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Costa Rica Intro to Pre-Med & Public Health (Session 2)

July 20-21, 2018

We arrived at our hotel after a long bus ride from the airport. By the time we arrived, it was so dark that we went able to appreciate the beauty of the wildlife and plants surrounding us. The first thing I noticed in the morning was the bright red leaves of the tropical plant that was growing right outside of my window. Although I was tired from arriving so late, I could not wait to get outside and explore. After waking up, we all walked through a tunnel of trees, flowers, and even fruit, to get to where we ate our breakfast. They served us eggs, plantains, and rice and beans, which we eat for almost every meal.

After breakfast, we drove in vans to a local cheese farm. We experienced each part of the cheese making process, including milking a cow, and got to taste the final product. After we tasted the cheese, we sat down and played with a little white kitten and the farmers children who spoke only Spanish. The owner of the farm took us on a tour of his fruit trees and let us tastes some of each fruit. Everyone agreed that the starfruit was an exceptional standout.

A highlight of the day was when we returned to the hotel and learned to salsa dance. Seconds after we entered the building where we learned to dance, it started to pour buckets of rain and the entire room felt like it was shaking. As the rain continued, we all decided that a night time swim would be a good idea. After dinner we all jumped in the refreshing pool as it rained. Then we went to our rooms and went to sleep.
By Caroline

July 22, 2018
Waking up early 7am in the morning isn’t something that I’m use to since its summer time and school’s out and this is just so new to me being from New York we are just chill. I love the Costa Rican breakfast rice and beans, fried plantains and toast with a side of fruit (pineapples) and the amazing fresh mango juice. Everyone got ready to get into the bus for the drive to the waterfall in La Fortuna, it was like a 30 min ride there when we finally got there we saw so many different people from different parts of the world coming to see this amazing waterfall that was 500 steps down. When we were walking we were taking pictures all wet and sweaty due to our rain coats we finally got done it was beautiful  the fresh water was hitting us but we couldn’t go in via the currents being so rough. Now walking up the 500 stairs was difficult because it started to rain hard also we were out of breath but then we inanely made it to the bus to go shopping in the heart of La Fortuna we all broken up into groups to go shopping for souvenirs for family and food we had lunch on our own, headed back to the hotel, where we had time for ourselves some of us went to the pool, some of us took a nap. Until we had to go to the restaurant at the hotel so we could have dinner. Food at the hotel is really good.
By Omair

July 23, 2018
Today we woke up very early to get ready for our first day of volunteering at the local clinics. We got to breakfast at 7:00 am and left our hotel by 7:30. We split into several groups and all went to different clinics. Some of us went with doctors to patients homes to collect census data about their socioeconomic status. Others learned the fundamentals of the basic physical examinations. Some of us even got to see brutal infections. We all really enjoyed the rotations that we worked on. Another student and I joined a doctor to visit families in the area to collect data. It was eye-opening to learn about the lifestyles of the community members and to partake in the conversation. In one of our visits we met a man who was really funny. To give some background information, he lost both of his legs due to diabetes but always kept a positive attitude about it. He made a joke and said that when people ask how he’s doing, he always replies by saying, ¨I don’t have legs, but other than that I’m fine.¨ All of us were hysterically laughing for a few minutes, it was amazing. It was really cool to learn about the medical systems work in Costa Rica.   We took a lunch break around noon and met up again after to sit in a lecture about the clinics in the area.  We were all so exhausted by the time the lecture was over so once we got back to the hotel most of us crashed until dinner. Can’t wait until tomorrow and the days to follow!

By Molly

July 24, 2018

Today we got to sleep in an hour later, breakfast was at 8:00 instead of 7:00. After waking up late, we all headed down for breakfast. We rotated out clinics so that we were able to experience different aspects of how medical care works in Costa Rica. After a short van ride, we all arrived at out new clinics and were ready to learn!  Daniel and Nick had one of the most “gross” experiences: helping clean a wound. However they both had a good time; Daniel said “it was cool”. Omair and I went around in a car and gave people checkups at their houses. One woman had three cute puppies that were just born. I played with them and listened to the nurse, while Omair did not want any part of them. Back at the clinic, Bella and Summer worked in the pharmacy and organized pills. Bella was a “hero” and found a woman’s missing pills in the bottom of a bin!

At the end of the night, Molly and Jaz wrote a song to sing to our host families. Jordan is going to play the ukulele and we are all going to sing. Gotta go, we have to practice!

