Costa Rica La Pura Vida, Session 2 2018
July 8, 2018
After a good night’s sleep our group woke up to humid air and had a typical breakfast of fruits, Gallo pinto, and eggs at our eco hotel. After breakfast we headed to Crisley’s cheese farm. There we learned how to make cheese started from the very beginning (milking a cow!) to the very end (eating delicious globs of the warm queso palmito we made). My favorite part of this activity was the lunch. We were given a homemade meal of fried chicken stuffed with ham and cheese, rice, veggies, and fresh star fruit juice. Muy rico! After the filling lunch we went on a walk of Crisley’s property where we met the pigs, poisonous frogs, and identified various local plants like papaya trees, yucca plants, and hot pepper bushes. Throughout the walk Crisley picked up leafcutter ants with his bare hands to show us how some people use them as stitches. He also chopped down sugar cane to share the flavor with us. Then he picked up one of the poisonous frogs to with his hands (no biggie!!). Our walk ended with a typical rainy season occasion, a downpour that left us all soaking wet and full of smiles. After giving thanks to Crisley for the experience we packed into our van and headed back to our hotel for a short siesta. I used my break to nap of course, and after we all met up to reflect on the day’s activities and and to get to know more about each other. We went for another nature walk, this one through the forest around our hotel. As we were searching for sloths in the trees above we instead spotted a toucan! Our day ended with with a dinner of tilapia, rice, and salad and then a peaceful sleep.
July 9, 2018
On the second day of our trip we were given the opportunity to look at Costa Rica from a completely different perspective. We ziplined high above the jungle where we had amazing views of the canopy and continuously got misted with more Costa Rican rain. We continued our day shopping in La Fortuna, the town at the foot of Volcán Arenal where we had our zip lining tour. The groups bought lots of things like jewelry, tapestries, backpacks, and little pieces of ceramic art. After shopping we excitedly headed to meet our new host families in Pueblo Nuevo. When we pulled up to the town salon the car was filled with nervous but excited chatter about who would be living where. The local community members have a short welcome speech and then we headed to get adjusted to our new families and houses. After a brief hello and picking rooms we dig a loop around the town as the sun was setting over a beautiful tree line. We ended our second day with a family meal and laughter. Pura Vida!
July 10, 2018
Arriving in Pueblo Nuevo was like stepping into another world. A world where people live in harmony with nature and live simply; and they live with joy. In the United States, life is rushed and hurried. Everyone is always thinking about where they are going next and what they are doing. But the Ticos of Pueblo Nuevo truly live out pura vida.
We really discovered this yesterday, our first day of community service. Summer, Bella, and I woke up early because we were excited to get to work (and to eat the gallo pinto, which smelled so good it woke us up before our alarms). We began painting and getting to know Rosa as soon as we arrived at the salon! Once Chepe, Annie, and los chicos (Jack, Henry, and Brandon) arrived we all painted for a few hours straight. Rosa was impressed because we got so much done so fast! Now we are almost finished with the salon and are starting to paint the cocina. The salon looks muy excelente with its lovely gray and black walls. Eventually it will be a meeting place for the whole town! We took a break for lunch, which was pasta con arroz (muy delicioso), and we took small siestas. On our way back to the salon we stopped at the pulpería for Cokes and chips. We met Henry, Jack, and Brandon there and we all found our way back in the heat together. We almost completely finished the salon, and afterwards played a mejenga (pick up soccer match) with some of the local boys. Once our group was too tired to play anymore, we rested on the patio of the salon to chat and scratch our bug bites. For dinner, we had arroz con pollo and papas (also muy delicioso). Joseph, our home stay brother, taught us how to make friendship bracelets in Summer’s room. We also found a beetle which Summer tied to a thread and hung from the fan: Joseph named him Superman! Later Summer, Bella, and I went to Chepe’s for a visit. Annie was there too, and near the lake they showed us how, if you shine a light directly at them, the cayman’s eyes reflect and you can tell where they are. Above the cayman’s beady eyes were hundreds of migrating egrets in the trees. Though slightly horror movie-esque, it was a beautiful night. We went back home and Bella and I got to enjoy an hours long conversation with our parents, Vianneth and Mario. It was a really wonderful way to learn more about their lives and culture; it was probably my favorite part of the day!
