Life is Wet
A collection of journal entries from 5 days in the Children’s Eternal Rainforest, Monteverde, Costa Rica
I’ve built a life where I get to live in the Central Valley of Costa Rica with people from 80+ countries, plan summer trips to teach children in Estonia and take a week off life to go explore a rainforest.
A common theme throughout my life right now and this article is gratefulness. I’ve never been more thankful for the experiences I get to create for myself.
For five days in February 2023, I got to live in the Bosque Eterno de los Niños (Children’s Eternal Rainforest); one of the most unique places on Earth. This rainforest was purchased and protected largely due to children from around the world and is home to some of the rarest and most endangered species on Earth.
The essence of this land is aligned with what I truly believe in: the power young people have to impact change and the importance of conservation for what was here before us.
My experience in the rainforest was guided by a program called Biodiversity and Peace that’s been run for years by my biology teacher, Jeff Norris. I have endless gratitude for the rainforest, this program, and Jeff for making this experience what it was. It was a week full of exploration, understanding and tranquillity which wouldn’t be possible without him.
The title of this article “Life is Wet” comes from doctorate #1 of my Room15 Biology class; the second most unique place on Earth and an incredible space I get the chance to be in. The following is a collection of stories from the rainforest that allowed me to fully internalize why that’s true.
5 am wake up, last minute packing and a final moment in the comfort of my bed. And then we began the hours of travelling up the Pacific slope.
Eventually, we lost service and were no longer connected to the outside world. This meant the people around me and nature were all I had.
We ended our bus ride at the midpoint between the Pacific and Atlantic slopes which was followed by a hike down the Atlantic slope. After 2 hours of walking, we finally resurfaced on the other side.
We entered a new life zone where we encounter a flora and fauna completely different from the Central Valley — the part of Costa Rica I’ve learned to call home. This was a life zone full of vibrant greens, fresh smells and excitement for what was yet to come.
Some felt the novelty and others felt the nostalgia. Some created an idea of what this place would bring them and others remembered what they’d been previously given.
In a blink of an eye, I was alone surrounded by nothing but the forest’s green trees and brown dirt. The fresh smell in the air overwhelmed me with delight. I was right where I was supposed to be. The sound of the river flowing below me created a feeling of tranquillity. For once in my life, my thoughts and being were aligned. Everything was in harmony and I was at peace.
After arriving at the station where the group was staying, unpacking and eating an amazingly delicious lunch, being alone surrounded by the forest was my first experience with peace and biodiversity. But it wasn’t peace and biodiversity. It was peace because of biodiversity.
I was surrounded by nature. All types of trees, the flow of water in the distance, eye-catching flowers, moss growing on all the trunks and insects crawling through the fallen leaves. This one massively tall tree with a giant triangular hole in the middle of it stood out to me so I chose to sit in front of it. At that moment I had nothing but curiosity and excitement.
As I sat and analyzed the tree I thought about what Jeff told us, “the rainforest doesn’t care that we're here”. It welcomes us with open arms by giving us tree trunks to sit on, magnificent views to look at and bird songs to listen to. It sounds majestic. And it was. But that doesn’t mean I wasn’t terrified. I had no idea where I was and what I was doing. I questioned why I wanted to be here in the first place. I felt out of place and as if I didn’t deserve the tranquillity. My thoughts were consumed by to-do lists and questions.
At first, all I could remember was that I still hadn’t figured out how to graph the exponential formula for my math internal assessment; I still have no idea how stress levels connect to memory which I was supposed to be an expert in by now; and I have tons more clinical advisors to find for work. Then came the questions. When is the next time I’m going home? When is the next time I can call my parents? How did I get to the middle of a Costa Rican rainforest? What am I doing here?
But then it started to rain.
I watched the plants far above me soak up the water and the leaves around me danced in reaction. I took a breath. Nothing mattered. All the doubts, questions and unknowns didn’t matter. Regardless of how present they may be in my mind, they don’t matter. I was right where I was supposed to be. And so I let it all go.
Tranquillity returned to me for the remaining moments of my first trip in the forest. I was still uncomfortable with my surroundings but I was okay with that. What I was ultimately doing here was exploring an unknown environment. I wanted to not only remove the fear of it but develop the comfort I see in others around me.
I spent the remainder of the day on different hikes through the trails exploring the environment around me. As I finally returned to the station I could confidently say I had nothing but curiosity and excitement for the days ahead.
As I hike through the forest in the dark I realize that it’s not so new anymore. The rocks were less uncomfortable in the arches of my feet and the cool breeze didn’t shock me.
I walked with a hop in my step, reminding everyone the cow patch is just past the waterfall. As we arrive, I sit on a bench anxiously waiting for the dark black sky to turn light grey.
As darkness turned to light we no longer needed flashlights to guide the way. I hear the birds sing above me and the cowbells in the distance. I can’t see the cows yet but I’m beginning to realize that sight isn’t everything. The green vibrance shines through and the morning mist welcomes us back into the rainforest.
It’s a refreshing feeling. A feeling that makes you feel truly alive.
It was a reminder that the forest doesn’t mind having us here. I feel eternally grateful to be welcomed into a home that doesn’t belong to me and that’s a feeling that will be carried with us forever.
There’s a familiar feeling about the forest. I know where I am.
Day 3 in the rainforest was one of my favourites. It started with us running down the trail to the cow pasture at 5 am. I recorded the sounds of the forest, journaled and sat with the cows as they started their days.
