Bienvenidos a Costa Rica! All 24 of our students are here and ready for an awesome Costa Rican adventure! After all of our students arrived today, we had a barbeque dinner catered by our local director’s cousin–he once won an award for having the best barbeque in all of Costa Rica! Yum! We did a short orientation, get to know you game, and also had our first mentor group meeting. Tomorrow we will drive to our Home Base in Gandoca, with a stop along the way for zip lining and lunch at a local restaurant.
Pura Vida! We are having an absolute blast here in Costa Rica. Yesterday was our main travel day, as we went from our hotel in San Jose to our “home base” which is in Gandoca. We are extremely close to the Panama border. In the morning, we woke up in the hotel around 7 am. After meandering downstairs to the outside porch, we were served a delicious, fresh breakfast full of variety. There was hot coffee, milk, rice and beans (of course!), scrambled eggs, and fresh bread with different jellies and marmalades. The bags were packed onto our bus, and we started our journey to the organic farm that we’d be staying in for the next week.
After traveling for about an hour or two, we stopped for zip lining in the rainforest. It was 11 lines long, each longer and faster than the last. It was full of interesting wildlife, such as the bullet ant, tiger ant, toucans, and sometimes sloths. The people that worked there encouraged us to try our Spanish on them. The last line, nicknamed the “Adrena-line”, was a half mile long and had the most incredible view. We collectively bought the pictures of us on a flash drive, which will be shared later. Next, we stopped for lunch at this giant buffet area that had every chicken, rice, and fruit dish you could ever imagine, along with flavorful juice. Everyone left with full stomachs and big smiles.
On the bus, we went another few hours, then stopped at a crowded grocery store for a quick bathroom break and food stop. The bus ride consisted of counting dogs, goats, chickens, ticos y ticas (the name for Costa Ricans), and horses, as well as games, singing, and a little bit of sleeping. The sun sets earlier in the Caribbean, so when we arrived at 7pm, it was already nightfall. The family that lives here was very inviting and kind, even though we all screamed after encountering some huntsman spiders. Everyone showered in the cold but refreshing water, we played cards for a little, and then we were all off to bed for another exciting day.
We have all become such great friends already!
July 16th, 2017
Abby and Gabi comin’ at you from Gandoca, Costa Rica. Today, July 16, we enjoyed a delicious breakfast of an egg, meat, and vegetable scramble, rice and beans, and of course a hot cup of Costa Rican coffee. The locals served us a special treat of arepas, similar to biscuits, with jam. After breakfast we had free time that was spent throwing Frisbee, spotting monkeys, and challenging our neighbors across the pond to a game of “football”. We’re proud to announce that the Americans defeated the British yet again in our “friendly” games of ultimate Frisbee and soccer. In the early afternoon we split into groups of twelve and set off on a tour of the organic farm we’re staying on. Both groups’ guides picked us fruits from the trees as they informed us about their various harmful or helpful characteristics of their many unique fruits. As well as learn about all their fruits, we got to enjoy many delicious organic fruits straight off of the tree. This would be an appropriate time to inform our dear readers that Vincent Brady’s favorite fruit was the uncooked cacao fruit. On the tour we spotted wildlife such as toucans and, Vincent’s favorite, really, really scary, big, venomous, metallic spiders. When at home base we found two bowls, one containing roasted cacao and one that would soon contain the shelled cacao beans. We crushed the shelled beans and fed them into a rustic looking hand crank that surprisingly produced bitter tasting cacao paste. However, when this paste is mixed with milk and a little bit of sugar it turns into the most delicious hot chocolate after a few hours of stewing. While we waited for this to become hot chocolate, we started up a volleyball tournament against the British school group of kids. We were on a losing streak of 4 losses until the underdog team of us (Gabi and Abby), Colin, Vince, Adam, Kyleigh, Meredith, and Arielle pulled out our first and only win of the night. To quickly remedy our loss we enjoyed a hot, organic cup of hot chocolate before setting out on our first night walk on the beach. We dressed up in full bank robbing attire and headlights, and set out to the beach in suffocating darkness with a galaxy above our heads. After splitting up into two groups we set out on our walk in opposite directions. One group saw nothing, but the other saw the menacing red eyes of a crocodile! Upon returning to home base, we quickly settled into a well deserved slumber.
From: Gabriella Gyurkovics and Abigail Boutrous.
Today we spent our morning in the kitchen chopping, seasoning, and boiling up ingredients to make picadillo with plantains. For the plantains we got a bunch and cut the ends off and peeled them, after we got a tool that looks like a waffle wand thing but instead we took the cut up plantains and squished them and fried them in oil. It was a really fun activity to prepare and have hands on with the food you’re going to consume later on. I’m really thankful to have had the privileged to enter into our host’s home and be allowed and invited into the kitchen to prepare a traditional delicious dish.
