Tag Archives: costarica2019

Costa Rica, June 17, 2019

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by Abby Eisold ’20

Today was full of many wonderful excursions. After waking up and eating a lovely breakfast together, we took a boat back up the canal to where our bus, and dear friend Ronald, was waiting for us. About 90 minutes later, we arrived at lunch to eat another balanced meal. On our way to our next lodge, we made three spectacular stops. One was to a banana plantation where we learned how bananas are grown, harvested, and selected. Seeing the system in place and learning of the history of Costa Rica as a “Banana Republic,” we were all able to take away a useful piece of information from this short stop. I was particularly interested in what Mario said as he explained how bananas and pineapples are two of the most important exports for Costa Rica. This stop was very important because it showed us how much Costa Rica relies on these crops.

Our other two trips of the day included destinations for food. The first was a common grocery store. Here we felt more comfortable, as it was something familiar to us, because it resembled the Walmart we stopped at previously and the grocery stores we have at home. Next though, we made a quick stop at a local fruit market, and the experience was very different than the previous grocery store, but in only positive ways. This stop has honestly been my single favorite event thus far, and it was mostly spontaneous. One of us on the trip wanted to get a fresh mango, so our guide, Mario, called ahead to a fruit stand he was familiar with and arranged for a tasting of exotic fruits! At this fruit stand we were immediately welcomed to fresher and cheaper fruits, and it was an overall better experience. Upon arrival there were many fresh fruits and coconut products for us to try. I tried more than ten new foods and was not disappointed with a single one of them. Offering cheaper prices, and better products, we were more than willing to buy the produce we tried and loved. This was one experience that showed me how the ‘Pura Vida’ way of life is found everywhere in Costa Rica. This fruit stand was generous to us in ways I have rarely experienced, and the kindness we were shown was positive for everyone who was there. We all left happy and our stomachs full, as we discussed our favorites of the fruits we tried. This brought me even closer to my friends because we tried this new and exciting experience together.

After returning, having a rest, then getting an orientation to our service projects in the community, we went on an adventurous night walk. Here we saw the Red Eyed Tree Frog and other interesting insects such as a cicada. This night hike was unlike any other we have done because we were not focused on the breathtaking views, but payed close attention to what was right in front of us. Previously our nature adventures involved looking at birds and animals, but tonight we focused mainly on insects, a very important part of the ecosystem. These insects, although sometimes pesky, are extremely beneficial. This time spent was eye-opening and created a greater understanding of these animals that we so often complain about. Today I learned new lessons and was continuously blown away by the beauty and history of Costa Rica. Being immersed in this culture, our group acquired a greater understanding of Costa Rica’s economy and culture.

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Costa Rica June 16, 2019

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By Lexie Osbourne ’20

Today was filled with adventure and a learning experience. We started the day with a great breakfast at Pachira Lodge then headed off on a boat to the Tortuguero National Park to explore the canals. This was a two-hour long boat ride through the canals learning about the species that live along the river. In total this national park is 50,000 acres of protected land established to ensure the safety of the wildlife which live there. The area is most known for green sea turtles, however, there are many other amazing animals in the area. We were able the see neotropical river otters, green iguanas, caimans, howler monkeys, a rat snake, a basilisk (“Jesus Christ” – because it walks on water) lizard, bare tiger herons, green herons, an anhinga bird, and northern jacanas, as well as, many different types of trees. One thing that stuck with me is how important the protection of the area is given there is a high density of various animals but a low concentration of them all. I truly appreciate how the community was able to come together to work on the goal of protecting their environment through eco-tourism. This community effort is so important and should be more widespread.

After lunch, we worked on the beach of the Caribbean side of Costa Rica and cleaned up the trash that could be injested by the animals. We were able to remove a lot of materials that could be recycled – we know because we sorted it all! Because it was Sunday, the recycling Center was closed, but we still wanted to make sure we were recycling, so we sorted the trash and left the recyclables outside of the recycling center in labeled bag. Even though this was a relatively small effort in the big picture, it still means a lot since we were able to help remove part of the problem. I did find it interesting that for an area that talks about protection of wildlife there was quite a bit trash. Whether that be from tourists or locals that don’t see the importance of not littering hopefully soon there can be more awareness to how harmful the trash can be. The Sea Turtle Conservancy is doing a great job of that and hopefully their amazing work gets further spread throughout the community.

During the beach clean I made a new best friend – a dog I named Marble. I met him on the beach and after the clean he followed me to stores and even to the boat that we were leaving from. He was so adorable, and I hope that someone takes care of him. It was so sad having to leave him since he was such a great addition to the trip. Later, we were able to walk through town to buy souvenirs and help the local community. The community is so beautiful and vibrate with colors and nice people. The visit to the canals and the beach clean-up has further showed me how important and beneficial taking care of the environment is. It will be very hard to go back to busy New York City since everything in Costa Rica has been amazing. I can’t wait to visit again and learn more.

