think every day I see an insect that I have never seen before. You have to watch out for the ants. Even the tiny ones bite with a sting that itches after you have pulled them off and squished them. The army ants are amazing to watch. Yesterday we saw a huge number of them scatter, fan out and then re-form into a seemingly endless line. Other insects scattered quickly to get out of their path, but we saw them devour a scorpion that wasn't so fortunate to escape. I haven't come across many scorpions, but the ones I have seen are so strange looking, they seem more like crabs than insects. There are lots of frogs – little black and green poison dart frogs, big (but not ginormous) cane toads, and the frogs that live in the swales and sing loudly at night.
We are slightly disconnected from typical Costa Rican life, but we interact with more people when we get out of the Rancho. I have been teaching Ray to order in spanish at the soda and have been chatting with people here and there. Even so, it is good to be here in a place where we can learn a lot about things that we are interested in and also experience another country, climate, and culture. This trip seems almost the opposite of our bike trip when we were moving on every single day, just the two of us, traveling just to see it all. Here we have a daily routine in one small place, we are around lots of other people doing similar things, and we are putting in a lot of effort to improve and build this place that we are not part of for very long. Sometimes, though, its best to just experience and try to take in as much as we can without trying to figure out what it all means. We are having a really good time, learning a lot and working pretty hard. We've also been having fun with trips to the river, a day of sports and games, and getting to know our fellow volunteers. We hope you all are doing well and we'll continue to let you know how things go! Love,
Anna and Ray
*Vetiver is a grass with roots that can go many feet deep and is great for erosion control which is important here.