I have to say... this year has been a rough one. I am a southern gal living on my own in New York City-- that's the dream, right? Well, I have to admit, it's not an easy dream to live out, nor is it all that glamorous. Sometimes, it isn't even fulfilling. But, I can;t lie, NY has definitely been the number one city to actually shape me into the person I am today. For all of its trials, I have been met with equal opportunities. For all of it's headaches, I have been granted a great deal of excitement & wonder & dare I say it, Magic. But what does this all have to do with a Costa Rican Adventure?
Well, it all started out near the end of the NY winter (which doesn't seem to come until May). I was taking a class on ethical Fashion at FIT when this speaker came in to tell us all about her relatively new shoe line Bhava. What struck me was what made Bhava Special. Not only is it a Vegan Leather shoe line, but unlike most other "Vegan" products in the market, this one is actually eco-conscious! Bhava uses recycled polyester & organic cotton to create its effortlessly chic look. This appealed to me considering I am both Vegan AND extremely environmental. I honestly didn't think I'd ever own a pair of winter boots again because I just couldn't find anything that fit into both of those important categories for me.
Anyway- I am getting off topic. So, the Designer/ CEO of Bhava, Francisca, is telling us all about why she pursued her own shoe line & all the ways she is involved in Ethical Fashion when she mentions that each year, she hosts a group of people in Costa Rica and immerses them in not only the culture of Costa Rica, but she also allows them the opportunity to grow their knowledge of Ethical Fashion through personal workshops & artisan interaction. Needless to say, I signed up almost immediately!
I quickly gathered all my funds together by starting an IndieGoGo campaign online and asking anyone who could spare me a dime to send me on this once-in-a-life-time learning opportunity. Fast forward to October and I am standing on the Atlantic Coast of the Puerto Viejo beach soaking in all the Vitamin D that the NY Skyline seems to steal from me on a daily basis. It is beautiful and spectacular and fantastic and I just can;t believe this is all real-- I mean, this is really happening. I am in a completely different country (first time using my passport & everything!) eating organic foods grown right there on the property and soaking in all the knowledge I can about Ethical Fashion and what I can do to help change the world.
Let me just share some of the exciting things I was able to see and experience on this trip:
First off, we rented bikes for the whole week and rode pretty much 16-20 miles each day. I now know that I will become an avid biker. The rush you get when you are just pedaling your way in to town is so relaxing and rejuvenating. I swear, I am going to be one of those girls who posts photos about her bike all over everything (well, maybe I'll try to tone it back, just a little).
I am so extremely grateful for the cultural nuances of the area surrounding Puerto Viejo in that it was an extremely Vegetarian/Vegan/Gluten Free/Organic area. We never seemed to have trouble finding little nooks with tasty treats to indulge. I mean, the people of Costa Rica Know that Limon food is off the charts. And we were eating off the charts every single day! And simply by ridding our diets of anything processed or that had been treated with pesticides I must say completely changed how I felt. I woke up earlier, had more energy throughout the day, and my skin even began to heal itself in areas I had always had issues (i.e. breakouts).
Of course, all that salt water didn't hurt! Spending even just thirty minutes near the waves was enough to improve my mood for the rest of the day. Even though I am a fire sign, I have always been deeply drawn to water. It is calming and therapeutic and just wafting around while the waves roll over you has got to be the best way to unwind. Pools can't even touch the beauty of the ocean. There, I said it!
Aside from the food and the waves and the rides in to town, we still managed to squeeze projects in to our week. We worked on batiking silk scarves using a newer, plant based batik solution. And, after a little bit of struggle, we even wove belts on an Inkle Loom. I was so taken with my loom that I immediately ordered my own on Amazon the next night. I can't wait to get home to GA to take it for a spin.
Everything in shambles...
My favorite part of the trip, however, was actually being able to sit and talk with one of the Local Artisans. We learned not only about her craft ( we spent a day making bracelets out of dried plant stalks) but we also learned about her religion & culture. She belongs to the indigenous group called the Bribri, who worship the god, Sibu. They live primarily off the land with some creating objects to sell in Puerto Viejo. Many homes are protected by the government and we were even told with a hearty laugh (when we asked how long the Bribri had occupied the land in which we stood) that the Bribri had always been here and would always remain.
Did you know you can eat the gummy part around the cacao bean?!
Everyone needs to eat this all the time. Everyday. Sugarcane for life.
Throwing beads at us was her favorite.
It was absolutely inspiring to hear these women's role in their community & to see how they lived there lives. It was vastly different from what I experience and see everyday here in the States. These women lived with little and seemed so at peace and happy with their day-to-day lives. It was extremely refreshing to be among people with such amazing values, even if only for a day.
It is almost overwhelming to even describe every single thing that happened on this week long adventure. There were so many unexpected occurrences and unplanned surprises, all of which turned out to be amazing! BUt I do need to touch on one place that we were able to visit, which was the Jaguar Rescue Center. I just have to say that the people working here are absolutely amazing. They are kind, knowledgeable, and absolute treasures. The Jaguar Rescue Center is a #1 tourist spot. However, it isn't cheesy like most touristy places can be. This center is completely dedicated to taking in animals who have undergone some sort of distress and helping them not only gain back their strength, but re-enter their natural habitat. Many animals have been brought to this center because they have suffered an injury such as blindness, broken wings, gunshot, or even injuries from being hit by passing cars/trucks. Walking through the center, though, you can just feel the progress that these animals are taking. They are running around, grasping for food in the overhead trees, and learning to climb all over again. It was so hard not to be silly and say "awwww" at every passing animal. And let me tell you, I got to hold a baby monkey and nothing, truly NOTHING, beats having one run up to you, hug you, and give you a little kiss on the shoulder before promptly running away.
I died over all the sloths! <3
Poor guy couldn't fly.. but he had a great hop!
With that, I will show all my awesome photos from the trip-- the ones I could salvage from my phone seeing as my camera got so much humidity in it that it won't work anymore, yikes!
I hope that even these small glimpses into my week in Costa Rica are inspiring to you in some way. Whether they change you completely, as they did for me (quitting my NY job to pursue a sustainable line in GA then Seattle), or they just inspire you to do something a little bit different in your day to day, or if they simply bring a smile to your face, then today was a good day and this post was well worth it!
For more photos, feel free to visit our Facebook page here.