Spending a summer volunteering with WorldTeach can offer you possibilities you never thought imaginable. Kami, a summer WorldTeach Costa Rica volunteer, recounts how an experience during her summer in Costa Rica allowed her to see a simpler side of life.
I met a family that prefers a life that existed 30 years ago. They built a wooden house by the river in order to live simply. Granted, 30 years ago is not that long ago, but the way they live seemed like the pioneer days.
The day before I met this tico couple, I had been chatting with my yoga instructor. She was telling me how the people’s lives have changed so rapidly. She explained, “Kami, they bought TVs before they had refrigerators—they never would have known about all the advancements if it had not been for the media coming in.” She said she moved from the US to San Salvador because she was tired of saying “no” to her children. “No, you may not go to a violent movie, no you do not need all of the latest video games, no, no, no.” She said now, in Costa Rica, she can say “yes!” Yes to waterfalls and hiking! However, she is not impressed with the so-called progress in San Salvador. She asked me if my host family was teaching me some home remedies for illnesses. It was funny that she should ask because the night before, Henri had done “cupping” on Magaly’s back. Magaly loves to rearrange furniture, but hurt her back moving her bed. That night, Henri put a short candle on a coin and placed it on Magaly’s lower back. Then he put a cup over the candle, which caused her skin to suction into the cup. I’ve heard that this releases toxins. It must have helped because Magaly did not feel any pain the next day.
I asked Henri about medicinal plants and he immediately began teaching me about the fruit in his backyard. By the end of the lesson I was eating the guts of an aloe-vera plant. It didn’t taste like much, but apparently settles your stomach. My stomach was fine, but Henri wanted me to taste it. Fast forward two days and the neighbors ask me to walk with them to a friend’s house. It is 5:30pm—a bit late for a walk, but they said it is beautiful to walk by the light of the moon. I readily agree because it was the same day as Henri’s birthday, which subsequently means I ate way too much. Little did I know that we were headed for “una casa sin luz” (a house without lights).
We arrived in pitch darkness after crossing a shallow river. An older couple greeted us at the house with one candle in hand. They invited us to have a seat on the porch, on the wooden floor, around the candle. Everyone smiled at each other through the dim, flickering light. Roy (my neighbor) said it reminded him of his childhood, when they all sat around and told stories. At first, we just sat and studied the candle, but then the wife invited the women for a tour. Yendri and I followed behind her lit silhouette. She showed us the bedroom and kitchen…and the tour was over. Roylán (Yendri’s son) asked if he could use the bathroom. “Does it have a light?” he asked. “No, dear,” and she reluctantly allowed Roylán to take a candle with him. How else was he going to see the toilet?
The woman offered us some Tang (not so old fashioned), as she recounted washing clothes on the river rocks that morning. The house is fairly new, so the lifestyle is a bit new as well. You could see the pride and joy the woman took in her rediscovered way of life. Her eyes squinted as she smiled. She admitted that she misses her refrigerator. You cannot keep anything! Imagine. Once the men had gorged themselves on pejivalles, we decided to begin our climb home, back to civilization. The stars were beautiful and the air refreshing as we made our way back with a flashlight to guide us. How special it was to see tico life as it was not so long ago.