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St. Thomas University Costa Rica 2017

May 18-19, 2017

I can honestly say that we have been extremely blessed with the opportunity to travel to Costa Rica and be exposed to an entirely new culture, environment, and scenery. Ever since we arrived, it’s been nothing less than fun!

Day one was kind of short but that’s because we were traveling for most of the morning. We met Michelle and Crisley, our AWESOME guides for the entirety of the trip. Our first meal was absolutely delicious! Personally, the flavor is a little different to what I’m used to however it was very tasty. Following our late lunch, we made our way to the Heliconias Nature Lodge, where we will be staying for the next five days. The rooms are really nice—we have a balcony with two hammocks and a wonderful view of a myriad of plants! After everyone settled in to their rooms, we met back at the hotel’s restaurant for a Latin dance class and dinner. The dance class was a blast! We learned merengue, salsa, and bachata dance moves, as well as a renowned Costa Rican dance. I have no doubt that everyone burned several calories! The dinner was very appetizing. We ate grilled chicken with rice, beans, a slice of cheese, and a salad!

Day two was long, but extremely fun! Five of us got the opportunity to go visit two clinics and shadow the doctors there. Mimi and I (Gracie) went to one of the clinics and got to learn more in depth about the health system as well as some interesting facts! We actually even had time to go on an eventful and adventurous hike with Dr. Ribes. The scenery was beautiful!! We took lots of pictures and even met two Ticas (that’s what a Costa Rican is called here) and had a nice conversation with them! The rest of the group, that didn’t go to the clinics, went to the Bosque Eterno de los Niños. From what they told us, their hike was absolutely breathtaking. They found several animals and a nice waterfall! We were able to come back to the hotel a little early, so after dinner, a group of us relaxed at the pool before heading to bed.

Overall, Costa Rica and its people have been more than welcoming. Everyone is eager for what is yet to come for the rest of the week and I’m sure that this will truly be a trip to remember!

A special thanks to the people at Global Works, especially Michelle, Crisley, and our wonderful mentor team, Helen, Michelle, and Dr. Albert Ribes, for organizing this one-of-a-kind trip! A million thanks from all of us to each and everyone one of y’all.

Pura Vida!

Gracie L.

May 20, 2017

Yesterday we got to visit the clinic in La Tigra and observe a couple of the doctors and nurses. It was a interesting experience to see how the Costa Rican healthcare clinics work in comparison to the US. Michelle, our student mentor, did a wonderful job of translating everything for Lillian and I. As someone who does not speak Spanish, I would’ve been so lost without her. After we finished working, Helen took us on a walk through town before heading to Bosque Eterno de los Niños. We had lunch and met up with the rest of our group where they had spent the day working, hiking, and painting. We had lunch outside before getting to work recycling the trash. It did not smell great but every piece makes a difference. We also helped bring dirt from inside the forest back to where their compost was. Once we got back to Heliconias, our hotel, we got a chance to rest before dinner. It rained and thundered almost the whole night, but it sounded beautiful.

Today we had an early start to the morning as we got up at 5am to head to the rapids. Along the way, the route continued to amaze me at how beautiful it was. We passed a few volcanoes which was exiting to see! After 3 hours, we finally made it to where we were having breakfast. Wonderful rice, black beans, and eggs. We hopped back on the bus and 40 minutes later we reached the Rio. Due to the high level of rain the night before, the level 2 and 3 rapids were now levels 3 – 5. No one fell out though so it was a successful trip! Our guides stopped halfway down the river for us to have lunch in the forest. Afterwards we got back in our rafts and headed to the river. There were so many beautiful waterfalls and rocks that we passed. It was truly breathtaking. Aside from a little sun burn on my thighs, it was an incredible experience.
Four days into our trip and I have yet to have a bad day. There is so much to do in Costa Rica that the time just flies. I’ve gotten to know my fellow travelers a little bit better as we have been working and adventuring together these past few days. I’m grateful to our trip guides for keeping us safe as we continue to explore. Costa Rica is a beautiful place and I am so grateful that we all had the opportunity to come here.
May 21, 2017
Today started bright and early. After breakfast we headed to our tour leaders, Crisley’s house, where we got a full experience of how it is to be a native Costa Rican. We were warmly welcomed into his house and learned more about what he does for a living. After a brief overview of how Crisley got involved in the cheese industry, we aided in the production of cheese. Watching step by step how the process of cheese was made was actually quite interesting, especially because we got to see how it’s separated from milk and how it forms its shape. We ended the cheese making by rolling balls of mozzarella and even getting a taste of it. Before the tour of his land, we took a miniature break and played a few small games of soccer and volleyball with his kids. Before lunch, we walked around his property and were given tours and taste tests of all the fruits in his yard. Also, we got up close and personal with pigs and chickens. Once the tour ended, we ate lunch which his family cooked and it was delicious. We sat and talked about Costa Rica more, but mainly covering the history, edition, and political status of the country. After a good talk and a filling meal, we were lead to milk the cows which was none the less hilarious. Definitely was a long and fun day, and to close the day off we came back to the bungalows to eat and go to sleep.

