David's Blog

Photo of David Lillyman
Biosystems Engineering
(Biomedical Emphasis)
Kearney, NE

Costa Rica Flag Costa Rica

Costa Rica: A how to guide continued
The last blog concluded right before the trip to Talamanca so this blog will resume there. Talamanca is located in the very far southeast corner of Costa Rica. This mountainous zone houses the majority of the country’s indigenous population which numbers around 60,000. These people are generally very poor and lack the means to have simple life changing surgeries performed. This is where the group, including myself, from the Clinic of San Miguel came into play. Twice a year, the owner of the Clinic takes a group of volunteer doctors and nurses out to Talamanca to perform surgeries on the natives. Over two days, the group performed 59 surgeries in total. Around 40 of these surgeries were vasectomies and the rest were mainly lipectomies. Not only did the owner of the clinic pay for the travel expenses, he also provided an entire lunch to all of the patients who had traveled hours to undergo surgery that day.

Photo of David with his fellow workers at the San Miguel Clinic in Costa Rica.
Image of the countryside near Talamanca, Costa Rica.
Not only did the owner of the clinic pay for the travel expenses, he also provided an entire lunch to all of the patients who had traveled hours to undergo surgery that day.

On a more comedic note, while in Talamanca, I was once again reminded of the questionable driving techniques of the Costa Ricans. After breakfast on the first day, I was standing by the car, minding my own business when WHAM! - another car slams into the back of the car I was standing next to. The driver of the car apparently was new and didn’t understand that one has to steer the car in the desired direction before stepping on the gas. Looking at the road before driving forward also appears to be something they struggle with. I learned this the next day when I was sitting inside one of the cars and after coming to a stop, when we were rammed from behind by another car. The driver claimed to have thought we had already drove off. I guess the idea that we had already drove off was strong enough of a mental image for him to disregard the car 20 feet in front of him as merely a mirage. Regardless of these driving mistakes, everyone kept in high spirits. I was surprised how easily they laughed off these collisions.

The weekend following Talamanca, other volunteers and I made a trip to Monteverde, the rainforest. A girl in our group booked five beds ahead of time at a “luxury hostel”. Now, “luxury hostel” is not a term I had heard before. I was slightly apprehensive when arriving in Monteverde because hostels are about the cheapest places to stay and “luxury hostel” translates mentally similar to “Gucci Fruit of the Loom”. Despite this, I was optimistic, and to my great surprise, the hostel ended up being the cleanest, most spectacular hostel I have ever seen. We passed our time in Monteverde inside the rainforest traversing the breathtaking skybridges.

Image of a Costa Rica Rain Forest through an airplane window.
David walking across a bridge in a Costa Rica Rain Forest.

Three hours before we left Monteverde, we hiked up to a monumental tree with a ladder-like tube structure. We were able to climb the tree and sit in its branches which provided a tremendous view of the countryside as well as a little glimpse of the ocean.

Looking up a monumental tree with ladder-like tube structure.
Image of a monkey sitting in a tree.

This last weekend, the weekend following Talamanca, I was invited by a Doctor of the clinic to pass the weekend with his family in the mountainous region of San Carlos.

David standing in front of a church holding a dog.
Image of the mountainous region of San Carlos.

Upon arrival to San Carlos, I was thrown directly into a large birthday party. Birthday parties differ from those in the United States in that they seem to never end. The party began at 2 PM and the doctor and I left at 10 PM. During this entire time we watched soccer, consumed a delicious lunch and supper and finished the night off with a superb dulce de leche cake. The following day was Father’s Day, and to keep with Costa Rican tradition, the whole family was invited again to participate in the festivities. Similar to the birthday party, we had a delectable lunch with savory barbeque chicken and roast. We finished out the weekend by installing a new router in his father’s house.

