I awoke to the sounds of Lupe giggling as she played with her father, Santiago. I laid in my hammock and enjoyed the view. I could see quite a distance across the lawn and up the mountain from where we had come the day before. Before I had finished taking in the beauty on my surroundings, I heard the mother call from the kitchen, “Desayuno!” which translates to “Breakfast!” I rolled out of my hammock and landed gracefully on the floor below. This was difficult to manage as the rest of the group had slept on the floor. I managed to land with my feet only a few inches from the head of the girl who slept beneath me.
Breakfast was rice, beans, and eggs, a typical meal in Costa Rica. Rice and beans comprised the majority of nearly every meal and would typically be accompanied by eggs or empanadas in the morning, fruit in the afternoon, and a small cut of meat for dinner.
Following our meal, everyone grabbed gear and followed the leaders into the jungle. Today we were going to climb the tallest tree around. It stood at about 60 feet to the top anchor then another 15 feet or so to the very top (which would not have been safe to climb to).
Everyone climbed to the top anchor of the tree. I went last for the first round and first for the last round. This allowed me to go two consecutive times so I didn’t have to fuss with the harness more than once. The leaders told me to try going blindfolded my second time. I did so and it turned out quite well. My group mates accurately called out hand and foot placements for me to use. It was a good team-building exercise.
Once my turn climbing was done, I took a turn belaying. I thoroughly scared one of the guys on the trip when I let him back down from the top of the tree very quickly and only stopped him feet from the ground. I do this often in the gym but he was not used to the fast descent. I thoroughly enjoyed watching the terror on his blindfolded face as he plummeted towards the ground.
Once all those who wanted to climb the tree a second time had done so, we went back to the house for lunch. Rice, beans, squash and pork made up this meal. It tasted good and gave us energy for the afternoon team-building exercises.
Late in the afternoon, everyone was called together and told to chase a particular chicken, capture it and bring it back to Carlos. With the whole group working together to surround the chicken, I scooped it up and brought it to Carlos with a hop in my step like a dog bringing a bird to its master.
A somber tone came over the group as Carlos he explained the cultural significance of killing for food. No pictures were allowed and the group was very quiet. Looking around, I was suddenly extra aware of the fact that although I hunt and have no issues with killing for food, others in the group were not so comfortable with it. We all took care to be respectful of the animal, the culture, and those in the group who were more emotionally affected by what was going to take place.
We each passed the hen around, each saying a prayer of thanksgiving or simply admiring the innocent animal we would soon slaughter. A string was looped around the neck of the bird and used to elongate her neck on a wood block. It didn’t fight, it simply sat and waited. I was given the honor of slaughtering the bird and with one small flick of the machete had severed the head from the body.
The body flapped around sporadically fighting for life as one of the girls held it in a bucket. As the blood flowed out of the bird, it fought less and less, until finally it was quiet. We poured boiling water over the body to loosen the feathers and each person grabbed clumps until the body was bare. From there, we watched the rest of the process as the bird was cleaned for dinner.
Our group went inside to discuss what we had just taken part in. Some were very emotional while others we quite the opposite. Everyone had insightful comments and was very respectful of the other opinions being shared. It was unanimously agreed that the bird had lived a much better life naturally roaming the lawn than a chicken in the United States, which is confined to a 1ft3 cage for the entirety of its life. We were also informed that the chicken was old and had stopped laying eggs. This meant that if it were not slaughtered, it would die a more painful death of natural causes rather soon. We all agreed that this was a better option overall.
Following the chicken ceremony, we moved to the porch and had group-bonding time until dinner. We sat in a circle and shared stories with one another and grew closer to the people we would be spending the next few weeks with. Even our guides joined in for a while.
Dinner was rice, beans, and the chicken I had helped slaughter. We ate every part of it we could (even the heart and liver!). We did not stay up late in the evening, as we would be hiking to the next home-stay in the morning. Following dinner, I crawled into my hammock and wrote in my journal before falling asleep to the sound of the birds and insects singing in the night.