Time Capsule Letter – October 2016
The first ever GLA Animal Rescue Project was a huge success and a great learning experience for our students. Service projects included helping local organizations in Nosara, Costa Rica to improve conservation and well-being of wildlife and domestic animals. The activities ranged from building monkey playgrounds for rehabilitating monkeys, creating and teaching local kids a play about animal care, helping protect sea turtle nests, constructing cement steps, transplanting trees, and conducting a town census and hosting a spay/neuter clinic, among others. The service activities inspired our young leaders to discover their own strengths in taking on leadership and community server roles, strengthen their teamwork and communication skills, and interactions with local people and environments.
While our mornings were packed with these service activities, our afternoons were often filled with cultural and adventure activities. We hitched a ride on across a river on Quenco’s ox cart, enjoyed cafecito with an inspiring woman, kneaded dough to create delicious Costa Rican treats, braved the ocean tides to gather clams, learned about the challenges of recycling and ecotourism in Costa Rica, and even danced our legs off with a local dance instructor. Many of these activities were highlights of the trip, because they allowed the students to interact with local leaders and ways of life.
As Global Leadership Adventures, we also made sure to emphasize the adventure part of the program. A highlight for many students were participating in Costa Rican activities such as surfing, horseback riding on the beach, zip lining, and paddle boarding. Students bonded as they zip lined over the country’s highest zip line, caught some waves at beautiful Guiones beach, galloped Playa Pelada, and paddled down a croc-infested river. We also had a several day trip to gorgeous Rio Celeste, featuring a challenging but rewarding hike to see waterfalls, turquoise rivers, and stunning wildlife. We milked a cow and drank fresh hot chocolate, produced sugar cane juice from a traditional mill, observed native Costa Rican animals at a puma rescue and river safari, and also witnessed local pottery being made. To be honest, though, every day was an adventure! From enjoying the swell at Playa Garza, to dodging crabs and dogs and cats at home base, to our lively bus rides, we always had a dose of Costa Rican flavor.
Through service, cultural and adventure activities, and leadership/team building workshops, students on the first ARP session grew as individuals and as a team. Many students faced fears- whether it be hiking strenuous trails, assisting hands-on with the spay/neuter surgeries, or even just dancing in front of a crowd- and all came out stronger leaders from it. We believe that many animals and local people have been touched by our students’ work and willingness to represent America and GLA, and know that our students will never forget the experience either.
Some snapshots of our experience:
We knew this would be a special group the moment they, not even two hours yet in the country, gathered in a group huddle after lunch the first day. Throughout the program, the group remained close.
A particularly memorable moment of the trip was the strength of several students to persevere through the Rio Celeste hike despite injuries or ailments. Victoria Flores and Phyllis Pawa are a few examples of students whom have had past injuries yet did not complain nor turn back once during the hike. When they reached the end, the other students cheered them along. Many other students also found this hike challenging, and yet everyone considers it one of the most rewarding parts of the trip.
Other students overcame challenges and stepped up to the plate during the castration clinic. A few students, Sarah Gillis and Lauren Henry in particular, spent the entire day assisting the vets to shave, attend to, and perform surgery on the animals, and then weighed them afterwards. These girls overcame previous fears and were the stars of the day as they really got hands on with the animals and carried some heavy dogs!
The zip lining crew was a highlight as well- all of us hung upside down, even Madison Newman and Libby Schreffler whom were previously afraid to. Libby even got treated to a 720 degree spin! After the rides, we all bathed under a refreshing waterfall together.
One especially exciting moment was spotting a sloth hanging from a circopia tree from the bus. All of us got out to just gawk at the enigmatic creature and snap photos. We also loved seeing the various monkeys, crocs, birds, snakes, and cool bugs on nature excursions.
Jarisel Vazquez was a star as she took the lead in gathering the local kids to play games and enact the responsible owner play. Sydney Hayes and Keegan Sullivan also shone in this aspect as they entertained the local kids despite not speaking the language.
Our local director, Susan, came surfing with us and even as a Tica it was her first time! It didn’t look like it though as she was truly a natural. The surfers all had a blast and all got up, but Susan stole the show!
Alyssa Kapusta and Fiona Mulhair overcame fears and, with local high schools students to help, interviewed community members in Spanish for our census.
Anna Luby, Noah Snitzer, Daven Martinez and Phyllis Pawa worked especially hard on making cement steps and railing at SIBU. Their clothes were completely dirty by the end of the day but the effort was more than evident!
Natalie Rubin was always volunteering for anything and everything, but she one- upped even herself when she volunteered to put a spider on herself on the nature reserve hike.
