The first Protecting the Pacific Global Leaders and Adventurers are finally here in Costa Rica! Everyone is happy, safe, and ready to get started! We are so excited to have Ana, Maisy, David, Luke, Katherine, Lily, Sydney S., Olivia, Claire, Zoey, Grace, Jessica, Hannah, Sydney M., Sabrena, Reed, and Caitlyn with us for the next two weeks! Mentors Bridget and Jose Pablo are amazing souls and we are all so excited to begin our journey together as an empowered group of individual and collective positive change-makers. Y lo sabes!
Abrazos desde Costa Rica!
Protecting the Pacific International Director
Hola a todos! After a long, bumpy, four hour bus ride from Alajuela, we have finally made it to Bahia Ballena! After we took a short stop to grab lunch on the way there, our group walked down to a bridge, and saw around thirty one crocodiles, just casually lounging around in the sun. Upon arriving to the beautiful Bahia Ballena, our wonderful local director Pilar gave us an introduction to Costa Rica, and to the service work we will be doing over these next two weeks. Not only did she warmly greet us, but so did the rainforest, by sending a TON of rain our way, making way for a very fun rainy tour around the compound. When we aren’t playing games, eating delicious rice and beans, or learning more about the wonderful country we are currently in, my favorite thing to do is to sit and take in the amazing biodiversity and beauty that I am surrounded by. The other GLA-ers are great, but I sure do love my new roommates’ here- the geckos!
– Grace Kirk
Hola mi gente! Today started roughly around 5 am when we woke up to hear the distinct sound of what Sydney says to be a “monkey bird” outside our rooms, but I think it was just a bird. About 3 hours later, we enjoyed a delicious breakfast of the amazing fruit that Costa Rica has to offer as well as rice and scrambled eggs — yum. Also, I don’t know what it is about the bananas here but they are SO good. Anyway, after breakfast we went to the neighborhood school called “Forjando Alas” and had the opportunity to interact with the kids and plant what are called hanging gardens using just recycled bottles and rope. Afterwards, we had some more fresh fruit and read with the children. Mory and Violeta were two little girls, both age 4, who sat with some of the GLA-ers to read The Hungry Caterpillar and I think genuinely enjoyed our company.
After reading, we walked about a block down the dirt road and went to the community salon to play several different games with the kids such as Duck Duck Goose and a Spanish game called Tierra, Aire, Agua. After these games, we went back to our home base and had lunch as well as siesta hour where you could find all of us either taking a swim in our pool, lying in the hammocks with a good read or journaling, or even just back in our rooms napping like a true Costa Rican. Soon after, Travis joined us to take us on a community walk around Bahia and allowed us to really enjoy Costa Rica the way the people here do. Everywhere we go, we greet the people with a smile and an occasional “Pura Vida”. We got to take a short trip to the beach where we will be at tomorrow and enjoy the mangroves and beautiful biodiversity that Costa Rica has to offer. AJ, a professor at Skidmore College, accompanied us all day as part of his research while he is in Costa Rica. We visited the local supermarket and got some snacks and headed back to the home base where Travis showed us a documentary on Costa Rican tourism and how it’s affecting the environment and the people of this country. I think it really opened all our eyes and made us think about something we never really had before.
After the video, we enjoyed a break of playing cards together, dinner, and then time for some more journaling as JP played the guitar for us. And here we are! Time to head back to our rooms and enjoy a cold shower, pura vida! 🙂
– Ana and Sydney S.
