Our kids love dogs. Every journey on foot in Central and South America is punctuated with stopping for a dog for them to pat, and there are thousands of stray dogs roaming the streets.
Charlie’s Angels is a dog rescue home that was started by a German lady, Tania. Over the years, along with volunteers, she has successfully cared for and found homes for hundreds of stray dogs around Costa Rica.
Despite our children being too young to volunteer, we negotiated to pay and stay in the ‘Casita’, the Air BnB on the property, but also help with all the day to day duties. Shannon and Marcus, from the States and Argentina respectively, had been running Charlie’s Angels since February and it was amazing to see their love for the dogs. Helping them was a very sweet French girl Carol, who kept gravitating back to Charlie’s Angels during her travels around Costa Rica. The centre itself was well equipped, it ran like a well oiled machine. There was a wide variety of dogs, 23 in total; two that had no use of their back legs, abandoned puppies, big dogs, small dogs, dogs being looked after whilst owners were away, but they were all one big happy family.
The household was up around 5:30 every morning, and the routine began. We opted to do the walking duties, and after a loop round the village, which consisted of about four streets, with some of the smaller dogs, we took the big energetic one’s into the mountains. To be honest the dogs walked us as they were incredibly strong, and going down the mountain was a real test of core and leg strength. The walks took us through coffee plantations and offered beautiful vistas of the small Pueblitos below. Fresh bananas, oranges, the odd avocado and jocotes were collected on our walk and shared around. The evenings were busy with feeding and walking the dogs, but during the days we managed to relax and have time to ourselves. The kids were in their element and spent all their spare time playing with the dogs. A very forthright girl the same age as Tiana made friends with her, and she came nearly everyday. It was great hearing them converse and teach each other their respective language. Rico also made friends with a boy his age and despite neither of them being linguistically inclined they managed to muddle by in Spanglish.
After the post supper lull and putting the dogs to bed, the volunteers would sit around a fire in the garden shooting the breeze, discussing our mutual children!
The days passed quickly, and apart from a couple of food runs to the neighbouring village, we stayed put. A hike to the cross overlooking the village one weekend with some local families was quite an adventure, mainly due to the steep muddy terrain and keeping the dogs in check, but we made it there and back safely. Luckily we avoided the inevitable tearful goodbyes, as we would return for one last night after our trip to an indigenous community for a week.
The Third Half
‘The Third Half’ (T3H) is a unique organisation as it is the worlds first social enterprise to combine sport travel and the U.N.’s 12 global goals. It offers groups and individuals the chance to experience different cultures, play football and at the same time creating a social impact in the countries visited. For me it combines everything I love and believe in. I became friends with the CEO, Mike Geddes, when we were put in touch regarding me DJ-ing at his wedding back in South Africa. I then learnt about his work at ‘Street Football World’ ( www.streetfootballworld.org), ‘Common Goal’ (www.commongoal.org) and ‘The Third Half’ (www.thethirdhalf.org).
Mike was instrumental in connecting us with ‘Tiempo de Juego’ whilst we were in Colombia. T3H were looking at putting together a tour to Costa Rica, so knowing we were there, Mike asked if we’d test drive a few of the proposed activities and experiences, checking out the logistics surrounding them. Together with Jannes a 19 year old German volunteer at SeproJoven, we spent some time visiting a local community in Salitre, BribriPa.
Bribripa indigenous community
The elders of the community were very welcoming and to put together an itinerary for our stay. The days were jam packed; we got to learn about the beliefs of the community, how medicinal plants were used and organic farming practices. We participated in an artisanal workshop, learnt some of the local language, and visited a local savannah, primary forest and waterfall. On our final evening we were treated to a performance of song and dance.
The community hosted young volunteers from all around the globe who were working on projects within the community. All of the visitors to Bribripa stayed in wooden cabins and we all ate together in an open air communal dinning hall. The cabins had bunkbeds, and were constructed so that there was a big gap leading to the roof, to let air flow in due to the heat. Naturally being rustic, this allowed all manner of bugs and insects in. One evening, whilst sitting on the toilet going about my business and reading a book, I felt a tickle on the inside of my leg. Casually brushing my leg I was horrified to see a black scorpion on it and leapt from the toilet, shorts and pants around my ankles shouting expletives much to the amusement of Becky and the kids. Luckily I wasn’t stung as they are very lethal and a trip to hospital would have ensued. Their laughter was short lived when I told them a scorpion had been in our bathroom and there was a good chance it could return…thankfully it didn’t, but every towel and item of clothing was shaken, and every shoe was turned upside down before use!
The week was rounded off nicely with a return to Charlie’s Angels for a proper farewell.
Next stop was our long dog sitting stint up in the northern wetlands.