Words & Images by Madison Garrett
All of my clothes are wet.
Countless t-shirts, Nike shorts, and socks hang, soaking wet, from the ladder in my bungalow, hopeless to dry in this ever-present cloud that hangs around the jungle-clad mountains of Costa Rica.
All of my clothes are wet. And it’s entirely and blissfully my fault.
When I embarked on my three week study abroad to Costa Rica, I promised myself that I would fully embrace whatever life looked like while I was there. The locals say “Pura Vida”, the country’s characteristic catch phrase, to simultaneously mean “good day”, “nice to meet you” and “THIS IS AWESOME”. Translated literally, it means “pure life” or “this is living”. My team and I, however, used it as a much cooler version of YOLO.
As a result, I jumped head first into Costa Rica, not knowing a soul on the trip, not speaking the Spanish language, and not being totally sure where Costa Rica was. Pura Vida!
Our group of twenty lived with and amongst the people of San Luis, a small agricultural town in the northwest province of Guanacaste, Costa Rica. Everything is rain forest and farmland; to go anywhere, you quite literally walk uphill both ways and in the rain. The region is considered a “cloud forest” because it is consistently shrouded in cloud cover, allowing it to be one of the most biodiverse places in the world. The cloud cover also allows San Luis to remain at a balmy 65 to 70 degrees constantly. The humidity wreaked havoc on my wavy hair, but hey! At least we weren’t sweating to death while hiking!
Every day, it rained. A steady, powerful downpour either woke us up at six or began around three in the afternoon and would continue well past sunset. Whether we were in class, listening to lectures about carbon offsetting, or hiking through sustainable farms, it was always, always, always raining. The rain became our constant companion, our expected wake-up call, and an ever-present threat to our clothes and tennis shoes.
We were prepared for this, of course. Our instructors had warned us to get waterproof hiking books, a good rain jacket, and even water proof notebooks to delay the rain’s waterlogging effects. We were fully equipped to stay as dry as possible.
But as the rain fell my first night in Costa Rica, it poured through the sunset and gave everything a golden tint, rumbling and shivering and casting its spell over the jungle; I knew I was going to be in trouble. All at once, though sheltered by eco-lodge’s tin roof, I fell in love with the falling Costa Rican rain. It was mesmerizing.
From that night on, my clothes were never dry.
I ran out and danced in every single rainstorm. I threw off my jacket to play soccer with locals as it thundered above us and poured onto us. I jumped into every swimming hole, swam through every river, and twirled barefoot in every puddle. I walked straight into a waterfall, , letting the water pour over me and pound against my receptive face, throwing my hands up in utter joy even though I knew I would have to hike home soaked.
Though I will forget the sound of the calls of all those exotic birds I saw, I will never forget the chills their chorus gave me as it resounded through the thunderstorm. Though I will forget the words I spoke, I will never forget the thrill of communicating in a different language with my host brother as we walked home together in the rain. I will never forget the faces of my host parents when I successfully milked a cow, and the love and bemused understanding they welcomed me with when I came home from class drenched since I refused to tighten the hood on my raincoat to better feel the rain against my face. Though I will forget the Latin names of all those rain forest plants and the quick movements of the merengue, I will never forget Costa Rica, the way my wet clothes would drip and cling to my body, and the freedom that fell upon me when I decided to dance in the rain.
Madison Garrett is a student currently residing in Athens, Georgia and adoring the life she has been given. She will graduate from the University of Georgia in May of 2017 as an English major with an emphasis in Creative Writing. She currently serves as Trend Magazine's Senior Assistant, but she is an aspiring writer and editor. She loves being barefoot, intentional conversations, hiking, and sundresses, and deeply believes in optimism and encouragement.