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My name is Suzette and I am a 30 year old lawyer and piano teacher from Tasmania, Australia (or as the kids in Costa Rica call me ‘Suzie’ or ‘Suzannah’).

Watch out for Tapirs – just your regular school crossing in Playa Carate!

When I first started dreaming up a volunteering project to do, I contacted a small travel agency in Tassie called ‘Travel with a Cause’. I told them that I’d like to try teaching English overseas, that I love nature and wanted to improve my Spanish. They straight away suggested Frontier’s jungle teaching project in Costa Rica - a perfect combination of all the things I was passionate about. Next thing I knew I was on the other side of the world watching Squirrel Monkeys jump effortlessly between tree branches at camp and then running English classes in a school built from bamboo.

ESCUELA RIO ORO (‘Gold River School’)

In the first English class I gave a small introduction about myself, talked about Tasmania and the ‘Tassie Devil’, then explained what I was going to teach that day. While I was nervous at first, it was quite freeing to jump straight in and run a class – it’s something I’ve always wanted to try.

What my first week on the project has taught me is that I know more Spanish than I thought (pequito pequito!) It also made me realise that music is a universal language – if the kids are getting stuck learning a new word, turn it into a nursery rhyme!

The local school, only a 30 second walk from camp. The perfect commute!
The local school, only a 30 second walk from camp. The perfect commute!

When you’re not teaching (the first experience with ‘Nurtles’)

If you choose the jungle teaching project, you’ll be sharing camp accommodation with Frontier’s conservation volunteers.

In my first week, I was lucky enough to join the conservation volunteers on ‘Nurtles’ (Night Turtles watch) and saw a critically endangered Pacific leatherback turtle. Our survey leader Becca nearly fell over backwards when she first saw it, exclaiming it was the biggest turtle she had seen in her life. The Leatherback was so different to turtles I am used to in Australia – she looked like a dinosaur and her shell moved like skin when she breathed. After the mother finished laying her eggs, we fashioned a nest cage out of pieces of wood and logs to protect the new nest from predators.

Why should you choose jungle teaching?

What I have love about Frontier’s jungle teaching project is the opportunity to see first hand the effect your help, however small, can have on the world. Whether it is helping cover the nest of just one turtle; or having conversations with kids in class in a language that you never imagined you would even a week earlier, every little bit counts.

So get out there with an open mind (and a smidge of bug spray) and you’ll have a once in a lifetime experience :)

Suzette Pullinger – Volunteer | Frontier Costa Rica

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