Another aspect of Costa Rica I have found tremendously amusing is the “appliance stores” here. The stores, being rather small, cannot house all of the goods like a Menards or Home Depot so they only carry a small selection. The amusing side of this is what the owners of these stores choose to sell. The first time I saw these stores I had to check my eyes to make sure I was seeing correctly. It is as if the owners chose one or two household goods, a couple homecare goods and then something completely random [Insert Picture 10 here]. For example (yes I have seen this combination): irons, crock pots, motorbikes, televisions and weed whackers. I’m not entirely sure of the logic here. It’s not often that I think to myself, “hmmm I could really use a weed whacker, a crockpot and a new iron today. I know! I’ll go to my neighborhood department store for all these goods!”. I was able to snap a quick picture of one of these stores on my walk to the Clinic.

Image of neighborhood department store.

Regardless of their small specific collection, the owners could not be any more amicable and helpful when the time comes to buy a speaker system and lawn mower.

That is all for this blog! Next weeks will concern my travels to the spectacular Manuel Antonio and more places I have yet to travel to.

Costa Rica: A how to guide
Upon arrival to Costa Rica, I realized that the time I spend here would be quite different to that in the United States. My first encounter with the culture was during the drive to my host house. In America, driving long distances can be relaxing given the proper traffic, but in Costa Rica, regardless of the distance, driving is a unique experience.

I haven’t decided if the Ticos (Costa Ricans) enjoy the thrill of tailgating another car going 60 kph, or if they are extremely conscious of maintaining their presence in another’s slipstream. I’m not sure either, why there are traffic signs and speed limits posted because no one follows them. Driving appears to be a game with death involving the maximum speed a car can wind around turns on a wet road without sliding off. In the end I made it to my host house located on top of a hill in the outskirts of Atenas. The location could not be any more picturesque.

The scenery in Costa Rica is breathtaking. Mountains blanketed by thick jungle cover the horizon in all directions. I was able to snap two pictures of these mountains during a jog on my second day.
Mountains in Costa Rica

Jogging too, is a whole new situation here. One does not go on a refreshing jog through a park in Costa Rica. Regardless of where you are, as soon as you begin your jog you are destined to shortly encounter a very large hill. You may walk out the door and see what you think to be a flat road, but as soon as you start jogging there will be a curve in the road, and this curve without a doubt will lead to a large hill. So if mountain training is your thing, Costa Rica is for you. Unfortunately, I do not have the body of a mountain goat so the 60 degree incline slopes can result in the abrupt finish of a jog. These hills are rewarding once ascended as the roads often wind around the sides of the mountains offering a tremendous view of the surrounding areas.

I began my work at the clinic two days after I arrived. The clinic I work at is 1 hour by bus from Atenas, the city where I am staying. In this country, one hour by bus is equivalent to probably 5 minutes as the crow flies. The people of the clinic, and Ticos in general, are the most friendly, patient individuals I have ever encountered. They go out of their way in every regard to help those in need. My work in the clinic largely consists of observing patient care, surgeries, and helping when needed.
David working in the Clinic in Costa Rica. Photo of David with other clinic workers and another of him taking blood from a patient.

On the first weekend, four other volunteers and I visited Montezuma, or as the locals call it, Montefuma (fumar = to smoke). The trip to Montezuma was an exciting adventure in itself as we had to take two buses and a ferry.

Photo of Left: Taking a Ferry Boat ride. Photo on Right: Person dangling with one arm from a tree with the beach and ocean in the background.
We stayed in a hostel run by one of the most peaceful humans I have met. He spoke very slowly and calmly in such a fashion that one would think he was perpetually in a state of falling asleep. His demeanor could likely have been influenced by the trade goods of Montefuma. We passed most of our time basking in sun on the various beaches. The only destination we traveled to other than the beach was a secluded waterfall deep in the jungle. We were able to swim in its pool and jump off its ledges.
Diving and Swimming at the bottom of a waterfall in the Mountains of Costa Rica

In the next two weekends we traveled to Talamanca on a medical mission trip and Monteverde, the rainforest. Details about these places will be included in the next blog!