By Caroline

July 25, 2018

Hey guys! Waking up an hour later, we had breakfast at 8 a.m. Most of us had a fruit salad because we wanted a change of menu. After breakfast, we headed out to the alternative clinic. After we all arrived at the clinic, we learned a little bit about the history and background of holistic medicine. We were also able to do a brain scan on one of the guides. We went down into the rooms and split into two groups. We learned about ionic detoxing as well as massages. Ionic detoxing is when you use a silver machine to suck out the gunk through the pores in your feet. At first thought you wouldn’t think it would do anything, but after just 10 minutes the water that the feet and machine was in turned dark brown and there was a film of fat on top…Gross… We also got to try some massages and a spinal machine. After that tour, some of us were able to get some essential oils to relieve our individual fears and stress. The doctor mixed our individualized oils. After the clinic, we went and ate lunch, where we were fortunate enough to see a sloth scratching itself in the corner of the restaurant. We went back to Heliconias, our hotel, and had another presentation given to us about differences between medicine and other details such as the 7 chakras. We then were able to go and get a massage or an ionic detox if we wanted. Personally, I got my massage when the sun was setting and it was pouring rain which combined with the calming music the lady had on, it was magical! Afterwards, we headed to dinner where we found out our new roommates for the host families. I, Daniel, am with Jordan. Caroline is with Bella. Jasmine is with Savannah. Nick is with Omair. Molly is with Summer. We are headed out to our host families tomorrow and we can’t wait! This has been Daniel and we’ll see y’all when we get back.

By Daniel L

July 26, 2018

Waking up this morning, we knew that it was our last in the air conditioned rooms at Heliconias. We threw on our scrubs and ran through the rain to the restaurant for breakfast. We split up into three new groups and went to the clinics. For the third time, we shadowed and assisted doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and ATAPs as they helped or attended to their lost list of patients for the day. At the clinic I was at, someone was able to fill prescriptions, another person got to pour saline solution over the hand of a guy who nearly cut off two of his fingers, and I got to give a kid a shot during his yearly check-up. The three groups then went to eat lunch near their clinics before heading back to Heliconias to pick up our bags. Now all together again, we went to the store to buy anything we may need during our home stays. We then drove off to Vera Cruz, the city where our families were eagerly waiting to meet us. Person after person walked in with a different type of food, setting down giant pots on the counter of the outdoor kitchen next to the large covered dance floor/ karaoke stage. Our hosts started off the evening with three little girls in matching outfits singing a well rehearsed song with choreography. They then performed solos before asking us if we would like to sing. Luckily, we had prepared a song that a few of the girls in our group wrote. I played the ukulele as a few girls sang our song. They all clapped and they brought out the youth drum band. There were girls stomping their feet and playing games cheese graters, boys banging on large bass drums. One of the women urged us all to dance and we continued to do so even after the band stopped playing and they started playing popular Latin American pop songs . We only stopped dancing once the food was ready to be served. Before we ate however, we were called to the center of the dance floor in pairs and were introduced to our host families. We all ate with our families and got a sense that we would definitely not be going even the tiniest bit hungry during our time in Vera Cruz. After eating we all helped clean up: collecting dishes, stacking chairs and sweeping the floor. We then all said goodbye to each other and walked our separate ways with our families.


July 27, 2018

Today we woke up to the smell of breakfast and sprinkling rain outside. After a home cooked breakfast with our host families, we walked and drove to the community center. Once there, our first day of working began. We separated into two groups: one group painted the chairs and tables with furnish, and the other group painted the outside of the kitchen with a coral/orange color. After a couple hours we called a snack break, and enjoyed fresh pineapple, coffee, cookies and watermelon. After enjoying refreshments and each other’s company, everyone worked hard to finish what we were doing before lunch. At noon, we went back to our separate host families for food and resting. On the walk back to my host family’s home, I got to see the small room used to teach the neighborhood children english. After a delicious meal,  everyone gathered at the community center again. We spent the rest of the afternoon painting more tables and chairs. Around 4, we separated again for a delicious, filling dinner. Everyone has children in or related to their host family, so we all spent the night playing with and enjoying the company of the kids and families.

-Jasmine S.

July 28, 2018

Today we continued work on the on the community building. We had to start late because it was raining so hard. When we finally started around nine we got to work on finishing the chairs and painting the interior and exterior of the building. A few kids decided to redo the wording of the sign on the wall. That turned into a beautification of the entire wall, complete with a whole lot of poka dots. We have two more days left to finish it, and already it looks like a whole new space!