Another highlight were our ox cart riders who cruised across the river, despite initial nerves. We all watched from afar and cheered them on.
Moments like these were countless, but one especially special one was on our last day. The night before, we held an appreciation circle in which everyone was invited to acknowledge what and who they are grateful for during this experience; we expanded this activity of reflection and thanks to our fellow program members during our last beach time. A group of students closed their eyes and turned their backs to another group that touched the shoulders of the first group whenever the mentor mentioned a statement such as “this person is a true leader,” or “this person has changed my life”, or “I will never forget this person.” Tears of happiness and sadness to be leaving were rampant as we all opened our eyes to the final beach sunset at the end and group hugged!
Summer Blog Posts
June 28 – First group photo
All students arrived safe and sound! Pura Vida!
Hola! After a delicious breakfast this morning, the GLA Animal Rescue Team kicked off our orientation! We had an inspiring talk from our Local Director, Jen, about the meaning of service, leadership, and global culture. We decorated our hotel with homemade spanish language signs that were created with construction paper and markers. After meeting our friendly local staff of the Playa Garza Hotel, we took an excursion to the local Guanacaste Recycling Center. Here we met with Allvaro, a man who established the recycling initiative in the community. He discussed the “other side” of ecotourism and some of the realities of waste disposal. We realized how shocking the reality is! For lunch we ate some authentic Italian Pasta and vegetables! We had the chance to swim, walk, and play games at the beach. Wow- Playa Garza is incredible! We are so excited to learn about the service sites tomorrow and watch a snake presentation in the evening!
June 30, 2016
We started the day off with a delicious buffet style breakfast. Afterwards, we received a talk from Isis, the education specialist of Nosara Animal Care. She explained the service we were going to be taking a part in, including a spay/neuter clinic and a play for the local children. We also visited the two monkey rescues we will be working with! At each one, we received a talk that was truly eye-opening, educating us on the dangers of human imprint on animals’ natural habitat. There were monkeys everywhere! At the end of the introductions, we went out to lunch, and received wonderful food and some fresh watermelon juice. Then, we rode back to our hotel, and we had another educational presentation- this time about snakes! The head fireman came with a live snake of his own, and plenty of knowledge on how to stay safe around these animals. Finally, we finished the day with relaxation, and a presentation by our mentor Heather on how to unplug and have fun on this wonderful adventure. We await our first day of service tomorrow!
Buenos días from Playa Garza!
We woke up bright and early this morning to start our first day of service at Sibu and Refuge for Wild Life. Students started building a staircase, building a monkey playground, and various other tasks to help the local organizations. We returned to home base for a delicious lunch and then had 3 Spanish classes to help us improve our communication skills in Costa Rica. After that, we took a small excursion to the beach and took lots of photos and played with our the dogs from home base. The evening was the best bonding time we’ve had thus far, as we had an acoustic jam session with our amazing hotel manager, Juri. Our jams then turned into a pizza dinner with lots of laughter and extremely full bellies. Our Animal Rescue Project group is turning into a close family that is ready for service tomorrow!
The group’s second day of service began with a early start as the groggy, but motivated students headed out for their worksites. One group lugged cement up a trail making a staircase for easier passage through the monkey sanctuary, while the other set hard to work on a playground specially designed for monkeys. The afternoon at Playa Garza began with chill time, and a snack run which was quickly run into a lesson on cooking of the most authentic Costa Rican meal: rice with chicken. The students visited the home of Lizbia, a private chef for local families. Everyone got a chance to chip in on the preparation of the meal, and when cooked, it turned out to be no average rice! Tomorrow, students look forwards to beginning the planning of a play set to educate Costa Rican children on the proper care for animals. Buenos Dias!
Arroz Con Pollo:
Celery, Green beans, Carrots, Rice, Chicken, Onion, Red Pepper, Corn, Butter, 2 cloves of garlic, Achote (Paste originated from native Costa Rican plant), Cilantro, Pepper, Ketchup, Lizano, Chicken broth, Mustard (optional)
~Heat olive oil in pan
~Saute the vegetables
~Simmer for 5 minutes on high
~Add Chicken and butter
~Add rice (make rice day before to avoid “mushiness”)
~Simmer for 10 minutes
Today was a tranquil day with lots of time to relax after a laborious 2 days of service. We slept in a little, and after breakfast, divided into groups to create a play designed to educate local children and their families on pet care. Students worked on a script, costumes, background, props, and several other things in preparation for the show. We relaxed after our service and proceeded to go reconnect a little at 2 small Internet cafés (with delicious pastries by the pool). Upon returning to home base, we ventured to the beach to have mentor group meetings, some of which got very emotional. The rest of our day was Frisbee, swimming, and sandcastle building on Playa Garza. Tomorrow we get to sleep in before starting our adventures!
