Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Farewell, Adios!

It's time to say good bye..
I can't thank you guys enough! Thank you so very much for your dedication, hard work and effort! Please never stop. It is in your hands now.. I know you can make things happen. The Adventure must continue. Let's save this amazing planet. Everything we do has an impact, so it is up to ourselves to do it right. 


The very essence of leadership is its purpose. And the purpose of leadership is to accomplish a task. That is what leadership does–and what it does is more important than what it is or how it works.
~Colonel Dandridge M. Malone

Fortuna Waterfall - Swing Scream!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Day 8! Arrival at La Fortuna

Well, this morning was a sad goodbye to everybody at the Chilamate Rainforest Eco Lodge as we all headed out to the volcano in La Fortuna; however, it was such a nice surprise to get on the air conditioned van! We have not felt air conditioning since we left the airport in San Jose… After the 2 hour drive we arrived at the base of the huge volcano in La Fortuna.  We had no plans this afternoon until that evening when we went to the hot springs so we had plenty of time to swim, walk around, and enjoy the afternoon.  So we all walked about a mile down to the supermarket for some cookies and to a bunch of souvenir shops; however, we experienced first hand today just how quickly torrential downpours approach in the rainforest.  Five of us got caught on the one kilometer walk back and of course Lesley was the only one with a raincoat.  We were all absolutely soaked! Luckily all our food and cameras were spared in Lesley’s backpack.  Tonight we all went to the hot springs which was very, very relaxing and enjoyable considering our showers have been cold all week long.  We’re all looking forward to our hike to the waterfall and zipline across the volcano tomorrow - let’s hope it’s not TOO high!

 Gigantic Rhinoceros Beetle found outside the Eco Lodge
 The volcano!
After our stroll (aka a mile) in the rain

Volcano today!

White Water Sarapiqui River flashback!!

Some new additions! Check it out!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Day 7! our last day at the eco lodge :(

Today we got to sleep in until 6:45; that’s a HUGE DEAL. Breakfast was delicious, as usual, but since yesterday it’s been raining… a lot. We trekked down to the school, and much to our dismay, the rain had messed up the paint on our benches and hopscotch. However, being the St. Mary’s girls that we are, we immediately took action. We finished the details on the pillars and tabletops. It looks FABULOUS. During all the kids’ breaks, they came out and jumped off the pillars and played on the monkey bars. It was awesome to see how much they appreciate our hard work. We had lunch at the school and had the opportunity to interact with some more of the kids. I took part in an intense soccer game and was showed up by the kids. When I say that they are ridiculously good at soccer, I’m not over exaggerating in the least. Also, Chandler Roberts and I had a conversation with some 6th grade girls even though neither of us speaks Spanish. Apparently the worldwide heartthrob Justin Bieber knows no language barriers. Later in the afternoon, the kids put on a show for us. The kindergarteners sang for us, others danced, and there was even a skit. The whole thing was absolutely adorable. Saying goodbye was not fun, even though we only knew the kids for a few days. I cannot wait to see the finished playground; I know the group coming in after us will do an amazing job. Now we are enjoying our siesta (rest time) where we have to write “graduation speeches” about our trip. Nobody sees these except ourselves so it’s an opportunity to really reflect on how much this trip has meant to each and every one of us.  
The finished pillars!
 Our intense soccer game!
 After Pauline missed an intense shot
Lesley and Carlos!
Our hands after handprinting the tunnel! 

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Day 6! (The Adventure Continues)

¡Hola Todos!
It is already day 6! Oh, how the days have passed by so quickly! We are now all accustomed to waking up to the never-ending morning tunes of the exotic birds, the roar of the monkeys, the relentless buzzing of the flies, and the trickle of magnificent Rio de Sarapiquí! As we overcame this obstacle, we can now thoroughly enjoy the beautiful gifts that Mother Nature offers.  This morning, we continued our service project with the playground and began the painting!  As you can see below, the colors that we, the girls, chose at the local hardware store are vibrant and describe the beautiful town perfectly.  Not only serving as a place for the children to let their imaginations soar as they let out some energy, the playground also serves as a place of learning as English and Spanish words, designs, and numbers were added to the design.  This playground is already a huge hit among the students and Chilamate community!
The crew painting the details on the pillars of the future slide.

