by Hannah Nevitt, Greenheart Travel’s volunteer abroad participant
Surrounded by a tropical rain forest in San Carlos, Costa Rica, I am once again reminded of how people can enjoy more of life—with less. I am currently living with a host family of five and working on an eco-reserve with student volunteers in a rural town called Jabillos, near the Volcano, Arenal.
My first impressions of Costa Rica are that its people, the “Ticos” are quite friendly, and that they live quite simply—without many material items. My home is small—a one story building with 5 bedrooms, a living room, two bathrooms, one shower, and an open kitchen /dining room. My family’s home is quite grand compared to most of the homes in the neighborhood.
Most families have patios in front of their homes under awnings so that they can relax outside in rocking chairs. It is quite hot and humid here, even in the rainy season (winter), so the doors are left open allowing air to pass through for most of the day…they are then closed at night.
Beautiful arrays of pastels cover the exteriors of the houses within the neighborhood. Turquoise, yellows, blues, pinks, greens….and some with murals of flowers or frogs—it is really incredible. My host family’s house is a pastel green with yellow trim. The inside walls are painted green and yellow to match, with stained wood walls to separate the rooms. The floors are covered with large square ceramic tiles, as is custom in most homes. This provides a nice surface to keep clean while it is still comfortable walk around barefoot…this is especially nice for the kids and I, for it is an ideal surface for playing soccer on the front porch!
My host family’s house is surrounded by five other houses occupied by relatives. The entire property is owned by my host mother’s family…her father Senior Ramon Vasquez owns more than 350 acres in the area and throughout Guanacaste (a territory of Costa Rica). I found this to be especially interesting because compared to living standards in the U.S. they continue to live quite moderately.
My family consists of mi Madre, Dinia, her husband, Roy, and their three kids…Jordi (the eldest son at 17), Delany (their daughter who is almost 10), and Dario (the youngest who is 7). The families of Dinia’s brothers and sisters live in the surrounding houses along the road, as well as her parents…who live in a house across the property (they have a citrus grove of lemon and orange trees).
There are usually many children running around day and night….they range in ages from one year to seventeen. This is really fun for me because I get to play with them and they help me with my Spanish (and laugh at the things I say). The boys are around 7 or 8 years old so we play a lot of soccer, while the girls are older so we draw and I let them play with my makeup.
The common phrase in Costa Rica is “Pura Vida” (poo-ra-vee-da) which signifies a simple and more relaxed approach to life. It is used commonly in their language as a response to many questions; How are you?…Pura Vida, What is up?…Pura Vida, How did you like the rainstorm yesterday? Pura Vida. It represents a way of life for the Tican people.