The daily blow by blow from Costa Rica Community Service!
The Westcoast Blogger
We kicked off our first day in Costa Rica with a few games to get to know everyone. It wasn’t long before we all knew each other’s names and had found common interests with some new friends. We had the chance to meet our guide Meggie and she spoke to us about the Costa Rican culture. We ordered some pizza and got some early shuteye, to make sure we were well rested before we began our month long adventure. Most of us had been up since 4am and the slight time difference made it an even better reason to hit the sack.
We woke up early and went rafting. What a beautiful experience. The scenery was amazing and the rafting turned out to be much more of a workout then we could have ever imagined, dipping into the waves and over rocks down the winding river. Ada and Olivia got a good scare when a small fish jumped up into our raft. That afternoon we spent some time at our hotel playing a few more games and had a visit from Gail Nystrom, who inspired us all with her talk about the Humanitarian Foundation. We all had many questions about the group of kids we would be working with and the service we would be doing in the town of La Carpio. After speaking with Gail we split up into groups and prepared games and activities for our next two days of service. We went out for dinner to a little restaurant not too far from our hotel for our first Costa Rican meal. Instead of pop, each meal came with a natural drink, it could be anything from papaya, to watermelon, orange, blackberry, star fruit, cas, passion fruit… the list was endless.
This morning we were off to la Sebana. A public park where we could run a day camp for some 60 kids who came from La Carpio, a neighborhood that was rundown and in need of much attention. These kids grew up in a town of 34000 inhabitants. A place of which had nowhere to play. No parks, no pools, and most importantly very few positive male role models. Gail started a Futbol league with 20 teams, each with a coach that was a great role model. When we arrived at la Sebana most of the kids were already in the pool while others were playing in the futbol field. Half of us joined in for a game of Futbol and the rest of us jumped right into the pool with the remaining kids. We were particularly impressed with Alex and Ari’s futbol skills. Robyn, Emma, Steven and a few others worked hard at teaching a large group of kids to swim.” We all took a break for some watermelon and then switched groups. Those at the pool went to the field and vise versa. We sat as a group to have lunch and play games. Afterwards we broke into two groups again, some doing arts and crafts, coloring, and making bracelets. Steph was rocking out the coloring books with one little girl. The other half of the groups went to the basketball court to skip rope, play with sidewalk chalk and pass a few balls around. A game of American football was suddenly initiated and a group of boys began an energetic game that most of the local kids had never played before. We also spotted Ari and Ada, across the field from one another, each playing ball with a little boy from la Carpio. Alexis and Rebeca befriended one of the cutest little girls ever. We left in the late afternoon to our hotel and got a chance to talk as a group about our experience. We went out to another restaurant to try another delicious Costa Rican meal.
We returned to la Sebana for another day of fun with the same group of kids. This time we were already familiar with most of them and our futbol game was a little more competitive, and the swimming lessons resumed. Added to the day’s activities was a game of basketball, which was a big hit. The game seemed endless and both teams scored so many points we lost count and just played for fun. At the end of the day we gave out some donations to the kids that we had brought from home and set off back to our hotel. That evening we played Mafia, a really fun game that made the group laugh plenty. We spoke about our next day of service, we would be traveling to La Carpio to see where these kids lived, and no one expected it to be an experience that changed us this much.
La Carpio was different than we imagined. Gail had prepared us but we were convinced many of us had never seen such a display of poverty and lack of government support. The town, as large as many metropolitan cities doesn’t show up on a map and other than locals who live there. Many families of 10 lived in small homes about 8’ by 12’. This was smaller than most of our bedrooms and it was an entire house for most families. We began our project, making bunk beds, and delivering them. We worked in a small workshop and almost everyone used a drill for the first time. We delivered 5 bunk beds in one day! Gail’s goal was to deliver 200 by September. It was hard to leave once we got into full swing and we were glad to hear we would return in a few weeks to resume this project. Julia, Max, and Sam should all consider a career in carpentry because they had super skills! After a hard day of work we went back to the hotel and hung out by the pool. We had a restful night before our first big drive.
We slept in a little and then began our drive to Monteverde. The drive up the hills on unpaved roads made for a bumpy and exhilarating journey. We were all happy to pull up to our hotel, the trendy Poco a Poco to settle in. That evening we went out to play indoor soccer. DJ was an amazing goalie and only Jake and Emma were able to get any goals past him. Miranda joined in for a while and made a powerhouse team with Alexis and Steph, although it was really hard for any team to score. Again we lost count but I’m sure the other team was rocking it. Congrats goes to Max for being such a great team captain.