July 29, 2018

The smell of gallo pinto woke us up in the morning at 8:00 AM. After a short walk to the community center, we began painting the second coat of the kitchen. Jorge painted dark orange dots over the light orange walls, and we all began to add more details as we went. Soon enough, the walls were all covered in beautiful designs. At 11:30 we all went back to our homestay families for lunch and hanging out. At 6:00 we all went back to the community center to make tortillas. Our moms taught us how to pat the bread in the shape of a circle; some of us were more successful than others. We added our toppings, and ate. After eating, we went home and slept.


July 30, 2018

Our last meal at our home stay families was delicious as usual. I knew I was going to miss the food as much I was going to miss my new family. We all arrived at the community center at 8:00 and began painting the finishing touches on our walls. We painted an abstract mural on one of the walls and everyone helped paint details.  We went back home for our last lunch and enjoyed every bite. After coming back to the community center, we cleaned up our brushes and played an intense game of musical chairs. Nohelia won but JT insists that she cheated. The sun began to set and we all took pictures of the vivid orange sky while listening to soothing music. Later that night, the whole neighborhood gathered together for a community Zumba class. We were all sweating our butts off. Nohelia translated our final -thanks and we tearfully hugged our new families goodbye.


July 31, 2019

We sadly woke up around 4 in the morning because we had to leave our beautiful host families and community. Many hugs were given and many tears were shed. Saying bye to my mom was so hard?. We were on the bus for about 3 hours on our way to Alajuelita, a city close to San Jose. We went to a clinic run by a non profit organization called FIMRIC. A portion of the tuition that we paid for this trip was donated to this organization. At this clinic we got to shadow a doctor and a psychologist, run the pharmacy, and work the front desk.

This clinic was different than any of the other ones we went to. There weren’t many people working there; the volunteers outnumbered the staff. We worked until 12:00 and then had lunch at a school cafeteria which was next door to the clinic. We went back to work at 1:00 and rotated our “jobs”. Around 3:00 we left and headed to our hotel. Before dinner, we talked about the crisis in Nicaragua. Since the stories are long and hard, I encourage all of you to look up articles and videos and search #SOSNicaragua.

After dinner, we talked and hung-out for a while. Some of use played pool, went to the rocking chairs, and chatted in each others rooms. We went to bed around 10 and some of us woke up early the next morning to meditate.


August 1-2, 2018

Coming soon!

August 3, 2018
We woke up to a delicious breakfast in our new hostel, afterwards. At around 9:30 we split, with most of us going on an adventurous zip lining trip, and others going to a peaceful spa to enjoy a relaxing pedicure. Zip lining was fun, a bunch of us were terrified of doing the free fall, but everyone in the end agreed it was really fun. We zip lined to seven different platforms, flying among the beautiful wildlife and colorful plants. The people who went to the spa enjoyed  an amazing short walk after to a viewing point, where the clouds could be seen devouring the mountains, and the ocean was on glistening the horizon.
Everyone met back together at around 12:30 to go downtown for some shopping and lunch. The electricity for the entire town went out for awhile, and it started raining at around 2, but the food was amazing and everyone found things to bring back home. A few people got the chance to grab some ice cream before everyone hoped on the bus and drove back to our rooms. People once again split up, with half going to yoga and the other half enjoying some downtime. With a trip to the health food store, meeting the cutest and fluffiest dog, and posing with a bunch of sculptures, the yoga people finally came back to the hotel where dinner was being served. After homemade gluten free cookies, and few laughs, everyone went back to their rooms and had an earlier night it.
– Bella

August 4, 2018
Hey all, today was our final day in Costa Rica and we are all joyed to come home, but saddened at the fact that we will have to leave our new friends. Early in the morning, I woke up to the sound of some people waking up early at 6 to go on a trail in order to see some special animals of the Costa Rican cloud forest, including 5 Quetzales, a family of coatis, agutis, and more). After we all met up, we went to visit our new friend Ana where we learned about special herbs such as rosemary, sage, and citrus just to name a few. We also learned to make natural insect repellents as well as special shower bath bombs. After, we went for lunch where we had giant empanadas and rice and beans. We wrote letters that will be sent to ourselves in a year and did some more last day activities. We then took our last long bus ride of four hours where everyone bonded more. We then arrived at the hotel near the airport where we dropped off our luggage. We then went to a nice restaurant where we mainly had mushroom burgers, chicken parmesan burgers, or other options. As we ate our desserts, we had a last game of remember that moment where we brought up nice and funny memories of this trip. After dinner, we went back and got our phones as well as prepared for our day tomorrow at the airport.

– Daniel L.