I got home from my trip at 2 am this morning. After 10 days away from home and family, everything’s a little bit strange, both familiar and different, and already there’s a lot I miss about Costa Rica and its friendly, relaxed people. Before I get into reflections about my trip, I wanted to update everyone about what my trip was like. During the trip, it was a little hard to blog because the wifi connection was unstable at times, but I did write a brief overview of each day in my journal.

Day 1: Impressions and expectations. 7/14/17
“The blanket of cotton-candy clouds that has smiled upon us from the morning is replaced now with a dense blue-gray. The earth below, speckled with red-roofed homes, waits in anticipation for the sweet July rain. Petrichor, teasing.” -Sights from the airplane.
Not much done today; arrived at SJO airport (in Alajuela) around 2 pm and got to know my roomie Juliet a little (SoCal buds!). We then ate some super rico casado tipico at Bosco’s with group leader Rachel, and 5 of us travelers hung out while waiting for the group flight to arrive. At Hotel Pacande, we had fun eating pizza (cut into meters, which was surprising) and playing “psychiatrist” with country director Esteban.

Day 2: 7/15/17
After a light, healthy breakfast at the hotel, the whole group piled into a bus and our driver Ricardo drove us to RPT. During the 5.5 hour drive, we chatted with new friends, ate mamones chinos (similar to lychees), looked at sunbathing crocodiles, and enjoyed gorgeous views and heavy rain. Once at the Reserva, we saw capuchin monkeys and walked through a jungle to the nearby Playa Tortuga, which was absolutely breathtaking and so peaceful. Untouched and unparalleled. Pura vida!

Day 3: 7/16/17
Pretty relaxing day at the Reserva. Oscar gave us a brief run-down about the work researchers do, and we visited the hatchery (where sea turtle eggs are) and went to the beach to receive instructions about sea turtle monitoring, which we’d do each night. Later, researcher Adrian talked to us about birds and sharks. Finally, from 7-9, I went on a beach walk to search for turtles with a group of 4 and our guide Deivi.

Day 4: 7/17/17
Morning croc monitoring on the Terraba River, where we spotted 11 crocs and even got to measure some tracks they left behind on a small mudbank. Later, I went with Adrian to collect data from a small shark sample (baby hammerheads). I learned that it is important to collect data about all animals, even dead ones like the sharks, because the data shows the status of the population (size, sex, etc), which affects other wildlife in the ecosystem. During free time, we went to Playa Tortuga to play a competitive game of soccer during a heavy downpour (score: 3-2). Finally, I accompanied Jorge and a small group to another turtle walk from 9-11.

Day 5: 7/18/17
Today we visited the local store and I bought helado y yucachitas, so good. I went on a short mammal walk with Adrian in the afternoon, then a longer reptile walk with Oscar at night. We saw more capuchin monkeys, a small snake, frogs, and agoutis. I also went on the latest turtle walk from 12:30-3:30 with guide Bryan. It was the most beautiful starry night and we took pictures of the Milky Way, saw bioluminscent plankton, and learned Costa Rican slang like mae and tuanis.

Day 6: 7/19/17
In the morning, the group learned about RPT’s Blue Flag environmental education initiative, then participated in a beach clean up. It was a pretty free day since it was our last at the Reserva, and everyone played ping pong and card games (there was a particularly intense game of Sabotage). At night, we had a fiesta de despedidas (goodbye party) with a lot of food, music, and dancing. Although reluctant to join at first, I ended up having a lot of fun. At 10 pm, the party abruptly ended when we heard that Javier, one of the guides, had found an olive ridley sea turtle on the beach! Everyone, still in their pretty party dresses and clothes, ran to the beach through a chest-deep river (high tide) and saw the turtle and her 109 eggs. I stayed until 1 am on my last turtle walk with Bryan and a couple others.

Day 7: 7/20/17
Bittersweet day. Breakfast, last minute clean up, and goodbyes with some of the most dedicated and informed people I met at the Reserva. Throughout spontaneous dance lessons, interviews for my documentation project, and cooking with Gaby, Landy, and Em in the kitchen, I was able to quickly adjust to the Reserva, which became a very special home to me. So much to miss. After our drive down to La Cusinga Eco lodge, we swam in the waterhole and played mafia as the thunder rolled over the Pacific coast.

Day 8: 7/21/17
Busy day on the beach. We hiked to the reef at 5 am, learned how to surf (more like attempted to) with Uvita 360 (at Marino Ballena National Park), and swam at a small secret beach. Beautiful all around. Missing my friends over at RPT.

Day 9: 7/22/17
During our drive back to Alajuela, we stopped at a soda to eat lunch and went souvenir shopping at El Jardin. Back at Hotel Pacande, we went grocery shopping and shoe shopping, then had a delicious dinner of quesadilla especial at Bosco’s. Late at night, a couple of us got together to talk and reflect on our experiences, share snacks, and watch movies. I went to sleep around midnight, full of thoughts.

Day 10: 7/23/17
3 am wake up for the airport. I couldn’t help but cry as I said goodbye to Rachel and some of the new friends I’d made. It’s been such a wild ride. More updates to come.