Sunday, January 25, 2009

Contact Info

To reach me at the Ranch, the best way is email. Of course, I´m a big snail mail fan, but realize that it takes 3 weeks and a trip to Puriscal for us, so probably more like a month. Also, don´t send a package bigger than a shoebox or else we have to go all the way to San Jose and pay by the day for them to store it. But I still love mail!! :) So send it to:

Erin Campbell
Rancho Mastatal
Apdo 185-6000
Puriscal, San José

Also, the Ranch´s website is Lot´s of great photos and info there.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Erin En Mastatal!

Hello from Rancho Mastatal! Yes, I got here safely, flying into San Jose only a couple hours after an earthquake hit the city. It’s mind-boggling to think that I’ve been here for two weeks already—the time has flown by. So a bit more about the place I now call home: the Ranch is a sustainable living and retreat center founded by two former peace corp volunteers about 7 years ago. Tim and Robin bought 600 acres in this rural village, which is a very bumpy 1.5 hour drive northwest to Puriscal and another hour after that to San Jose. We’re only about 7 miles from the west coast of the Costa Rica, but apparently it takes over an hour to get there!

While most of you in the states are currently pulling on wool socks and wishing you could crank up the thermostat without dad noticing, Costa Ricans are enjoying their summer, the dry season. In the rainy season, which is about May through November, there’s only a couple of hours every morning before hard rain sets in for the rest of the day. So during this drier time, the kids are off school, the farmers are working hard, and we at the Ranch are building our hearts out and hosting many educational groups. For the most part, classes are facilitated by outside groups, while the Ranch provides meals and lodging, and facilitates class projects that can improve the Ranch and Mastatal. For example, the recent renewable energy course installed solar panels on several homes in the village, and an upcoming natural building course will help build a composting toilet for the Ranch. The most recent group we hosted was a 10 day medical rescue course in wilderness first response. On the last day, the interns and staff staged a “mass casualty incident” that the students did their best to respond to. At about 6 am upon hearing shrieks from the river below the ranch, the students rushed down to discover about 15 gravely injured hikers who had fallen from the mountain path above during an earthquake. My hysterical “daughter” Anna (one of the instructor’s kids with quite a flare for drama) and I were the first to greet them, demanding care for our broken arms and help to look for another family member. The students (who told us they felt genuine stress during the course of the event) proceeded to spend the next 4.5 hours finding, calming, diagnosing, treating and evacuating folks with internal bleeding, eviscerated organs, broken pelvises, shock and hypothermia. And after all that, they had to sit down and take a written exam. Wow!

In a way, I feel like mornings such as that are commonplace here at the Ranch. There’s always something new to learn, something creative to be a part of, something stunning to gawk and gasp at. Already I’ve harvested beans off a mountainside farm, jumped off a 43 ft tall waterfall, spotted toucans and sloths and lizards and snakes, washed my clothes by hand, built a shelf of bamboo and tropical cedar, stared at the bamboo, open-air “house” I live in trying to figure out how everything fits together, crafted soap out of pig fat and palm oil, and made tortillas and barbeque sauce from scratch. I am super stoked to bring some skills back to the states…one of my big projects with some other interns is to design and begin building an outdoor bathroom, complete with plumbed shower, sink, and the Ranch’s fourth composting toilet system that will yield more rich soil for our gardens. How exciting!

So the Ranch is definitely an exciting place, but also one that facilitates reflection and revelation. Once again, I find myself in a place without a TV or a nearby movie theater, surrounded by folks who know and feel a lot about many different things. Each day a good chunk of time is able to be spent reading and delving into discussions about life, beliefs and experiences. Also, the jungle wakes me up at about 5:30 or 6 every day, so I’m able to get in some good meditation time before breakfast. It’s a sure blessing to have the space and time to be centered and grounded, and to know that it’s pretty much impossible to waste my time in such a rich environment. Being surrounded by deep-thinking, fun, motivated folks facilitates all of this. We’re a diverse bunch—about 20 or so “long-termers”, about half of which are interns, the others are staff and seasonal volunteers. Luckily most of us love a good “run-around” as we call them here, so around 4:30 or 5 most days we’re able to go down to the field for a game of ultimate or soccer, or over to the community center for some basketball (though the low rafters makes for some creative shots). The sun sets around 6 on the dot every day though, so after a candlelit dinner and a round or two of Boggle or dominoes, our bodies are ready to recharge.

As I sign off, know that I think of y’all a ridiculous amount. I think being farther away has somehow made all those I love more present in my thoughts and prayers. Everything triggers a warm memory…the kitchen crew’s Ipod starts playing “Bodies in Motion” and suddenly I’m cycling through canyon lands with by B&Bers; I see a bamboo porch swing and send some good thoughts to the Hoppinski’s; I coax a laugh from Tim and Robin’s baby, Sole, and wonder how my family is doing; during a morning walk I have an uber-(UBER)-random craving for a Culver’s burger and send some lovin’ to all my camp friends…the list goes on. Look forward to more blog entries—between the food, the town, the locals, stories of sleep-talking and struggling with the language, there’s tons to tell! I’d love news from your lives and any notable current events in the states—shoot me a note via my email ( or on facebook. Also, you can look at my photos at Until next time…

Pura Vida!