In the afternoon we got a Costa Rica talk which I found really informational since JP went deep on the historical and geographical places in Costa Rica. After lunch we went on a mangrove boat tour where we were excited to see sloths! It took all of us a really long time to actually spot it out, but once we did we looked at it for about 10 minutes. Apart from spotting the sloths we saw 4 spider monkeys one of which had a baby monkey on her back, it was wild to see them jumping across the air and falling on the trees from the other side. Later that hour we continued our boat tour and we were taken to the beach where we all rushed into the ocean and swam in the delicious warm salty water.
Students enjoy playing group games after dinner
*Wave Sound* As another day comes to a close on the driftwood covered shores of Gandoca, Costa Rica, we can look back on another day full of experiences and fun. Today, day 6 on our magical mystery tour, we woke up to heavy rain, as can be expected during the RAINY season. For breakfast, we shared eggs, rice and beans (quite a surprise here in Costa Rica), and coffee and hot chocolate. After our breakfast and waking up through the wonder of caffeine, we moved to our first activity of the day, sign making. Sign making is a crucial part of our primary directive of protecting turtles. Gandoca is unique in that it has promoted turtle conservation for almost 30 years, since our guide Ariel was a kid. Many communities are still working towards protecting the sea creatures as gathering and eating the eggs has been a practice for many years. These signs will be placed around the beach to help promote turtle conservation and increase the conservation effort on the Caribbean Coast. The group was able to let their creative ideas fly as we worked with different paints and worked to find the best way to write letters. As we worked on our sign we quickly realized that our letters were never going to fit and decided to cover smear the letters creating a lime green background that ended up working out better than anything we had planned previously. Honestly, it was a miracle our sign was ever finished. After several hours of sign painting and A LOT of person painting, personally I received many smears of paint, dots up my arm, and a flower. Essentially, my arm resembled something of a modern art piece. However artistic our arms and signs looked, nothing can match the true art of Gladis’s cooking. Something of a hidden gem in Costa Rica, the reigning matriarch of the house continues to impress. Combined with another homemade fruit juice, we were served tuna pasta salad, fried potatoes, and rice and beans (I am beginning to think it may be somewhat of a staple here). Lunch then quickly transformed itself into a game of mafia. In the first game, the mafia were quickly eliminated. However in the second game, Ariel, a crafty mafia in our small Costa Rican village, took down 22 out of 24 of us before being eliminated. Due to the rain, some of our local game time was cut short. However, we then moved on to a game on the beach where each one of us had a different trait as we tried to build an SOS sign out of driftwood. Four leaders were chosen to lead the group, myself being one. Needless to say, we never made an SOS. The activity was meant to show how international groups face obstacles in the workplace. A short walk back to the soccer field to play some field games. Several games of soccer and volleyball broke out featuring a wild Kibou (the young cat on the farm) running around the field. Soon however, it got dark, and after another wonderful dinner, we dressed back in black for our turtle walk. This turtle walk however, would be much different than the last. Seemingly normal, although slightly more cloudy than before leading to a lack of stars, the turtle walk would be nowhere near a regular walk. After we started, we soon realized that the waves were coming up high on the beach. Personally, I noticed when a wave came up to my shoulders although I was 30 feet back. As I continued, we soon hit a layer of mud. As we struggled through the mud, we had several lost shoes and a lot of near miss falls. We then reached a river where I was told, “there might be caimens or sharks coming back and forth”. Disreagarding that we crossed anyways and continued through into the dark. Once reaching the end of our path, we rested some and then started back. I was also able to scare the entire second group on our way back. I was quite proud. After a long walk back through the river and mud, we finally made it back to home base around 11:30. All of us exhausted, we ended our day there falling quickly asleep after showers. Overall, day 6 was another in a great series of adventure.
– Colin Kelly
Leadership and cross-cultural game on Gandoca Beach
The day started off fairly early with an amazingly good breakfast at 7:30. After we ate we departed for a trip to the local elementary (Central Educativo Gandoca). We learned that the schools run from February to November, leaving them to have December and January off which is the dry season so it’s similar to summer. Their schools hours are from 7-11am and only 23 students in the school. The school consisted of 4 rooms; principal’s office, 2 classroom and a cafeteria along with a play area and field. We went into the first room which had students from grades 1-5 and afterwards we went into the kindergartener’s room. The children all told us their names and we told them ours. Afterwards we went into the field to play “pato pato ganzo” aka duck duck goose. Once we finished we cleaned up and we ate snacks with the kids. Then we grabbed a rope and played games like “jump the snake” where we wiggled the rope and had to jump over it. Along with it we played jump rope. The kids were very sweet and super excited to show us their performances which consisted of them singing and dancing.
After we got back to home base we all relaxed for a bit as we were tired from the night patrol the previous night. At 2:30we had an amazing dance class where we learned the salsa and other local dances. It was tiring but at the same time exciting and energetic. Then we played volleyball with Pablo and Ariel, some of our hosts. The whole group got together and we played a huge game of capture the flag with our mentors and hosts. At 7:30 we started getting ready for our final night patrol. When we were out we saw sea turtle tracks and a nest with hatched turtle eggs. Unfortunately we didn’t see any sea turtles but we still had an amazing time and we are beyond thankful for these experiences.
Polina Chowdhury and Noelle Nicolls