I don’t think I’ve been able to take a breath since leaving the United States until today; five days into my first week living in Samara. To paint a picture, I finished my sophomore year at Bowdoin by taking two final exams on Saturday, packing furiously, saying goodbye to my people, and leaving my dorm at 5:30 am the next day to catch a 7:30 am flight out of Portland, Maine. Needless to say, this past week has been a whirlwind of emotions, change, moving parts, and adjustment (and then readjustment three times over). The type of person that maintains three separate planners to organize her day-to-day life, I’ve never considered myself a spontaneous individual. Even though my time here has been brief, my life here has been much less scripted than I’m used to. I’m happy, and surprised, to say that I’ve been able to find joy in that.
With the support of the Global Citizens Fellowship from the Bowdoin McKeen Center for the Common Good, I will be working with Asociación CREAR for the next three months (see me here in front of a mural of the CREAR logo). To arrive in time for volunteer orientation, I took a taxi from my dorm to the Portland airport, from which I took a flight to North Carolina before grabbing a connection to Liberia, Costa Rica. From there, CREAR’s executive director, Andrea, picked me and two other interns up from the airport and took us to our respective homestays. All in all, travel time totalled to around 12 hours.
My lovely host mom, Katia, greeted me as I jumped down from the cab of Andrea’s truck. In my homestay, I have a bedroom to myself and live next to two other students--Dennis, a student from Switzerland studying Spanish at Intercultura, a local language school, and Anna, a Florida State University student volunteering at Samara Pacific School during her time here. When I first arrived, I definitely felt out of my element, but living with two other students has helped to ease my transition to feeling more at home here in Samara.
My typical day starts with a delicious breakfast prepared by my host mom (see above). I then bike through my neighborhood to CREAR, passing by the beach and a beautiful field of horses on the way. Work starts at 10:00am with a meeting with Andrea and Kinsey, the other intern working on development and operations, to lay out our plan for the day and go over any questions. From here, work is largely independent--Kinsey and I have the freedom to work at a local bakery (like the one pictured below), in CREAR’s outdoor classroom, or inside the office depending on the movement of the English and art teachers and their classes. This week, we've been working on researching new funding opportunities and compiling statistics to aid CREAR's future grant applications.
After work, I try to go to the beach every day (if it’s not raining too hard). I’ll swim, hang out with the other interns, or take some time to journal about my day. I head home around 6:00 for another amazing meal from Katia, and will sit around the table with her, her husband Charlie, and Anna and Dennis sharing about our days.
Before coming to Samara, I didn’t realize how this family dynamic would be so important to feeling at home here. It’s comforting to come back after work and sit down to a crowded dinner table. Katia and Charlie say grace every night before eating--while this isn’t something my family practices at home, I appreciate the ritual and the meaning behind it. I never eat a meal alone; every morning, Katia will sit with me while I eat my breakfast. While we don’t converse the entire time, her presence is reassuring before I head out to start my day. I couldn’t be more thankful for that.
While adjusting to my new surroundings, I’ve been no stranger to feelings of uncertainty. To take care of myself, I’ve been journaling every day, and have been finding pleasure in everyday things, like the beauty of hiking La Izquierda trails near my house (see above), watching TV with my host family after dinner, the relaxed but energetic environment at CREAR, and drinking batidos con sandía next to the ocean. Despite only being here for one week, I am so excited to see what the future holds for my time with CREAR and living in Samara. Right now, I feel nothing but grateful for this experience and my journal and this platform that I have to document it.
Hasta la próxima vez,