With the month of November, our volunteer work has come to an end. Well, mine, since Frank had already finished in October.
Gone are four months working for the Jaguar Rescue Center and La Ceiba, which, together with the four months of volunteering at Osa Conservation, has taken up two-thirds of our sabbatical.
Perhaps it is premature to take stock of the volunteering work, partly because I am convinced that many of the benefits will be seen in the months to come. Still, the feeling, to this day, is that it has been totally worth it—emphasis on totally.
Would I do it again? Yes, with eyes closed.
My father, who is very practical, asked me the other day: “What is the use of all these things that you have been doing as part of the volunteering work?”
The truth is that I don’t know.
But the best part is that I don’t care either. I have met wonderful people with whom I hope to keep in touch; I have learned a lot of things about the wildlife of Costa Rica and about this country that continues to amaze me, with its friendly people and its Pura Vida style, its pacifist history and inclusiveness, the overwhealming nature and the diversity of landscapes among many things.
And of course, I have also learned a lot about the day-to-day conservation work, both from those who work with the big brushstrokes – the creation of protected areas – and from those who dedicate their lives to helping injured animals.
And the two of us, as a couple, have also learned how easy it has been to live together 24 hours a day and how much we like to live in a country with a hot climate, where we can go almost every day in shorts and flip-flops, eat out. and see green every day and almost every hour. Ah! And how much we like birdwatching.
Would you do it the same way? Possibly not.
This is what I would change…
Throughout these months of volunteering, I (have) been able to experiment with multiple identities and do very different jobs, from those for which no qualifications are required (i.e., cleaning bird cages) to those in which we have had to use our background, experience and knowledge (i.e., the socio-economic report for the creation of a marine protected area for me or the sea turtle database for Frank). I have learnt something from every job.
But it is also true that I have learned more from some than from others.
If I started over, I would commit fewer weeks to the more routinized jobs so I can spend more time on those where I can learn the most. In general, fewer weeks in standard volunteer work and more in more qualified volunteer work, such as studies for Osa Conservation, help at the Jaguar Rescue Center clinic, or the launch of the La Ceiba biological station where one can learn much more.
Whether I will be able to use this learning in the new stage of life remains to be seen. Of course, I would love to be able to dedicate myself to conservation in my “post-sabbatical” life. But for now, I’m going to dedicate my time to rest.
We close the sabbatical with a month of vacation … in the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica. What more could anyone wish for? PURA VIDA!