We got home way later than we expected. It was a long drive back from the beach in typical Sunday traffic in the high (busy) season that I hadn’t taken into account when planning when we would leave. A lesson learned for next time. To me, that objectively sounds like a really less than ideal way to end a long day. But with this group of friends, at the end of this day, we had a blast the entire time we inched forward.

The music was blaring (in a fun way) in our humble buseta.  Everyone was singing, laughing, and swapping stories.  We generally made the best of the time.  When we finally arrived at the office everyone pitched in and helped unload the barbeque supplies and the recycling we had collected.  It was a long day rewarded with good company. A Sunday well spent.

The day started with everyone meeting at the office. It was 8:00am, and again I’m inspired by the amount of hands that showed up to help. Sure, we were getting a day at the beach together and a nice bbq lunch to go with it (which is awesome!), but it’s still collecting trash in the sunny heat of the Puntarenas Province and carefully sifting it into recycling piles to make sure we’re helping the environment properly. My point is there are plenty of other places all nine of us could have chosen to otherwise be on our collective day off, and yet, this is where we all wanted to be.

We have done a couple of park clean ups now, like at Parque de la Paz, and Peace University Park, but this was our first beach cleanup. One thing we have learned from park cleanups is how they’re deceptively filled with trash. You don’t necessarily see what you aren’t looking for. But bend over and pay attention and suddenly you can’t stop seeing the trash, small and large. On a beach, the amount of cigarette butts alone could have kept us there all day, in addition to large chunks of broken materials ditched in the forest the banks the sand.

But once again, when we were decked out in gloves and separate trash bags for junk and recycling, it wasn’t long before people took notice of the pairs we had broken out into and saw the impact we were making. Shirley, the Costa Rican owner and co-operator of the buseta we had rented, asked for gloves and a bag to help in the effort. And before long other people there, just to enjoy a relaxing day on the beach, were pitching in too. One person even asked Shirley, “Why are you doing this?” Her response was simple and profound, “because this is my beach, too.”

Because this is their beach. And it’s our beach, too. This is why we were there. We are welcome guests in this gorgeous country. We are also active participants. When you’re invited over for dinner, you’re of course going to offer to wash the dishes.

After concluding our efforts with a celebratory cheer, we concluded our cleanup by moving to a more secluded and shaded area that was perfect to set up hammocks and start the grill. We had Frisbees and volleyballs to toss around in the ocean and made new friends while doing so. Shirley, the joiner, of course, came out and had fun with us in the ocean.

On our way home we stopped for batidos, or fruit smoothies, as an extra gift from Idioma Cares that Bailey had chosen for all of us. And even though it took a long time to arrive to our beds after that, we loved and made the most of every second of it.

This is their beach. And it’s our beach, too. I think we all took pride in knowing we had shown that the respect and reciprocity it deserved. It was a delicious meal. And we made sure to do our dishes.

-Timothy Garren