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Costa Rica: June 15, 2019

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by Eden Jones ’20 

Hi everyone! My name is Eden Jones from the class of 2020, and I’ll be filling you in on today’s activities during our sixth day of the 2019 Service-Learning trip in Costa Rica. Today was a typical traveling day for everyone, with an early morning drive (early meaning 6:00 AM!!) from the town of Arenal to the port of the “Lucky River.” From there, we all boarded the boat, sailed through the river,  into the canal and headed towards the beautiful town of Tortuguero, located on the Caribbean/Atlantic side of Costa Rica.

Tortuguero is one of Costa Rica’s more secluded locations because it is only accessible by boat or plane. Also, tourists are not the only visitors to this amazing place. Sea turtles (five different species to be exact) arrive on the Caribbean shore of Tortuguero from the months of July to October. The females come to lay their eggs and begin the newest generation of sea turtles. The Sea Turtle Conservancy, along with the people of Tortuguero and aspiring marine biologists, assist in the protection of the young sea turtles by prohibiting poaching or abuse to the animals during their nesting period. During our visit to the Conservatory, we learned important facts about the protection of Sea Turtles, along with now the people of Tortuguero help to make a larger impact. Through todays experiences, myself and everyone on the service trip included dove deeper into understanding Costa Rica’s emphasis on Eco-Tourism and the importance of protecting the environment. Along with learning this, I personally felt a strong sense of community and safety while exploring the town of Toruguero. The store front owners and those watching soccer on the television greeted everyone with a “Pura Vida!” or a kind “Buenos Tardes.” Everyone on the service trip clearly had a smile on their face after our day trip to the town.

After, we sailed back to our hotel, the Pachira Lodge, and enjoyed our second meal together in Toutuguero. Overall, our service-learning trip to Costa Rica has opened a new door to the wonders of renewable energy, the happiness that Eco-Tourism can bring to people, and for me, a view of the world that I’ve never seen before.

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Costa Rica June 14, 2019

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by Urgen Sherpa ’20

What’s up yaw? Its Urgen Sherpa ’20 and I am your blogger for today. After spending the second night at Hotel Montana Monteverde, we sadly made our departure to our next stop, Arenal. However, prior to our departure, we were able to make full use out of what the hotel had offered us: Breakfast. To those who are not familiar with me, I typically eat a heavy breakfast to start my day right. Luckily, Hotel Montana was able to offer just that, a heavy breakfast. We then continued to our next stop, with a slight adjustment, that being the switch with bus drivers. Our beloved Ronald made an even earlier departure then our group in order to ensure the safe arrival of our luggage in Arenal. Thus, Antonio, our replacement driver, drove us to our next destination – Arenal. The journey was long, but scenic in every imaginable way. We drove up, down, left and right, passing by schools, churches, fields, mountains, and even “fresh” cows. Antonio’s determination was touched by everyone heart during the ride to Arenal. And we finally made it to Lake Arenal!

Upon our arrival to Lake Arenal, our group gave our regards to Antonio, and opened arms for a new mate, Carlos. Carlos, much like Antonio, contained the gushing determination that was touched by everyone during our boat ride through Lake Arenal. During the boat ride, our tour guide, Mario, began introducing key facts about Lake Arenal. I for one, took notes on his informational lecture and would like to share some of this notes that I took during our smooth boat ride. Did you know that Lake Arenal was a man-made lake, built in 1970 stretching over 34 square miles? And did you know that Lake Arenal produces 30% of the electricity used in Costa Rica daily? Lake Arenal is also known for its contribution towards Costa Rica’s hydroelectricity as it contributes around 70%. Lake Arenal is also home to wildlife such as, fish, otters, and caymans. Though the boat ride was smooth, I noticed that water levels in the lake were low. Mario stated that the decrease in water levels in recent years was due to insignificant amount of rainfall which is caused by the pressing issue of global warming. Mixed emotions were felt upon our arrival to the other side of Lake Arenal. However, the cooped-up emotion was disregarded when we met up with Ronald! With the help of Ronald’s astonishing driving skills our group then proceeded to our next destination, Hotel Arenal Paraiso, the hotel we are staying at right now. We ate lunch and then made way for our final stop during our day – a hike to the base of a volcano.

