"No Te Arrepentirás"
"No te arrepentirás," my friend jokes with the taxi driver as we get into a cab on our way to Boca del Toro, a gorgeous viewpoint that overlooks several beaches; knowing neither of us have enough Colones for the usual fare-price to get there and back we reassure the driver he will not regret taking us there. As the cab cruises past the seemingly untouched beach of Carillo and begins to summit the mountain, I think back to my life just six weeks ago as I embarked on my 3-month long trip to Costa Rica to volunteer with Asociación CREAR and encounter new possibilities that would unfold in my future. I had no prior concept of where I would find myself during this time other than a brief idea of the program I was joining that would put me beach-side teaching English to local children, a fairly big challenge for someone with no official training in teaching to take on. However, I figured the bumps in the road would be soothed by plenty of beach exposure in the downtime, a premonition that has thankfully proved to be quite accurate. But where to start in explaining where this has taken me and how the time has passed? As I began my third day in Costa Rica, I headed out to central Samara on the bike my host family lent me to meet with Andrea to start my volunteering work with the children. In the event that Johannah was out of town for the next few weeks, I was surprised to learn that I had the opportunity to help in her place with the bright children of El Torito, a pueblo just 15 minutes by bike, South of Samara. I happily took this job on as I figured it would involve me more with the organization and provide me with a greater understanding of the local culture from a slightly different perspective as some of these niños came from varying economic backgrounds, and boy, did I take on a big task! Working at El Torito is hardly ever difficult, in fact, these children are some of the sweetest, most kind-hearted, and willing-to-learn that I feel blessed for every day I am able to share with them. The task I refer to instead, is taking all the joy and understanding they give me, and applying this magic to the students of Samara that work at an entirely different pace. I've had trouble understanding how this sort of thing manifests, how the El Torito kids can come in so relaxed and ready to learn while the children of Samara run through the doors wanting to start several activities all at once, but in ceasing to try to explain it, I have begun to appreciate it more, and take on the truly large challenge of teaching English with what turns out to be very little pertinent experience on my behalf. All that being said, the day-to-day tasks in Samara are quite enjoyable, and lesson-planning has brought me the most satisfaction, even when the actual teaching part becomes difficult. Together, the students and I have created dozens of animals in paper and pipe-cleaner crafts with educational themes that expand upon the English education the children receive during regular school times. We have reviewed shapes, colors, numbers, and letters as well as several themes such as growth, the water cycle, and the weather. While sometimes the children's interest to sit and listen to lectures of English grammar or usage can be wavering, the underlying willingness to learn remains, and the occasional game of four-square or soccer mixed with question and response can aid in retaining the childrens' attention. Undoubtedly, seeing the kids' faces light up when they correctly identify a shape or color in English are joyful moments that I will cherish for a long time to come. As I have spent most of these weeks teaching the Samara children single-handedly, thankfully with the occasional aid of Andrea, it is nice to now have a new volunteer join my side for these next two weeks. Miriam is a German student with interests in teaching young children and has some very useful techniques up her sleeves that I hope to hear more of as we develop new tactics to simultaneously provide English lessons and creative play for the children of varying ages. You will not regret it! These words run through my head as we make it to the top of the mountain overlooking Buenavista, Carrillo, and my temporary home, Samara Beach. In returning to this beach just 5 years after completing my first Spanish course with Intercultura Language School, I have to say that nothing looks the same as when I rode through the streets here as a teen. Sure the Super Samara and street vendors look familiar, but truly I am seeing this town for the first time. I have friends that I wave to in passing the corner on my beach cruiser, and while the occasional "mi amor" exaggeration still makes me roll my eyes, I feel at home in a way here that I never thought I would have. The locals here are friendly if you let them be, as are the tourists that come and go. My perspective has changed as I have come to change my outlook on the world. At just 16 years old, I knew something would bring me back to this beach,and apparently I am not the only one who has felt this sentiment as I often hear that "there's just something about Samara that brings you back." While there are plenty of explanations for this phenomenon; the calming tides glistening on beautiful beaches, the laid-back banana-bicyclers that cruise through the loosely paved streets, or simply the calcium and magnesium-rich water that contributes to Samara's placement in one of the world's only geographically-deemed "Blue-Zones," I choose to believe that it is simply the place to loosen those shoe strings and sink your toes into the sand. In a place of such blissful beauty, there can be no other option but to let go of regret or remorse, for what is present to you now is all that you crear.