Language Poses No Barriers
As the plane pulled away from the gate, tears started to stream down my face. It felt as though my heart was being ripped in multiple pieces and was left scattered throughout Cartago, Costa Rica. To tell you how meaningful and extraordinary my experience was I would need to write a novel. To fully understand the heartbreak, every individual must experience a CCS program for oneself.
My story begins on May 10, 2015. The excitement of spending three glorious weeks in the country of Costa Rica spread through my body. Alone, I was antsy as I stepped off the plane not knowing what exactly to expect. Right outside the doors, I came in contact with a few other volunteers and the in-country staff member, Allan, who would be the driver to my volunteer assignment for the duration of my trip. Greeted with hospitality, I instantly felt safe, comfortable, and at home. I no longer felt alone. The home base was one of a kind with the artwork of handprints and quotes covering every inch of the walls and ceilings, allowing every volunteer to leave their mark in Cartago.
Being greeted at the gate, the in-country staff welcomed us all immediately, assuring us that we would receive their undying support. A little terrified due to only speaking English, I was a little hesitant when I was on my way to my first day at the HIV home that Tuesday. The fear struck through me with not knowing if the individuals would accept me. However, with open arms and smiles wide, I quickly learned language poses no barriers when it comes to friendship, compassion, and love.
As each day went by, the individuals of the HIV home took a little piece of my heart. Two men and one baby, in particular, left a special mark on me. The two men, Juan and Javier, were bedridden, so I worked with the nurse, Olguita, to provide care to these fine gentlemen. Although I was unable to communicate with them (mainly due to the nature of their condition), I was able to bond with both of them while feeding, performing physical therapy, bathing, and laughing with them. I felt needed and loved by these two men as I began to love and need them as well. One of the two men arrived at the end of my second week. Looking at him for the first time, I did not believe he stood much of a chance; however, working with him diligently alongside of the nurse and dentist, in one short week, this man looked like a whole new individual.
The progress and dedication was outstanding and life fulling. Extraordinary, is it not, that all those individuals who have life threatening diseases are constantly smiling and making the best of each passing day. Whether I was the “mono” in monkey in the middle, dancing in the corridor while mopping the floor with one of the men, laughing at my ignorance of Spanish causing us all to make ridiculous body gestures to figure out the meaning of the words we tried to speak, I felt at home with those individuals at Hogar Nuestra Senora de la Esperanza.
On my last day at Hogar, Olguita helped me say goodbye to Juan and Javier. As she told Juan I was leaving, he reached his hand up, grabbed mine, and muttered the word gracias. There was not one goodbye between the residents of Hogar, the fellow volunteers, and the in-country staff were tears did not stream down my face. My time in Cartago was extraordinary. CCS provided me with new knowledge, love, and friendships. The staff became my family, the residents at Hogar and the fellow volunteers became everlasting friends, and Cartago became my second home. As I pressed my painted hand against the wall, I made a promise to myself to return back to Cartago one day.