Wednesday, July 25, 2012

P. 4

Well that's pretty much what happened on the trip although the end was a touch more exciting than what was described.

As we left surf camp there was a bit of a confrontation between one of the students and myself/co-leader over cell phone use and what not. Lost that one as I had no definitive power and what with it being the end of the trip there were no repercussions, frustrating but out of my hands. At the same time a number of the girls on the trip were struck down with some virus that eventually came to be known affectionately as chunderfest 2012. While this was happening a tree had fallen across the drive way to the surf camp, effectively trapping us so between two locals and myself we took care of that situation as quickly as possible. As the bus ride progressed the virus' effects too progressed, by the time of our arrival two more students had joined "the club".

 After a brief stop to drop off our gear we hopped back on the bus and went to the nicest restaurant of the trip (about a 40 min bus ride away). One of the walls was just windows which allowed for an uninterrupted view of San Jose at night I must admit it was certainly one of the most beautiful man-made things that I saw on the trip. At dinner two more fell victim to the sickness bringing the total up to eight out of 14 students that were vomiting. We laughed for a  few hours about our combined suffering with an unending string of diarrhea and puking jokes and stories, both from the trip and previous experiences. We went back to the hostel and passed out as we had to wake up at 4am the next day to catch flights and officially end the trip. talk about ending on a high note haha.

I'm now back at the ARCC office in Mill Valley, CA killing time before my work with Boojum begins on the 1st. Here are a few pictures of the van while the unpacking/repacking and organizing process was still in full swing. Note the 3lb bag of coffee from Costa Rica, ought to be enough to keep me fueled and fired up for a bit, the best part it was only 10ish dollars!

I'm now back at the ARCC office in Mill Valley, CA killing time before my work with Boojum begins on the 1st. Here are a few pictures of the van while the unpacking/repacking and organizing process was still in full swing.

Just counting down the days now until I make Yosemite valley my temporary home. One month and one week to go!

Monday, July 23, 2012

P. 3

A little cliff/waterfall jumping in the Costa Rican Rainforest.
July 19, 2012

Sadly, this is our final blog from Costa Rica. Tomorrow morning we will be up before the sun, heading for the airport and leaving the lush mountains and sunny beaches we have been enjoying for the past 10 days. Yesterday, we had fun meeting some local elementary school children and doing a beach cleanup with them. Everybody had one to two buddies they worked with to collect all the garbage. Once the beach was spotless, we took advantage of the sparkling sands to play some soccer with the kids. After working up a sweat in the hot sun, we jumped in the pool to cool off. In the afternoon we took a very short boat ride across the estuary to explore Tamarindo. We found some scrumptious gelato but that still didn't beat the heat so we headed back for a dip in the ocean. We rounded off the evening with a slide-show of photos of us surfing and a viewing of Endless Summer II. This morning we had our final surf lesson, then loaded up the bus to head back to San Jose. After a long, but well air-conditioned, bus ride we made it back and to a restaurant overlooking the whole city for our final dinner together.
The kids with their buddies.
July 17, 2012
Over the past few days we have toured San Jose, where we acquired some gifts and souveneirs and got a taste of the Costa Rican city life. Everyone had the chance to exercise their haggling skills at the artesians market where locals displayed and sold their wares. Some great deals were found...and some were not, however all had a great time interacting with the locals.
After San Jose we took a bus ride to surf camp that turned out to be a touch longer than expected, though all were patient, understanding and persevered. Upon arrival we had a quick meal and orientation with the staff before checking out the beautiful beach that our villas back up to. Some opted to go for a moonlit jog along the beach, while others stayed and swam in the pool.
Some crocs, large and small that were spotted on our mangrove tour.
About a week previous another group had taken a moonlit stroll that ended in a paddle through croc infested waters. they notified of this once they reached the far side, this resulted in a rather long taxi ride back to the hotel as the nearest bridge was 30 minutes away! We were sure to not take a dip as the crocs had been reported to have eaten a number of large dogs recently.
The next day, surf camp began with the basics. We had some awesome instructors which resulted in nearly everyone either managing to stand on the board or even catch a wave of their own after only an hour of instruction! In the afternoon we played some passing games and a cooking lesson on how to make some local dishes - pinto de gallo, empanadas  and fried plantains. Before chowing down we were treated to one of the most spectacular sunsets! All agreed that it was one of the most beautiful sunsets they had even seen!

