I had the pleasure of volunteering at Finca Amanecer in Londres, Costa Rica for a week.
Lots of things attracted me to this place. First, my communications with Elena, the owner, were fantastic from the start (a welcome change from my experience in Nicaragua). Its location was near the Pacific Ocean, but not on the beach. It would be a beautiful place to be for sure. My next post will showcase the wonderful and amazing nature I experienced there.
But I showed up not really knowing how I could help out. Soon enough I was helping Elena with lots of miscellaneous projects. She had lots of things to fix up in the guest rooms of the lodge before the busy season starts in January (when it’s summer and dry here and freezing up north).
I also took a machete to the weeds and overgrowth. That was something I’ve never done or experienced before. I’m relatively clumsy so I didn’t like the idea of swinging a gigantic blade around. I could see myself easily swinging the machete and then looking down to see it stuck in my shin. But I was careful.
I pulled weeds in her organic garden. They grow all kinds of things there, but my favorite was cinnamon. It smells so wonderful! But they endeavor to be pretty self-sustainable/sufficient there. Between their rain water capture, sun oven, and garden, they are well on their way!
At the end of my stay I helped Elena get started on a new version of her website.
I have to say that I learned A LOT here. Maybe too much. We’d make all three meals from scratch and I learned a lot about cooking. I want to continue learning how to cook. Such an important skill, yet I know so little..
Elena took me out into the field and showed me lots of things like how bamboo grows, what different plants look like (vanilla, for example), how to spot weeds, some plants you can eat, etc. As a pure city-boy, these experiences in nature are exactly what I’m looking for. I’m still overcoming my fear of bugs, but besides the bugs these experiences in nature have truly been a blessing.
Elena is a very spiritual person. Some might call her a hippie, crazy, or spiritually enlightened. In any case, she is different. So am I and that’s why I was so excited to spend time with her. I am not spiritual, but exploring spirituality is something on my to do list.
I got a big dose of it staying with her. In all honesty, it’s not what I expected. I saw more parallels between this form of spirituality and organized religion than I thought I would find. But, I suppose, both serve much the same purpose – connecting to something greater than one’s self.
In our initial discussions we had a lot in common and that only grew once I got there. We’re on the same page when it comes to so much, yet so different in many other ways. It was a great balance that allowed us to both learn from each other.
Elena built up her estate from scratch starting with no money. It’s a true testament to determination and hard work. It’s her paradise and it’s easy to see why with all the nature and tranquility around. But I also realized that what is her paradise is not at all what I would consider my paradise.
I don’t know what my paradise is yet, but I’m lucky to have visited the finca in Londres. Before I probably would have thought living in a place like hers would be my paradise. I guess all seven billion of us have our own definition of paradise. I’m still looking for mine.
Unfortunately, I feel like I took much more from this experience than I was able to give. She taught me so much and I left with a just-started website and a few less weeds and shrubbery. But so far in each volunteering experience it’s been the same. I always feel like I take more than I give. Hopefully I’ll learn how to achieve more balance between giving and taking in the future!