Hola familia y amigos! Upon our fourth day in Bahia Ballena we woke up for a delicious breakfast of fruit, eggs, and toast ( by the way the bananas are STILL AMAZING). Soon after we ate our fill our two taxis arrived and almost all of us piled into one while trying to get comfortable as we bumped our way there. It was well worth the discomfort. We arrived at Playa Colonia to begin our surf and service. The group was split into two and half of us began with surf while the other half started service. For our service Travis and other community members talked to us about the coastal erosion problems the locals have seen due to rising tides along the beach. To combat this we helped to cleared trash and moved debris back to open up the road and build a partial sea wall. When our surfing lessons began most of us were a mixture of nerves and excitement but the instructors at the Bodhi Surf School helped us conquer the waves. Almost everyone was able to get up (though many of us ate some serious waves) and we feel very proud of ourselves for the effort and accomplishment (though we will be sore). After both groups finished we again piled back into our taxi and headed to home base for almuerzo. Some free time followed lunch but soon after we got to listen to a presentation by Geoporter, a not for profit group in Costa Rica working to promote the responsible collection and disposal of trash in order to keep the marine ecosystem pristine. The presentation followed with us learning how to use the Geoporter GPS and GIS technology that allows you to track and map patterns in the community. Again following we had free time which went well spent to hammocks and the pool. Before dinner we played an interesting and creative game of Costa Rican phase charades (thanks JP!) Dinner was delicious as usual thanks to the amazing kitchen staff, and afterwords we reflected on our time surfing and our work with the beach. Another great day in the happiest country, until tomorrow, chao y pura vida!
– Caitlyn and Katherine
With some extra time to sleep in today, we were all well rested and ready for an exhausting morning of kayaking through the mangroves. On the 45 minute bus ride to our destination, we all enjoyed playing word games and telling stories. Kayaking through the mangroves proved to be a complicated obstacle course of branches full of various bugs and occasionally crabs. Once we managed to get over the initial fear of the multitude of large creepy-crawlers, we were able to enjoy the incredible awesomeness that lies within the ecosystem. We saw squirrel monkeys, capuchins, and some people saw a sloth. The plants also helped to provide an interesting adventure thanks to all of the information and cool facts provided by our guide supplemented by Bridget’s extensive knowledge of bamboo. As we reached the end of the journey, everyone was exhausted and ready for the fruit, Costa Rican “donut cakes”, and refreshing drinks that were waiting for us on land. On the bus ride home we ate cheese sandwiches and cookies to tie us over until lunch back at the hotel. After a quick rest and shower time, the group met back up for a presentation/activity by Travis about the importance of the mangrove ecosystems and we prepared our own public service announcements in groups to be filmed later. Finally we had a dinner of pupusas, and then relaxed before an early bedtime in preparation for an early wake up time tomorrow.
Happy Costa Rican Tree Day! The day started bright and early this morning with breakfast starting at 6:15 (which means a majority of us woke up before six). We got a special breakfast of pancakes and by 7:00 we were headed to the Colonia beach for surfing and service. Service consisted of picking up trash as well as tracking trash using Geoporter’s GPS units which will eventually track patterns of where trash is located. While some of the group picked up the beach others were surfing with the instructors in the water. Before we headed back to home-base for lunch we were all able to plant coconut trees on the beach in honor of Costa Rican Tree Day! After lunch and a quick break we headed back to Forjando Alas to continue the bottle garden projects and play soccer with the kids. After a long day of service we headed back to home-base for dinner, free time and a movie about plastics in the Pacific Ocean (please recycle). Beautiful day, beautiful people on a beautiful planet.
– Sabrena Dodd and Reed Smith
After another great breakfast of pancakes, today we all packed up and walked down to La Flor de Bahia in Bahia Ballena community for more exciting service work. The school allowed for all the students to come out and play some games with us on the soccer field. There were so many kids and the whole group had a lot of fun! Travis showed us around the school and explained the various projects we would be helping out with. One project was scraping the old paint off the walls of the school so they can be repainted. We also artistically painted blue barrels that serve as new recycling bins for the school. They were beautiful! For lunch we had an amazing meal of fried egg, rice, beans, steak, and a tortilla all wrapped up in a banana leaf. It was defintely my favorite meal here, so far. After service, we walked down to the National Park’s beach in hopes of going down to the end of the whale tail, but the tide was too high and it was pouring rain. Instead, we were all taught the proper way to crack a coconut, eat the meat and drink from it. A bunch of the group even went for a swim in all their rain gear! To wrap up our long day of activities, we were all able to watch the sunset on the beach. Enjoy the pictures!
