Alumni Spotlight: Kelly Pirog


Kelly is 34 years old and currently teaches Biology, Chemistry, and Forensics at a high school in Massachusetts. Not having any children and a teacher's schedule is what affords her the opportunity to do so much traveling.

She has been to LTF six times, but she recently went with a school group to the Philippines for a medical internship. After getting engaged to her boyfriend, she is making him come to Costa Rica with her this summer, even though he says he isn't interested in volunteering (she thinks he'll change his mind once he gets there).

Describe your day to day activities as a volunteer.

Day to day activities include at least one of the following: a nightly turtle patrol looking for adult turtles that are laying their eggs OR a daily shift in the hatchery in which you check on the nests for hatchlings, measure them, mass them, count them, and send them out to the ocean!

Other day to day activities might include doing a beach trash clean up, helping around the project site with sweeping or other cleaning tasks, or even cooking some meals in the kitchen. Other than that, my other favorite activities include playing with all of the project site dogs and other beach dogs, taking naps in the hammock, reading a book on the beach, playing volleyball or cards with other volunteers, or going for hikes looking for monkeys or sloths!

Ten years from now, what's the one thing you think you'll remember from the trip?

Ten years from now I will still remember EVERYTHING from my trips! The second year I was at LTF, I adopted my "forever friend" named Flaca. She chose me one day as my friend Sarah and I were exploring the beach. We had crossed a lagoon and Flaca tried to follow us, but she started to get swept out to sea. I was a lifeguard and so I jumped in and saved her.

From that point on, Flaca did not leave my side; she slept outside of my cabina, and even followed me to the beach and on my duties. Robert (the head of the program) helped me on the Costa Rica end by bringing her to the vet for shots and flea medicine, and I picked her up three months later on November 11 at Logan International Airport in Boston. Many animals are in desperate need of a home and I have never been more grateful for the opportunity to have her as a pet.

Has your worldview changed as a result of your trip?

Each time I go to LTF, I remember that I CAN survive without electronics and half of my belongings; in fact, it's absolutely amazing the friendships that can be formed when you just sit and talk with someone without distractions. I also look around me and think how lucky I am to have all that I do, but that if you are happy with yourself, then nothing else matters.

Some of the people living near LTF have two pairs of shorts: the ones that they are wearing and the ones that they have drying on the line. There are no mirrors. There are no cars. There are no phones and no TV's. Yet, these are some of the happiest, most intriguing people I have met. I would love to have that carefree attitude and lifestyle.

What was the most interesting cultural difference you encountered?

The most interesting cultural difference that I encountered was the slang that many of the people used. The words were meant as terms of endearment; however, in the United States, some people might take offense to them. For example, a slang term used for a voluptuous woman would be "gordita", which literally means little fat girl. It's important to remember that when you visit other countries or parts of the world that different ideals are considered attractive.

Where would you most like to travel to next?

I would like to travel the world! I am Polish so I would definitely like to visit Poland; however, I am also interested in Portugal for the nice beaches, Chile for the scenery, and Thailand for the culture.