By Rachel Gallucci
About a month ago, a sixth grade student took me by the arm and led me ominously away from the crowd of other people I had been standing with and said, “Rachel, I want to ask you something.”
I was very worried about what solemn news I could be receiving from this girl I barely knew. Luckily for me, rather than enter into an intense session of feeling-sharing, I was instead invited in a somewhat exaggeratedly serious matter to go on a trip to a spa. Apparently, unbeknownst to me, the sixth graders had recently been asking volunteers and others within the community if they wanted to buy tickets at a reduced group rate for the trip, the extra proceeds from which benefited the funding of their graduation.
I agreed, partly out of a desire to have something to do on a weekend, partly out of relief that I wasn’t in the middle of a serious life discussion with a sixth grader, and partly because enough other volunteers were going that I figured it had to be a legitimate outing. As the weeks progressed towards the trip, I learned I was not the only volunteer completely ignorant of the details. The location itself, I heard, was a combination water park, spa, zoo, zip lining and horseback riding destination. The ambiguity was only made slightly less hazy when, three days before the trip, I figured out that we were headed to “Thermo Mania” and not “Termomanía,” as the kids pronounced it.
The day of the expedition we all met and boarded a bus bright and early for the two-and-a-half-hour ride. As we arrived at the entrance, there came into view a brown, faux-stone archway, slightly reminiscent of the Animal Kingdom entrance in Disney World, with the words “Thermo Mania” carved thickly into it, like the legendary doorway to some lost kingdom. The scene was accentuated by the enormous volcano towering in the background, its top completely indiscernible through the misty white clouds that blanketed its tip. After some considerable stretching and reorienting, we filed into the lost kingdom of Thermo Mania to receive our wristbands and see what lay in store for us.
On our left, a concrete slide spilled into a pool of warm water, which then narrowed where a small bridge crossed over it and reopened into a larger pool by our feet. We continued past this structure as the kids ran eagerly towards the slide, eyes fixated on the top of the steps from which they would make their plunge. We wandered down through a small path to a clearing where we came upon a series of hot springs. At the bottom of the small incline, the series ended at a larger pool with a waterfall. It didn’t take long until the kids had found this pool, too, and the brave were soon jumping and doing tricks off of the waterfall.
Later we checked out the zoo that was situated in the back of the park and were immensely entertained by a particularly flamboyant ostrich that seemed to put on a show to entertain us as we stood in awe of him. Four of us visited the spa, where we spent an hour relaxing in the sauna, covering ourselves in a mud bath and then soaking in a jacuzzi beside the volcano. AM workers really know how to relax!
Afterwards we lounged about and enjoyed the refreshingly cool weather and the delicious handmade empanadas. Though it did start to sprinkle a bit, the kids were not subdued and made the most of their time in Thermo Mania. We watched from our chairs, exhausted, as they climbed the steps to the water slide time after time after time…
The ride home was peppered with pit stops and a fast food break (a source of excitement for us volunteers), and finally we arrived in Potrero, tired but satisfied from our day off at the mysterious Termomanía.