Just Passing Through // Costa Rica with Mike Lay

Mike Lay jumping off waterfall in Costa Rica

We arrived at 7am, just after the raucous dawn. Soft, salt-soaked hands gripping shovels and bags of cement. Behind us, in a house on stilts, there was a man showering and a woman cooking at the window. We were in the middle of people's lives and the work we were about to do was equally as real, yet only a fraction of the work that needed doing.

In the middle of the Costa Rican jungle, surfing everyday and drinking fresh coconut water, it can be easy not to engage with the reality of local life. But in Costa Rica, as in many parts of Central America and indeed the world, growing up can be tough. Life tries to drag you in many different directions, not all of which are positive. We had set aside a day to help in the construction of a community centre for children being built by the Forjando Alas Organisation.

After a day of probably the hardest work of our lives, we had built a small pathway and laid the foundations for a ramp. It was satisfying to have made a tangible difference to the project and inspiring to see how dedicated the full-time workers on the project were. At the end of the day the children who were members of the organization came around to show us their local waterfalls and swimming holes and to share a late lunch. The smiles and hugs were the perfect remedy to blistered hands and aching backs and an illustration of the positive impact that the money Reef has donated, through their Reef We Heart project, will continue to have.

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Mike Lay doing work in Costa Rica

Costa Rican morning, before coffee - A Poem by Mike Lay


I try hard to take it all in 

but staring straight ahead with my widest eyes

is not enough.


Moving my head from left to right

looking at everything I can

I miss too much.


I sketch an impression in my mind

a causeway of smooth yellow stone

glisten of shimmering reflection

lifetime study of the colour green

a bird.


Eyes closed and immersed in sound

like lying flat in a flowing stream

it rushes over me and into me


soft white noise of running water

cluck and squeak and krack-eeeeyaaaa



The tremendous silence 

of a thousand trees

waiting for a wind. 


The memory of rain.


And with the ernest creek of a billion insects

I have it all, 3D, surround sound

heart thumping beauty and a fat yellow bird

landing heavily in a pink blossom tree


and now


a butterfly brushing past my cheek.

Mike Lay and local worker in Costa Rica
Mike Lay
Mike Lay
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