Tag Archives: Volunteer Costa Rica

My time at Romelia by Ida, 19 years old, Sweden

My time at Romelia

When I first came to Costa Rica, it was January, and about minus five degrees where I came from (Celsius, of course, I am afraid I am not to skilled with the Fahrenheit system). I had been flying for thirty-six hours, and our luggage was two hours late. I was exhausted. But the second I stepped outside of the airport and felt the heat hit me like a tidal wave I felt right at home. After two weeks of Spanish Studies in San José, we went off to Romelia. After the bus- and ferry ride to Montezuma we were met up by Martin who showed us the beautiful way to Romelia, our heavy backpacks carried by the horse in the striking sun and heat, along with the beaches. We arrived at Playa Grande, a several kilometers long strip of sand, on one side surrounded by palm trees and jungle, on the other of the vast Pacific Ocean. I have been here for more than three weeks now, and even though I remember getting here as if it were yesterday, it feels like much more time has passed. The days easily grow into each other and start feeling like one, in a right way, because stress is a non-existent phenomenon here. We get up; we have breakfast, we work, we have lunch, we hang out at the beach or walk the beautiful but sandy path back to Montezuma for some wifi, we work again, hang out in the hammocks, have dinner, we go to bed. I cannot explain how calm I am compared to when I left Sweden six weeks ago. Everyone here is so friendly and helpful, and I don’t know how many times I have laughed until my stomach has ached, making fun about how stressed and annoying people are back home compared to here or to the monkeys (these specifically are called white-faced monkeys, and they are our closest neighbors) constantly waiting in the trees for the moment to strike and search our bags for food. Luckily I haven’t lost anything to the little white-faced thieves spare my granola bars that day I forgot to close my bag.
Today, on the nineteenth of February as I sit writing this at the kitchen table, I never want to go home. The rhythm you fall into here is so calm, and being here, so far away from home, working in nature all day has made me realize so much about myself. Also, I think I’m about to finish my seventh book any time now. Right now, we are six volunteers here. Me, my friend Emma who I went from Sweden with, another Swedish girl, a Spanish couple and a guy from Belize. It is amazing how completely different cultures meet and how we all get along anyway, with some fascinating discussions on the way. It also feels so good to do something different, to not just go on vacation somewhere and be served by people, but to work yourself in a country completely different from your own. This morning we, for example, picked up plastic from the beach and even if it doesn’t make a big difference, it is so much better than not to do anything at all. I also have fallen in love with Montezuma; it is so close to these million beautiful places that we can explore on our days off. I wish I could completely describe what it is like to hear the sound of the ocean every hour of the day, to be woken up by howler monkeys at four thirty in the morning or what it feels like to open coconuts with your hands or walk along the beach into the sunset. If I were to describe this place with one word, it would be genuine. But it cannot be described; it must be experienced.

Ida, 19 years old, Sweden

Food for Thought: How Romelia Changed the Way I Prepare and Buy Food by Jenn Adams

The most noticeable thing missing in the kitchen of Romelia is something that most people take for granted – a refrigerator. The most notable item in the kitchen is the wood stove.  Without electricity, Romelia is without common appliances that I was used to using back home and after taking on the role of fill-in cook when Antonia has her days off, I had to adapt to the way I prepared food – both in the way I cooked it (using only the wood stove) and the amount (no refrigeration means that leftover food goes to waste). Also, due to our location and lack of accessibility, our fresh produce is delivered weekly, our dried and canned goods delivered monthly. This means that we need to use all produce before they go bad, be conscientious to budget food for each meal, and decrease excess food in order to decrease our amount of waste.

This is vastly different to the way most see and experience food and cooking. Because of refrigeration, there is less concern with excess food, which can be saved, and vegetables and fruits can be used at leisure as it’s shelf life is extended. Also, due to the accessibility and ease in which one can buy and obtain food, there is no need to use only what one has to create a meal.

When I returned to the US after my first Romelia experience, I was shocked at the amount of food in my family’s kitchen. It seemed as if my mother had stockpiled food for the month and yet we would still go to the store to buy food to cook a meal we were “craving.” Although I enjoyed my break from rice and beans, I still tried to carry on the habits I had learned at Romelia. I cooked only what I needed, made sure to use all produce in a timely manner, and used what I had before buying more.  I decreased my waste and also saved money. I think that this experience has made a lasting effect on my life, a lesson that can be applied to more than just food, and that is, “Waste less and use what you have before buying more.” Jennifer Adams

No blender, we use a hand grinder
No blender, we use a hand grinder

IMG_1551 image

wood stove
wood stove
fresh picked beans
_MG_2172 fresh picked beans

 

Thinking about joining the family at Romelia, just do it. You will not regret it.

Originally when asked to write a blog for this week at Romelia, I was going to title it “Work Hard, Play Hard” and it was going to be about all the fun activities that we do when we are not saving sea turtles.  But things around here change so suddenly and some bad news from back home in Australia has forced me to say good-bye to Romelia in a few short weeks.  This has left me to sit here and reflect over my time here at Romelia.  

