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Pura Vida!

Pura Vida! Greetings from Costa Rica!

We all arrived into San Jose in one piece and headed directly to Monteverde Reserve, a beautiful private reserve about 5 hours north of San Jose. Our first morning, we did a guided tour of the Reserve where we saw, among other things, a few types of monkeys, toucans, humming birds, and some crazy insects like walking stick bugs and many types of spiders. We may or may not have seen some kind of jungle cat, and some members of the group claimed they saw puma.

This same day and the following day, we did good solid work on trail maintenance which consisted mostly of passing bags of sand to reinforce the trail that is eroded by the rain and visitors. Along with the sand, “telephone” messages and silly questions were passed down the line, boosting our morale and keeping up our energy despite the hard work. As leaders, we were really impressed with the group. They did great, and there was no audible complaining!

After the full day of trail maintenance, we went on a guided night hike with our trusty headlamps and flashlights to light our path. It’s a crazy thing to be out at night when all the bats, tarantulas, wolf spiders, and more birds come out to play. At one point, the guide told us to turn off our lamps and we walked through sheer darkness for a few minutes. With the rainy drizzle and the darkness, it felt like a walk through a haunted forest!

On the way from Monteverde to Fortuna, we did a pit stop at a butterfly garden surrounded by amazing foliage. In order to host many different types of butterflies, they have created different ecosystems by enclosing some areas in plastic and others with open-air netting. We also saw some interesting bugs like scorpions, beetles, and yes, more spiders.

In Fortuna we spent most of the day in town running errands, doing laundry, connecting to the internet, and eating ice cream. We also spent part of a day at “La Catarata” a short hike into an awesome waterfall where we had a blast swimming in the pools for a few hours. At night we went to the hot springs…turns out it’s a great place for a very relaxing group meeting.

In our downtime, we have been playing lots of games to get to know each other. Ninja and Princess Cowgirl are a few favorites. Before heading into the host community, we did an activity where we wrote down our fears and goals and then anonymously shared them with the group as we wove a web of yarn between us. After we finished, we were all connected and each of us cut off a piece of this web and put in on as a bracelet to remind us of our goals for the rest of the program.

We’ve been eating well…no complaints about the food! The plato tipico in Costa Rica is called casado, which is a combo of rice, beans, plantains, some of kind of meat or vegetables, and salad. To top it off, we’ve been drinking lots of fresh juice from pineapple to blackberry. In Fortuna, we also had a chance to have some pizza and satisfy a few students’ burger craving.

To get to our host community Corralillo, we drove about 8 ½ hours by bus. The long trip was worth every minute once we arrived into the community to an incredible welcome. The whole community was there to welcome us and after a long time of greetings, hugs, and kisses, about 10 students from the elementary school did a special performance of bailes tipicos (traditional dance) in full costume. After a few snacks, we introduced the students to their host families and they were off!

This morning is day 1 on the worksite. We told the students to arrive by 8 a.m. but most of them had an earlier wake up call by the local roosters! Our goal for today is to start tying rebars for the columns of the structure and to prepare and flatten the soil. We need to finish this before we can pour the foundation. Time to plop on those hard hats and get to work!

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