I wanted to paint a picture of our construction team, each of them made up of different colours and brushstrokes, to help you better understand what we’re building, and who we’re creating it with.- Carlos Oberhauser
After four months, our collaborators - hailing from Mexico City - have made magical transformations to the space we call home. So, I’d like to take a moment to talk a little more about this amazing group of people.
For most of them, this is the first time they’ve ever left their home country. Our collaborators are not used to traveling because of the economic gap - and the social inequality - that exists within the Mexican government.
Ivan, our wood specialist, tells me: “My little girl tells everyone at school that I’m out of the country.” This isn’t about where her dad is located - it really doesn’t matter if he’s in Costa Rica or in Nepal - all that matters is that he’s OUT of the country.
I come to them with questions about their thoughts, feelings, and opinions in regards to being out of Mexico for the first time. Some of them say that living in the jungle is too calm. They’re used to living in one of the biggest and busiest cities in the world, after all, and waking up to the sounds of bugs in the morning is a shocking, though pleasant, surprise for them. Ernesto Jr. says he still prefers the noisy cars and the big avenues with the “tamales” guy chanting everywhere in the streets. Still, he’d love to bring his family and spend a season in this natural environment.
Only a small percentage of Mexican citizens are able to leave the country legally, and a lot of them don’t have the necessary papers in order to get a passport that would allow them to do so. More than 14 million people in Mexico don’t even have birth registration. These people are called “The Invisibles”, and the number is equivalent to the whole population of Chile.
Ivan says that he was taking care of his mother and his grandparents before coming to Costa Rica. At the age of sixteen, he started working as a broomer in construction areas because his boss insisted that he was too young to work with dangerous tools or heavy equipment. So, as he swept the little mountains of dust, he’d constantly watch the construction workers, learning how to perform some of the more basic tasks. Ivan tells us that he’d use elementary tools daily in case the moment came to impress the construction director. He hoped he could persuade him into allowing him to actually do some work and, in turn, improve his pay. One year later he was hired full time: 10 hours per day, with a basic salary of $7 dollars a day. As the years passed, Ivan kept working as a constructor worker and improved his skills. Today, he is a fully-experienced drywall worker, and an amazing friend to the collective.
Something else the construction team has in common is that they all have kids, and they’ve been parents from a very early age. Ernesto has 5 kids, having had his first one at the age of 18. Ernesto JR is 29 years old and already has 3 kids. “Guero”, at just 21 years old, is waiting for his second kid by the end of September. They all have loved ones back in Mexico City, and after they finish work for the day, you can see them all calling home. Words of encouragement, “te extraño” y “te quiero” are the norm in almost every conversation with their families back home. After dinner, they all sit together in the Garden Casita to watch “El señor de los cielos”, a Mexican telenovela about drug cartels.
However, being far away from home - away from the comforts of what they’ve always known, and what they always thought they’d know - has also given them a unique opportunity to interact with people from all around the world. As such, coming to Zunya isn’t just a “work trip”, it’s also a multicultural expansion, beneficial for their own personal gain - and they all know it. Not only has the team had the opportunity to expand their knowledge of certain things like languages and geography, but they’ve also taken a moment to look within themselves - something they would have never done before Zunya - and understand what their body, mind, and soul is trying to tell them. The construction team is usually very involved with our meditation and yoga sessions - twisting and bending in ways they’ve never done before, especially because back in Mexico there’s no time for this sort of distraction. This has given them the opportunity to take time for themselves, to reconnect with nature, and interact with others.
It hasn’t all been easy, though, especially when it comes to food. Zunya is home to a conscious, vegetarian-only kitchen, and our construction team had a hard time adjusting to eating no meat. This makes total sense. Imagine eating just meat twice a day for your entire life, and suddenly changing your diet to plant-based meals. Initial difficulties aside, they’ve all managed to adapt, and they’ve learned about the benefits of a vegetarian diet. They’ve also realised that their bodies are healthier, happier, and their mind is more clear. It’s a fulfilling experience to watch them change - and grow - alongside Zunya.
One thing that remains the same, however, is their never-ending supply of happiness. Because, if one thing’s for sure, is that our construction team has a buzzing sense of humor. At 9AM, when the workday begins, the stillness of the jungle is suddenly filled with an on-site concert, courtesy of the sound system they had installed in the workshop. And, in order to please the crowd, a different genre that comes to life everyday: from cumbia and rock to reggaeton and hip hop. If you ever find yourself feeling bored, stop by Zunya and hang out with our team: your boredom will be cured almost instantly.
And that’s what’s made their time at Zunya so easy to adjust to: their joy. With each other, with themselves, with everyone around them - friend or stranger. They bring joy with them wherever they go, seven days a week.
We’ve all gotten used to seeing them working 10 hours a day, but when Sunday rolls around, it’s a different energy. They head out and enjoy swimming in the ocean and laying in the hot sand to get a bit of a tan. They get together and cook Mexican food, with all the colors and the flavours that remind them of a life back home they’ve managed to bring with them to a faraway land; because they don’t just look like a team, they’re also a family. They’ve even made local Costa Rican friends, and enjoy playing pool with the ticos from the surrounding area. A new sort of family, one that’s chosen and not given from birth, that will stay here long after they leave and, hopefully, when they return.
I wanted to paint a picture of our construction team, each of them made up of different colours and brushstrokes, to help you better understand what we’re building, and who we’re creating it with. Each one of them has left a little piece of their soul at Zunya, and every element that comes together tells a story of family, happiness, and the ultimate adventure. Because it’s more than just wood and nails that went into building our new home: it’s passion, it’s knowledge, it’s a sense that - even far away from home - you’ve found a place for yourself where you feel at ease.
Each and every one of them has been a huge and solid pillar for the process of Zunya, and I feel really grateful to have them by our side.
After all, it wouldn’t feel like home without them.