Amor en el Tiempo de las Tortugas

[EXTRACT] OSTIONAL, Costa Rica – What does it take to dedicate your life to the preservation of another?

According to Wendy Cruz, director of the Estación Biomarina Arribadas in Playa Ostional, the answer is love.

“Our nature is to love. Humans were made for love, I think,” Cruz said. “If people love themselves they’re going to love everything. You can’t teach someone to love something else if they don’t know love.”

In early August, Wendy Cruz (right) educated visiting biology professor Heather Kalb of West Liberty University and her class on the history, anatomy and protection of sea turtles in Ostional. Photo credit Wendy Cruz

If Cruz’s size was proportional to the amount of caring inside of her, she would tower over Shaquille O’Neal. Instead, the overflowing love is crammed into her shorter frame, bouncing out of her curls and smile with every word and action. Though some might complain about the overwhelming humidity in the Costa Rican beach towns that makes each movement a struggle, Cruz simply sweats happiness. She accepts the constant assault of mosquitoes and invading sand from the beach, quite content in her home away from home.

Cruz, age 43, runs a small school in her albergue, or lodge, near the beach, educating between five and 40 students at a time alongside volunteer professors who teach various subjects such as economics, biology, geography and most importantly, about the sea turtles that regularly emerge from the ocean to lay their eggs on the beach.

But Cruz hasn’t always been focused on the life of the turtles and conservation education. In 1993, she earned a degree in economic sciences from the Universidad de Costa Rica and started her own consulting business. Tragedy was necessary to bring her to Playa Ostional to realize her passion.

When her parents were caught in a flash flood on the road to Ostional and killed six years ago, Cruz left her home, husband, and two children in San José to take over her parents’ work. Since 1993, Edgar Cruz and Sonia Sevilla had been trying to establish a large station in Ostional to learn and educate others about the turtles and sustainability.

Coming to Ostional was not easy for Cruz, not only because she had just lost her parents – Cruz was pregnant and due any moment, and coming from the city life, was having a hard time adjusting to the “eternal Saturday” coastal culture. Caught up in her grief, she felt cut off from the world, and was only saved by the arrival of the turtles.

“I remember that I was crying out because of the accident, and I didn’t see that they (the turtles) were there, I was just crying and crying and I had this thing that I had to cry out, and all of a sudden the arribada was there,” Cruz said. “But there was no sense to stay there crying when there were all these turtles there… The turtle was there and I was there and the moment was there; we just fell in love.”

The turtles’ arrival helped Cruz adopt a sort of “turtle philosophy” – a way of looking at the world with love.

POSTED BY  Elizabeth Eaton⋅ AUGUST 13, 2014


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