Day 3 Costa Rica, Monday 1-17-17: Our Second Rotation Day

Our rotation at Nahuayaca Waterfalls began with half the group riding in an enclosed pick-up truck bed down to saddle up the horses and ride down to the waterfall.  The second group was driven down to the mouth of the waterfall and would ride the horses back.  The property belongs to Don Lulu whose family supports an approach to eco-tourism that provides not just a thrilling adventure on spirited horses but also an opportunity to experience first hand the “Tico/Tica” (term for Costa Rican person) commitment to the environment.  Once at the falls, the group spent some time swimming and considering whether they wanted to take the leap off the 35 foot ledge.  Don Lulu’s team was amazing at helping each person make their way safely up the face of the rocks.  Here are some photos of the day:
It was an amazing day. Climbing up the waterfall and jumping off was a first time experience. Not doing this everyday only made me smile. Riding horses was the first time I did something like that. My horse was named Speedy and he was very aggressive. He wanted to be in front the entire time and hated everyone who passed him. He especially like to go fast which was very fun. It kind of represented me in sports especially when I run.
The WaterFall

BARAT: Puerto Nuevo School

Our rotation to Puerto Nuevo school began with some adjustments, since our initial job of painting the interior of the one-room school was changed due to the Principal’s more urgent need to address some large trees whose branches hung over nearly half of the tiny school’s compound.  The trees, providing some much needed shade for the school, also provided a haven for snakes-including boa constrictors-some of which would made their way onto the school yard.  The local families, knowing of our upcoming visit, pitched in to hire two locals to cut the trees back.  One of our primary tasks was to help haul the felled limbs out of the school grounds, across the soccer field and onto a composting pile near a stream.  The work was arduous, but given the gravity of the situation, our group made the extra effort to work together and make it happen.  While hauled tree branches, others added a coat of paint to the bathroom, while yet another group engaged the local children in games while they waited to receive the school supplies we brought.

Our work with the kids

School supplies


DUCHESNE at Hacienda Barú

Day 2 Costa Rica, Monday 1-16-17: Our First Rotation Day

Our community was divided into three groups: BARAT, DUCHESNE, and STUART and began our rotations, heading to Hacienda Baru and zip lining while learning about animal conservation, horseback riding to Nahuayaca Waterfalls, and the final group engaging in Community Service with a local school.  Some snapshots:



Student Reflections:

I loved going to the school and really seeing the change you’re making and interacting with the kids regardless of the language barrier.
It was amazing to see all of us interact with the kids and also engaging with one another.
By taking the time to actually hangout and socialize with the children we were giving supplies to, I think we all got to really experience the feeling of what it means to give back.
Nik Fisher
I’ve never been to a place where students and kids bonded so much. Students stepped up to help other students understand what they were saying in order to play with the kids. Letting them use the cameras was heart warming to me because I never know what it was and was curios to see what it is and what it does. It was by far the best service I’ve done so far this year.
I’ve been in something like this, but this an entirely different thing. Playing with the kids was fun and an amazing experience both for the kids and us. Being able to speak some Spanish and see beautiful nature is great. Some of the things here at Costa Rica can’t be seen in San Francisco so I am very blessed to be a part of this.

Post Dominical

So what happens when the pool, pool table, expansive hotel grounds, smoothie bar and other hotel amenities are gone?  COmmUNITY!!


We continued our tradition of daily “acknowledgments”:  an opportunity to thank individuals who helped make our day a bit better.

Acknowledgments 1

Reflection was also a significant part of our experience:  Question: “what did I learn about a) Myself? b) My Class?  c) My School Community?

And some words about no cell phones into Day 7:



Costa Rica 2015: Day 6- Beach and San Jose

Our time in Dominical has come to an end. We say goodbye to our time down south with the morning at the beach before heading north to San Jose for tomorrow’s flight. Here’s a video with some testimonials from the students about their experiences:

From here we traveled back up to San Jose to stay at a hostel near the airport. No pool, no pool table, no dart board meant just some basic fun together: cards and circles of boys and girls chatting and hanging out- not even missing the fact they’d now been close to a week without cell phones!