The Fish Farm!
    After our incredibly hard work at the work site, we boarded the van and headed off to a beautiful fish farm owned by a Costa Rican family.  As soon as we arrived, we could see the land that stretched on for acres and that was exploding with various vibrant flowers and trees.  The landscape included tropical fruit trees, sugar cane plants, wooden bridges, and the stables surrounding the kitchen and fishpond! The view was magnificent and a true treat; we would never have the same opportunity in the States!  We ended our time at the fish farm with a tour of the land by the father and son who lived and worked on the incredible land.  After we made it home to the EcoLodge, we continued our leadership training with an activity, ate one of the most wonderful dinners, and went on a night hike into the Rainforest with Ryan, the biologist, to look for Tinker frogs and Red-eyed frogs!  We had a successful night with the hunt and got several incredible pictures of the frogs! It was a splendid day!

 Everyone toasting to the great lunch that we caught at the fish farm! Deep fried fish, coleslaw-like salad, yuca hashbrowns, fried platanos, rice, pineapple juice, lemonade, or passionfruit juice.

 Pauline and Kyra tasting the local sugar cane! Delicioso!
Peering into the pineapple plantation for ripe selections!

Chandler’s and Hannah’s catch of the day!

Tamale Sing Along!

As we were patiently waiting for our tamales to be ready, Hannah and Lesley entertained us all with their musical talents!

Day 5!

 Before the paint!
 After paint!
 Crushing the chocolate beans!
 Homemade natural hot chocolate right from the plant!
 Liquid chocolate!
 On the bridge!

Day 5!
Today we woke up at the fabulous time of 6:30 am to eat another delicious breakfast. For breakfast we had the usual: gallo pinto, eggs, plantains, pastries, and lots of fruit. It was incredible and needless to say we are never short on food. We all eat and then are ready to head off for our 3rd day of work! We first head to the site and learn what we had to do for the day. Turns out we were painting the whole play gym! We headed to the hardware store and picked out many colors. From pink and green to blue and purple this playground is definitely multicolored and beautiful! From the pics you can see what we started from and how it turned out. After we spent all morning painting the playground, we head back to the Chilamate lodge for lunch! After lunch (consisting of more wonderful food) we head to the chocolate plantation… maybe the best part of the day. There we got to walk across a long bridge over the Sarapiqui River and the forest, and then we got to make our own chocolate and best of all eat it. We saw how it started from the tree and learned how it got to the bar. We also ate all the chocolate:  we ate it in bean form, then powder, then paste, then hot chocolate, then liquid, and then finally in bar form. Needless to say, we got plenty of chocolate, which made us all energized for the night! We got back , had dinner, and the night’s activities began. We did a group activity, ended the night and headed back to our rooms, hoping there would be no surprises. To our dismay, two of the cabins, one full of the sophomores-Katherine, Madison, and Haley, and then a cabin full of juniors-Leslie, Hanna, and Chandler had MASSIVE bugs waiting for them. There were cockroaches in the bathroom, and spiders on the walls and beds. It was quite comical, for the girls were screaming as usual, yelling for Ryan who comes and rescues them from the insects. Not only were they screaming about the bugs and yelling for Ryan, but the cabins were arguing over whose bug was bigger and who got Ryan first. At last Ryan came and rescued both cabins and the night went on with two broken beds and a wipeout on the bathroom floor because of an overflowing shower in the sophomores’ room and finally a good nights sleep! It was such an amazing day filled with many adventures and excitements! This trip has overall been so phenomenal and I can’t wait to share more stories such as the bug story! Our whole group has bonded like family and I can’t believe the trip is nearly over. Enjoy the pics! We miss everyone!

Saturday, June 11, 2011


Hannah has found her work glove.

Friday, June 10, 2011


     This morning we went back to the Chilamate school expecting to work further on the playground, but because the students had classes today, we took advanage of the opportunity and organized games and activities to play with them. The first activity we played with the students was a name game. The language barrier was a bit of a problem but eventually was overcome. After that, to the extreme delight of the sudents came a game of soccer! Then we went into the cafeteria where the students were eating  arroz con pollo, which is a delicious, traditional meal composed of rice and chicken. Lastly, the sixth graders, the oldest in the school, arrived and we played enthusiastic and competitive English games
(Ivy and Pauline working on the tamales)
                                                         (a perfect finished tamale)   

This afternoon we participated in a very exciting activity, Costa Rican cooking lessons! We went to the house of a very kind woman named Olga who welcomed us into her home with open arms. Her house was very cool and we learned that most everything was created by her husband. We had a delicious lunch of arroz con pollo and a heart of palm dish that we used as dip with some tasty tortilla chips. We also had a great juice made from guanabana. After this appetizing lunch, we all sat on the outdoor porch and talked for a while. Then came the best part, making tamales! We used banana leaves as the base for a delicious mixture that you will see in the pictures. After half an hour and a lovely singing and guitar playing performance by Hannah and Lesley, the tamales were ready and to say the least tasted incredible! It was an amazing afternoon that we all feel so lucky to have had.


