While in Costa Rica, things ran very differently than they would at home. No electronics-no phone, no iPad, no music, and no TV. We didn’t even have clocks! But we had each other. Every night, we had a share circle. We sat with the entire group and went around saying what we appreciated and our highs and lows of the day.
Towards the end of the trip, our sharing circle began right before dinner as usual. But this night was different. By this point, everyone knew all thirty names and could even list where most were from. Approximately halfway through the circle, one of my Sister Girl Scouts began her appreciations. She said, “At school, I couldn’t even imagine half of you approaching me, much less wanting to learn more about me.”
She continued by saying how appreciative she was that we all took the time to get to know her, even though we may have had nothing in common. To hear something like that was so touching. Never before did I stop and realize that my being friendly or sharing a smile would mean so much to someone.
The rest of the trip was just as amazing as the first half. Most would expect that having thirty girls all together for ten days would lead to chaos and drama. These girls were different though; everyone wanted to learn about each other and we all shared a common interest in making an impact in the community we were staying in.
Not only did we work with sea turtles and see firsthand the circle of life, but we were also able to connect with local children through soccer games. On our fourth day at the beach site, we were invited to a 1st birthday party of a little local girl. The entire extended family was there, and they made us dinner, let us partake in the games, and danced with us! They enjoyed getting to see the “chicas.”
Since coming home, I have made it my objective to be as genuine as possible in my everyday life. It’s so easy to get swept up in a small friend group and to isolate yourself from the rest of your peers. Additionally, I have come to realize all the luxuries I have here at home. For example, hot showers and toilets you can actually flush toilet paper down! Several times during the trip we were able to discuss just how lucky we were to be apart of this adventure and to be able to explore a new country with a great group of new friends. I am still in contact with all of these girls, as we have started our own group chat.
Olivia Ottenfeld is a Girl Scout Ambassador from Chicago.