Costa Rica 2015: Day 5- Turtles and Rafts

Our last full day and we split the group into two sections to rotate from river rafting and helping at Hacienda Barú’s turtle habitat preserve. Although not turtle season, we helped dig up the nursery, a large raised area of the property a short distance from the beach. This involved turning the sand so that that sun could clean off any bacteria left from the previous hatching. While some dug up the nursery, others added fresh coats of paint to signs while a third group cleaned up trash along the shore so as to prevent the returning turtles from ingesting items which could jeopardize their health. The efforts of the preserve increase the chances of the hatchlings’ survival from 1 in 500 to 15 in 500. Even with no direct contact with the turtles or the turtle eggs, our work was instrumental in helping give the turtles a chance at survival. Here’s an article from Hacienda Barú’s website about their work.


Here’s a clip about the work we did:

While digging in the turtle nursery, we found an iguana nest. It was odd to feel the leathery texture of the eggs and we were all surprised by the flexibility of the eggs as we squeezed them slightly and felt their give, very different from the hard shell of other eggs.


After the turtle preserve we went river rafting. Although the river was not as full as some wished, it did provide enough rapids to get everyone wet and made for some great photo opportunities.





And a video montage from my raft:

Tomorrow is our last day in Dominical. We’ll spend the morning at the beach before hoping on the bus and making our way back up north to San Jose to spend the night. Oh, and cell phones? I don’t think they’ve been missed!

Costa Rica 2015: Day 4- Last Rotation and Talent Show night

The last of our three day group rotations today saw us headed to Hacienda Baru, , a short drive from our compound. This is an amazing place with a dynamic history typical of this country. The owner, Jack Ewing, author of Mokeys Are Made of Chocolate, greeted our group and explained a bit of the history of his 830 acre wildlife preserve. Hacienda Barú started 30 years ago as rice fields and cattle pasture. Jack shared about his personal and professional transformation over the years which led him away from farming and hunting to the eventual establishment of this wildlife preserve. Here is Jack greeting our group:

As we arrived, we spotted a sloth in a nearby tree and got a fantastic glimpse of the sloth’s jovial face through the observation scope the staff had set up.


Then it was off to put on our harness and other gear for an educational zip through the canopy’s 8 lines, making our way through the rainforest of chocolate trees (cacao) and amazing wildlife.
























Here’s are two quick views of launching from one of the zip lines:

And some student reflections:

Izzy and Neely:
Cardio is important and horse back riding is fun. We liked seeing wildlife that we would normally not see in America.
This trip has been great so far. Being able to experience so many different
activities like horseback riding, jumping off waterfalls, and participating in cultural
dances, have been amazing events that I will always cherish. I feel very grateful for
being able to take part in this trip…
This trip is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It has been really fun so far and I’m
looking forward to every part of it. I’m really happy that I was able to be a part of
such a wonderful trip.
Katie and Elisa:
We have really enjoyed all of the activities so far and each day seems to trump
the last. We are very grateful to have the opportunity to go to Costa Rica with
our entire class.
There is something to enjoy everyday, whether it is a new food or activity. This
trip pushes me out of my comfort zone but I’m glad I get to try all of these
amazing new things.

We returned in time for our Salsa lessons. ALL ARE NOW READY FOR OUR NIGHT OF SALSA DANCING! Check out our group’s experience here:

Follow our Costa Rican adventure on Twitter:

Costa Rica 2015: Day 3- Horses and Falls (Water-falls!)

Our day began with espacio, a Sacred Heart tradition of taking time for silence, and an opportunity to identify a word/intention for the day and write it on a Post-it, affixing it to their chest. After a few moments of walking among themselves and looking at the words others wrote, they gathered into groups of same/similar words and shared about why they identified that particular word. This allowed us a chance to understand that although we may each have our own expectation, this shared experience helps connect us on many levels.