Hannah Looking for Work Glove

Oh, and one more example of the Costa Rican wildlife....

The glove is still missing.

Yesterday I didn't get a chance to post because the videos were not uploading, but to recap what happened: After the morning bird wallk, we began work on the playground (our service project) at the Chilamate school early in the morning. Most people shoveled sand from five giant piles around the area of the ground while others collected rocks from the piles to line the perimeter and a few girls painted cement pillars with primer. We returned after lunch and an afternoon siesta for an extra hour of work. The progress just in a few hours of work was amazing!

¡Hasta pronto!

Two Examples of Costa Rican Plants and Animals

Watch the leaves.... this is a mimosa plant. The resident biologist, Ryan, is not sure why the plant closes its leaves when people touch it but he suspects it is for protection. This is just one awesome example of unique plant life in Costa Rica!

This is a striped basilisk (like Harry Potter). We were actually on a bird walk, but then Ryan happened to spot this on the side of the road. It was bobbing its head and basking in the sun while we watched it. It's another excellent example of the Costa Rican wildlife!

¡Hasta luego!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Changing Face of Costa Rica

     Even though it is just our first full day in Costa Rica, we have already heard all about the biodiversity of the rainforest and its changing patterns.  The rainforest just outside our eco lodge is a secondary rainforest, meaning it has been in the process of regrowth for the past 40 years. However, humans have ruined so much of the rainforest; for example, they bulldozed down hundreds of trees to expand their pastureland and they also planted the eucalyptus tree, which they use for paper. Unfortunately, these trees are poisonous to many plants and animals and have been reproducing so rapidly that they have taken over parts of the rainforest. 
    Ana Lorena has lived in this part of Coast Rica with her family for the past 34 years and has watched the forest and environment change before her eyes.  She said that she saw animals much more often many years ago and that the rivers were a lot wider.  She also said that there were fewer cars driving around and because there isn’t as much forest, the heat has drastically increased.  She thinks the heat is the biggest problem that could be solved by planting more trees along the river and fields.  This would also help the fertility of the land, which she has noticed decline severely in the past 34 years. She thinks the majority of the people living around this beautiful forest are genuinely concerned about the environment and forest; however, the wealthy urban citizens and business owners are not as troubled with this issue so there has not been as much improvement or motivation to increase awareness and fix this major concern.
    Talking with Ana Lorena and getting the chance to listen to a first hand account of the changing environment really did open our eyes to the extreme problems that the forest and Costa Rican citizens are experiencing.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

¡Notica Tico!

We ventured out of our eco lodge into the neighboring community with Ryan, our biologist, and came to the home of Sra Digna. She only spoke Spanish, but she gave us an insight on the economic life in Costa Rica. This was also a fabulous time for us to practice our Spanish speaking skills! Muy Bien!

¿Qué es su horario normal?
What is your daily work schedule?
“Cada día, limpio la casa y ordeño las vacas.”
“Every day, I clean the house and milk the cows”

¿Qué cosas necesita más?
What do you need most?
“Necesito un trabajo con buen salario.”
“I need a job that actually pays”

¿Qué cosas piensa son aspectos positivos y negativos de la economia?
What are the positive and negative aspects of the economy?
“El peor aspecto es la falta de trabajo. Además, todas las cosas son más y más caros. Por consiguiente, no puedo pagar la educación de mis hijos.
“The worst aspect is the lack of jobs. Also, everything is getting more and more expensive. Consequently, I cannot pay for my children’s education.”

¿Qué hace su esposo?
What does your husband do?
“Mi esposo trabaja en la granja pero el salario no es bastante para la educación de los niños.”
“My husband works on the farm but the salary is not enough for my children’s education.”


