My plane landed at Costa Rica’s Juan Santamaria International Airport at around 5 in the evening and my heartbeat shot off the charts. Here, I was, 6000 miles from home with absolutely no idea of what was going to happen to me. We were waiting for the passengers to disembark and I was wondering as to what the hell I was doing there. Was I a total nutcase to have believed what a completely unknown company had said in their website about volunteering and cultural tourism? How had I become that naive? I had travelled for about 22 hours by that time – from London via Madrid to San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica – and for the last 15 hours, due to the complete lack of Spanish in my system, I had been rendered totally dumb. What am I going to do if this turns out to be a big fraud.
All these terrible thoughts were going through my mind throughtout the immigration and baggage claim processes. But as soon as I went out of the airport and saw Phillipe waiting with the CCS banner in hand with his characteristic smile – which we will get so used to over the next couple of weeks – all my worries and tension were put to rest. He was there to pick me up and another volunteer, Liz, who was arriving on a later flight from Chicago. Finally, I was taking in the sights and smell of the place without worrying about getting cheated and defrauded. The language was dancing and swerllinig all around me. People from all over South America seemed to be there. It was Spanish heaven at its best.
Once Liz arrived, we set off for Cartago, the city of the night-time mist, which was about 45 minutes by car and where the CCS homebase was situated. By the time we reached the base, it was completely dark and the streets were all empty. Three other volunteers – Ali, Jim and Kim – had already arrived and there were two others – Mandy and Abby – who were there for the last three months. The home base was as clean as a dormitory style hostel could get and it was equipped with all the modern facilities that can be imagined. As it was pretty late, so all the other staff members had left for the day and only the night guide, Don Heraldo, was there. Dinner was already ready and after a quick hot bath, a sumptuous meal of rice, beans and broccoli, and quick introductions with everybody, I was ready to go to bed. Lying on that four-poster bed with a body as confused with the time zones as stoned drunk, the sleep fairy didn’t take long to arrive and soon my first night in the land of Pura Vida was over.