All students have headed home after an amazing time in Costa Rica!
Breaking Down Language Barriers
Today is Heather’s birthday, and we surprised her with cards and a candlelit… watermelon.
After another breakfast of rice and beans, we were given the choice to either nap or watch the World Cup game of Costa Rica vs England; I, without hesitation, picked the nap. After a much needed slumber, we headed over to Escuela Gavilan, for the second day of service. It was truly an amazing experience for me because although the language barrier was as strong as ever, I still managed to connect and play with the kids in ways where words weren’t needed. I made a special connection with a 7 year old girl named Kristel, and she taught me how to play their games using hand signals. Even at such a young age, she understood that verbal wasn’t an option for communication.
After getting dirty while playing tag in the mud, she brought me over to the sink to wash our hands, and then continued to splash excess water on me. I did it back in return, starting what turned out to be quite a water war. First it was the flicking of water, then it transitioned to cups of water, then to buckets of water and before I knew it, the whole school was in on this war. Soon enough, I got all of 20 kids on my side by providing them with water bottles, and used them as my little minions. They’d run up to me and ask “Quien?” (who?), and I’d point at someone who they would douse in water even after being begged not to. Through shared laughs and great memories, I made an indescribable bond with all of the students, and Kristel continues to help me probably more than I help her.
Saying goodbye was hard; I even got sprayed with muddy water by one of the youngest kids as his final “Ha, I win!” Although it was disgusting, I couldn’t help but laugh.
Not much longer after we got back, we were instructed in a dance class by a couple of ladies that taught us common Latin dances, such as Salsa and Cumbia. It was neat to see their form of dancing, and it was cool to me how easily it was to pick up on. Following dancing was a bit of karaoke, which was probably more entertaining to the eye than pleasing to the ear. Then I was given the task of distracting Heather while they put the finishing touches on her birthday cake, and I told her that she NEEDED to remove a gross bug from my room. After ‘not being able to find the bug’, we arrived back at dinner to a cake and candles. We sang happy birthday in Spanish, and ate the cake, which was unlike any other cake I’ve had before: muy delicioso. It’s crazy thinking there’s only really two days left of camp, for everyone here is starting to become less like strangers and more like family. I wish I could have at least one more week, but overall I’m glad that I can take away not only this beautiful culture, but an unforgettable experience with unforgettable people.
– Jennifer Chamberlin
A Wonderful Weekend!
Today we hiked roughly 16 miles to the top of an active volcano and back. The tiring journey took the whole day but it was the most fulfilling experience of my life and I wouldn’t change a thing (other than Alex hurting his ankle). We started our hike in the lush jungle of the tropical rainforest, then we reached the top of the treeline and hiked along a stream. The water was so fresh and clean that we were able to fill our water bottles and hydrate ourselves. It was the best water I’ve ever tasted. We started our hike up the mountain, and the toughest part of all was hiking straight up the volcano. My thighs felt like they were on fire, but I couldn’t give up. When we came closer to the top, the strong smell of sulfur filled the air, and when I finally reached the top, I saw the beautiful layers of rock in the crater. I peered into the opening, I saw the pool of baby blue minerals and my eyes filled with tears but I was too happy to cry. I’ve never been so proud of myself. The blue color was completely unexpected and being up so high, inside a cloud gave me goosebumps. It felt as if I were on top of the world. The view was breathtaking. I am thrilled to have spent all day hiking in this beautiful country, with these awesome people I only met just a week ago. I am so thankful to have been given this life-changing, unforgettable experience. THANK YOU DAD, I LOVE YOU!!!!
But without a doubt the best part of the day was seeing the four-week old puppies that live here at Las Bromelias. There are five puppies here and they’re very cute. For some people the puppies are one of the best things about this trip so far, but for most of us they’re just an added bonus to an already amazing trip.
A Full Day
The Beach and Burgers!
The Green Tunnel & Beyond
Today we woke up to another beautiful day in Horizontes. After a tasty breakfast, we headed out to the Green Tunnel, where we performed our service for the day. A recent wildfire burned nearly 16,000 acres, including much of the original tunnel. We also planted twelve trees, which turned out to be fairly grueling work.
From the Green Tunnel, we drove to the community of El Triunfo, where we met the seventeen students attending the community’s elementary school. We played games like fútbol and Frisbee. Interacting with these incredibly kind children was absolutely amazing. They wanted to talk with us and play with us the entire time! A few of us GLA kids even found that speaking with the children was easier than with the adults here. The GLA Family and the children enjoyed a meal together, followed by hugs and goodbyes. I speak for myself when I say that playing with those kids tired me out more than any service activity we’ve done thus far! They are terrific individuals and I’m glad to say that I will remember my time spent in that community for a long time.
