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Costa Rica: Service & Sand, Session 1B 2023

June 28, 2023

Greetings from Costa Rica! Yesterday the majority of us flew into Houston from our homes all across the states, where we got our first sight of the groups we were going to be spending the next fifteen days with. There were a few hiccups along the way, but with patience and determination, most of our group was able to make it to San Jose. The next day we woke up pretty early to get ready for the exciting day of rafting we had ahead.

After a long bus ride to the rapids on which many of us caught up on much needed sleep, we enjoyed a delicious breakfast of rice and beans, fruit, and yogurt. After that we put on all our gear for the rafting trip, and headed down the bumpy road to the river. There we met our guides, Roy and Grey, who introduced us to the river and taught us how to navigate the ferocious white water. The river was in a canyon with the jungle on either side. The trees were straight out of a movie, and in fact they were, as the guide told us, part of Jurassic Park was filmed there. The rain forest was dense, and complete with hanging vines and the chirps of unseen insects. The river was murky because of the dirt, but it was one of the cleanest rivers you could ever swim in. One of our group fell in. According to her experience, it was a huge surprise. It was almost like she was falling in slow motion, but once in the water, her teammates quickly pulled her back onto the raft. One of the most memorable moments of the rafting experience were the opportunities in the flat water to swim. The feeling was incredible, not only because of the refreshing relief the cold water brought to the hot and humid day, but just the fact that you were swimming down a river in the jungle. The life-vest kept your head above water the whole time, so you could bob along taking in the scenery with no stress. Bright green iguanas watching us on logs seemed shocked to find us invading their home, and vivid blue butterflies flitted by the side of the river. After braving the wild river doing its best to make our raft capsize, we enjoyed a lunch with our group. Once we got back, we played an icebreaker game and had dinner. And now we are so excited to go to sleep!

-By Beckler D. and Keira D.

June 29, 2023

We woke up and a refreshing breakfast and got to enjoy a view of the city surrounded by mountains that looked something straight out of a painting. We enjoyed our final moments at Casa Cielo Grande hotel before packing and heading to the bus. During the bus ride people slept, chatted, read, listened to music and ate. There were a lot of amazing views, for example the gulf of Nicoya. Our lunch consisted of casados con pollo, con pescado y con bistec at an exquisite traditional Costa Rican restaurant called “Sabor Tico”.

Afterwards, we drove to the “Children’s Eternal Rainforest” reserve and once we arrived at the could forest, we were able to get out and stretch our legs in anticipation of the journey before us. The experience of the hike brought us a refreshing coolness in contrast to the previous days. As we hiked we were able to observe a sliver of the natural magnificence Costa Rica had to offer. There were so many lovely views we couldn’t help but stop to take more pictures. Along the way we encountered many new and odd looking plants we had never see before. Finally we got to the cabin and played a game of soccer out in the yard, to decompress. The “Gorditos” won. Then we headed inside to our assigned bed chambers.

The evening was spent relishing in each others company while laying in the hammocks on the balcony. Afterwards we headed down to have “una cena deliciosa”, which was made up of spaghetti with many different toppings, meat, sauce, cheese and vegetables. The bloggers briefed the crew on tomorrow’s schedule. Now, we can not wait to complete our labor in the forest tomorrow.

Pura Vida!!

Denis K. & Tesalia C.

June 30, 2023

We woke up bright and early this morning in order to prepare for the trail maintenance. We had quite the view getting out of bed, as outside of our window was the stunning cloud rainforest, with the Arenal volcano spectacularly laid out before us, cloaked in clouds. After a great breakfast, we met up with our field guides, Antony, Armando, and Paulo. We walked through the rainforest to our destination, where we were instructed to clear out the drainage ditches along the path using shovels, hoes, and pickaxes. It had rained the previous night, so it was somewhat muddy. After a morning of hard work, we had cleared quite a path, and we returned to our lodge to eat lunch. After lunch, we had a brief Spanish lesson to teach us the important vocabulary we would need during our homestay starting tomorrow. Afterwards, Mariana, an environmental educator for the Bosque Eterno de los Niños (Eternal Rainforest of the Children–check out their website to learn more), came to tell us all about the incredible biodiversity of the region and the important preservation work that they have done to protect it.
We had had a long day of working, learning and taking in the incredible scenery, so we separated into two groups, with about half of the group staying at the lodge and resting after the adventurous few hours, while the rest hiked to the nearby waterfall. The way there was a scenic hike through the colorful thicket, walking along many cliff faces overlooking the rivers and Costa Rican jungle. On our way there, we saw many of the examples of the incredible flora diversity described by Mariana. While steep at times, the hike was worth it when we came to the roaring falls, blanketed by ferns and mist. We took some beautiful photos and spent some time admiring the view before it began to rain. Originally, we were planning to take a slightly longer, scenic route on the way back, but due to the rain we decided to go back the way we came, cutting out some time from the journey. We came back to a delicious dinner of fish, rice and beans, and spent some quality time hanging out together. We are now preparing to embark on our nighttime excursion to observe the nighttime flora and nocturnal fauna, and we can’t wait to see what we’ll find!
-Andrés B. David S.
July 1, 2023

