It’s safe to say that these 100 days have been the fastest days of my life. How surreal it feels to scroll back through this blog and seeing all that’s happened, all I’ve done, and still feel as if I just left home yesterday. This trip has been everything I hoped for and so much more. Thanks again to everyone who encouraged me, supported me, prayed me through, and kept up with my adventures over the past 3 months. To all of you, here’s the final post.
Trinidad greeted us with palm trees, steel drums, and calypso music. No really..they set up a band of steel drums outside our ship to welcome us into their country. It was groovy. It’s a shame that we were only given 2 days here, not even a full 48 hours. I would have loved more time to explore this island.
Our first day in Trinidad just so happened to be Thanksgiving day. This Thanksgiving day was unlike any other for me. Instead of family, football, fall, and food food food…I was handed a pair of work gloves and a shovel. My day was spent digging clay and spreading gravel. I worked with a group of students and Habitat for Humanity to build a home for a mother and her daughter. It was some of the hardest physical work I’ve ever done, but it was made worth it when the mother and daughter came to the site to thank us in person. Instead of spending Thanksgiving with the things I am thankful for, this year I spent Thanksgiving building something for someone else to be thankful for.
Thanksgiving dinner (pizza and pina coladas) was also completely different than what I’m used to, but I’m grateful to have sat around the table with some great friends sharing what we are each thankful for.
The following day was too rainy to be a beach day, so we just shopped around the town until we had to board the ship at night. Trinidad was shockingly welcoming, even people on the streets would recognize us as foreigners and come up to greet us and welcome us to their country. So friendly and so hospitable.
For lunch we made a stop at KFC, which all Trinidadians proudly boast is the most visited KFC in the world. These people take their KFC seriously. It is 3 stories tall, open 24/7, and has a delivery service. Congratulations Trinidad, you’ve taken KFC to a whole new level.
How many people get to say that they had a dance party on the top deck of a cruise ship beneath the stars in the middle of the Panama Canal? Not too many….well I guess everyone on my voyage, which is approximately 700 people…but still. Not very many. The night before we made our transit into the canal we had our talent show followed by a dance on the pool deck.
The following day I woke up to see our ship go through the first few locks. The process is insane! I was stunned at the ability of something man made to control and manipulate so much water so quickly, pushing ships of our size and much bigger right through as if it’s no big deal.
I think the coolest part about the canal was going through the lake in the middle. It is the largest man-made lake in the world and we spent a few hours going through it to get to the final locks leading into the Pacific. It was odd to see land on the both sides of the ship at once, we are never that near land and hardly ever able to see it on both sides while sailing.
I feel lucky to not only have seen the Panama Canal, but to have sailed through it- something that very few get to experience.
One fun fact on the canal: when transferring through the Panama Canal from the Caribbean Sea to the Pacific Ocean, going from the east to the west, you end up further east when you come out in the Pacific than you were when you started in the Carribean. Why is that? I still don’t know. But I thought I would just throw that in there in the hopes of blowing your minds, it definitely blew mine.
Oh my word. Was Costa Rica actually my favorite port, or am I still just coming off of a temporary high from all it’s excitement? We may never know. But Costa Rica was my favorite. (Side note: Pura Vida is a saying in Costa Rica that is used in any and every context. Translated it simple means ‘pure life,’ however locals use it for hello’s, goodbye’s, and everything in between.)
This country is truly beautiful. I was inspired by how much they value and respect their nature. Bridges and ropes are strung above the roads to help monkeys and sloths cross and reduce roadkill. Additionally, the country just announced that in the next 2 years they will be releasing all their zoo’s and will no longer keep animals in captivity! So if there’s a particular zoo in Costa Rica you’ve been dying to visit, go quick because in a couple years it will be vacant!
A particular inspiration to me was the Life Monteverde project. I spent a day at a coffee farm/sustainable living project, and was shocked to see that the place is almost completely self-sufficient. They grow everything the eat, make everything they use, and best of all, they harvest the most amazing coffee. One thing that fascinated me was how they get their methane to cook their food- they have two pet pigs, each day they hose the pig’s manure into a drainage system which pumps out methane, fueling 2 hours worth of cooking each day. How crazy is that?! I admire this place and these place. They showed me that life really can be so simple, it makes me wonder why we like to make everything so complicated.
And then the adventures began. The next few days consisted of horse back riding up a volcano, hiking through rainforests, walking through clouds on suspended bridges, walking between cliffs on feeble bridges made of only chicken wire (two of which had holes that they forgot to repair before our visit), jumping from a cliff into a massive waterfall and not not drowning (intentional double negative)(scariest thing I’ve ever done), and finally, taking a mud bath and bathing in volcanic hot springs. PURA VIDA!
Let me explain a little more about the hot springs. The place was a massive sulfuric crater in the side of the volcano. There was a small walking path which weaves through gurgling and spewing puddles of hot ooze, and you are highly advised to remain in the very middle of the path because the ground is constantly moving and a new puddle of burning ooze could surface at any second. It was the most absurd thing I’ve ever seen! Steam was just flowed out of the earth, pouring out of piles of rocks. Some of the pools were so hot that their were boiling!! In fact I would argue that they were ALL boiling because there wasn’t a single one I could fully submerge my body into, the water was too hot to bear. It felt like when you get sunburn on vacation and then try to relax in the hot tub. It just doesn’t work.
It was here that we had an all-natural spa experience. We began with five minutes in the natural sauna (aka a cave heated by a thermal vent), then we proceeded to slather our bodies in boiling mud from the mud bath letting it dry onto our skin by the sunlight, then we proceeded to shower off and sit through the three phases of hot spring pools: hella hot, hot, and cold. I could barely get a toe into the first one, I managed the second one after much strife, and I jumped right into the third one. This natural spa treatment left me feeling cleaner and fresher than I ever have.
I’m sad to leave Costa Rica, but I really feel like I’ll be back here. The list of things I’ve done is only a fraction of the size of the list of things I still hope to do in this country.
And now I’m headed home. Sailing for 11 jam-packed days of studying, final exams, convocation, Alumni ball, Christmas parties, and of course, packing. It’s getting pretty interesting watching one another attempt to fill 3 months worth of souvenirs and an assortment of Christmas gifts back into the luggage we came with. Let’s just say it’s a tight squeeze and airlines are about to see some of the oddest carry-on’s of all time. For example, one of my friends unfortunately can’t fit her 3 foot tall paper mache model of Mc Jagger that she purchased in Spain into her suitcase, so she plans on boarding the plane escorting her miniature Mc Jagger. Yikes.
The ship decided to have a clothes donation drive because most of us are leaving behind the majority of the clothes we brought over with us in order to compensate for all the new purchases. I on the other hand plan on wearing home all of the clothes I brought to make up for the fact that in a week I will be landing in Grand Rapids with nothing thicker than a cardigan. Oops.
So that’s a wrap! In the next few weeks I’ll be posting a video of my whole trip. I’m putting a lot of work into it and I’m super excited to share it, so if you wish to see me not not drown in a Costa Rican waterfall…stay tuned.