Jungle: 1 | Cara: 0 -- An Update From Costa Rica

While we were away, we got some updates from Cara's trip to Costa Rica! Happy day! Don't forget to continue sending good vibes her way as she takes on Uganda in August. 

Hey, Live It community! This is Caradactyl reporting from Costa Rica. Want me to fill you in a bit? 

Costa Rica is my home away from home. I've been coming here since my first trip in 2010. Over the years of service, I've established a new family here. It can be kind of weird when I explain to people how I can feel home to both places, how I belong to two families, two churches, and two cultures. I always miss one place or another since I cannot be in both at once. So, this trip has been a beautiful one. 

The first week I was in the capitol, San Jose. I was catching up with old friends, hiking, and doing some work in a slum with some kiddos. This second week and a half I am settled into the jungles of Talamanca. I live in a town called Shiroles where old indigenous languages, culture, and work still reside. On this week of the trip I am traveling with 20 other people from my hometown. I prefer to travel with the locals since Gringos (white people) tend to stick out too much. Let's face it, Americans are loud and rambunctious. 

PicMonkey Collage

But traveling with a bunch of foreigners can also be fun for me. I get to re-experience the glory of newness through their eyes. Silly questions and observations make me joyful to reflect on what it was first like to come here, and the first things I noticed.

The night we arrived we were greeted by our kind host, who is also from our hometown of Lexington, Kentucky. Kimi greets us with splendor. Well, actually I ran my face into hers, but, you know, splendor. Then she collects the group together and says, "I am SO happy to have all of you here. I apologize, we don't have electricity. Hopefully we can have it tomorrow." I immediately fall into the adventure and enter the dark cabin and find my favorite spot that I know so well by the big screen in the loft. The little girls downstairs ask when we will have water and electricity. I laugh and respond, "when the jungle decides." Their eyes and mouth widen as they snap their heads over to their poor mother for comfort. Woops.


The jungle is a place of struggle. Upon arriving, my friend Abby and I went to shower because of the long travel. We get into the showers in pitch black darkness, strip, and turn on the faucet ... and ... No water. We share a few "hmmm"s and "uh huh"s and then we put back on our clothes, depressed, and return to our loft. "Jungle 1, Cara 0". 

Thus begins the struggle of such life, life preserved and beautiful but life without air-conditioning.

The next day we find out that we wont have electricity or running water for a few days. Luckily the showers at the nearby church work, so no problemo. AND there is always the river.


This place screams unfiltered beauty. Everywhere you look the mountains are covered in green canopy, grey clouds, and insects on steroids. Nightime lightning, wild flowers, and a five inch neon spider. 

Insect that needs to lay off the steroids Insect that needs to lay off the steroids

The following day, I took a shower and the water shut off on me twice. In the corner was a giant black beatle starring at me as I prayed the water would come back on... Jungle 2, Cara 0. 

In the morning, you are woken up by nature. Roosters crow, birds chirp, and the horses are galloping around neighing. Along with them are the goats, dogs, and chickens who walk around freely and the cows who are herded in their special places. 

On Sunday, we went hiking to visit a community higher in the mountain. And by hiking, I mean I nearly ascended to my death. The hike took our group a little over three hours; the first two hours were a direct incline and the last hour was swampy. We trekked through highland, lowland, swampland, and no man's land by the time we reached our destination and the trees were spinning. They were spinning. I managed to only slip twice, but my crew told me it was graceful. I call that a win. Jungle 2, Cara 1.


On the way back down a team member was bit by the very bug we have always been warned about: A Bullet Ant. Bullet ants are large black "ants" with the skin of a beatle. They are black and conveniently on every branch that you would like to use as support. When bitten these ants can insinuate the pain of a bullet shooting across the tasty limb from which he munched, for my friend it was his ankle. Our team member took it like a champ and walked the remaining terrain. Next time I saw him, he was sitting in a rocking chair, sock down, and the fan blasting at his ankles in agony.

The electricity and water finally returned and we rejoiced. Even in the jungle small things such as a convenient sink and electric fan give you peace when there is challenge. The houses that I visit are usually one room cabins covered in dust and roofed by sheets of metal. These one room houses serve as the kitchen and community room, including for sleep. These houses are also overcrowded, imagine a family on five living in only your bedroom as your total home.

Many children are neglected and unloved. Many are in poverty and depression. Many cope with alcohol, sex, and drugs. Many are sick. The challenges that this life is accustomed to are brutal but there is hope. Their are people here who invest themselves into the darkness. Kimi, my host of splendor, is working with her staff to build a home to receive children, envisioning small business models for selling chicken and growing corn. They have clubs for children where they come and play but most of all these people are extending love and encouragement. 


A few days ago, I was given advice about world aid. A wise woman told me to be careful and to not cry over every single person who has a problem, because everyone has a problem, and you can't fix their problems. This women was undoubtedly wise, and correct, but she has a short circuit.

I accept that I can't "fix" every person's problems. True. But speaking in that mentality opens doors for giving up, and I don't give up. You see, these people need basic needs but one basic need that I can ALWAYS fix and ALWAYS provide is love. Depressed people need a smile. Abused children need a tender hug. Addicts need a pure source of fun and relief. This woman doesn't understand the depth of aid, and the depth in the impact that simplicity and sincere human interaction can provide. 

This relates to everyone. It doesn't matter whether you call the jungle home or the city with it's lovely, wonderful air-conditioning. You may not be able to provide a solution for every problem but you can surely provide relief for every burden by sharing love. Cheesy. But think on it.

Pura Vida (Pure Life), Cara Starns

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