Painter’s Paradise

We began today with our normal routine: meeting point and classes. After a fun morning of classes, we had lunch at Tiki’s, a local favorite. Following lunch, we made our way to Tempate to start our volunteer work. We spent most of our day here. Our volunteer work was to paint two of the locals’ houses, give them some spunk. We split into two groups and began to sand down the surface area to make it easier to paint. IMG_2588 IMG_2589

Then we got our colors. One house would be blue and the other green. The colors were so bright! They’d definitely stand out in town! It was a hot day and we had a lot to do. One of my favorite moments in the day was overhearing one of the students say “We’re in Costa Rica and we’re painting houses. We are really lucky.” Music to my ears. Don Carlos put music on for us to listen to while we worked, it was a great selection! It was hard for us to not dance around while we were painting! The children of the houses wanted to help as well, so we even had some extra hands. It is amazing what we accomplished in just a few hours! The houses were gorgeous! IMG_2597 IMG_2599 IMG_2602 IMG_2614IMG_1412

Surf’s up!

Today was action packed! We started our morning off a bit differently. First thing we did was go to the local public school in Portrero to drop off supplies that Francis Parker brought for them from the states. School was already in session, so we saw the students in their classes. The school was so grateful for all of the supplies. It is because of schools like yours that these students have the materials they need to learn. We were taught that the schools here take shifts, elementary school in the morning and middle school i the afternoon. Now we’re jealous of the shifts!

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Once finished with the school, we began our morning routine of Spanish classes. At the end of class we surprised Mr. Howard with birthday brownies from La Cuchara Verde! As he came walking out of class we were ready with candles and a song! And the brownies were delicious.

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After the birthday shenanigans, we went to marie’s for some lunch and headed out to Tamarindo for surf lessons. We arrived a half hour early so we gave the students some time to shop. Everyone bought some really cool souvenirs! Then the beach day began. Half of the students went surfing and the other half chose boogie boards. The waves were huge and the water was refreshing!

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Following the beach we returned to our families to enjoy one of our last nights with them!

Day of Clay… and Gelato!

Today was action packed, filled with a lot of movement and español! After our morning routine of meeting and going to classes, we piled into the bus to take a trip to Santa Cruz. In Santa Cruz we did an activity that was one of my favorites that I’ve ever seen! The students were told to walk around the central park, jotting down in their journals things that they notice but that wasn’t the challenge. They were told that if they strike up a conversation with a local; asking questions about their life, the town, the park; the teachers would buy them gelato later in the day! This activity was a huge success! They spoke to locals of all ages, some were other school students dressed in uniforms, some were parents there with their children and some were cute little abuelitas out for a stroll in the park. After taking time to write about the conversations they had, Mr. Howard gave us a history lesson about the area we were in and the indigenous people that lived there. IMG_2496

Immediately following our park activity we went to Guaitil to learn about clay making and how the history of the town ties into it. We watched a demonstration where a local made a perfect vase right in front of us using only natural ingredients! Then each student had the opportunity to try it out themselves!

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After checking out their beautiful clay collection, we made our way back into town for the gelato that was promised! This place honestly has the best ice cream we’ve ever tried! Everyone went home a happy camper!

First day of class!

Today we met at the meeting point bright and early so we could get to school and receive our class schedule for the week. After a quick game of basketball, the students made their way to their assigned classrooms and began their Spanish immersion classes, by break they were speaking only in español! After spanish class we had a cooking class! We made  casado con carne, and the students were pros! IMG_2307 IMG_2308

After filling up on our delicious lunch, we had some free time at the CPI pool before heading off to enjoy the gorgeous, blue waters of Flamingo Beach. On our walk to the beach we stopped for smoothies at an adorable little health shop where the students left with more than just a smoothie! That brownie was to die for! The beach was incredibly relaxing, the students used every moment they had to enjoy the water and take stunning photos of the sunset. Two of the dancers took the coolest photo I’ve ever seen! IMG_1332

Splits in the air?! How did they manage that? That photo is magazine worthy! Then we all made it back to our homestays safe and sound, stomachs growling ready to eat with our Tico families!

Canopy day

We began today with a big breakfast at the hotel and got to our canopy tour by 9am. After strapping us into our harnesses and giving us all the safety tips, we began our canopy adventure. This one is unlike any other in the area! It has zip lining, rappelling, rock climbing and a tarzan swing! With the professors and chaperones spread out through our large group, we made our way one by one through the tour. We are now all adventure experts and understand why it’s very important to wear longer pants on a tour such as this one!

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Once finished with our ziplining adventure, we were on our way to Playa Flamingo, which would be our home for the week. We arrived at CPI Flamingo to do our placement exams and have an orientation of the area and learn about our dos and don’ts for the upcoming week. Then we met our host families! Everyone was paired into groups of two or three, met their families and went home to eat and get to know the people in their household. Many of them went straight to the beach!

The Journey Begins

After a long day of flying and airports, the group landed safely in Liberia, Costa Rica! It was already later in the night so, after meeting their group assistant Arelys, they made their way to Hacienda Guachepelin to check into the hotel to relax for the night.

The next morning they woke up bright and early for breakfast and to take a beautiful hike in the national park. Here they saw the national tree of Guanacaste, heard the local birds and learned the Costa Rican version of Romeo and Juliet. Next, they took their bus to the Río Negro Hot Springs where they were able to do a volcanic mud bath! The smoothed volcanic clay mud all over their bodies and then once it was dry they rinsed it off in a cool river water shower. Then they had free time in the hot springs! IMG_2439 IMG_2464 IMG_2472 IMG_2473

Then, after the mud baths, they made their way back to the hotel for lunch. Here they met their second group assistant, Leola (me), and ate a little bit too much pasta! once lunch was finished we had a few minutes to get us ready for our next adventure: river tubing! The river was beautiful, the water refreshing and the guides made sure we had a fun time.