schralpin' the gnar of course
Today we continued to surf in the morning with everyone's abilities improving dramatically!  Most can go out and catch a wave by themselves and ride it all the way in to shore. In the early afternoon we went to a presentation on Leatherback turtles and how the beach we have been enjoying is one of several beaches that is a nesting place for these endangered turtles. It was shocking to learn how few are left and that only 1 in 100,000 baby turtles lives to maturity, making tomorrow's beach cleanup so much more significant. Well, we're off to go learn the merengue dance!

July 15, 2012
A poem written by Jenna Blumenthal
Today we went and explored San José -
But first we had breakfast on a buffet.
We went to a market and shopped around town,
While we were eating ice cream, we even saw a clown!
We came back and played a hot lava game,
Then put Sam in 5 Minutes of Fame!
We are excited to go to our next week of surf camp -
I hope at the end we all feel like a champ!

The whole group in San Jose

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Part 2

July 12, 2012
Day One of rafting
Dang, what a day! Despite the early start we pulled together after a breakfast at Rios Tropicales home base and became acquainted with all of our equipment and the safety procedures for rafting as well as the commands we would need to know to paddle fluidly through the rapids. After cruising through the rapids and getting a little wet and having a swim in the world renowned Pacuare River we had lunch at the jungle lodge that would be our home for the next few days. After a lunch of some amazingly fresh and delicious pineapple and sandwiches we watched and listened to howler monkeys and toucans. No wonder the Pacuare is one of the top 5 rafting destinations in the world.
Day Two
Today we woke up to some freshly brewed coffee at 7 with breakfast at 8 and by 9:30 we were ready for our ziplining adventures. After being briefed on the safety precautions and procedures we were off screaming and laughing having a great time. After everyone had gone on all the ziplines we set off on a short hike to some natural waterfalls which involved scrambling up some rain slicked paths that resulted in a lot of laughter and a few adventurers getting a bit muddy. Luckily we were able to rinse off with a dip in in the pool at the base of the fall which was quite refreshing. After heading back to the lodge and getting lunch we went on another short hike to some natural water slides that we rode for close to 2 hours! That evening we played some games and laughed as Becca represented the group well in a vegetable-off against another sassy student group that was also at the lodge (parents you will have to have your kids explain the science of a vegetable-off once they're home).
Day Three
We were chomping at the bit this morning to get on the river and show the rapids what we were made of. We joined up with another group for rafting resulting in just a few water battles between the class III and IV rapids that we paddled through. After getting to the take out we went back to the Rios Lodge for a hot lunch and showers before heading back to San Jose. We have now settled in to our lodging in San Jose. When several of the students were asked about what they were looking forward to, they paused and responded with "...Well the city day will be nice to get dressed up and another time to use our Spanish, but I think the surfing will be pretty cool too." To which I could only respond with "so you're psyched for the rest of the trip" to which they responded in the affirmative. What an awesome group of kids!

