First Week In Costa Rica
After a long and eventful travel day spent playing games and getting to know each other, we all arrived safely in San Jose. Our gorgeous hostel is only a hint to the incredible sights we are about to see on our exciting adventure in this colorful country. Tomorrow will help us all refresh our Spanish skills before taking off to experience Costa Rica’s beautiful natural gems.
A Peak Into Culture:
Today we visited the Costa Rica Language academy- an international school. After a quick orientation, our wonderful native teachers helped the kids practice Spanish and played various Spanish games. Although shy at first, everyone eventually got into the games and put aside their nerves to practice aloud their speaking skills. Much to our surprise, language was not the only cultural thing we would be learning today. Two graceful dance teachers now capitated our attention by demonstrating the merengue and the salsa. Feet tapped, hips rocked and kids spun around the room giggling. Eliza picked the moves up quick, impressing even the teachers with her their rhythm and enthusiasm. After a few practice rounds, the kids had all the moves down and had worked up an appetite- the perfect Segway into our cooking lesson. Here we all learned to make a traditional dish called empanadas. We left the school feeling more knowledgeable about Costa Rican culture, and even more excited to engulf ourselves in it for the next few weeks.
Sleeping Under a Waterfall:
What an adventure the past two days have been exploring the breath-taking beauty of the rainforests of Las Tumbas. Yesterday we began our outdoor adventure with a strenuous but incredible hike straight up the ridge of a mountain deep into the rainforests. Our native guides gave us plenty of breaks and rewarded our hard work with various edible plants scattered about the luscious green forest. Some of our favorite taste testing plants include raw cacao (which, of course, the girls all loved), sweet stevia leaves and sugar cane, as well as a nutrient-rich leaf called Gabilana. Once we reached the peak the views made the hike more than worth it. Our panoramic view consisted of the gorgeous 90 ft waterfall pouring into a swift crystal river that continued down into the horizon cutting through the rich green colors of the forest. In the distance the blue sky melted into what our guides told us was the Pacific Ocean! Here our kids had their first “Wow” moment, truly witnessing the rainforests pure and natural treasures. We dropped our daypacks off behind the waterfall in the large natural cave that was to be our home last night and headed down to the pools of water to take a quick swim. This morning we woke up to the soothing sound of the waterfall only yards away from our cots and sleeping bags. We endured another tough hike a little farther up the mountain to visit a couple more falls before beginning our rappel down the 90 ft waterfall. Sam surprised us all with his courage and comfort rappelling. All the kids faced their fears and rappelled with bravery. Luckily our hike down the mountain was much quicker than the hike up, and everyone is now napping as we transfer to the beach to begin our surf lessons and service work!
Surf, Sand & Pura Vida:
The past few days we have been learning all about the currents of the ocean, rhythms of its waves and patterns of the tides. Just as we are beginning to understand the ocean and enjoy it in a new way, we are also learning to care for it and protect it as a home to many important species. Each day we alternate morning and night with surf lessons and service work with a Sea Turtle hatchery.
The kids are thriving in the water, learning quickly how to paddle and pop up instinctively to catch the crisp whitewater of the waves. By the end of the first lesson every one, including us leaders, had stood up on at least a few waves! Parker tore it up, even learning some trick moves on the board. By our second lesson this morning, everyone was carefully reading the waves and selecting the perfect ones, comfortably paddling out and riding each one in to shore! I feel so proud of them! Olivia and Rebecca were pros by the end, standing up, balancing and catching a wave on one board together! Our surf guides have been incredible teaching the kids about the nature of the ocean.
At the Sea Turtle hatchery, the kids were excited to give back and care for the beaches we have enjoyed so hardily the past few days. Although we are a few weeks early for turtle hatching season, the organization had us paint informative signs for the national park to help protect the turtles eggs and preserve the beach. Karla’s incredible knack for words gave all of us catchy, clever phrases to paint on the boards of driftwood we collected from the beach. Combined with Grace’s phenomenal artistic ability the signs turned out colorful and creative, witty and purposeful.
Back at our camp, an Uvita native gave us small lessons of language and culture, showing us various fruit trees in the area and even letting the kids explore the awesome treehouse he built. Marshall helped our native guide with a traditional ceremony, dressing up as the indigenous chief and giving everyone a special animal spirit name in the local dialect. The kids loved the fun lesson in culture and have been calling each other by these fun names all day today! Sara helped gather avocados and other fresh fruit from around camp, even finding an innovative way to open up a coconut for dessert one night! All in all, the past few days have exceeded expectations and now the kids are leaving with new passions, new knowledge and a grand sense of accomplishment.