The knowledge we have gained from living out of hotels for the better part of the last eight months has come in handy during our latest Workaway experience because we are helping to design rooms for the ecolodge that Esteban and Tom (our hosts) are building. R, Coconut, J and I have spent a lot of time since last August discussing different hotel features and we know what we like.

We arrived here in Nazareth, Costa Rica, on Monday, April 4, and on Tuesday morning we spent a few hours on the farm Tom owns raking banana leaves then we went swimming at a nearby river and had a picnic.

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Tom and Esteban packed the stove from their kitchen into the pick-up to cook lunch at the river. Here, R enjoys a spaghetti and sauce picnic lunch after a refreshing swim in the river.

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Coconut contemplates the rope swing and the long drop to the river.

We have spent each morning since then at Tom’s family’s ferreteria (hardware/construction material store) building the first of the guest houses Esteban and Tom hope to float on the farm’s lake. They also plan to build tree houses.


Men at Work – who can it be now? Me, Esteban and Tom move part of the roof out of our workspace.


Coconut and J help out by weatherizing the metal angles that will hold the frame of the buena casa together.

Now, when I say we are helping to “design rooms” I do not mean that we are helping to design rooms in the engineering sense of the words. What I mean is we are saying things like, “Make sure you have lots of hooks in the room so the guests can hang things.” and “It would be cool if you could have walls made out of plants.” We are idea people – interior designers for rooms that do not yet exist.

Esteban and Tom are very receptive to our ideas. They say things like, “Yes” and “Sure” and then they continue to build the square thing without any blueprint and with scrap wood from around the yard. It’s actually quite amazing that the “buena casa,” as they like to refer to it, has taken the shape of a house because many times they don’t even seem to measure before they cut and the level is given only cursory attention.

Yet each day it looks more and more like something you would draw on a piece of paper if you were drawing a house, and now, on Monday, April 11 we have made a resolution to stick around until the house is done to see if it will actually float.

This day is also celebrated in Costa Rica as the anniversary of the defeat in 1860 of the American mercenary William Walker and his Band of Hooligan Opportunists, by a coalition of Central American armies at Rivas, Nicaragua. Walker was captured and executed in Honduras, thus ending his attempt to unify Latin America as an English speaking colony under his rule.  Walker may have been the only person in history to have united the Central American countries, though not how he intended.


Life isn’t all work. Costa Rica has lots of whitewater options. Here, J, Jonas our guide, R, Tom and I sample some of what the Sarapiqui River has to offer.

I mention this historical event because Coconut and J both start each day by saying they also want to leave Costa Rica – which dissatisfaction may be a holdover from our recent visit home. It’s very hot and there isn’t much for them to do while the house is constructed. J usually ends each day saying that it was fun because we typically only work in the mornings and then go swimming in the afternoons and he is adding to his collection of things he has jumped off. But Coconut doesn’t have any interest in doing the fun stuff either (she even sat out our whitewater rafting trip this weekend), which is a little discouraging. She is anxious to make like Walker and get the hell out of Dodge.