As we drove through the security gate, we made our way through the national reserve. We could smell the change in air as we drew closer to the volcano. Because the volcano is 1700 meters, it took time for our group to hike up to the lookout point. As we journeyed along the volcano, I took in some informational facts about the volcano. Did you know that it last erupted on July 29, 1968? The eruption formed about 5000 small craters along the volcano. And being that the eruption was somewhat recent, vegetation around the volcano is relatively new. Mario explained to us about the concept of Ecological War. And luckily, we were able to glance Ecological War at first hand. What does it mean? It means that species of plants compete with each other for space in the forests and we could see the tall grasses beginning to take over! After about 45 minutes into the hike, we made it to the summit where we were able to view the volcano (sadly, the top was in clouds all day) and Lake Arenal. As the hike came to an end we came back to our hotel. Which is where I began to start this blog. Pura Vida!

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Costa Rica–Last Night in Monteverde

by Kelly ’20

Howdy everybody! It’s Kelly ’20 with today’s blog post. Tonight is our second and final night in Monteverde and I’ll outline what we did our last day in the area, before we travel to Arenal. After a hearty breakfast, we traveled to the Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve (which is run by the local high school!) where we helped carry gravel to prevent erosion on visitor pathways. Our two guides, Walter and Jackson (aka MacGyver), showed us the path that we were paving and then we got to work. We carried sacks over our shoulders on a windy path and eventually it began to rain quite hard. After working for a while, we were cold and wet, but after our work we returned to the forest with Walter and MacGyver to see the quetzal, a colorful and shiny bird with a very long tail. Although we did not see the male, we did get to observe the female leave her nesting box; the female is not as visually striking as the male since she is grey with some reddish orange markings, but she was still exciting to see. (Side note! Today I just realized that “quetzal” is etymologically linked to “Quetzalcoatl,” the feathered serpent of ancient Mesoamerica, so the bird’s name literally means “feather.”)

After eating lunch and resting for a bit, we traveled to Monteverde Friends School. In the 1950’s a group of 11 Quaker families moved here after four members of their community were jailed for refusing to serve in the Korean War. They chose to settle in Costa Rica shortly after Costa Rica abolished their army and began encouraging foreigners to settle the land. The Quaker families started around 30 farms, including a cheese factory – the Monteverde Cheese Factory, which still exists today! While at the school, some of us played a very informal game of volleyball with a soccer ball that we had found, which had left some gnarly forearm bruises by the time we entered the school’s Meetinghouse for a brief Meeting for Worship. A short shower of rain passed by while we were there and I found the sound and sight of it through the door to be both centering and calming. At the end of meeting, Walter (from GS) observed that the beams of the room weren’t held together by nails of screws, but by fitted joints and pegs, which was very interesting. I don’t know much about construction, but I do know that the walls and ceiling of that room were unique.

Then, we went to a bat forest exhibit, where a woman named Anna taught us about the types of bats that could be found in the region, told us how bats are beneficial to the environment, and showed us the bats that were cared for there. I loved her enthusiasm and her clear enjoyment of her job, so I asked her a lot of questions about different types of fruit bats, especially Flying Foxes, which are the largest type of bat in the world (and do not live in Costa Rica). She also brought out her two dogs at the end of the tour for some of us to pet. One of them was named Coffee, because “she looked like a little coffee bean as a baby.”

Overall, today was a groovy time, especially since things that I enjoy – linguistics and wildlife conservation – which I didn’t think had a connection, actually did. Likewise, I also have always loved bats, so seeing and learning more about them was very fun. I’m going to miss Monteverde immensely, but I did see some farmland for sale up here, so maybe I’ll move back – and as Kim suggested, maybe teach at the Friends School!

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Costa Rica, June 13

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by Catherine Tatum ’20 

Hi everyone! It’s Catherine Tatum ’20, today’s blogger. Right now, I’m typing this from the lounge of Montaña Monteverde Hotel, our hotel in Monteverde for tonight and tomorrow. We started the day by leaving our beautiful hotel in Guanacaste, Hacienda Guachipelin, and retracing our steps back towards Liberia Airport, stopping at a Walmart. There we picked up snacks, and Kim and Mario bought some beach towels for our service that day.

Today’s service was picking up trash at the Playa Hermosa (“beautiful beach”). At first sight, the beach looked pristine and we questioned whether there’d be much work for us there. But upon closer inspection, we found trash that often goes unnoticed or is misconceived as too small to be harmful – microplastics. These small bits of plastic are frequently consumed by marine animals like fish and sea turtles, and the accumulation of these plastics in an animal’s stomach and intestines can be fatal. We found these small bits strewn throughout the beach and did our best to pick up every piece we saw. When we think of the problem of plastics in the ocean, mostly larger pieces come to mind, like plastic bags or bottles. And while these are harmful, and we certainly found some of those, small pieces of plastic are just as deadly. In addition to these, my group found a bonfire of partially burned beer cans half-covered under brush. Shout out to Tracy Banfield (Kelly’s mom) for the extra work gloves! Before it was time for lunch, we got to play in the water a bit too, which was surprisingly salty to some of us.