You can tell this group is from Cali because they sure do love the water! Following our tubing experience they spent their free time before dinner in the pool! Once we were finished with dinner and our group meeting to go over journal entries and our itinerary for the next day, we said our goodnights and returned to our rooms for some well deserved rest!

Day 7

Today is an exciting, yet sad day for our group; completely filled with all kinds of emotions!

First, we went on a canopy tour with SkyTrek. It was incredible. We got to their location, they taught us about safety on the lines, how to position our hands, everything we needed to know. Then we had a practice line before getting on the SkyTram to reach the top of the cloudforest. Once up above the trees, with the view of a lifetime, we began our tour. The students loved it. Mr. O, not so much. IMG_2215 IMG_2217 IMG_2220

Once finished flying through the sky we made our way to lunch at Amy’s in Santa Elena. After a delicious lunch there, the Professors surprised us with a treat – ice cream! We all got to pick a flavor and relax outside and enjoy our last day in Santa Elena. The ice cream here is so delicious! Super creamy and all kinds of cool flavors!IMG_2231

Returning back to the school, reality hit us. It was their last day at the school and also their last day with me. They went to their classes ready to take advantage of the time they had left here. After classes, we surprised the group with a ceremony where they received a certificate for their week here, and a slideshow I put together of their time here in Costa Rica. It was so much fun to share with them! They were such a fun group to have and I was so lucky to be able to share this experience with them!

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Day 6

Today we were not afraid to get dirty! First thing in the morning we visited Life Monteverde. “Life Monteverde is an association of nine families from Monteverde, Costa Rica, with a strong background in agriculture and nature conservation. The group members have various professions and skills, including forestry, environmental education, administration and finances, coffee trade, agriculture, human resources and arts. Since 2009, Life Monteverde has organized educational activities for the local people and visitors. The objective is to help people achieve a higher level of sustainability in their day- to- day activities.” We arrived at Life and met our guide for the day, Maria. We learned about the three categories of sustainability: evironmental, social, and economical. our first job was to go out into the farm and find the different components that help make up a sustainable environment. We returned to the classroom to create boards of what we found and talk about how it all works together. IMG_2157 IMG_2158

After the classroom they put us to work! When I say work, I mean we got dirty! We split into four groups and rotated between each station. The stations consisted of filling bags with compost for coffee plantation, weeding and replanting corn roots, gardening in the organic garden, and planting trees in the coffee fields. We learned a lot about each other, the work we were doing on the farm, what a piapia is and why they might call a person that! We were told that Tyler is a better worker than Mr. O at the compost station! IMG_2161 IMG_2168 IMG_2170 IMG_2177

On our way to lunch I was serenaded by the whole bus for quite a few songs. I believe they were by Justin Bieber. The singers were pretty good, not painful to listen to at all! For lunch, we went to Sabor Tico where the students were able to try natural drinks of cas and tamarindo. Thomas ate four platanos! Then we made our way to the school for class. After class, we had a nice relaxing time in the jacuzzi, which made the nice, fresh air in Monteverde seem super crisp! I’m so sad I only have one more day with this amazing group of students! IMG_2207

Day 5

This morning we woke up with one thing in mine… coffee! We hopped on the bus at 8:30 am and made our way over to the Trapiche tour. It’s a family owned farm where they harvest coffee, sugar cane, and (the best yet) … chocolate! We learned about the average day of a farm laborer, how the plants grew, how the ingredient was picked and then we got to learn how to make it! First we practiced picking coffee beans. Then we saw the machines they use to filter through the coffee, only to use premium beans! IMG_2079 IMG_2094

Next, we got to taste chocolate beans before they are turned into what we know as chocolate! It was super bitter. We helped him grind the beans and add the sugar creating a delicious chocolate paste that tasted like a fudgsicle! IMG_2114

After learning how to make chocolate, we were taught how to press the sugar cane! They showed us the new modern-day machines, but we were able to press it with a machine that they used to use with the oxen! Then we were able to make candy out of the sugar cane! The candy was so sweet and they sent everyone home with a bag of it.IMG_2115 IMG_2120

After a delicious lunch (Mr. O says it’s the best he’s had thus far), we returned back to CPI for our Spanish class. After class today, though, we didn’t just go home like usual. There was a CPI hangout sesh for students and staff! We played fútbol with the other students at the school, ate fruit kabobs, and listened to music. We had a blast! (Even though Daniel kept stealing the ball from the little kids! lol) One of the best nights of the trip so far!IMG_2132 IMG_2139 IMG_2131

Day 4

Today we woke up bright and early to get the best experience possible at the Santa Elena Reserve. We met at 6:30am and made our way to the rainforest hoping to get there early enough to see some wildlife. We split into two groups and each group had our own personal guide. We hiked to the top of the cloudforest, having seen a few friendly creatures along the way! We learned all about bellbirds, glass-winged butterflies and even zombie caterpillars! IMG_2034 IMG_2042

 

We left the reserve to drive to town for some free time. This is when the riddle obsession began! Black magic, Johnny Whoop, and getting invited to the party are just a few that drove us all insane! So much so that we couldn’t stop trying to figure them out all the way through our elegant lunch at Mar y Tierra! After lunch, we returned to CPI for our Spanish classes and after their language class they had an opportunity to use what they learned in an all Spanish dance class! IMG_2056 IMG_2065

You should have seen their moves! They’re practically professionals now!