My dear Beard,
Volunteering at La Tortuga Feliz – a Sea Turtle conversation program in Costa Rica is one of the highlights of my trip around the Americas. Here are 5 lessons I’ve learned from that:
- No internet, let’s talk to each other
There’s no internet access, very limited electricity, no telephone, no shops or restaurants at the place I was. In fact, just only 30 people who living around. So that means no Facebook, media news, emails, Skype, Whatsapp… for a while. On the first day I felt strange when I looked at my smartphone, which was totally useless there. But then I got used to it and felt so free. Everyday after work, I lay in the hammock and read real books, wrote my journals, played with local kids. More importantly, I spent time to actually talk with people around. I had so many great conversations with Megan, Elise, Kelly, Max… about everything in life. It was awesome!
- Be friend with nature
La Tortuga Feliz is situated at a beautiful isolated beach and right behind the project begins, what people call, The Amazon of Costa Rica, a mangrove rainforest, rivers, canals and lagoons. They form a unique area to visit and one can only get there by motor boat. I slept in a beach hut with 2 other girls and lots of mosquitoes that came to visit us at night. It takes only 1 min to walk from our place to the beach, so I could hear the sound of the waves all day.
I ate healthy yummy organic food prepared by local women. I drank coconut juice and had some local fruits.
I breathe fresh air everyday.
- Overcome my fear
When in the jungle of Costa Rica, I was facing one of my biggest fears: dark ocean.
The night was dark after 6pm, very limited electricity so everything just so dark and quiet, except the sound of the sea. I always feel uncomfortable and unsafe when looking at the ocean at night, I can’t see it clearly and I think the waves will eat me. But I had to face that fear because our works at the project mostly start at night time. Long nights were spent patrolling through torrential rains and across debris-strewn beaches, rough waves crashing all around. Long other nights were spent watching the hatchery until dawn.
One stormy night I had to stay at the hatchery from 2 to 6 am, facing the angry beach, thunder, lightning and big waves came up. I was scared as hell for the whole night and tried to talk non-stop with my co-volunteer. And then the sun finally had rised, the storm had gone and I was okay.
I found out that the dark ocean actually didn’t bother me as much as I expected. I feel better and stronger.
- Watching my mind
What I loved the most was the chance to spend time watching my mind. I live in a culture that teaches me how to be an expert at watching and judging other people but myself. I was so busy of talking with people about their problems somewhere, instead of talking with myself about my problems right here.
Watching my mind was an interesting process. I really met and talked with my happiness, my sadness, my fears, my pain, my love, my past, my present, even my future, etc. I realized what I thought was pain wasn’t really pain after all. I realized I always grow up in my loneliness. I learned how to deal with the feeling of being left behind. I learnt how little I should distract myself when I felt uncomfortable or upset. I realized forgiving is a gift.
And I realized how much I miss my beloved ones.
- Fighting like a turtle
One day, I saw baby turtles hatched. They looked so weak and small, but they were actually strong enough to make their way the ocean. Only one over 1000 of baby turtles will survive with the surf, the rocks, the bigger fish, etc. But the baby turtles still go, gracefully angle into the waves, and pop up in the exact same spot, then the water just washed over their backs.
Next time when I face with a major wave in life, I would do the same what sea turtles do: don’t fight the wave, but stay steady and let it flow over, then believe in myself to be strong enough to come out to the other side.