We continued past the airport we arrived to make our way to Monteverde. This was a three-hour drive, with the chunk of time being a twisty, bumpy road up into the cloud forest in which Monteverde is located. The second shout out of this blog post goes to Ronald, our bus driver. Ronald was not fazed by the drop offs or the cars coming towards us from the other direction on the very narrow road. It was amazing to watch the climate shift as we moved from Guanacaste to the Pacific to Monteverde, going from a semi-dry forest to the beach and on to a cloud forest. The view from the bus ride was absolutely incredible, and if you check out our Instagram you’ll see some photos (or videos!) of that. Tomorrow we’re doing more service locally, but tonight we’re enjoying experiencing the climate of the cloud forest and seeing an incredible sunset.

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Costa Rica Day #1

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by Ashleigh Curry ’20

Hey everyone! It’s Ashleigh Curry ’20 and I was the blogger for our first full day in Costa Rica! After an early morning start, we traveled Rincon de la Vieja Volcano National Park for a three-hour hike through the luscious forest. The hike included a spectacular view of the park, several bubbling mud pools, and sights of several species of insects, birds (including several toucan sightings!) and monkeys.

We learned that while the country of Costa Rica is 19,700 square miles, it contains nearly 920 species of birds. The United States, which measures 3.797 million square miles, has roughly the same amount of bird species. The biodiversity of Costa Rica fascinated us as we realized that this small country contained nearly 9% of the word’s bird species. Some of the birds we saw on the hike included the Motmot, Toucan, and the Lesser Ground Cuckoo. At the volcanic lagoons, we also learned that only 5% of the electricity in Costa Rica comes from fossil fuels – the rest is from renewable energy sources!

After the hike, we gathered back for a delicious lunch at the hotel before going on a horseback ride to a nearby waterfall. All the horses led us swiftly to the waterfall, occasionally speeding to a fast trot or diverging from the path for a snack. At the waterfall, we had the opportunity to swim and spend time relaxing in the natural plunge pool.

Our final activity of the day included a visit to the Rio Negro Hot Springs and Mud Baths. At the destination, we soaked in the hot water and even dipped our hands in the 90-degree Celsius spring (for an instant only!). We also had the opportunity to paint ourselves in mud for a full-body facial. The hot springs were a perfect way to end the busy day and allow us to unwind before dinner.

We are looking forward to our first service project tomorrow – a cleanup at a beach on the Pacific coast.

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Costa Rica Service Trip 2019: The Day Before Departure

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by Kim Major, associate director of admission

In less than 24 hours 14 students and two adult chaperones will be on their way to Costa Rica to begin our adventure. I can’t wait! Admittedly, I also can’t sleep. Before a trip, I get so anxious worrying about last-minute details, that I am writing this at 4:00 AM (yikes!).

This will be the second time I have gone on this trip, and I am looking forward to so many things. I am eager to go to the places we ventured before and look at them at a deeper level. Without everything being so new, I wonder what I will notice that I missed the first time around? For me, the first trip to Costa Rica opened my eyes to a whole different kind of travel. Before going on the trip, I saw an ideal trip as one where I could see some landmarks or sleep in the sun (and, don’t get me wrong, I will never turn down a day at the beach). After the trip, I realized that what I had most enjoyed was getting to know members of the local community and seeing plants and wildlife I had never seen before. It hit me that travel isn’t just about relaxing and taking photos, it is about working to understand a world different than our own. I truly hope that our students end the trip believing this is true, as well.

On this trip, we get to experience so many different regions and ecosystems in Costa Rica. It is truly eye-opening. As we learn about the country’s efforts in environmental sustainability during every stop, our students will have a chance to understand the fragility of our environment, the wonder of a diverse ecosystem, and what can be accomplished when leaders in government, industry, and science come together to solve problems. Our service work is largely environmental – trail work, beach clean-ups, and some community resource work in our homestay community. My wish for our students is that they be inspired by what they learn about sustainability in Costa Rica and apply it back at home.

One of the things I am most eager to see is how our students will fare without cell phones for nearly two weeks. In the time leading up to the trip, students spent some time reflecting on this. While there is some anxiety about not being connected in a virtual sense, students are really looking forward to a different and perhaps more authentic sense of connection with one another.

Each day of the trip, at least one student will write a blog post each day. We will send them along to George School to add to this blog (we will have photos going forward!). We hope you will follow along. You can also keep up with our trip on our Instagram. Follow us on Instagram @gs_costarica19. Pura Vida!

Photo of Arenal Volcano National Park – one of our stops on the trip

 

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