My group headed out to Nuayaca Falls and just a few minutes into our bus ride we pulled over to see a sloth hanging from a tree, and were delighted by a Toucan swooping over our heads to land in a tree next to a second toucan! On arriving at the Nuayaca property (consisting of over 120 acres!) we had a chance to make the trek by horseback to Nauyaca Waterfalls. The horses had life and spirit and we all remarked on how the horses seemed to have an understood “pecking” order, making our ride that much more exciting. Here is Jordon’s horse cam with part of his ride from the falls to our midway point where we stopped for lunch. Check out the horse’s unspoken communication as they kick it up a notch together to cantor speed at around 14:28.

Our guides were pros and made us feel safe and appropriately challenged. Their savy at helping us climb the face of the falls to jump into the pool below was impressive. Here are some photos of the ride and the Falls:

and a movie montage of snapshots of our experiences:

We closed the day with some traditional Costa Rican dancing led by a group of local high school students connecting to their cultural narratives. Check out the High School Cube stream with our students participating:

And finally, a night of shopping from the convenience of our hotel property, a Marketplace that brings local artisan crafts, coffee and souvenirs. A portion of the proceeds go directly to support local needs including an orphanage as Carlos explains. See the stream here:

Stay tuned for our last day of our three day rotation: my group’s participation in Hacienda Baru’s “Flight of the Toucan” zipline and eco tour experience!

Costa Rica 2015: Day 2- Groups

Our team was divided into three groups.  My group visited a local primary school, engaging the children in games and helping do some painting around the compound before handing out the much anticipated school supplies we brought.  This last part was a highlight for all since the children take their education seriously and looked forward to receiving the tools that would help in their success.  Click

to hear some of the members of my group offering a few words about the day.

Some pictures:

We closed the afternoon after lunch with a quick walk from the school to a local swimming hole for some much needed cool down:




And just in case you think it’s all work– here’s our evening program of Costa Rican music and dancing led by local youth: (hit your browser button to return to the blog)

And our own students jumping in.

Costa Rica 2015: Day 1

After a series of legs: SF to Houston or SF to San Salvador and then to San Jose, Costa Rica, followed by a three hour bus ride to Dominical, we finally arrived at Villas Rio Mar.  With no cell phones, students quickly came up with creative ways to engage one another and pass the time.  Here are some initial posts:

Charlotte — The first day in Costa Rica was an amazing bonding experience with my peers. With traveling on planes, buses and on foot we got to know each other on deeper level. This deeper level of connection brightened up my day and gave me a positive outlook on the rest of this trip.

Julien– this first day in Costa Rica really opened my eyes to a whole new way of living. Seeing people connect on a more profound level without using technology or social media inspired me to use social media and technology less when I am back home. I am now eagerly awaiting for new opportunities to better my self.

Katie — I am looking forward to the rest of this trip! Finding our way through an unknown airport really helped bring the entire group together and create new experiences that only we share. The scenery as we drove through Costa Rica towards Dominical was so different from what we see in San Francisco and it has opened my eyes to the uniqueness of Central America. I am excited to see what Costa Rica has in store for us next!

Robert — I am looking forward to trying new things and adapting new relationships with classmates. I like the idea of the trip being just one class instead of the whole class like the camping trip. Last year, I saw the seniors being really close friends, so I saw the idea of the trip being for those who are young and just starting that way, the relationships can spread even more! Looking forward to a great weekend!

We created our three groups and will spend the next three days cycling the groups rough three rotations:
1. Community Service: sports, painting and distribution of schools supplies collected by the sophomores.
2. Horseback ride to waterfall
3. Zip line eco tour

Here are some pictures of what life with no cell phones looks like. Stay tuned for more!image