Our day started at 7 when we began preparing for the day ahead. After packing up we enjoyed a delicious breakfast at 8 of plantains, pineapple, eggs, and toast with jam. Then we made cards for Danielle and Palmer along with skits to prepare us for the homestay. Then we began our hike which was mostly uphill but was worth it for the gorgeous views of the rainforest. The mist of the forest cooling us as we hiked. The sounds of our voices echoed through the forest as we played the games Kate had taught us. Eventually we arrived after an hour and 40 minutes. We were grateful to have made it up the mountain safe and sound before boarding our bus. We stopped to pick up our bags and then enjoyed Sabor Tico once again. After we finished our lunch we continued on our way to the homestays.

The bus ride took about 4 hours as we drove through the countryside. The comforting sound of rain helped lull us all to sleep. We passed rolling green fields dotted with cattle. Eventually we drove into Santa Rosa del Pocosol (Refugio) and made our way to the building we will be working at for the next few days. We quickly grabbed our bags and ran through the pouring rain to eat dinner with our host families. The building was charged with excitement as we anxiously charged through a delicious dinner of rice, beans, and vegetables. After dinner we were finally introdunced to our host families. With the tables cleared, we were all given thoughtful notes from our host families that made us feel more welcome. The host families and kids formed two lines and Fabri began to introduce us. We took pictures and began heading to our different homestays. We found the homes to be charming and comfortable and were excited to get to know our families over the next few days. We fell asleep contented and joyfully anticipating the days to come.

By Tessa L and Lara D

July 2, 2023

We woke up to the sound of roosters and dogs barking as the alarm to start the day. It was hot and humid, as the night before was thunderstorms and rain. Since yesterday everyone spent the day with their own host family, each day looked a little different. For example, Bizza got out of bed to breakfast on the table and a yummy taste and smell of rice, beans and plantains filling the room. Then she and her roommate, Beckler spent the morning having fun and playing games with Valery, Kimberly’s 3 year old daughter. As for Greysen, she opened the door to yummy rice patties and café y leche on the table. Noemi motioned to the flip flops and they went through her backyard full of bugs, fruit trees, and succulent plants, tasting all the wonderful fruits. One o’clock hit and we all made our way up the paths through the village to a local fiesta where we celebrated Boanerge’s 51st birthday. We were served a delicious lunch and a cup of juice. We danced around and played games such as a balloon pop, jenga, and piñata. As the afternoon showers started to pour down everyone made there way back to their homes. It was a cozy night full of food, relaxation, and Spanish. We played games and colored with the kids. And as the night approached, everyone settled in, preparing themselves for the long day of work and dance ahead, saying buenas noches. Pura vida!

By Greysen F and Bizza V

July 3, 2023

We woke up this morning to enjoy a delicious breakfast prepared by our host families. After getting ready for the long, exciting day ahead of us, we arrived at our worksite promptly at 8:30. Kate and Fabri debriefed us on expectations and behavioral guidelines and then we got to work. Armed with shovels and pickaxes, we set to digging a gutter around the town common area to aid in drainage. Some of us loosened the dirt and clay while others cleared it, and still more dug up weeds around the building. During our well deserved breaks filled with snacks and chatter, Kate taught us water drinking games to keep us hydrated and healthy. Other tasks we completed through hard work, cooperation, and determination were transferring a truck load of bricks inside to be worked with, moving heavy cement bags, and constructing the infrastructure for a fence. We dug holes for the fence poles with the help of a young local boy, which reminded us of the community we were helping and gave us a new appreciation of our work. It was tiring work but we were glad to do it knowing it was benefitting the community we had already grown to love in the few days we’d stayed there.

