Whenever someone talks about believing in magic all people think about is a green fairy flying across the screen of a TV or a princess finding her true love or twelve year olds running around with wands fighting evil wizards. Magic is chalked up to something unattainable and made up by a talking mouse. But I have seen true magic that our natural world has created.


It was the summer between my seventh and eighth grade year. I was only 13 at the time and my parents put me on a plane to a foreign country with complete strangers. Before this two week excursion, the longest I had ever been away from my parents was about a couple of days and I was looking at two weeks without them and without any contact with them. To say I was terrified would be an understatement. But I got on that plane, sobbing and everything, because I had a feeling that the next two weeks would change my life and boy did they.


I went to Costa Rica through a Girl Scout Program called Destinations. For two weeks, me and 17 other Girl Scouts from across the country raging in ages from 13 (me) to 18 lived in tents and went without a running water. The two weeks were split up between two sides of the Island. For one week, we stayed in the backyard of a nice lady who worked with the rescue organization. The second week we lived under trees right by organization we were working with on the other side of the island.


Both organizations focused on finding, rescuing and rehabilitating baby sea turtles. We worked in four hour shifts just walking up and down the beaches by our campsite in complete silence and in absolute darkness We were looking for any signs of nests so that we could rescue. Sea turtles are an endangered species yet the people of Costa Rica like to make turtle soups and cocktails. We wanted to find the nests before anyone else did so that would could bring then eggs back to a safe location called a Hatchery, where the eggs could incubate and then be released once they baby sea turtles hatched. This line of work required bare minimum living. We took showers with a bucket in the rain, flushed the toilets with collected rain water and ultimately went without running water for a week.


It was during the second week that I saw the first signs of magic. We worked from sun up to sun down and then would only get about 4 hours of sleep a night.  But it was the passion of the volunteers that kept me going. At our second location, we went without running water for almost the entire time we were there. It sucked. But what made it more bearable was the fact that for the two volunteers, that was their life. They lived in a super run down home, with not a lot of manway but they found joy in rescuing sea turtles from horrible fates.


It was the last night that my belief was really solidified. The last night the entire group went out together to patrol the beaches. It was a full moon and super clear which allowed us to see the beach. We had gone both weeks without seeing a single mother turtle so my hopes weren’t that high but then something magical happened. We saw three. One climbing the beach to lay her eggs, one descending the beach after finishing bringing the new generation of turtles into the world and the final turtle we saw was actively giving birth. Turtles have a unique way of giving birth, they dig a big whole and then they go into a trance like state where everything around them fades and they just focus on laying her eggs. This allowed up to get up close to her and actually put out hands on her shell.


This is where the magic happened. We could feel her deep calming breaths and with every exhale she let some of her eggs go. I will never forget the magical feeling of calmness and serenity that took over my body as I laid my hand on her shell. It’s what I remember when I’m having a bad day or can’t sleep. I remember making my breathing match hers and it seems to melt away any stress or proems I am having or feeling. It’s that peace that I found on that Costa Rican beach that makes believe in magic.



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