Bellarmine students embracing the pura vida life in Llano Bonito, Costa Rica

From the moment we stepped foot in the small town of Llano Bonito there was an overwhelming
sense of community. Our group was welcomed with open arms and open hearts which was
refreshing and unlike what we experience back home. We were immediately treated with such
hospitality and kindness.

Day one was tough because for most of us this was our first time doing this kind of work but we
all had each other and we pushed through as a team. By day two we were on a roll and figured
out our system to work the most efficiently. We worked long days but time did truly fly by
because we were all talking and laughing and all putting in effort together. Day three went even
smoother than day two because we all knew what jobs we were best at and all got to do what we
liked.

After each day of work we got the chance to swim in a river. Which was such an unforgettable
ordeal. Some of the locals jumped in, too, and we all got to swim around and have a blast together.
The community also organized a full soccer game for us to play and split us into teams. It was
super fun to play alongside the kids we had bonded with over the past few days.
We worked so quickly and diligently the court was finished before schedule so we were able to
attend a rodeo. The rodeo just added to the list of stories we got to bring home and share with our
families. It gave us a chance to be fully immersed into Costa Rican culture.

The next night the town hosted a barbecue and we all met together and danced for hours. Time
went by so fast and it was such a one-of-a-kind event. We also showed the community some U.S
games and they shared games that were special to Costa Rica. It was great to get to know even
more about their culture with something as small as childhood games.

Due to our extra time the group got to go on a hike and see 12 different waterfalls. We drove to
the countryside in vans and had to switch into off-road vehicles which, of course, added to the
level of adventure. The scenery was so picturesque that it looked fake. And each waterfall was
more breathtaking than the last. Some of us even climbed this giant tree and stood at the top in a
cougars nest. Luckily for us no animal was home. And the group got the chance to swim in the
last waterfall. The cold water was quite refreshing. We hiked down to a small cafe where we
had some of the best food of the whole trip (the food was amazing everywhere so it’s hard to
choose a day that stands out). I speak for myself and my peers when I say that hiking in the
Costa Rican rain forest and seeing all of the waterfalls was truly a once in a lifetime experience.

To celebrate and bless the court on our last day in the town of Llano Bonito there was a
ceremony that took place on the court. Everyone was dressed up and we watched many native
dances and joined in when appropriate. We then brought all of the balls into the court and taught
the kids how to play the actual sports. We created a “clinic” for basketball and volleyball to make
sure all of the kids knew how to play those sports once we traveled back home.

Saying goodbye was difficult. It felt like Llano Bonito was a second home and it was hard to
leave what felt like a large piece of my life behind. Many of us especially bonded with all of the
children which made for an emotional last day. But bags were packed and loaded and sooner
than later we were driving away in the same vans that took us here. On the drive it was crazy to
think about how much we experienced, learned, and grew over the past few days. It was nice
having the long car ride so we could digest everything we encountered. About half way there we
got to stop to shop for souvenirs and swim in the ocean. Which as you can imagine was another
once in a lifetime experience.

Staying in the hotel on the last night was definitely a change from what we were all used to. For
the girls at least, it was sad to not all sleep in the same room and get to talk and debrief before
lights out. That night we had an extra long reflection and it was very uplifting. We learned a lot
about ourselves and the people we truly are over the last few days and it was great to be able to
realize and understand that.

I learned that pushing yourself out of your comfort zone is the only way to grow and learn. And
jumping at the opportunity to embark on new adventures despite the scariness of the unknown is
so worthwhile. You never know how that experience might impact your life and shape you as a
person.

All and all the flight home was bittersweet. But our group will forever share this amazing
experience with each other. And we will never forget the kindness and generosity of the people
of Llano Bonito. Costa Rica will forever be in our hearts. I am beyond grateful I had the chance
to go on this trip and I will always remember the amazing time we had with amazing people in
Costa Rica. –Sydney Bland, Bellarmine student

The environment helped and supported me to learn and grow myself. I was able to see and be welcomed into a new culture. ~Lillian Cruz

I learned not to care about what people think of me, that’s too exhausting. ~Lucía Zimma

What I learned about the world is that no matter who you are within an environment , you can make many connections and bonds with people… I feel like that right there is a beautiful thing of opening up your heart, soul and mind to a new person who you may have no similarities with, but you both choose to figure out those similarities somehow with whatever obstacles and barriers… those don’t stop anything. ~Michelle Kamau

If I’m willing  to try something new, I will most likely enjoy it. I can enjoy change if I remember pura vida and yolo. ~Abbie Watcher

These people have shown me to be open and welcoming to strangers and shown us what it means to be part of a community and will allow me to treat others the same way. ~Alfonso Carreno

It was so hard to leave knowing I would probably never see these people again. I also fell in love with this country: the kindness of the locals, the tropical rainforests, the weather, the rivers and beaches, the Pura  vida spirit is everywhere and I will miss it. ~Claire Nelson

I want to be back to experience the pueblo again. I’m sad because everyone there was so welcoming. I was so overwhelmed. I’ve never felt love like that before. Being at Llano Bonito I felt like I was able to be myself. It was amazing. I’ve never dances so carefree or laughed so much. I made friends so easily because I was being vulnerable. ~Camryn Santori