At 2, we wrapped up our projects and returned to our homestays to take much needed showers and eat the mouth watering lunch cooked by our host families. We had an hour and thirty minutes of rest, enjoying the books we brought, and for those of us who were truly exhausted, much needed naps. We headed back to the commonplace at a quarter to five to participate in a dance lesson! Randall, an energetic member of the Global Works team, instructed us in three dances, the more well-known of which being the Merengue and Salsa. After learning the three individually, we grabbed dance partners and put our moves to music. While I myself can’t say I executed them perfectly, the dances were incredibly fun and brought us closer to others in the group and the local community. Finally, after a long yet rewarding day, we all went off to our homes to enjoy dinner and rest for another day of work ahead.

Pura Vida!

Keira D. and Lara D.

July 4, 2023

We started this morning with some pancakes cooked by our host mom. We got gathered in the communal space with a bag with water, bug spray, and sunscreen to prepare for our long work day. We started with some weeding. Yay! We then moved lots of cinder blocks outside so we could begin the process of adding on a room to the community center. Before we put the cinder blocks down though, we needed to cement the foundation, which we did not have the materials for because the truck transporting the cement popped a tire on the way to us. The work was tiring, but the thing that really killed us was the heat. It was one of the hottest and most humid days yet, and we were doing the most heavy lifting. Lots of water breaks were taken, and a few of us decided to drench ourselves in water to cool off. By eleven, we were done with all the work we could do without more cement, so we had an hour and a half break until the truck arrived after fixing it’s tire.

When the truck arrived, they dumped the cement onto the ground and then we got to work. We vigorously mixed the cement making sure to avoid contaminating it with dirt from the ground. We had groups that mixed, transported, and placed the cement. After an hour that felt like an entire day, we ate lunch with our host mother preparing for the nights celebration. The dinner started later than we anticipated, but we enjoyed playing soccer with the kids from the village. When the food was ready we helped set up. The night was chaotic but well worth the work. It was a uniting experience with music and good food that brought us closer to the community better than any language could. Despite not being home, we honored the fourth of July by listening to ‘Party in the USA’. Soon after the night started to wind down and we all began to relax in anticipation for zip-lining through the cloud forest.

Denis and Palmer, out. (mic drop)

July 5, 2023

This morning we woke up to a delicious smell of our breakfast tacos and tasty coffee. We got ready and prepared for the fun day ahead of us. Once we were ready we spent the rest of the time playing with Valery (our 2 year old host sister). When 8 o´clock hit we all made our way through the community to the bus. The bus took us on a 45 minute drive to a cheese farm. Here we were informed on all the history of this farm and how it was given to them because of a government mandate that shared the land to everyone equally. We were told how the owner, once a year, makes a big block of cheese that feeds an entire village during a festival that celebrates their culture. We were told how at first his farm had a rough start, but quickly became an important part of the community. After the brief history lesson we got the wonderful opportunity to make little balls of cheese that they would sell later on. After that we relaxed and met some little puppies that we had so much fun with. Later we enjoyed a yummy lunch of nachos that the daughters of the owner of the farm made us. After lunch we made our way back on the bus for another 45 minute drive to the next adventure, zip-lining. When we arrived we got all suited up for zip-lining by the guides and watched a safety demonstration to ensure that we all remained secure during our trip. We rode a gondola and had a little impromptu concert on the way up singing Kelly Clarkson´s Since You´ve Been Gone. We took some pictures at the top before we went zip-lining. We then went on the first little zip-line to accustom ourselves to what it felt like. Then, we went on a much bigger zip-line called the, ´´Oh My God.´´ and after that we went on some other really big zip-lines, many described them as scary, fun, and exciting. After that we saw some silly photos of us on the zip-lines and got some treats and gifts at the gift shop. We made our way back on the bus for the last time for another long drive back to our families. Some of us played football with the local kids and some of us went home to our families for a delicious dinner. Then we went to sleep before getting prepared for the last service day ahead of us.

Bizza V. and Beckler D.

