Day 4 – Rafting, surf and turtle habitat restoration

It’s really Day 5 and blogging has slowed down to a crawl, so bear with us while we get caught up.  We left our home away from home, Villas Rio Mar today and have just arrived at the hostel in San Jose.  Everyone is getting settled in with dinner and then we’ll conclude the day with reflection from this magnificent week. A recap of Day 4 from Matthew, Claire and Diego.

Matthew C.

Today, we the sophomores traveled to the beach called Hacienda Baru. There, each of us did some volunteer work to help out the community. Some people painted signs and others cleaned the beach, while my group went around constructing a few posts to help identify where the turtles lay their eggs. First, our tour guide told two of us to carry a log and drag it toward an open location. Once we were at the location, two more people were needed to paint the log with a number so the workers could keep track of where their eggs are. A fifth and sixth person were needed to do the shoveling in order to insert the post onto the sand. After awhile, the two people would rotate. All of the holes needed to be dug up to the end of the shovel. Digging up sand was a lot of hard work and needed a lot of strength put into it. There was even a few times where the ground would cave in. Despite that, it was a lot of fun to do. Once everything was completed, we would altogether lift up the post into the hole and surrounding it with sand. In the end, it was a good feeling to be giving back to the community for letting us stay in Costa Rica with such amazing company.

Claire K.

What an adventure this trip has been! Following our three whirlwind days of smaller group activities, the format today was a little different. For me, that meant spending the morning at Hacienda Baru, a wildlife preserve home to more biodiversity than more of the United States and Canada combined (insane to fathom). One of the special programs they facilitate there is the safety of sea turtles on their beach; they maintain safe nesting grounds and feeding areas so that the turtles can continue to use that beach to reproduce. Our group spent the morning cleaning the beach, placing beach markers, and turning over sand in the pits at the turtle hatchery. I helped to remove coconuts and palm fronds littering the beach, and then was transferred to the hatchery sand pit. The pit is about five or six feet deep, completely filled with sand. We had to dig ditches through that sand, which is hard work in blazing sun and suffocating humidity. The sweat was unbelievable – I didn’t even know that my body could hold that much water! Getting water poured on my head helped, but that labor just about killed after the other busy days. But, all my friends were just as tired as I was, which was a positive, and it helped to have the support of the group. We all cared about each other, and made sure that all of our classmates, friend or not, were okay and having a rewarding experience. After returning to the hotel for lunch, most of our group took off on a white-water rafting trip, which sounded like lots of fun.

However, I stayed behind with a few others to take surf lessons. I had never surfed before in my life; the closest I ever got was when I was around twelve or thirteen, when I was obsessed with Bethany Hamilton and Soul Surfer. But, despite the fact that it seemed absolutely terrifying, in the spirit of trying new things, I did it. I felt safe taking that plunge and just going for it. And you know what? It was probably one of the most fun things I have ever done in my entire life. Granted, the surf instructor was helping to push me into the wave, but then he’d let go and yell “UP!,” and it was all on me. I did wipe out a fair number of times, but it was all worth it for those times when I was able to stand and ride a wave all the way into shore. This trip has been all about risks for me, and learning that it is totally fine not to be perfect all the time. I’ve learned that you can miss so much if you are too nervous to try anything new, a philosophy I hope to remember as we travel home. The most important lesson: when you take that plunge, you will never regret it. ¡Pura vida!

Diego C.

Today, half of the sophomore class adventured into the depths of the Costa Rican landscape to then be let out at the site of a gaping river. As we begun the orientation, I found myself in a group of gaggling teenagers (an experience I had grown used to). These people were the ones who had my back in any situation and in any time when I needed a shoulder to lean on, they were there for me. The groups settled their members and made way to the flowing river where the guides awaited in a professional manner for us. I could see myself getting nervous because every time that I have gone rafting, I have either fallen out of the boat to have a rock waiting for my head to smash it, or getting so cold that I could not breathe. We hopped in the raft and set sail for the embarking journey down the river. Sitting on the side of the raft looking into the jungle and marshlands was an opportunity like no other. I was able to take in the wildlife around me. I was able to see what Costa Rica was like with the eyes of somebody who has entered a new place with no previous knowledge, without people telling what it was and what it was like through somebody from this country, and I couldn’t get enough of it. I wanted to never leave this amazing country where big cities did not make their mark on a map. This place was secluded from the world, a world where everything is moving at the speed of light with no end to it. This place was heaven placed on earth. This experience in Costa Rica has been one that will never leave my mind. I have connected with so many people and created new bonds as well. Being from a face-paced city, it was a nice sigh of relief to be in a place where the adventure never ends.

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Day 2 – All about service

What a day!  We are on the second day of our rotation.  For today’s blog, the focus is on our visits to local elementary schools Escuela Barú and Escuela de Platanillo.  (Our third rotation school was Escuela Puerto Nuevo, a tiny one room, one teacher school with a total of 14 students- an updated set of photos are below.)  We arrived mid morning and immediately got to know the Costa Rican students through games like soccer and hopscotch.  After polishing up the schools with a fresh coat a paint on a few walls and helping refurbish classroom furniture our Convent and Stuart Hall boys and girls handed out the school supplies that they had brought to Costa Rica.  The days were rounded out with a trip to the local swimming hole complete with a rope swing. Four of our students recap their day:

Trinity L.

