Manuel Antonio

I gently tipped my coffee mug back and forth, watching the leftover grounds crash against the ceramic walls in the miniature wakes. A fellow trainee walked into the kitchen of our jungle house hostel and we all, for a brief moment, had a the same thought be fleetingly reflected in our bloodshot eyes: how on earth is it only 5 am? We were all accustomed to the Tico way of waking up early, but even this would be considered preposterous by the natives. As we sat watching the sky brighten with the new day, I marveled at how quickly humans can adapt socially. I’ve only known these people, who in that moment were slouched in hammocks, cracking discolored jokes, and nursing weak and watered-down coffee, for a month and a half. Yet we have become as close as the myriad of lush emerald leaves that composed the landscape just beyond the hostel’s bamboo railings. Glancing around the table, taking in our disheveled appearances, it was hard not to think about the quick friendships that were grounded in the fact that we were thousands of miles away from everything we thought we knew. At this point in the Peace Corps journey we had all gotten over the initial discomfort of transition: wearing chanclas at all times to stave away illness, feverishly ironing every article of clothing  in our possession, tolerating overt racist comments towards Nicaraguans, endlessly long days of CORE and Tech training. Everyone of us had taken a great leap of faith in accepting to spend two years of our lives in a country and program we barely understood, and experience would (over time) reveal itself to differ greatly from the drab two-hundred character job descriptions emailed to us while we were still living in the States. Walking through the National Reserve we saw sloths, monkeys, tepezcuintle, all wild and yet somehow domestic by their simple coexistence with the tourists ambling along the paths with us. As the sun loitered in the humid and heavy sky as we was idled along the trails, the subtle reality of how little time we had left together sank in. Talks and promises of future visits and plans manifested as we drank, ate and played along the tropical shoreline. We silently sat under palms trees in futile attempts of keeping our backpacks dry as the rain and lighting began to shift and stroke the billowing clouds above. Night fell yet the sensation of imminent change rigidly remained on the horizon. During the night we danced in the sickly yellow lights surrounding the hostel. We experienced the reveal of hidden characteristics of each other, leading to  the rapid solidification of friendships or permanent acquaintances. We were holding on to each other ferociously because we were trying to feverishly hold onto the last bit of commonality we saw mirrored in each others beliefs, language and behaviors. We knew Site Assignment Day was coming, we were about to be sent into different communities with no volunteers in close proximity. We relished and rollicked in the acknowledgment that our last bit of common ground was about to crumble away suddenly into a deep unknown for two years. The pure white light of the next morning illuminated the vast emerald green around us as I found myself, once again, contemplating the passage of time while gently tipping my coffee mug back and forth, watching the leftover grounds crash against the ceramic walls in the miniature wakes.

Jungle Hostel Manuel Antonio Manuel Antonio Manuel Antonio On the Bus in Costa Rica

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