July 6, 2023
Hey from Costa Rica! Today we started our morning with a full plate of beans, rice, and papaya. We walked to the community center where we soon planned to part ways. While most were pouring cement, building fences, and stacking the walls, three students who had missed the previous river rafting excursion due to flight snafus joined another Global Works group and rafted down a class 3 and 4 river in La Fortuna Province. The late-comers, Tessa, David, and Palmer, made some new friendships with the other kids. Along with the great people and fun rapids, we saw plenty of wildlife. As we were floating down the river, the guides pointed out the animals. We saw many iguanas, howler monkeys, and toucans. Meanwhile, the others were back in Santa Rosa area doing work, taking soccer breaks, and talking. The community service work and final last day of service really started to pay off and we saw a difference in the garden, fences, and the extra storage room we added to the back of the building.

Once the groups combined again in the evening, we all began to get ready for the farewell party (la despedida) at the center. We served our families desserts and succulent plants before reading them our heartfelt gratitude letters aloud. We all worked hard to express our appreciation in Spanish, some students even watercoloring the paper that they then wrote the letters on. The last night with our host families was both happy and heartbreaking as we all celebrated the last night together as a community. We’ll have memories to last a lifetime.

-Tessa M and Greysen F

July 7, 2023

We woke up this morning at our usual time with the sounds of our family getting ready for the day. The time we had to be at the community house was later for today, but we still had to pack up our stuff as this was the last day in our homestay town. We had a great breakfast of rice, beans, pork, and cauliflower. We had a final conversation with our families before walking to the community center to meet with the bus, which would take us to our next destination of the beach! We had a heartfelt goodbye with our family before setting off on our 6 hour bus ride to our next destination. On the bus, we all caught up on some much needed rest and exchanged our feelings of excitement about what we had to come! We stopped for lunch at a restaurant, where we ran into another Global Works trip! We had a great lunch, and exchanged stories and adventures, and then we were off on our way to the beach! After another 3 hours, we finally arrived, where we immediately went and spent some time on the beach throwing around a frisbee and splashing in the waves. Although we all were wearing our regular clothes, we still got in the waves and had a blast.

After that, we went to dinner at a nearby restaurant, where two other groups of Global Works travelers were also eating! One of the other groups was having a birthday party, so we all kicked back with some dancing, music, and catching up with people we had met in the airport 10 days ago. One of those groups was the same one that we saw at the restaurant, so we struck up conversations about how much we´d seen each other that day. After dinner, we returned back to our hotel where we reflected upon our time in the homestay community. We all thought about how much of an impact we´d had not only on the community, but on ourselves as well, and what we´d learned from our time. Finally, to end the night, we hopped in the pool and relaxed until our curfew. We can´t wait to start surfing tomorrow, and to make the most of our last couple days in this beautiful country.
By Andrés B. and David S.

July 8, 2023

We woke up early to get ready for breakfast and surfing. After a short lesson on how to surf, we headed out in groups to the waves. Some people got the hang of it pretty quickly while others took a few tries. The guides really helped make sure we got the most out of the experience. After a little while we got kind of tired and headed up to the beach for a little break. We were greeted with deliciously cold water, sugary-sweet bananas, and watermelon slices. Once we were properly refreshed, we headed back out to the water for some more surfing. Most of us found surfing to be a total blast, though also tiring.

We went back to the hotel to prepare for lunch and our afternoon hike to what the group affectionately dubbed Bizza Falls. On the way up to Bizza Falls we stopped to plant some trees. This is part of a tradition in which Global Works groups each plant 10 trees when they visit, with the hopes one or two of the 10 will make it to adulthood. These plantlings are helping to reforest the area. Later on during the hike we had to do some barefoot climbing, so our shoes wouldn’t get wet, and a few of us got bit by fire ants. When we got to Bizza Falls it was very beautiful. The sun filtered through the trees like a painting, and the water was nice and cool. We got to stand under part of the waterfall and it felt a little like the massage setting on a shower. On the way back from Bizza Falls, Andrés whistled “I Saw the Sign” from Pitch Perfect (our group theme song) and we all giggled. On our way back we drove to a different beach, called Playa Ventanas, to go swimming. Most of us went swimming but a few others stayed back and read, napped, shopped, or got some food. When the tide started coming in it got a few of our bags wet, including Fabri’s wallet and phone. And even though the day turned sour for him he still maintained his positivity and focus on making sure we still enjoyed ourselves, which is very admirable especially in a leader. Now we’re looking forward to our last few days together, which include a whale watching tour tomorrow and more surfing.