July 11, 2018
In the morning, I woke up and Joseph (our home stay brother) playing with his bag of stickers and fake tattoos. I was tired, but it didn’t last long as I took a quick shower that felt like ice was pouring onto my skin. Kennedi, Summer and I had an amazing breakfast that included sweet bread, empanadas de queso, and mango. I have never felt so full, but so satisfied. We then hiked up to the cocina to continue our community service and started painting the school next to the church. After eating lunch and working for another hour and half we started my favorite activity of the trip so far: making homemade tortillas with los familias. Vianneth showed us how to press out the corn masa and throw it on the fogon, a wood fire stove. I am pleased to report we all got a thumbs up from Vianneth. In the kitchen, Yeraly, our home stay sister, joked with the boys and helped make tortillas. After we made everything it was time to eat! I served myself tortillas and Costa Rican coffee. I had three cups of coffee that night: Big mistake, I did not sleep well. The day could not have been more perfect. We completed fulfilling and fun work, and ate just about the freshest and best tasting food ever!
July 12, 2018
I woke up feeling good after another great night of sleep. We chilled in our bedroom until Lily knocked on our door and said it was time for breakfast. We ate fast and headed off to another day of exciting work and fun. On our way to the center of the community, a little black Labrador that we call Bosley or Boz came out of his house and followed us down the street. When we stopped near a little body of water that leads to the river, we watched Boz swim and he proceeded to follow us. We arrived at the cocina to meet the group! Today was another day full of painting. We continued painting the cocina green and had a morning full of dancing and painting. After the morning work session, Henry, Brandon and I headed back to our homestay and got ready for lunch. We hung out and played some cards until lunch was ready. The food was very good. We had gallo pinto, chicken, and other Costa Rican foods like picadillo (a delicious combination of potatoes, plantains, papaya, and spices). Normally at home, I would not really eat this kind of diet but as I continue to eat different traditional foods, I’m starting to enjoy the different flavors. After lunch, we hung around the house and continued getting to know our host family until it was time to head back for the afternoon work session. We continued painting. It feels good to paint because I know I am contributing and making a difference. After working for a few hours (and several rounds of Bananagrams!), we went to the main building in the community center and got ready for a dance class. A lot of the local families came and Randall was our instructor. It was fun learning the steps to bachata, merengue, and salsa. After this we headed to the homestay where we enjoyed another great meal of fried egg, rice and beans. After dinner, we hung out and took showers, which are awesome because the cold water is muy rico after a hot and humid day. I played cards with my homestay brothers but the long day really made me tired. We went to sleep excited for tomorrow!
July 13, 2018
We woke up around 8:15, as we usually do, to get ready for a long day of work. We stayed in the outside bedroom for 20 minutes or so until Lily made us breakfast. It was delicious as always and we headed out to the cocina to see what we were going to be doing for the day. We were excited because that night was game night. We were ready for some fun after a lot of work from the past few days. On our way to work, Bosley the dog followed us yet again and we watched her swim for about 5 minutes. We met up with the rest of the group at around 9, ready to paint. This day, we learned, we were starting to paint the church. It wasn’t a completely new color like the other buildings, so we were just painting on another coat to make it look fresh. It seemed like a simple task, but it turned out to be pretty difficult. This was because we couldn’t really tell what was painted already. Brandon, Jack, and I didn’t do a great job for the first coat, and had to go over it again, this time making sure it was perfect. We actually got a lot of work done in the morning and were good with the progress we had made. At 12, we headed back to Lily’s with Brent and Annie to eat lunch with them. The lunch Lily had planned was very delicious. There was tuna macaroni, beans, chicken sausage, rice, picadillo, and some sweet cake. We talked for a while, then headed back to work. We finished up painting the church walls, and applied second coats to the spots that needed them. We finished up work at 4:30, then headed back to Lily’s again to get ready for game night. We all were very tired and sweaty, so we showered and put on a fresh set of clothes. We ate another great meal for dinner that consisted of rice, beans, and more chicken sausage. We then headed to the salon for game night. Game night was very fun. There were many things to do, like play soccer with the kids, play cards, or just hang around and talk. A lot of the kids from the town were there, and it was nice to see them happy and playing. We even had a small fogata (bonfire) where families and kids shared a marshmallow roast. Game night went on for another couple hours, then we went back to Lily’s. We were extremely tired and passed out almost immediately on our beds from such a long day.