Hola familia y amigas!
As we woke up bright and early this morning for a 6 am breakfast, we were greeted with the normal morning sounds of Coast Rica- including the monkey bird. After a short, but delicious breakfast of watermelon, apples, eggs, and toast, we hit the road at 6:20 and walked to the headquarters of Bahia Aventura. Here we were fitted for lifejackets and flippers to prepare us for an adventure to come- snorkeling! After walking to the Parque Nacional Marino Bahia Ballena, we embarked the boats and started our journey. On the boats, we enjoyed a trip through the ocean to the Osa Peninsula, arriving at Parque Nacional Corcovado. Here, we enjoyed a hike through the park, highlighted by sightings of Scarlett Macaws, young Black Hawks, Howler and White-faced Cappuchin Monkey, and we were even able to taste termites! We learned all about the biodiversity living in the parks while enjoying the beauty of the park.
After an incredible lunch of rice, beans, salad, sandwiches, and the best avocados I have ever tasted, we got back on the boats and sailed to Isla del Cano where we began to snorkel. The snorkeling was incredible. We saw the beautiful coral reefs, many many times of fish and even a reef shark! The experience was truly amazing and unforgettable. On the ride home from snorkeling, we came upon two different pods of Pantropical Spotted dolphins. I loved watching the dolphins playfully swim around our boat and jump out of the water to greet us.
Once we were back on dry land, we walked back to our beautiful hotel to watch the Costa Rica women’s team play Brazil in the women’s FIFA world cup! This was EXTRA special because one of the teammate Melissa Herrera is from Bahia Ballena. Yesterday we got to meet her mother at the school where we were volunteering and took a picture with her (shown below). Although they did not win, we cheered hard for the girls and had fun while doing it.
After the game, we ate another delicious meal of rice and beans with palm hearts, chicken and beef and a salad. This day was an incredible and fun-filled, but tiring day for all of us! Below we have included pictures from the hike and the picture with Melissa’s mother!
Pancakes for breakfast before several hours of painting at Flor de Bahia to help to school earn the blue flag for sustainability. This blue flag is a proud banner of sound ecological practices, community efforts, and coastal protections. The trash cans were creative and for the most part did not look like little kids painted them. The humidity and heat were intense and there was much sweating although the painting was not active. The ice-cream break with traditional Costa Rican ice-cream in the middle was much appreciated. Although we complain about the work, we are very proud of our work at the school and hope that the people at the school and the community enjoy and appreciate what we have done. Lunch today consisted of a torta (egg and potato), palatines, and rice once we returned to Canto de Ballenas. We had a couple of hours to relax before a mejanaja (a pickup game of soccer) that we played with members of the community. The game was intense, and many GLA people were done at halftime. After halftime, many more people of all ages joined making the game more interesting and fun. The game ended with a 2-3 score. After the game, we went to the supermarket, which is much smaller than the ones in the States, to get ice-cream and drinks. We returned to Canto de Ballenas to play cards, shower, etc. before dinner. The dinner had the typical plantain chips, lettuce with an amazing sauce, and tacos. After dinner was ocean hour where we learned about forest ecology and the different types of forests and had consumed Costa Rican chocolates.
Hola familia y amigos!
Today we woke up and enjoyed another delicious breakfast at Canto de Ballenas. We celebrated the birthday of one of our cooks, Yeri, and then we piled into the taxis and headed for the canopy tour. After 45 minutes, we arrived to meet our guides, and ascended a steep journey in the back of their pickup trucks towards the ziplines. We did nine different ziplines, climbed across two rope bridges (that was terrifying), and did two different repels down from the treetops. Most of us were pretty nervous but we endured, and ended up having a lot of fun (some of us even went upside down)! After we had completed the main course, the guides laid out an array of fruit for us. They also had a ¨Tarzán Swing¨ which involved stepping off on a platform and swinging back and forth to gain a beautiful view of the landscape. We piled back into the trucks and made the return trip back to home base. Most of us relaxed in the pool, but Pilar and Travis arrived to hear our skits on conservation the mangroves. We headed into in town at 5pm. The town was having a celebration for the return of Fifa player Melissa Herrera. We played football with the locals and attempted to learn some dances before heading back to the home base for dinner. Another great day in Bahia Ballena!
