The day after Christmas, while most MM&TL staff, alumni and campers were recovering from the festivities of Christmas, 9 MM & TL CITs were boarding an airplane, travling to Costa Rica for an adventure of a lifetime!

One of the first things our Guide, Carlos shared with us, is that we needed to learn the phrase Pura Vida. He said that if we can learn to say Pura Vida, we will get along alright in Costa Rica. Pura vida literally means Pura = pure and vida = life, but “Pure life” in Spanish would be “Vida pura” instead, so the real meaning is closer to “plenty of life”, “full of life”, “this is living!”, “going great”, “real living”,” Awesome!” or “cool!” It can be used both as a greeting and a farewell, to express satisfaction, to politely express indifference when describing something or even to say “thank you” or “you’re welcome”. The phrase has become universally known in Costa Rica.

Pura Vida became our battle cry as we were backpacking through the remote jungle, up and down the vicious and overgrown terrain. Pura Vida was our spirit as we harvested sugar cane to make brown sugar for the Village of Piedras Blancas or moved 100s of lbs of sand and rocks to build a new foundation for a bridge that was damaged in flood waters during the rainy season. Pura Vida was the gift we received from the gentleness and hospitality of our hosts families in the village of Piedras Blancas as we ate meals together, played with children and became part of the family. Pura Vida was our exhilaration as we rappelled down a 90 waterfall, rafted 17 miles down the class IV Sevegre River and learned to surf in the warm waters of the Pacific.

One of the reasons each individual was on this adventure is because they will be CITs this summer at either Camp Merri-Mac or Camp Timberlake and this was one of the options of training for the summer. The training focused on the characteristics of leadership that we hope for at MM&TL. Each night we explored different aspects of leadership such as servant leadership, leadership as influence, humility, self-awareness and integrity. We were able to connect not only the moments from our trip, but also moments from life at home to these concepts of leadership.

One of the most vivid moments was at the end of our hike on the first night. After 9 miles of extremely rugged terrain, we hiked into our campsite. We all were completely exhausted. Despite being ready to throw in the towel and curl up on a tuft of jungle moss and mud for the night, there were things that had to be done. We needed food, shelter and to take care of our personal needs. In the wilderness, each one of these needs takes extraordinarily more time and effort to complete. The moment demanded that each member of the group choose to be selfless by first managing personal needs and then tending to each other and the tasks at hand. This was critical because it was not about being comfortable, it was about being safe. With out the calories of food, we would not be able to continue. With out the protection of shelter, we would be exposed to the elements. It demanded a sacrifice on the part of each individual to accomplish the basic necessities for our group to be safe. Each member contributed there different gifts and strengths to the task at hand.

The CITs on this great adventure will share Costa Ricas Pura Vida with Merri-Mac and Timberlake this summer so that the campers, staff and community around us may experience life that God has given us to the fullest!

Ryan Carlson
Director of Black Mountain Expeditions