July 14, 2018
Henry, Jack and I woke up at about 9 to the sound of the rain, and hurried to get changed because we realized that we slept in a little bit too late. We stayed in our room about to fall back asleep when Lily knocks on our door to tell us that breakfast is ready for us. We rushed to eat our food thinking that we were going to be late to the hot springs. We went back to our room to get our bag ready for the day. We get to the car and squished into the back seat. On our way to the hot springs, Lily stopped at the supermarket to buy little things for lunch. As we waited for Lily, a friend from Pueblo Nuevo named Josue came up to the car and joined us on our ride to the hot springs. Once we reached the hot springs, we immediately set down our bags and jumped into the nearest pool. We spotted Kennedi, Summer, and Bella along with some of the community kids and made our way over to them. After hanging our for about an hour, we got out to take a break from the pool and eat lunch. We chow down our food and talk to the children about school, family, soccer and other things. Most of the host families brought arroz con pollo and tasty soda for lunch. After our food settled in our stomachs, we walked back to the pool for a few more hours of exploring the natural areas around the hot springs. As we dried off, we grabbed our wallets and ran over to the little store for little snacks and sodas in glass bottles. As we drove back to the homestay, we dropped off Josue at his house. Once home we took showers and played an intense UNO game with our own weird rules to make it more fun and exciting. Lily knocked on our door to tell us that dinner was ready and we went to eat our delicious meal. After dinner we got ready to go hang with the girls at their homestay house. We said goodbye to our family and zipped on our rain jacket due to the drizzle. Once we reached the girls’ homestay, we played with Joseph, their brother, while the girls baked a cake with their homestay mom (chocolate con dulce de leche, yum!). Once the cake was finished, we sliced two pieces and walked them over to Brent’s house where our two guides were. We arrived from the short walk to Brent’s homestay and walk in on the family cutting a whole pig and cooking dinner, chicharrones, for the night. While we chilled there for a little bit, we used Brent’s flashlight to look for Cayman in the lake and spotted a couple of them swimming around. We gave the flashlight back to Brent and made our way back to watch a movie. We settled with the girls’ family to watch an interesting cartoon movie about Bigfoot and his son. About an hour into the movie, we began to see lightning in the distance out the window as it began to rain a little bit harder. When we got to the end of the movie a very bright red light flashed almost right in front of the house and we heard a huge boom! We all got up, slightly shaken, because none of us had seen lightning this close. We stopped the movie to save the TV screen and waited for Brent to come pick us up with Sergio because the weather was getting very intense. Once we reached home we immediately set down our things and brushed our teeth and laid down to sleep after a very long day of fun.
July 15, 2018
Today was the Family Day in the homestay community, Pueblo Nuevo, and time to hangout together as a group. Kennedy and I started out our day by going to the house next door, where our guide Annie lives with Yaudi and Adrian, to watch the World Cup with a bunch of their other family members (Viva Croatia!). While the game did not go how I wanted, it was a great time to practice Spanish and get to know our families. After complaining about the game, Kennedy and I met up with Summer and the boys to take a 30 minute walk to the town center to get some fresh pastries from the panadería nearby. We walked back and had coffee and snacks at Chepe’s homestay, courtesy of Yami, exchanging some pretty hilarious stories from the night before. The girls and I then decided to take another walk, along with Chepe and Annie, to a part of the community we had not yet visited. Three minutes later we had chopped mango in our hands. A man from the community gave us a bag of them and we asked a gentleman next door to chop it up for us with his machete; people we didn’t even know were kind enough to help us out, no questions asked. We fed a herd of cows our peels and extra pieces of mango. The cows ate it up…this was a muy Pura Vida moment!