– Katherine and Caitlyn
After a hearty breakfast of toast, eggs, peanut butter, and jelly two taxis arrived to take us to the Uvita waterfall. After a short walk down to the waterfall, we were already sweating, as usual in Costa Rica, so a jump into the refreshing water felt amazing. After a couple of hours of jumping into and swimming in the waterfall we hiked back to the waterfall entrance for fresh smoothies.
During the walk back to the hotel we tried sugar cane before stopping at two souvenir shops, and internet café, and coffee shop. The rest of the walk to Hotel Canto de Ballena was tiring but we were soon rewarded with delicious lunch of fried fish, rice, beans, and yet another wonderful salad from the hotel garden. Just when we were finishing our meal, we received an awesome surprise in our hotel: Costa Rica women’s soccer teammate Melissa Herrera showed up to visit us! She spent some minutes with us and shared her experience during the FIFA Women’s world cup in Canada. It was a great moment for all of us knowing she grew up in this little community and now she has been offered the opportunity to study in USA thanks to her effort and discipline.
After lunch we participted in a focus group run by a professor at Skidmore College on the subject of the trip. We enjoyed a short amount of free time before watching two videos about water importance in Costa Rica. Then we played a riveting game of trivia about the small details we had learned over our time in Bahia Ballena.
We finally got to participate in cooking the yummy food that we are always so excited to eat. Luckily we were all good chefs because the empanadas and refried beans were great. After our meal, we divided into our mentor groups to discuss the passions we gained on this trip and find ways to continue expressing them at home.
– Sydney M. and Maisy
Hola fellow family members!
Even though our trip is coming to an end, we had a great day. We had a very relaxed morning because we woke up later than usual. We ate fruit and pancakes this morning and we went to the beach to do service. We did four hours of service filled of singing and hard work! We cleared out the pathway so people and cars would have an easier access to the beach. We also transplanted some mangrove trees and coconut trees. The service work was done to combat coastal soil erosion in Bahia Ballena. After service, we went swimming at the beach and cooled off with raspados (snow cones). It did not only have shaved ice and syrup, it had condensed milk and milk powder.
After lunch, a huge storm of heavy rain, lightning and thunder came. Pilar was going to instruct a yoga class for us, but it was cancelled because of lightning hazards. We relaxed for the rest of the afternoon until dinner. Some of us swam at the pool (until the lightning forced us indoors), played cars, or slept before dressing up and having a fantastic pizza dinner at La Fogata. After dinner, we walked back, played fun games, and sang karaoke to High School Musical songs.
We will miss Canto de Ballena cooperative hotel, the amazing food, the relaxing home environment, and living the Pura Vida!
Happy Father’s Day!
– David and Jessica
Today we had a late start. Pancakes at 8am! We learned about Geoporter and how to use GIS (Global Information System)… valuable skills for life man. JP ate rice and beans and we boarded the bus at 12.30 sharp. We had such a fun bus ride all of us bonding and joking around. We arrived at Alajuela at 4:15pm, checked into the hotel and settled down for a bit. All of the campers filled out a servey reflecting on their GLA experience and how it could be improved. Shortly after we saw an amazing rainbow. Then Bridget kindly took us in groups of six to walk down to Alajuela´s local supermarket to get some treats. We walked back and got ready for our last dinner as a group. J.P walked us to a resteraunt called Coffee Dream´s. We all enjoyed, chicken quesadillas, lasagna, salads and dessert. It was amazing in everyone´s opinion. Overall, the past two weeks have taught us a lot, but we are all ready to sleep in our own beds again. Its not over yet, we will carry GLA´s message back to our home and make a change!
– Olivia P. and Claire G.
Everyone has departed safely after a successful program!