This was possibly one of our biggest days. We began work at the Monteverde Coffee Co-op where we did some reforestation. Our group achieved in just a few hours what one farmer would do over a two-week period. This Co-op was located near a woman’s co-op where many of us bought some crafts to support the local community. That afternoon we went to the Zip line adventure course. Really only for thrill seekers. To slide down a cable across the forest, some 600 feet in the air is only for the strong at heart. Rebecca and Alexis over came their fear and we all had a riotous time. The day wasn’t over once we got back to the hotel. We quickly got changed and were back on our feet dancing at a little restaurant/discotheque. Abby, Ada and Sam were stars on the dance floor!
Time to travel to Arenal. Upon arriving at Arenal we got ready to go to the Baldi hot springs what a Zen experience that was. We all got a chance to try numerous hot springs heated by the warm water river flowing near the Arenal Volcano. We enjoyed a delicious buffet at the springs and then our second guide Gustavo took us to a lookout where we could see the volcanic eruptions and some lava flow. Out of the darkness shiny red twinkling lava peaked our curiosity. Behind the volcano there was a full moon and a lightning storm. A sight we will never forget.
What a thrill to go canoeing! With a guided tour through the forest and then a series of waterfalls we needed to rappel down, slightly daunting task to descend a waterfall backwards in the middle of a forest. Max went down first. He was a pro. DJ went second and it only took him a few minutes to get the hang of it. Alexis came down faster than any of us and made it look so easy. One after another we went down the falls. That afternoon we went to a waterfall and had another incredible experience. DJ, Steven, and Jake climbed up the river to the Waterfall while a few others went down the river with Robyn. That evening we went to town to do a little souvenir shopping and grab some food. Julia, Miranda, Olivia, Ada, and Abby ate at a little place called Lava Lounge. They indulged and had sushi and guacamole and finished off by sharing a huge chocolate brownie with ice cream on top. The boys and Ari, Emma, Sam, Rebecca and Alexis ate at Luigi’s pizza. A few got some calzones that were bigger than the pizzas themselves. It was time to head back to our hotel for a little R & R before bed. We had a movie night the boys wanted to watch the Matrix and the girls wanted to do High School Musical.
Travel to Tamarindo. Before checking into our Hotel we went straight to our Surf Lessons on the beach. This proved to be a lot more complicated than professional surfers made it look. In the end almost all of us got up on our boards and rode a wave by the end of our lessons. We then checked into our hotel and had a bit of time to chill by the pool. Almost everyone went for a dip. We went out to dinner at a really great restaurant not only was the food great but to our surprise it was karaoke night. Steve dazzled us with his beautiful voice singing “American Pie” while others like Jake chose to dance rather than sing.
It was time again to do some service. This time we were painting a community center. Everyone pitched in and we worked so fast and so well we were done painting our section of the community center quicker than expected. Abby, Miranda, and Emma worked really hard and finishing early was in great part due to them. We all ate some watermelon and went back to change before going out for lunch. Lunch was delicious. We ate at a nice restaurant on the beach. That afternoon we visited Playa Conchal a seashell beach that glimmered in the sun. Meggie our guide treated us to some gelato, yum! We then went to another beach where many of us went for a swim and played soccer on the beach. A little while later, we decided to head back to the hotel to get ready for dinner. Dinner was once again delicious, a few of us were seduced by the super tacos but most people ate chicken fingers as an alternative to all the traditional Costa Rican food we had been having.
Within minutes of our arrival to Rincon de la Vieja everyone was on a horse. For many of us, this was a challenging experience and it took some courage to get on the horse and make it to the river. These were professional horses however and dealt with our amateur riding with ease. They crossed creeks and walked over rocky areas, all while staying as a group. Robyn, Sam, Alex and Steve were all in close proximity to Paul and we kept passing each other down slopes to the river. Once at the river we all got in our tubes and went river tubing, much more exhilarating than it sounds. Abby was really pro. Most of us got stuck a few times and needed some help from the guides. All in all it was a really cool ride. We spent the evening playing games back at our ranch hotel. Very nice secluded spot up in the hills; the hammocks were a nice relaxing touch.
The fun never stops. This morning we hiked down to another waterfall. Swimming in the falls is a fun activity many locals do for fun and it was well worth the hike. Max went first and a few others followed. Ada, Jake, DJ, Abby, Emma, Sam and Alex all gave it a whirl. We then lounged in the current for an hour or so to just enjoy nature at it’s finest. That afternoon the group went to the mud baths and hot springs, which was a really great and relaxing experience. After this we all regrouped at the hotel for dinner, and worked on our trip Zine project together. This is a scrapbook we will assemble during our trip to record all the cool things we do, and our favorite moments.