July 16, 2018
We woke up early at 7:45 to a great breakfast of rice, beans, and empanadas. We then headed out to painting for our last day of work. We painted the second coat of paint on the building next to the church, a nice shade of peach. We then broke at 12:00 to walk back to Lily’s for lunch. Lunch consisted of rice, beans, mac and cheese, and chips with guacamole. After lunch, we were all really tired from our last work day, so we took some naps until 3:30 when we had to leave for the Despedida. The group had to set up for the party later that night in the Salon! The first thing we did was put together some homemade bouquets for the tables. We went looking for weeds and flowers that could be used in those bouquets. Once we did that, we helped set up chairs and tables for ourselves and the incoming community members. After that, we made a skit to thank our host family for having us. I didn’t know a lot of spanish, so Jack and Brandon wrote my lines. Once we had our lines down, we were ready for the party to kick off. A lot of people from the community showed up, most of them we knew but there were some new faces as well. It was a blast. There was a DJ and lots of food, arroz con pollo which the host moms made in the community kitchen throughout the afternoon- muy rico! The music was loud and energetic, and kids and adults alike were enjoying it. At one point, we all danced with Felix, our host dad. It was pretty funny. After that we roasted marshmallows with the kids. Later in the evening, Summer, Jack, Bella, Kennedi, Brandon, and I sang karaoke to Despacito and Feliz Navidad to entertain the crowd. The party was almost done by then. It was almost 9:30. We helped clean up a little bit, said our goodbyes to families that wouldn’t be at our departure the next morning, and then headed back to Lily’s for our last night of sleep in our homestay.
July 17, 2018
We began our last morning with our host families by sharing a meal of rice, beans, sausage, and fresh juice. After we ate this delicious food we packed up and prepared to say sad goodbyes. Everyone in the community gathered around outside the community salon for photos and final hugs. After loading ourselves and our things onto the bus, we enjoyed a 5 hour bus ride that took us throughout the beautiful green landscapes of Costa Rica’s countryside. We saw the clear blue ocean (we even got out to take a nice stroll on the beach in Jaco), giant crocodiles that live under a bridge, we went shopping for some fun souvenirs for ourselves and our friends and family, had a delicious buffet-style Costa Rican lunch, and stuffed ourselves with ice cream and natural jugos. The last leg of the trip the group basically passed out on the bus- it had been a long week! We ended our day with a nice swim in the saltwater pool of our beach hotel. It was a great change to our trip.
July 18, 2018
We woke up at around 7 in the morning for our first breakfast at Cabinas Alma. We had a delicious buffet of scrambled eggs, different tropical fruits (like sandia, banana, piña, and papaya) and toast with a variety of house-made jams and chocolate (all made with fruits from the hotel property!). We devoured our plates and headed back to the rooms to get ready for a beach day. We packed our day packs and headed to the bus. The bus ride was about 20 minutes along the coastline, and it seemed like the next thing I knew, we were on the beach getting our surf lessons started with Axel and Diego. It seemed at first like it was going to be extremely difficult but once we got into the water we were basically all naturals. We stayed at the beach surfing for about 2 hours and it was awesome- everyone in the group was able to stand up on their boards! After we surfed, we headed to lunch. We had chicken and rice and some delicious fries. We hung for awhile at the restaurant and filled up on ice cold water. After a group sunscreen party, we walked with Diego out to the surrounding national park with a landmass shaped like a whale tail (Bahia Ballena National Park). We walked along the beach for awhile (we even spotted some scarlet macaws eating from the almond trees!) until we reached a little bay in the cusp of the “tail.” We swam for a few hours and it was very refreshing. We tossed the frisbee and kicked around the futbol as a group. The water was crystal clear and just warm enough for swimming. After the whale tail we headed back to the hotel. On the way we spotted howler and spider monkeys and sloths (spotted by our driver Oscar) which was totally exciting. We got back to the hotel and swam for a little while until dinner. Dinner was pan-fried sea bass, vegetables, and rice- delicioso! After dinner we went to the pool again and swam until we got tired and went to hang with the girls in their casita-style cabin. We stayed there a little longer headed back to our rooms and went to sleep excited for more surf and beach tomorrow.