When I arrive back home, I am sure to have people ask that big question… “How was your trip?” However, I am starting to realize that it is impossible to sum up my experience in a few words.  Although I have only just reached the intended half way point (3 1/2 months) of my Costa Rica experience, I can safely say that I have had some incredible experiences that I am never going to forget.

Like the first time I saw a sea turtle lay a nest, releasing hatchlings into the ocean, the fun times here with friends, having both a beach and a jungle almost all to ourselves, visa runs to Nicaragua, the nicknames, great food, long crazy nights, and sun-filled chilled out days.

It is crazy for me to think that right now I am laying in a hammock in a hatchery that I helped build, watching over sea turtle eggs that we all have worked so hard to protect during countless long nights with intense amounts of coffee, which we then release to the ocean like proud parents.

Of course there are times and things that you miss about home while you are here like family or friends or even more importantly…. A huge barbecue, cold beers, and hot showers.  Coming from an Australian who has an indescribable love for barbecues and spends half his time thinking or talking about how much I want a steak with cheese, it is pretty obvious that Costa Rica and Romelia must be pretty special if I am willing to sacrifice it all to be here.

My time here at Romelia might be ending early but there is not a thing that I would change (apart from waiting until my plane ride to Costa Rica to begin learning Spanish).  As with anything, it’s not so much about what you are doing but who you are doing it with.  The volunteers, field assistants, managers, staff and the various other people that I have met on this trip are responsible for my amazing time here.

I want to say a huge thank you to everyone and I look forward to having you all visit me for a barbecue on my houseboat in Australia.  Also to anyone reading this thinking about joining the family at Romelia, just do it. You will not regret it.

Adios!
Luke (Also known as Kinka or Mowgli)

Tropical Adventures Field Trip to Romelia

Montezuma is known by many as a very calm and relaxed, yet vibrant and vivid surfer’s town on the western coast of Costa Rica, situated on the peninsula de Nicoya, in the Puntarenas Province.

It is relatively unknown, however, that from Montezuma, a 45-minute hike along the beach and through the jungle, brings adventurers to our enthralling “Romelia Sea Turtle and Conservation Project.” In this particular project, volunteers care for and protect sea turtles, carry out beach cleanings, participate in our brand new mammal observation and research project, learn about the broad variety of wild animals and help in the onsite vineyard and greenhouse.

In order to gain a lucid idea about what’s happening out there, and how our appreciated volunteers are enjoying this place, it is essential to visit the project now and then. With this in mind, we planned a field trip a few months back to go and see the project for a couple of days.
Last Saturday we packed our backpacks with flashlights, pocket knives, and some victuals. We put on some firm hiking shoes and went off to this tranquil place, in which both our project coordinators and volunteers — along with many animals including turtles, monkeys, and iguanas — feel at home.

After a long trip from Hojancha to Montezuma, and an astonishing but dark hike along the coast, we arrived at the Romelia project around 8:30 in the evening. The Romelia staff had made us some delicious dinner which we ate before we went to bed around 09:30 pm.

The next day we had to be fresh and fruity for the beach patrol walk at 05:15 in the morning. Unfortunately, February is not the season for turtles to lay eggs in the Romelia region and thus we were left with merely a stunning sunrise at the beach. We returned to the lodge in the jungle, in which our volunteers read and do research about the various species living in Romelia. To our delight, breakfast was already made.

After breakfast, Jennifer and Antonia showed us their pool. Jenn is our research assistant and Antonia is one of our current volunteers. Although, “pool” is genuinely underrated; it was more like a crystal blue natural pool with a small waterfall surrounded by a distinct range of tropical trees and plants. Not to mention the howling monkeys, the thumping butterflies and other local residents.

Subsequently, the volunteers together with the local family guided us through the jungle via a mammal trail. At the end of the path, the volunteers had attached a camera to a tree which starts snapping photos when there is little motion in front of the camera. Such a camera is perfect to track which species of the colourful jungle call home. When we arrived at the “camera tree” we saw proof of the fact that their research program was fruitful, since the counter on the camera increased from 27 to 81 photos.

We got so excited that we went almost running back to the main lodge where we plugged the camera into one of our laptops.

What we then saw was just marvellous. The camera had made several photos during the night of a deer and a tempesquinte, which is a beautiful coyote-like animal. Thereafter, we sure enough had to roll up our sleeves and assemble wood from the beach and bring it to the kitchen, as it is used to cook with. After a hearty and “rico” (commonly used for “delicious” in Costa Rica) dinner, we learned some more about the research project and did another beach patrol. Again, we did not succeed in finding turtles or turtle eggs but the bright, starry sky was certainly more than worth the walk.

 

After a good sleep, the next morning we helped clean the beach and headed back to Hojancha. Altogether, being at the Refugio Mixto Nacional de Vida Silvestra Romelia was a life-changing experience and a place which I can’t wait to visit again. In case you have the same feeling after reading this blog, check out our Montezuma Sea Turtle Program!

By Bram Voets, Marketing Intern