First Impressions

I am five days into a couple of weeks of volunteering at Peace Retreat Costa Rica, situated in Playa Negra.

I came to relax, to immerse myself in nature and to escape the futilities of the daily grind; the struggle to rise to the hammering sound of my alarm, only breathing to fast-forward through the week.

Sweeping, painting and cleaning is somewhat humbling, it's a nice change from having my eyes riveted to a screen and dragging myself to endless meetings that usually lead to little or no outcome. I needed a break from that. Feeling physically, rather than mentally tired after a day's work is refreshing. I feel detoxified, but that's probably only because I sweat profusely throughout the day, and ensure I sip plenty of cucumber water.

Waking up to the eerie sound of howling monkeys is mesmerizing. Their groaning and growling transports me straight to a scene from Jurassic Park. Curiously, I savour lying in bed at five in the morning, wide awake. No wonder though, with this soundtrack in the background, the thought of a T-Rex storming in and devouring me may, or may not, be keeping me partially on guard.

At night, it's comforting to go to sleep with the buzzing sound of the jungle, trying to imagine what these nocturnal creatures are up to. It seems as though you're not alone. And I’m certainly not – jungle life is humming around and there’s always the odd ant attempting to crawl into my bed. Still, this wild lullaby feels reassuring.

Yesterday we sat down around the table, dimly lit by the moon glistening on the swimming pool, winding down from a day of balmy heat, beach and yoga. The students of the active teacher training were wondering whether this 11-day experience -- digging into their pasts, opening up to strangers, stretching and sweating in a show of brightly coloured leggings, pain and laughs, talks of pitta, vata, kapha and essential oils – really had changed them. Some are drinking Imperial (local beer); some are sipping cinnamon tea. A bag of dried Turkish, white mulberry is passed around. I get the impression everyone is here for different, yet very similar, reasons. In a quest for meaning, driven by a desire to become a catalyst of positive change in their lives, searching for direction.

As I sit and listen to their conversation, I wonder whether coming here is really about change and transformation or rather about discovering yourself, perhaps a better self, within yourself. I’m left with more questions than answers.