Later we headed out on a hike to a nearby waterfall with Freddie the Biologist! Thanks to Freddie, we were able to see interesting flora and fauna. We had the opportunity to meet a snake, whom we later named Seth. Upon reaching the waterfall, we were disappointed to see that we could not take a refreshing dip, because there hasn’t been enough rainfall so far. Nonetheless, we were still able to enjoy a beautiful view. After our hike we reflected on all that we had accomplished and experienced. Now we are taking a few minutes to rest up before our dance lessons! Hasta Luego!
– Laura Schwab
Welcome to the Jungle
Hello friends and family, and welcome to our blog! Today each and every wonderful student, or “forest person” as we are referred to by our mentors, was greeted at the airport. In shifts, we were driven through the beautiful scenery of Costa Rica by our great bus driver, Fabio. After traveling through the “green tunnel” in Guanacaste, the luscious conservation area that we are staying at, we finally arrived at our first Home Base, far out in the tropical dry forest. Since then, we have received many welcomes from various adorable critters such as cockroaches, frogs, venomous snakes, and feisty ants. We put up some comfortable hammocks and established our official “chill zone.” Then for dinner, we ate some delicious rice and beans with salad, fresh mystery fruit juice, and ice cream. We also played some ice breaker games and discovered that every member of this trip is fantastic. The stars outside generated the effect of a planetarium, for there were so many and they were so incredibly bright. We are staying at such a wonderful place with such wonderful people… It’s going to be a great trip!
Today was our first full day in the conservation area, and it was chock-full of fun. We began our day with some delicious desayuno [breakfast] consisting of pancakes, fresh fruit, and exotic juice. We then retreated to the Salon, our meeting room, to go through our orientation. During the orientation, we went over the rules and regulations, and we also played games amongst ourselves and with the staff to learn everyone’s name. After our orientation, one of the conservationists gave a presentation on the workings of a national park in Costa Rica, thoroughly explaining the contents and inner-workings of various ecosystems that exist here, from the Ocean to the Cloud Forest. This presentation also explained the conservation procedures that the staff here at Horizontes, the experimental reforestation station that we are staying at, have taken to counteract the damage done to the tropical dry forest ecosystem. We then ate lunch, which was delicious.
After almuerzo we began our fist service project, mixing soil with sand, and then planting seeds in the fertile mixture. After a long and fulfilling work effort, we got the chance to play soccer in the rain with our two counselors, Heather and Luke. Omar was the best soccer player. We then ate dinner, which was delicious, and embarked on a night hike. Our leaders were Freddy and Mainor (pronounced “Miner”), the former a biologist and the latter a conservationist at Horizontes. We got to hear the rhythm of the forest, as the noises of the animals coalesced into a collective exhalation of wilderness, instincts such as touch and hearing became dominant, because the brightness of the stars could only poke small holes of light into the darkness which permeated through the forest. For the most part, the creatures of the forest remained hidden, scared by our invasion of their land, but we did manage to spot some toads, tadpoles, and beautiful birds. Once we got back to the station, we went back to the salon (community room) to watch a video in which a Nigerian woman spoke about the danger of a single perspective. We then went back to bed, our excitement inundated by the need for rest.
Food for Horizontes
On our third day as forest people, we headed out into the critter-filled dry forest to find cow poop to use in the greenhouse that will be used to grow fruits and vegetables for the people of Horizontes. The tractor ride to our destination was like a video game. We lost many lives while fending off attacking branches and thorns. It was game over for Edison when he fell off the back; but don’t worry, he didn’t break any bones. Once reaching the pond that contained the cow poop, we connected with Vanessa and Minor, the conservation staff, by learning some Spanish words and phrases. Scooping poop-filled dirt into bags was a true bonding experience for us GLA-ers, and discovering grubs in the dirt was an added bonus. We showed true physical strength when lugging the heavy bags of caca (poop) in and out of the tractor. Others showed more artistic strength by painting the water and fertilizer cans with colorful decorations. After lunch, we headed to the beautiful beach, where some of us pruned ourselves in the salty waves, while others collected palm leaves and made a headdress and hula skirt. There was a ceremony to anoint a sorcerer (photos to come). It was a sad moment leaving Gerard, the stray dog who loved to take pictures with us.
We immediately drove to a school in El Triunfo, where we played soccer with the community. Both teams consisted of GLA forest people, Horizontes staff, and the locals. The community was hospitable enough to let us wear their authentic, green jerseys. Other community members watched our bloody battle, until the non-jerseys came out on top with a close score of 4-1 (it was closer than you might think). We then connected and snacked with the community members and met some local kids, our age and below, who were incredibly kind and friendly. Once we got back to home base, we ate dinner and chilled together, opening up even more, and learning many interesting things about our peers. We may have only been here for three days, but it really feels like we have known each other for months. After a long, labor-filled day, we are happy to crash at 10, excited about tomorrow exciting opportunities and adventures! Hasta luego!