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. 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 we were working with. 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.
Although it was an exhausting and smelly two weeks, our hard work paid off immensely. I got to hold a baby sea turtle, watch an entire nest waddle out to the sea and on out last night we finally got to see mother turtles in the process of giving birth. Before that night, none of the groups had seen a single mother turtle. As out last hoorah before leaving the next day our entire group went on patrol together. We saw a mom sea title climbing the beach looking for a good spot to lay her eggs, a mother sea turtle cover her nest up and begin the journey back to the ocean and finally we saw a mother turtle actually giving birth.
When mama sea turtles give birth, they go into a trance like state. This trance allowed us to get close enough to the mother that we each out our hand on her shell and listened to her breath as she gave birth to the new generation of sea turtles. Words cannot describe the beautiful and surreal feeling I had. It made every late night and early morning, every missed shower and sleeping on the ground worth it. The two weeks led up to the most beautiful experience of my life.