Today, on our second day of rotation we visited some elementary school students at Escuela de Platanillo. During the service section of the rotation we had the opportunity to interact with some of the students and refurbish some school furniture. In the beginning I was pretty nervous about interacting with the students in Spanish. However once we started to interact with them it became much easier. I taught my new friend, Daira, how to say “You and I are friends” in Mandarin and she taught me in Spanish. By the end of our time at the school, the students and I had become great friends. One day I hope to see all of them again.

Gabriella T.

During our espacio this morning, we were told to do something uncomfortable while doing our activities. Today was our service day and we visited la Escuela de Plantanillo. We played with the kids and refurbished their desks. One of the struggles we had was speaking to the kids. The language barrier was hard because the kids spoke little to no English. We tried to communicate with them as best as we could and frequently used hand movements to try to act out what we couldn’t say. Overall, the students seemed so grateful and it was so nice to get out of our comfort zone.

Nicholas C.

Today was our second day of our trip in Costa Rica, and it was a very special day for everyone. We visited the Escuela de Platanillo where we met little children from that school, and help out with the school. At first we met the children and they led us down to their soccer field where we created teams, and played against each other. I was the team captain of my team, and to be honest my team was really good. After we went up, and we painted the walls of the school, and varnished the desk of the classrooms. We gave the children notebooks and pencils, but the highlight was Carlos Armendariz and Adrian Medina who gave their shoes to two kids. At the end to cool of the heat we visited a waterfall, which was a lot of fun.

Adrian M.

On our second day of transitioning, we visited Escuela de Platanillo, where we did some service for the kids around the school, played soccer, and handed out supplies. Not only was this day special for the kids, but it was also special for me as well because I got to find out who I really am as a person and how  blessed I really am. It was also special  because out of the kindness of my heart, I gave my soccer shoes to one of the most talented soccer players in my eyes. The fact that once I handed him the shoes and he asked for me to sign the shoes, made feel really special. We took pictures, we ate and once everything was over we went to relax at a waterfall and had some fun and swam. I will always remember this special moment forever.

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Third Rotation: Escuela Puerto Nuevo.




Class of 2016 in Costa Rica – Travel Day and Day 1

We have arrived safe and sound here in Costa Rica at our hotel in Dominical, Costa Rica.  After a delicious dinner and some sharing of thoughts like “hopeful”, “excited” and “curious”, everyone slept super well.  Our first day of adventures where we’ll rotate to one of these three activities: zip-lining at Hacienda Baru, horseback riding with a visit to waterfall at Nauyaca Falls, and serving a local elementary school in our Community Service rotation was exhilarating. We’ll be featuring one rotation these next three days. Check back often for more photos and stories from the students as we upload them when time and our access to internet allows.

TRAVEL DAY Snapshots (United leg)
Airport Travel Day

Leg 2 travel day

Leg 2 travel day

Leg 2 travel day

SFO to Houston!

Airport Travel Day

Airport Travel Day

Here’s our United group photo at Houston headed to Costa Rica, ¡Pura Vida!
Group Houston

As part of our 3+ hour bus drive from the airport in San Jose to Dominical, we stopped by along the way to catch sight of a favorite tourist stop: crocodiles!

DAY ONE Rotation: Hacienda Baru and zip-lining with with Barat Group

Barat Baru Zipline

Barat Baru Zipline

Barat Baru Zipline

Barat Baru Zipline

Barat Baru Zipline

Barat Baru Zipline

Student Reflections:

Yesterday (Monday), my group went on a long but amazing day trip that involved horseback riding, swimming and cliff jumping, and even exploring the Costa Rican habitat. People who haven’t ridden horses before were worried about riding their first time, but the friendliness and compassion from the tour guides really gave these people the bravery they needed to just get on the horse and ride. Awesome experience, would do again #10outta10
– Frederick

The trip has pushed everyone out of their comfort zone in some kind of way. But the entire grade has been supportive and encouraging. Whether it was horse back riding, jumping off a waterfall, or zip lining, the trip has been amazing! I’m excited to work at the school and learn more Spanish. Everyone here is very friendly and is always willing to teach you something.

It’s me again. We had a wonderful day today, despite the hardships we had encountered. My team (team Stuart) went zip-lining today. We had a long and hot hike to get up to the locations, but the rides were thrilling and exciting. I enjoyed the bonding I had with everyone in my group, including my teacher Ms. Hellstrom. The nature was great, and I enjoyed seeing the beauty of Costa Rica today. #parraislife
– Frederick

The group learned about the history of this educational canopy and spied a baby sloth, monkeys and learned about the medicinal use of these “suture” soldier ants:

After dinner, some downtime and (plenty of food!) we celebrated with some traditional music and DANCING!


A great end to DAY ONE!

Check out tomorrow’s live streaming of our traditional Tico (Costa Rican) dancing presentation and activity on our CUBE page HERE.