Imagine a Costa Rican business, or rather, a business located in Costa Rica. What does it sell or what services does it offer? Who works for the business? Is the business actually based in Costa Rica? Does it actually serve the Costa Rican people, or some other foreign group? How does the business affect Costa Rica, its people and environment?
Before we arrived in Costa Rica, we had a general mental picture of the Costa Rican business climate and its relationship to environmental conservation. It generally focused on giant pineapple or other fruit farms with beaten down workers and little social benefit.
But according to Johanna Argüello Méndez, General Manager of local business Aventuras de Sarapiquí, internationally based businesses sometimes work in conjunction with local businesses, bettering both competition and the chances for small farmers. “All competition,” she claimed, whether from Asia, the USA, or local growers, “is good competition.” She told us that all local supermarket chains like Más por Menos have been bought out by none other than Walmart, but the benefit has been for both the consumers and even local growers. Johanna notes that Walmart has allowed for better sales and bargains, so prices for some goods have dropped. Additionally, she says that consumers are offered choices between, for example, “perfect, beautiful oranges from Florida” and the smaller, potentially blemished local products, but because most local consumers are aware of the benefits of supporting local growers, they will choose the less pretty produce.
The similarities don’t stop there. Much like in the United States, tough manual labor jobs are not always filled by Costa Ricans. Johanna likens the phenomenon to Mexican immigrants working the strawberry fields in the U.S.; here, Nicaraguan immigrants are known to work the pineapple and banana fields. Johanna acknowledges that the jobs are very difficult and do not pay well, but the industry is fairly stable and despite shortcomings, the major corporations are often still actively involved in their host countries. She cites Chiquita as having an excellent outreach program for conservation education.
One conflict often cited by conservationists like Megan, the director of the Eco Retreat where we are staying, is that of the need for land for pineapple or banana fields while simultaneously requiring increased conservation of the rainforest. Johanna, whose businesses is closely connected with the rainforest by offering canopy rides over and raft rides through it, affirms that there is a cycle of tourism and conservation. She notes that tourism, perhaps the biggest and most stable industry in Costa Rica, only exists because of the rainforest. If conservation is unsuccessful and the rainforest disappears, tourism will as well. Without tourism, all Costa Ricans, no matter what profession, will suffer. Johanna says that for this reason, Costa Ricans are very aware of the environment and their place within it. They do their best to support conservation, and we are learning from them. We are all gaining a greater appreciation for the environment and are loving supporting local products. We cannot wait to see what else we will discover in the future!

Rafting Company

Our Lodge sign

Rafting in the Tropics!!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011


Our Adventures have began! We are in Chilamate, where our eco-lodge and project are located! What an amazing place!!! We will be uploading pics and videos tomorrow!
And talking about tomorrow! We are doing an early morning walk in the rain forest and white water rafting, among other great activities!

Some great pics!

Students are in Costa Rica

Hello parents!

The students have arrived safely in Costa Rica. They are heading to the Chilamate Eco-Retreat for dinner and to begin orientation. They will update the blog as soon as possible. Please call the office with any questions - 303.679.3412.

Erin Lasky
Program Director

Here we are!

We are very happy to tell you all that the group is here in Costa Rica!! Yay!! Pura Vida!

Pura vida literally means Pura = pure and vida = life, but "Pure life" in Spanish would be "Vida pura" instead, so the real meaning is closer to "plenty of life", "full of life", "this is living!", "going great", "real living", or "cool!"[1] It can be used both as a greeting and a farewell, to express satisfaction, to politely express indifference when describing something [1] or even to say "thank you". The phrase has become widely known; this highly flexible statement has been used by many Costa Ricans (and expatriates) since 1956.[2]

Monday, June 6, 2011

Costa Rica is ready......

Hi St. Mary’s Episcopal – Costa Rica group

Here we are, Javier and I (Celsa) in Costa Rica, we are looking forward to meet you all tomorrow!

The place is very exciting and people are the nicest I’ve ever met. The phrase Pura Vida (pure life) is just a perfect description of how Costa Rica and its people are. You will experience this as well!

We just visited Chilamate Rainforest Eco Retreat, the place where we all will stay and enjoy nature as pure as it is. Also, we visited the Chilamate School where we will help out and share our life and moments with the local Ticos, (as Costa Ricans are known).

Costa Rica and Chilamate community are waiting for you….

Javier and Celsa