May 22, 2017

The day started off great since we got an extra hour to sleep in before breakfast. After a quick meal, we headed out to La Fortuna where we had an exciting itinerary filled with zip lining, food, and hikes. Let me just say, zip lining on the highest zip line in Costa Rica was a crazy experience. It was so much fun! The thrill of being so high and looking around to see the view was unforgettable. We left the zip line place and headed for the city to eat where we had a wonderful meal with the accompaniment of a rain storm. The hike didn’t go as planned, which was okay because we stopped by a few stores for souvenirs and headed back to catch up on sleep. We ended the night with dinner, celebrating Megan’s birthday and activities and are looking forward to what tomorrow brings.

Pura Vida! Mimi

May 23- 24, 2017

We started off yesterday by saying goodbye to the Heliconias Nature Lodge. As we packed all of our belongings and left our beloved glass bungalows, we already knew we would miss them. We took our time enjoying our last breakfast at the Lodge, eagerly digging into the food that was so beautifully laid out on wooden boards and banana leaves. We thanked the staff that had been so welcoming and kind to us; then we boarded the bus and we were off to Liberia. We broke up the long bus ride with fun stops for lunch and souvenir shopping, and before we knew it we had arrived. We settled into our rooms, changed into our swimwear, and rushed to the beach. Any bitterness we felt from leaving Heliconias was quickly replaced by a sense of excited amazement as we gazed in wonder at the ocean. The sound of the waves filled our ears as we took in the endless expanse of water before us. As far as we could see was a green canopy of leaves, immediately followed by the white sand on which the waves spread evenly in overlapping semicircles. We spent hours at the beach, enjoying the water, exploring the shore, and being amazed once again as the sky’s colors blended into a sunset. That evening, after dinner, we returned to the beach in search of sea turtles. We didn’t find any, but we did get to see the fireflies twinkling in the tropical forest and, as we looked up, we were taken by the sight of the countless stars scattered through the sky.

On our last day, we woke up looking to absorb every last bit of Costa Rica we could. We began with our breakfast. Big white plates of gallo pinto and tropical fruit came out of the kitchen and we dug in without hesitation. After breakfast we changed into our bathing suits and met our surfing instructors. We picked up our surf boards and headed to the beach. After practicing how to swiftly execute the movements on the shore, we dove into the water, ready to put the short training into practice. I worked with Mark, a Texas-born American who moved to Costa Rica at age three, and has had the privilege enjoying the Costa Rican “Pura Vida” lifestyle since then. Along with the other instructors he helped us catch the waves, watched us goofily fall off our boards, and cheered us on regardless. When we finally started standing properly on our surfboards, we couldn’t stop. Our faces beamed with satisfaction as we rushed to the waves for more. It was the best way to enjoy our last day on the beach. We spent the rest of the afternoon between the pool, the beach, and the hammocks, with the soothing sound of the waves in the background. In the evening we headed to Tamarindo. As we drove in, we saw rows of colorful houses and souvenir shops, calling for the attention of tourists. After shopping and enjoying our last sunset in Costa Rica, we had dinner at a lovely restaurant on the beach. We enjoyed a delicious selection of seafood while the music played and the sound of the waves crashing to the shore accompanied our evening. We were even able to watch a jaw-dropping fire show. We were all mesmerized as the performers swiftly tossed flaming sticks and hoops of fire through the air. We ended the night by thanking our incredible guides, Crisley and Michelle, for making our stay unforgettable.

Our days spent in Costa Rica have been nothing short of amazing. There are so many moments I wish I could bottle up for when we’re far away and missing this gorgeous country, with all its natural wonders and its happy people.

Pura Vida,