By Tessa C. and Tess L.

July 9, 2023

This morning we woke up and prepared for a big day ahead. We went to the nearby hotel for breakfast and packed our bags for a whale watching boat ride. Once we got to the beach, our friendly guides greeted us with smiles as they helped us onto our tour boat. The waves made the boat feel like a rollercoaster as the choppy water crashed against our boat. Once we got out to the open sea, the sound of the boats engine and the water made us all a little sleepy so we took some power naps. Our guide pointed out lots of wildlife on our ride, and although we didn’t see any whales, we did see a sea turtle. We then returned temporarily to shore to observe some nearby caves. The town we are staying in, Uvita, is located between two tectonic plates, which creates volcanic activity, which then causes the rock to layer. It is estimated that a layer of rock is created every hundred years. As our last stop on our boating trip, we enjoyed a swim at whale island, which is a protected island that is a nesting site for various species of birds. The birds nest there because the island is a big rock in which predators can’t survive.

After eating lunch at our hotel, we walked to the beach to start our second surf lesson. Todays lesson was focused on learning how to turn and control the board. Although most of us surfed the entire two hours, some enjoyed a swim or tan instead. After surfing, some of us took the chance to shop at the local stores, while others chose to rest. After people were done shopping, we all spent some time in the pool before watching the sunset. We closed out our day with a nice dinner back at the hotel, followed by a slideshow of the rafting and surfing day pictures and ice cream as dessert.

written by Palmer & Tessa M.

July 10, 2023: Final Reflections

Since all the students have written the blog twice and it is their final day, we thought it would be fitting to have everyone write a short reflection about what they took away from this fantastic trip. This last post is the resulting compilation.

¨This trip taught me that phones can block connections. Spending this time in Costa Rica without phones has allowed so many more friendships and memories to form. I will forever treasure these moments.¨ Bizza V

¨Something I will always remember from this trip was waking up and watching the sun rise over San Jose from my room¨ Denis K

¨This trip has taught me many valuable lessons, including the importance of family and community to happiness. Our host family had such a bond and loving relationships with each other and they never seemed to argue. Other members in the community would wave on the street and great grandparents and cousins would always stop by to chat. Though they may have less stuff, our host family was more content than many people due to their family bonds.¨ Keira D

¨I am so grateful for this trip because I learned that the simple things are the most important and I made lifelong friends.¨ Tessa M

¨This trip has taught me how simple and amazing life can be. It has really allowed me to talk to people and build connections without my phone.¨ Greysen F

¨I am so grateful for this trip because of the people I have met! Even though we have a small group, there still was so many people I could talk to. If I was able to relive my life, I would still choose to go on this trip.¨ Andres B

¨This trip taught me to be grateful for everything that I have. This is because people are a lot happier with a lot less.¨ Beckler D

¨I will always remember the connections I made with all of these people and I hope to visit them.¨ Palmer F

¨I will always remember staying with my host family because it allowed me to experience another culture in a new way. Our conversations taught me so much about the lifestyle about Costa Ricans and helping aid that community felt incredible.¨ David S

¨Something from this trip that I will remember is the thoughtfulness of my host family. The first day we were there, our host family showed us how to make tortillas. They took the time to make sure we were not only comfortable, but having a lot of fun, which taught me that however are feeling, you can always be kind to the people around you.¨ Lara D

¨This trip taught me to appreciate my community as much as possible. In the homestay, I saw how close they were as a community and it reminded me to appreciate my friends and family as much as possible.¨ Tess L.

¨I am grateful for getting the opportunity to meet all these people and go on this trip with them. Something I learned was how much my phone affects my ability to create and have a relationship with other people. I hope that I remember what this experience was like.¨ – Tessa c

We are unbelievably grateful to this particular group of students for making this trip so incredibly fun. Hardworking, caring, adaptable, and hilarious across the board, these students were an amazing crew for the last two weeks. Equally as enthusiastic about mixing cement as serenading each other with endless renditions of early 2000s pop songs, it was impressive to see how quickly they built bonds with their host families and each other. It is students like these that make our jobs so fulfilling. Pura Vida, 1B!

By Kate and Fabri, GW leaders