July 7,2012
We are currently on our private island learning to scuba and snorkel among some beautiful coral reefs surrounding Long Caye! We have been recently informed that these dives ranked among Jacques Cousteau's top 10 dives, and they are living up to that! Thus far, we have seen fish every shade of the rainbow, in size ranging from less than an inch to a few feet! We have seen Spotted lobsters, stingrays, angelfish, groupers, eels, Lionfish, Rainbow Parrotfish, and Batfish, to just name a few.
It has taken some adjusting the past couple days for the group to get used to the many blue crabs that are out after dark and the iguanas and other lizards that mingle with the multitude of hermit crabs that all roam the island.  There have been few problems, however, adapting to the spider lilies, coconut treas and beautiful views that surround us.
Everyone is grateful for having an awesome cooking staff that have been whipping up some delicious feasts that included grilled Kingfish, fried plantains, fresh baked bread and some great homemade granola loaded with local coconut meat. Oh, and I forgot, the amazing deserts like ginger snaps with fresh ginger, pineapple upside down cake and bread pudding with raisins the size of plums and also warm from the oven: chocolate chip cookies.
In the next few days, we will be taking our scuba tests for our certification - all are on track and expected to pass their certification courses. After the scuba portion is over, we will be saying a tearful goodbye to Belize and heading to Costa Rica. On our travel day, we expect to have some time in the Belize Airport for the kids to call come and check in. We expect that without delays, this should be around 2-5 pm (MST) on July 9th.
Well time to gather gear for another dive among sea fans, corals and friendly fish. Cheerio 'til the next time from Belize.

July 5, 2012
Life has been rough these past few days while sailing in Belize. The water has been shockingly blue, the weather has been alarmingly sunny most days. The food has been delicious and spirits have been high. We have been sailing from Caye to Caye on our two catamarans/yachts. These have included Pelican, Saltwater and Tobacco Cayes as well as sailing between countless other picture perfect deserted islands in the marine preserve. Fishing has yielded a number of Barracuda of varying sizes, Black Snapper as well as Silk Snapper. While swimming about, we have seen fish of every imaginable color darting about, starfish, sting rays and massive conchs.
We have also been diligently studying and preparing for our scuba course which began today, as well as learning about coral and how to prepare fish and what the tell tale signs are of upcoming rain showers.
Upcoming challenges we expect to include: sleeping with out being rocked to sleep, keeping sunburns at bay, eating all the fish that we have caught and passing the scuba test to attain our PADI Certification.
The largest fish caught by the smallest student (it almost pulled her in)
Turns out it is of the utmost importance to keep a sharp eye on students while they're fishing as Jaime was pulled about 15ft by this Barracuda and was about 6in from being pulled off the moving boat before I got to her and pulled her back. The fish was reeled in by all three of us, as even with drag adjustments it was still pulling line out! It weighed in at about 20-25lbs.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Adventures in Belize and Costa Rica P.1

The following will be blogs that we were required to send in to HQ periodically throughout the trip. I'll add in commentary and pictures as necessary. I'll do it in a couple of sessions so that you're not overwhelmed with fresh blog material.
We’re really excited that our trip is finally here! We just landed in Belize on a small 13 passenger airplane which had an awesome view of the Belizean coastline.. a few people even got to sit next to the pilot!  Once we arrived in Placencia, we settled into our small cabins along the beach and enjoyed our hammocks beachside. 
We’ve played lots of group games on the beach and have learned more about where everyone’s from by playing a game of ‘Map’.  We’ve had a chance to sample a lot of local fruit and it is SPECTACULAR… we had the sweetest pineapple we’ve ever tasted today at lunch!  This afternoon we did our grocery shop and we are soon heading to the sailboats where we will prepare to set sail tomorrow morning.  We are all excited for our first overnight on the boats!
We asked everyone… What are you most excited about???
Caroline L: Scuba diving
Claire: Going sailing and seeing fish while SCUBA diving
Jenna: Sailing and SCUBA diving
Zack: Meeting the locals
Peter: Learning how to sail and fishing
Abby: SCUBA diving
Ben: Costa Rica!
Conor H: SCUBA diving
Connor O: Excited to see all the nature in Costa Rica
Hailey: Sailing
Katie: Getting my Advanced SCUBA certification and seeing the jungle in Costa Rica
Jenna B: Going on an overnight sailing trip and surfing
Jaime: Surf camp and sailing
Caroline C: Sailing and surfing
Becca (leader): Living on our own island
Sam (leader): Learning to surf

 The group of students at our first lodging in Placencia, BZ. 

View from the Beach in Placencia