P.S. Happy 4th to everybody at home!
Hola from Playa Garza! The group began their fourth of July with a beach Olympics. Students played tug of war, made sandcastle art, and ended the competition with a nice cool down in the ocean. The afternoon came with adventure activities specified to students’ choice. Students went surfing, horseback riding, zip lining, or stand-up paddle boarding. Whatever the choice, everyone had a blast. Sarah named herself a “natural born pro surfer,” and stand-up paddle boarders received fresh fruit juice at the finish line. Horse back riders witnessed some incredible scenery, including a crocodile while riding through a pond, and zip liners got the opportunity to ride the longest zip line in Central America, and ended at a beautiful waterfall! Needless to say, everyone is exhausted and enjoying hanging out at home base tonight.
July 6. 2016
Today we dug into the details of our Nosara Rescue Dog Play. Several local children attended during the planning stage of the play development! All GLA students were able to practice their spanish with the children while playing games and explaining the play. We learned that communication goes beyond language! After returning to home base, we headed to la Playa de Guiones with Juri to learn about a local tradition- clamming. We learned to dig into the sand during high tide and find clams. It was a blast! On the way home, we stopped to grab some well-deserved gelato. We are looking forward to a relaxed night and working more with the children tomorrow!
July 7, 2016
Hola from home base at Playa Garza!
Today started with service at Nosara by putting finishing touches on our play. Students returned to home base after working with some awesome local children and then waited for an adventure at home: dance class. Everyone enjoyed learning from Willy, the unofficial “best dancer in town”. We all successfully did the bachata and kept all of our toes too! Tomorrow is the day of our show and we are all very excited to work with the local kids to educate and entertain the community!
Animal Rescue Project students were back at it again with the service! Our group was divided into 2, half at Sibu and half at Refuge for Wildlife. Painting, building, cutting trees, and tying monkey swings took us all morning. After lunch, students took a short excursion to get wifi and update friends and family on their adventures. Then, we met Quinco and his oxen, which he still uses to deliver sand and wood from the mountains to local people. Students are currently busy packing their bags for a 3 day excursion to Rio Celeste! Buenas noches from Playa Garza!
July 9, 2016
Buenos Dias from Playa Garza! Today was play day! Students woke up bright and early, getting to the school in Nosara by 7:30 sharp. The group ran through the play three times with the kids, and by 10, the bleachers were packed with family and friends of the young actors. We were also joined by Initiative for Children, another GLA program doing work in the same area. Having worked with the kids for three days, seeing them preforming so confidently was a real proud moment for all the students. After clean-up, we came back to a laid back meal of vegetable soup and rice, which was perfect for in the afternoon, we went into town for coffee. The students split up into two groups and went to two different local homes. There, everyone received a homemade tortilla and a fresh cup of local coffee. After the meal, we came back and had another one. Pizza night! A long awaited Friday night tradition here at Playa Garza. Guito, as always, delivered beautiful homemade pizzas one after the other. With our stomachs full, and satisfied we looks forward to another day of service tomorrow.
Today we returned to home base after an incredible two days in Rio Celeste. We started off the trip learning about the art of pottery in Costa Ria. We were able to participate in the pottery making process and buy a few authentic items. Next, we headed on a river safari excursion where we had the chance to see crocodiles, monkeys, bats, and iguanas in their natural habitat. It was incredible! The following day, we woke up early and visited a local farm where we learned how to milk a cow! We were able to mix the fresh milk with chocolate powder and make hot chocolate- straight from the cow! Soon after, we headed down the road to Tenorio Volcano National Park where we embarked on a breathtaking waterfall hike. This was the highlight of the trip for many of us! Students pushed themselves physically and mentally through the rolling hills and stairs on the muddy trail- and the payoff was incredible! After lunch, we visited a sugar cane farm where we learned different methods of sugar extraction- it was a blast! Today, we took a hike at the hanging bridges and visited a puma rescue. After a delicious fish dinner, we relaxed and watched “The Champions”- a movie about dog animal rescue! Chow!
After our weekend away, GLA students began their last day of service at the monkey refuges. Students at SIBU completed the concrete steps they have been working on since the first day of service. At Rescue for Wildlife, students finished off the monkey jungle gym adding toys, and other inventions to entertain and strengthen the monkeys for rehabilitation and release. In the afternoon, we rejuvenated and relaxed at the beach, swimming in the beautiful, blue water. For dinner, we received a student favorite, an authentic Italian pasta dish made by Guido, our chef. Just getting back from Rio Celeste, everyone was happy to be back in Playa Garza, and make the most out of these last few days.