I appreciated the positive and tranquil energy of the morning.
We returned to the station and I wrote some more. Breakfast was delicious as all the food was.
During my second hike of the day, I realized I’m only getting more comfortable and more curious about the environment around me. The arches of my feet had moulded into the shapes of rocks.
As I neared the end of the hike, I returned to the small waterfall I’d become so fond of because it has an element of comfort to it. I realized this was the first time I wasn’t trying to escape the forest. I was at peace with exactly where I was and what I was doing.
The two-hour-long hikes we’re routine by now. I became extremely fascinated by the change in the forest as the sun rose and set.
My curiosity took over and I spent all of my time asking questions or making observations so there was no time to think about anything else.
I was reentering a mindset of genuine curiosity, this time for the rainforest. I’ve always been a person full of questions, but I started to lose sight of that person in my everyday life.
During the afternoon I listened to all the recordings from 5 am — 7 am and 5 pm — 7 pm from the last few days. The rise and fall of bird calls, the warmth and cooling of the air, the change in precipitation, and the nocturnal animals coming to life were such magical experiences to be a part of.
I analyzed the sounds and started to understand why different changes happen at the peaks of dusk and dawn.
By the end of this process, I felt as though I had found myself again. The childlike curiosity that I channelled through my exploration is the identity I hold here. I’m a person of questions. I always have been and I always will be. That identity is something that this forest was able to give back to me without me even realizing I had lost it.
I feel much more sure of myself and the actions I’m taking now than at the start of my trip. I don’t even know what I’m doing but regardless I’m doing it with confidence.
The number four feels so tiny. I don’t think it encapsulates how significant this experience has been. Nevertheless, this was my final full day in the rainforest.
It begins at 4:30 am as I get ready to back to the cow pasture I fell in love with. This time, I was alone. This was the first time since day one I’ve been truly alone in the rainforest. But this time, the tranquillity stayed with me.
The biggest consistency in my trip was my morning hikes to the cow pasture. In the grand scheme of things, it’s as if I spent no time here at all. But the path there is engraved in my memories.
Three curves down the road, pass the waterfall, hike up to the right and you’re there. By now I can do that walk in my sleep.
As I’m welcomed for one of the final times by the two turquoise benches in the beautiful open field with the sleeping cows I set out my recorder to capture today's forest.
As I press record, I’m filled with gratitude and more questions.
What will the bird songs be like today? When will the cows begin to wake? What nocturnal animals are finding their way to sleep right now?
Solitude always came with uncontrollable amounts of questions. But the intention and my focus have shifted entirely.
One thing this trip has taught me is that to understand something you have to become unconditionally connected with it. Looking at the big picture, four days in the rainforest is nothing. I’m not going to sit here and convince you I’m the most connected person with nature in the world. But I have a favourite tree. I have my favourite open patch to sit and write in.
I’ve spent the last four days approaching this place with nothing but curiosity and an open mind. And that is what allowed me to begin to truly understand where I am.
As the sky turns lighter, the birds begin to sing. I can sense the forest starting to wake up. I hear the bells of the cows and see the glowing eyes start to disappear into the lightness of the day.
One of the things I unconsciously love most about these past four days is not having internet. We’ve all been so immersed in the forest that you don’t notice it’s gone until we want to look something up. But instead, we resort to Jeff and the library.
I spent my time in the best way for myself which I realize has been a way lower priority than what’s on my phone or what my friends need. My sleeping routine (and almost everyone else who I was living with) of 4:30 am wakeups, a mid-day nap on the balcony and 9 pm bedtime allows me to hike, research, write, analyze and explore more than I ever thought possible in one 24-hour time span.
As it approached 7 am I ended my recording and walked back to the station.
Throughout the day I analyzed more forest recordings, began attempting to document this trip and spent a final moment in the rainforest by a beautiful waterfall.
The cool breeze and mist coming from the water were a refreshing feeling. My time in the rainforest was coming to a close but I’m okay with that.
I feel like I’m genuinely at a part in my life where I’m fully living, many moments don’t feel like it but that’s part of being human. I have responsibilities but that shouldn’t hold me back from feeling free.
This place is so unbelievably special to me. I’ve never felt more at peace in a place that I’ve never been before. There’s something unexplainably tranquil. I am eternally grateful to be surrounded by amazing people, nature and life.
Who would’ve thought that at 17 I’d be sitting on a rock in front of a waterfall in the middle of Costa Rica? But there’s nowhere else I’d rather be.
The final day of my rainforest adventures has come. My routine 4:30 am alarm went off and I jumped out of my bed to the crashing sounds of rain. A week ago, this would’ve meant me going right back to bed.
But water is life and I was happy to be alive. So I got ready in the dark to not wake up my roommates, grabbed a garbage bag and ran off into the darkness of the forest one final time.
This time I brought no recorders, no journal and no cameras. I returned to my typical bench in the cow patch and allowed myself to be in nature with no barriers.
As much as I love analyzing the bird calls and writing my reflections out as I sit in nature, this time I didn’t want anything interfering with my final morning.
Instead, I appreciated my surroundings for one final time.
Eventually, it became the time we all dreaded: the two-hour hike back up the Atlantic slope and our final moments in the Children's Eternal Rainforest. We covered our backpacks in plastic bags, loaded the four-wheelers up with equipment and got our closing pep talk from Jeff.
Even though the week was ending, my experiences in the rainforest are not. I knew I would be back.
Gracias Bosque Eterno de los Niños 💚